2003-05-02 / Community

ALPS Designed Summer Institute For August

ALPS Designed Summer Institute For August

The Active Learning Prep School (ALPS), a school within a school at MS 180, has been awarded another prestigious grant. The ALPS took advantage of a request for proposals from The Fund For Teachers in Houston, Texas, asking for creative ways that teachers could enhance their professional development over the summer.

Under the leadership of the ALPS Director, Patricia Tubridy, the staff was awarded their proposal. Since the ALPS is an Outward Bound Expeditionary Learning School, they collaborated with New York City Outward Bound USA to custom design a 6-day summer institute that will take place this August.

ALPS’ unique staff is challenging themselves to an outdoor adventure of climbing the Outward Bound 55-foot Alpine Tower at Gateway National Recreation Area at Floyd Bennett Field.

"This experience will draw us together as a team as well as build confidence, perseverance, compassion, and trust," said Maura O’Sullivan, ALPS UFT Chapter leader.

"Our goal is to use this experience to foster a sense of accomplishment as a staff and encourage each teacher to ‘climb as high as they can go’ with their students," explained sixth grade math and science teacher, Laura Dimino.

The nautical term "Outward Bound" refers to the moment that a ship that leaves harbor and abandons the safety of port for the open sea. This nautical heritage provides the framework for sailing courses, where crews embark upon voyages that teach seamanship, teamwork, leadership, and trust.

ALPS’ teachers will board Outward Bound’s 26-foot wooden Monomoy pulling boats to learn skills such as reading the wind, navigating, utilizing tide, sand currents, and understanding Jamaica Bay’s waterways. Outward Bound’s boats are referred to as "pulling boats" because when the wind dies the crew must ‘pull’ the boat with oars. Two Outward Bound instructors – one who is a Coast Guard-licensed captain – accompany each boat of two teams from the ALPS and teach the skills that will allow them to take the helm, set the sails, and navigate the boat.

Another day of the institute will emphasize "Classroom Management and Student Engagement." The course will provide specific tools and techniques to enable the teachers to increase student involvement and build a productive and cooperative classroom culture that supports high achievement and healthy character.

In true Outward Bound philosophy, the workshop will be experiential involving a series of activities and discussions that will provide opportunities to learn and practice classroom management techniques that create a sense of shared ownership and responsibility for students.

On the fourth day the ALPS will ask themselves, "What have we learned in the past three days, and how are we going to apply it to our teaching?" They will reflect, discuss, share, and set goals for the school year. Veteran and new teachers will work together and set shared goals for the school in terms of academic achievement, community, and character.

Prepared with curriculum guides, standards, pacing calendars, and other resources, teachers will then begin planning fall learning expeditions. This is the time for making interdisciplinary connections, setting timelines, creating research projects, designing assessments, planning field journeys, and identifying resources to enhance the delivery of learning.

On the last morning, teachers will briefly explain their learning expeditions following a protocol. Each participant will have an opportunity to share and receive additional feedback.

When asked, "How will this make the staff better teachers?" Tubridy replied, "Some of the most important lessons are learned outside of the classroom. The moving spirit of Outward Bound is to employ challenge and outdoor adventure as a way of teaching perseverance, skill, teamwork, leadership, compassion, and craftsmanship. These physical challenges are not just an end in itself, but an instrument for training." Tubridy continued, "ALPS teachers will challenge themselves to try. The actual mastering of a particular activity is not as important as the attempt itself. It is through these attempts that growth and learning occurs for both the individual and the team. It is my hope that this opportunity will build team spirit and communication among the staff, as well as foster a better understanding of ourselves as learners."

ALPS’ PTA President, Julie Borges, noted that students, "will benefit by having teachers who better understand the experience of being challenged to learn new and difficult experiences. They will also have a staff that sees itself like a family, and I like that. I also think that teachers will be better prepared to encourage students to go beyond where they think they can."

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