Experimental Design and Curiosity

The students have been hard at work all term on their Experimental Design Projects. I believe that science should be all about curiosity. Young children are known for their curiosity. It’s a gift that many of us lose as we grow. The very best scientists never lose their curiosity, but we do learn how to satisfy it. When we have a question about the world around us, how do we find the answer? If your first thought is to Google it, you’re not alone. However, my hope is that our students can learn how to come up with a question and design a solution to find the answer.

There are some critical parts of an experimental design. First, the question. What do you want to know? Some of our students chose to assess the growth of different plants under different circumstances. Others chose a more psychological approach, wondering how their peers will answer controversial questions. Some wondered about bacterial growth, wood decay, crystal growth, sound waves, and on and on. Once they came up with a question, they needed to make a hypothesis (an educated guess about what will happen in their experiment. Our hypothesis’ followed an “If, Then” format. If Plant A receives fertilizer, then it will grow larger than Plant B. The students then developed their individual materials and methods, not unlike an ingredient and directions section of a recipe.

Finally, the best part. Each student began their experiment and carried it out to their own specifications. Some students chose experiments that could be completed in a single class period. Others chose to ask questions that take a bit longer to answer. Whether it be plant/ bacterial growth over time, or a social experiment that takes several interrogatory sessions, the students have been diligently collecting data on a schedule that they set.

Overall, each student chose something that interested them, and has continued to follow through via data collection and/or analysis. As they work to analyze and understand their data, I will encourage them to dig deeper and make lasting connections to the world around them, and hopefully to maintain a level of curiosity that lets them see the world through a scientists lens.

Teachers are More Than Teachers at MLA

If our social studies teacher looks happy, it is because he is. Last week he completed Van Training along with other teachers. Being a teacher at Maple Lake Academy is more than just writing lesson plans and grading papers. Teachers are part of the larger MLA community and participate in training like all employees. One of our best assets at Maple Lake is our people. Training is essential to maintaining standards, continuity, and safety for all. “Dedicated training and development foster employee engagement and a more efficient, competitive, and engaged workforce are critical to your company’s performance.” (Ottawa University, 2021)

Employees that engage in high-quality training are empowered and therefore invest in the culture of the community. Solid training fosters leadership and builds respect and trust among co-workers. At MLA, training and accountability are essential parts of what we do. We participate in training to better serve our students in areas of safety, social-emotional awareness, and increased academic performance to name a few. Training also allows employees to manage tasks as individuals and as part of a team.

We value our teachers and appreciate all their efforts in and out of the classroom. You can be confident that all of our teachers go the extra mile to ensure our students are successful.

Good-bye Edmodo, Hello CANVAS

We say farewell to Edmodo this week. They are closing their doors and our new platform for learning will be CANVAS. We are currently in pilot mode so some of the student classes have not completed the process. We appreciate your patience as we work out the “bugs” and “kinks” over the next weeks. Our teachers are working diligently to ensure that everything is in order and that the student has a good experience.

CANVAS is a leading learning management system, “an education technology company with a mission to elevate student success, amplify the power of teaching, and inspire everyone to learn together.” The company started in 2008 and has been serving the education community well. We look forward to a long relationship with CANVAS which will serve our students in their learning goals.

Summer Students Have Virtual Visits to Germany

This summer MLA students were able to take a German course that introduced not only language but the culture and sites of Germany. They participated in virtual visits and were able to view sites in Southern Germany as live participants. Some of the locations that students observed were the Dachau concentration camp near Munich, the birthplace of Albert Einstein in Ulm, a well-preserved medieval town founded in 1274 called Rothenburg, and the castles at Schwangau. The castle pictured is Hohenschwangau near the Bavarian Alps and the Black Forest. The Black Forest is where Grimms Fairy Tales are thought to be born. Students were able to have lessons on these famous fairy tales to increase their learning about German history and culture. Students were inspired to learn more about this beautiful country and its rich history.

