A different way of learning
The rapid advance of technology has complicated the educational process. Should children be taught cursive or typing, physics or programming? Are some students at a disadvantage by focusing on academic subjects like history or science over skill-based learning like carpentry or mechanical work?
These are just a few of the questions the East Grand School District is considering as they look to initiate the new Grand Crew Program next year. The program is an outgrowth of the district’s current Day Treatment Alternative Program and looks to address the needs of students who might not otherwise fit in with the standardized classwork and aptitude tests generally used to measure achievement.
“Our school system doesn’t prepare students for some career paths,” said future Grand Crew teacher Maggie Michalowski. “It is great if you want to go to college, and that’s fine, but not going to college is great too. We need electricians, carpenters and mechanics. This traditional school system doesn’t work for some kids.”
Michalowski, who currently works as the Day Treatment Alternative Program teacher for both East and West Grand, will head up the program.
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She said she hopes to partner with local people who can expose the students to careers they might not otherwise know about.
“I want to find carpenters, plumbers and other tradesmen who can teach these kids,” she explained.
An example would be a local auto body shop willing to partner with the program and allow students to spend a few hours each day over a couple of weeks learning the ground-truth of their business.
According to Michalowski, the Grand Crew program will be somewhat similar to expeditionary schools with the unique characteristics of a small program. She estimated 12 students in the program its first year. The program will be exclusively for high school students and Michalowski will be the teacher of record.
“The idea is to start small,” she said. “This is definitely a learning process for me and everybody involved.”
Michalowski was excited about the unique opportunity to forge a new path in education. “We are creating something that is mostly new,” she said. The students will still operate on more or less the same school schedule as the rest of East Grand though, but will start a week earlier.
The name, Grand Crew, comes from the Outward Bound School where Michalowski previously worked as an instructor and “where the students aren’t just passengers, they are crew members in their endeavor.”
A big part of the focus for the program is ensuring students stay in school and graduate. Inevitably some students at every high school will fall through the proverbial cracks, often dropping out. The program hopes to catch some of those students and to refocus their efforts on educational projects the students can get excited about; hopefully keeping them in school and on the road to a diploma.
“This format is designed for them, with their interests in mind,” Michalowski said. “They have to want to be there and need to give me some direction about what they want.”
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