My How a Year Changes Things!

Hello! My name is Donna Young, and I am the Library Media Specialist at De Pere Middle School in De Pere, WI- a neighbor of Green Bay. One year ago, I shared a story on this blog that looks very different when compared with the one that I will share with you this week.  Our story has evolved much in the course of a year, and it involves growth, constant learning, risk-taking, and ultimately CHANGE! Here’s a quick recap of how it began and how it progressed to where we are now.

At the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, seventh grade Social Studies teacher, Cara Krebsbach, wanted to try a new way of teaching her Mesopotamia unit and didn’t know where to start. With the assistance of Literacy Coach, Peggy Rohan, and myself, we helped Cara redesign Mesopotamia into an inquiry unit using Harvey’s and Daniels’ book Comprehension and Collaboration as our framework. While successful overall, we still felt that there were a few pieces missing in the process. A few months later, I received an email about an opportunity to attend the Guided Inquiry Design Institute at Rutgers to learn about Guided Inquiry Design. Peggy, Cara, and I were immediately on board about applying to the institute. This was the type of learning that we needed to incorporate more! Luckily our principal, Betty Hartman, agreed, and before we knew it we were off to Rutgers. Thus began De Pere Middle School’s transformation.

Before I tell more of this story, I want to mention that none of what we have done would have been possible without the support of a strong and open administrative team.  Betty jumped on board immediately and figured out a way to finance our trip to Rutgers. Not only did she attend herself, but so did our district Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Shelly Thomas. Our administrators have become essential members of our learning team as they are now deeply invested in finding the time for us to redesign units and train teachers on GID. They truly are leaders and partners in learning, and they are equally invested in this best practice model.

As mentioned previously, our transformation really began last July during our attendance at the institute. Once we were intensively immersed in learning more about the model, Peggy, Cara, Betty, Shelly, and I experienced an array of emotions- excitement, anticipation, wonder, and anxiety. We had a big task in front of us: not only were we to wrap our brains around understanding every step of the GID model, but we also had to write an entire GID unit surrounding the topic of “cells” prior to our departure. Of all of the units from which to choose cells was difficult since it required students to have more technical background prior to diving into independent research. Lucky for us, Leslie and her team offered the support that we needed, and we left the institute not only ready to integrate our cells unit at the beginning of the school year, but we were also inspired to consider other science and social studies units that would work well with GID.

Attending the institute was the push that we needed to get the ball rolling at De Pere Middle School. In the fall, we spent two half days training all of our science and social studies teachers on how to use the model, and this spring we did the same with our ELA teachers. In addition, all science and social studies teachers are reading Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School in professional book clubs. Peggy and I have been working diligently throughout the year to help rewrite old units into new and improved GID units. Thus far students have completed inquiry units on cells, alternative energies, Ancient China, and Africa. Upcoming units include slavery and changemakers.

While we have come so far in one year, I feel that our journey is just beginning. We still have more transformations to make as GID is not only a perfect model for the content areas, but it is also ideal for Related Arts classes such as Health, FACE, and foreign language. GID engages all students in 21st century best practice learning with a research-based, student-centered design.

Donna Young
Library Media Specialist
De Pere Middle School