AceraEI and Pyne Arts: A Whole-School Engagement

In 2016, Lowell Public School’s STEM Director reached out to Acera because they wanted to build a maker space.  In November 2018, a team of leaders from the district came, including the STEM Director and three Principals. They toured Acera, and one of their principals said, “I want to do everything you do here, not just your maker space projects!”  So, a journey began.

We met with Wendy Crocker-Roberge, principal of Pyne Arts K-8 Magnet School, to understand the needs and priorities of her school, and translate them into a “School Success Dashboard.” The dashboard was customized specifically for them; they picked from a menu of options, and ended up landing on several areas within key categories:   

  • Growth in students’ Core Capacities: Conceptual Problem Solving, Creativity & Divergent Thinking, Student Initiative & Leadership, and Scientific Thinking
  • Innovative and Evidence Based Teaching Practice
  • Students’ Well-being and Positive School Culture
  • Continuation of their existing tracking of standardized testing and absences

In June, planning team meetings catalyzed a group of teachers who are now becoming the change agents and leaders within their school to achieve whole school alignment around the areas identified in their School Success Dashboard.  Key actions include:

  • Leverage the school’s monthly early release days as interdisciplinary project learning days, using Acera’s pilot tested STEAM Maker Space activities across the entire school. 
  • Measure attendance on early release days as a marker of success of the projects. 
  • Enable teachers’ self assessments of and observations of innovative teaching practice to serve as part of grade level planning meetings, which can then catalyze reflective discussions and coaching. 
  • Launch SEL discussions led by their counselor across all classrooms. 

In September, the first unit implemented was “Choreography of Matter” and the video below shares the steps included in this first unit’s implementation. 

The next unit to be implemented is “Enchanted Electronics,” which will be intentionally infused into classrooms, and teachers will tether these projects, in ways which fit their students, to literacy and math standards and other social/emotional learning goals. 

As the future facets of this project unfold, we look forward to partnering with Pyne Arts’ planning team, Acera Fellows, and their STEAM Team to further customize a wide array of Acera’s pilot-tested tools for adaptation and standards alignment to fit into their setting, and to provide them with the professional development workshops and reflective process and change management tools and measures to help them achieve their vision for true and lasting change at school!  

Our hope?  To flesh out this campaign.  We are working to raise $1,000,000 for this pilot project which will both support this incredible 500-student urban school and set the stage for a national rollout and sharing of tools to schools far beyond our walls.

Half of this Angel Fund is to make this long term “capital investment” in the essential curricula tools, professional development support for teachers, and exploration of new ways to change the conversation about what matters in education.  Can half a million dollars and three years lead to a whole school transformation?  We think it can.