Bullis Charter School has been recognized many times for its ingenuity and signature programs for students. Now school officials are using some of that creativity to design a yearlong program to share their best practices with other educators.
Superintendent Wanny Hersey said the school has attracted several visitors – educators from the area and around the world – to observe its STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) curriculum at work, but they are usually only there for a day or less.
“These people come and we are happy to share, but I wonder if we have any impact,” Hersey said. “What happens when they see this idea? How are they able to replicate it? There is so much more to learn than one can see in a single activity.”
So Hersey joined forces with the Santa Clara County Office of Education to help share the school’s best practices in a more meaningful way – through the program dubbed STEAM: A Practicum on Integrated PBL (Project Based Learning).
Over the summer, Hersey said she charged her staff with creating the practicum to help transform local schools “holistically” through two cohorts – administrators and teachers.
“The best model is something that provides a program that sees (the best practice), tries it out and gets some more support,” she said. “It has to be more long term. It is important to help schools transform, and you need a team of people to do that.”
The goal was to pair an administrator with a teacher so that the two could take what they learned back to their school and district to promote both systematic and curricular change.
The program, which began last month, includes 27 teachers and 14 administrators from Santa Clara County public schools. Hersey said there are educators from the Union Elementary, Evergreen, Cambrian, Berryessa Union, Alum Rock and Santa Clara Unified school districts.
The program requires the two cohorts to visit with the Bullis Charter School team seven times throughout the year – separately and together. Last week, Hersey and her team hosted the administrators, discussing design thinking and viewing two complete STEAM units.
“We’ve been documenting our curriculum so that we can share it,” she said. “We don’t want to let schools think you have to do it all that way, but we want to provide entry points and options for integrating STEAM one step at a time.”
She added that the administrators have to look at things from a broader level. Topics include finances, how to secure funding for programs and lessons, and creating a culture that fosters innovation.
A key element of the program, according to Hersey, is informing educators of resources they may not have considered using. She said Bullis Charter School and the county are introducing participants to “what is out there and what can be leveraged to improve student learning.”
The teachers will have an opportunity to view the charter school’s project-based learning and STEAM units but will be reviewing them from a different perspective than the administrators.
“We will be building a community with these teacher leaders,” said Jennifer Anderson-Rosse, director of curriculum and special projects at Bullis Charter School. “We will be asking them to try some of what they learned in their classrooms and we will give them access to real people in real time for troubleshooting.”
Teachers will also have the opportunity to interview charter school students and teachers to see what works, Anderson-Rosse said.
A culmination event is planned for May as the school year comes to a close, Hersey said.
For more information, visit bcssteam.weebly.com.