Collaboration Creates Innovative Opportunities for 21st Century Learners at Sutter Middle School

Collaboration Creates Innovative Opportunities for 21st Century Learners at Sutter Middle School

By: Debbie Bermeo, VILS Instructional Technology Coach, Kelly Welsh, Principal, Natalie Berghoudian, College and Career Coach /Magnet Coordinator
 

It has been almost a year since Sutter Middle School, alongside educators across the globe, found themselves suddenly launched into the world of Distance Learning. While there are no easy solutions, our school has been uniquely poised to leverage technology in the virtual world to expand collaboration, communication, connection, teacher leadership, empower our spotlight images students and community, and increase student achievement. A dedicated and hard-working faculty and staff, in conjunction with various partnerships, has been instrumental for navigating teaching and learning in our 21st century virtual spaces. Pedagogy steeped in standards-based instruction, rigorous academics, technology integration, The ISTE Standards, CCSS, NGSS, and content knowledge continues to be the driving force that strives to increase the effective use of technology and enrich academic achievement. Our resolute staff of innovative educators and key partnerships have helped us design engaging and diverse lessons, activities, and opportunities for our students to collaborate, explore, design, and construct meaningful learning experiences.

Sutter’s partnership with the Instructional Technology Initiative began when we became a Practitioner 1.0 school, landing us on the front lines of learning how to implement our then pilot Learning Management System, Schoology. Since then, our students, faculty, and staff have leveraged Schoology for collaboration, communication, and connection. Our partnership with ITI has continued to grow, and we are now a Practitioner 5.0 school. Our focus and work around the ISTE Standards of Computational thinking, Global Collaborators, and Digital Citizenship have helped guide the work at our school to establish 21st Century classrooms.

In the Fall of 2018, Sutter Middle School STEAM & Leadership Magnet opened the magnet center. We opened with 90 sixth graders, and our current capacity is 270 sixth through eighth graders. Our vision for Sutter Middle School STEAM and Leadership Magnet Academy includes fostering an inclusive learning environment that promotes success, achievement, and learning for all students. Sutter also features an exemplary global program for Gifted and Talented students. We offer differentiated instruction in depth and complexity, novelty, and acceleration. Our global SAS electives include: computers and technology, art through music, yearbook and leadership. Through our partnership with LAUSD’s Linked Learning initiative, we create personally relevant and engaging student experiences by bringing together strong academics, demanding career technical education, real-world experiences, and integrated student support systems.

 

Spotlight image 2018 was a busy year; we partnered with Verizon Innovative Learning Schools as only one of three middle schools in the entire district to do so and now we are in year 3 of the partnership. Our students and staff receive 1:1 devices with data for connectivity and continuous use, coaching and professional development, and information and gathering analysis. The partnership’s initiatives include: increasing student achievement, engagement, tech and STEM proficiency, STEM interest, problem solving skills, collaboration, communication and student confidence. In March of 2020, our school opened the first Verizon Innovative Learning Lab in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Heart of America’s space transformation produced our 5G state-of-the-art lab, which puts teachers and students at the forefront of transformative technology. Our lab features Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Immersive Learning Experiences, Robotics, 3D Printing, and more via the University of Arizona’s lab curriculum; additionally, they continuously provide ongoing training for our lab educators.

Sutter students enjoy a variety of unique learning experiences during Distance Learning for engagement, social emotional development, interaction, and more. Virtual Spirit Weeks, faculty-sponsored Student Clubs, Student Leadership, and real world experiences make up some of the opportunities our students get to enjoy. Last month, Superintendent Beutner visited two of our school clubs: Works of Art, and Sutter Day Traders. Mr. Beutner also participated in fun and engaging activities alongside the students: Color Wheel, sketching, making investments and money-managing! Last week, during National No One Eats Alone Day, Sutter welcomed Beyond Differences, a student-led organization that strives to create a culture of belonging for everyone, and singer-songwriter, Olivia Frances, to share their message of inclusion, friendship, kindness and belonging. On Mondays at lunch, students and staff can tune in to Sutter Takes 10+, our weekly assembly featuring important school news and announcements. Our weekly assembly features staff and student speakers. Students read the pledge of allegiance, talk about the importance of Kindness, share leadership activities, and more! Our Student Tech Team is currently working on learning digital media production, and will soon be able to contribute to our weekly announcements. Our partnership with Student Aspirations and Student Voice via the Quaglia Institute has helped us foster conditions to ensure every student voice is heard. Our Virtual Information Booth is open daily M-F so that students and parents can log on for information or assistance with Schoology, schedules, or questions about the parent portal. Likewise, at Sutter we’ve established a Morning IT Clinic where students, teachers, and staff can join prior to the start of classes to receive assistance with any IT issues.
Another unique experience for students at Sutter includes generating excitement around STEM; our 8th grade Flight and Space CTE course was afforded the opportunity to engage in virtual flight simulation, and recently had the chance to visit with LAX Engineers via Zoom. Sutter STEAM Magnet has taken several action steps to help close the gender gap in STEM. Our female students have participated in Girls Build Challenges, they got to meet Vice President Kamala Harris, and participated in Coding Camp sponsored by the Why Not Foundation. Each student received a coding kit (valued at $300). We met via Zoom and completed the projects as a team. Our girls learned to investigate, problem solve, and collaborate.

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Our 8th Grade magnet students have been working on a “Mission to Mars Student Challenge” created by NASA and JPL. Students have been learning about Mars, launches, landings, and scientific tools for research in preparation for the Mars Perseverance Rover landing. On February 26, students will have the opportunity to hear from Northrop Grumman engineer, Darnell Dixon. He will speak to our students about the Artemis mission and dig deeper into some of the key components that he and his team members are working on to make this mission a success. Likewise, our teachers and students benefit from learning from industry professionals with Nepris, as they bridge the gap between industry and education.

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At Sutter, our parents receive opportunities to engage in Parent Workshops supported by our partnership with School 2 Home, which strives to help close the achievement gap and digital divide via parent workshops, educator training, Distance Learning resources, online education, and Student Tech Team development. Our parent education classes teach parents how to create accounts on Schoology, how to log in and check their student’s grades, and how to communicate with their teachers.

Our students, faculty, and staff are hard at work at John A. Sutter Middle School. Teachers are teaching, and students are learning, thriving and navigating the Distance Learning waters with the help and guidance of our committed team. We are dedicated to creating a safe and supportive learning environment that encourages academic success, individual growth, integrity, and a positive contribution to our global society. We are the Sutter Innovators!