Parent Weekend at MLA

Student Portfolios

We love to share the students’ work with you when you come to visit.  As parent weekend approaches, our teachers gather work from the students to share with you as parents.  The students are encouraged to choose 2 assignments from each of their classes that they feel reflect their best work.  They are also asked to share why they were successful on each of these assignments.  In addition to the assignments, students have the opportunity to rate their performance in class. Teachers also rate each of their student’s success in class, and it’s fun to see how the ratings match up between students and teachers.  They are typically right on the same page.  These teachers know their students well!

Getting Specific

Helping these sweet kids is our greatest joy and we love being a part of their growth and progression.  As such, we meet every week as an education department to discuss each student’s progress, successes, needs, and more.  We talk about how they are doing in each class, where they are excelling, where they are working on improving, and how we can best support them.  We talk about specific assignments, specific struggles, and plans for improvement.  Students collaborate with their teacher mentor and their student mentor to make weekly goals and track progress.

Meeting with Teachers

Our teachers love meeting with parents to talk about these amazing kids, so this is the highlight of the week for us!  It’s a joy getting to talk to you as parents and share our love for your kids.  We are so proud of them and love seeing the amazing progress they are making every day. Each teacher has the opportunity to meet with their student’s parents twice each school year and it is a positive and valuable experience for us to get to talk with you as parents and share with you how great these kids are doing in school and how hard they work.   

New Technology Enhances the Classroom Experience

Hello everyone! We have some exciting updates to our education department we are excited to share with you.

Technology in the classroom is a wonderful tool we utilize here at Maple Lake Academy. Research suggests that students are more engaged, curious, and motivated to learn when technology is appropriately utilized in the classroom. Our school serves a diverse group of students with different needs, and having technology available makes it not only possible but easy to individualize education. 

We are very excited to introduce the newest addition to our technology: New smart boards! These new boards provide a way for us to make our lessons far more interactive than they have been in the past. We have been able to add a kinesthetic element to our teaching by having students come up to the board to write answers, do math problems, or draw pictures. Here are some pictures of our students enjoying this new technology:

A student using the math software to visualize and solve a math problem.

Students in history class filling out a timeline of events for the Peloponnesian War.

You can see the annotation tool provides different colors, marker size, erase, and undo options.

We can have up to 20 points of contact on the screen at a time, meaning groups of students can be interacting with the technology at the same time.

An annotated PowerPoint presentation about the battles of WWII. 

The boards have some really great features. There is an infinite whiteboard space on which teachers and students can write notes, draw pictures, or use math tools. Teachers are able to annotate presentations and draw attention to the information we’d most like the students to focus on. We have built in timers and spinning wheels that allow us to engage the students in friendly competitions and group projects. On top of all of that, the new boards have a great sound system and wonderful clear screens. 

We have already seen an improvement in student engagement. The students are excited to come to class and learn and the new tools are engaging them exceptionally well. Research has shown that advanced technology in the classroom leads to more engaged and capable students, and we see no reason why our situation would be any different. We expect to continue to see the level of engagement increase, and as we do we know we will see the results reflected in the academic work of our students. 

Written by Social Studies teacher Stacey Medley

What Does a School Day Look Like?

Welcome reader! Are you interested in learning about a typical school day at Maple Lake Academy? I’ve had many parents ask about the school environment at Maple Lake, so this month’s blog post is about that student experience in English class.

Sometimes the students get homemade muffins.

In the morning, after a student wakes up, they have several responsibilities to complete before going to school. A student eats a balanced breakfast, completes their hygiene routine, and performs their daily chores. The student is expected to do all of those things in a timely manner according to the daily schedule. Procrastinating could mean being late to school which would result in losing points for participation unless the student has an excuse from our staff. In the middle of the school day, students get a snack break. At the conclusion of school for the day is lunch; usually announced by the welcoming aroma emanating from the kitchen.

A typical, “I can” statement.

When the student enters the English classroom the first thing they see is the, “I can” statement written on the board. This, “I can” statement refers to two things: the relevant state educational standard and the learning objective for that class. Also on the board is the daily schedule of what is happening in class. The schedule of the day’s class and the details of any assignments can also be found on the website Edmodo.com in the event that a student forgets to put their assignments in their planner or is absent.

The assignments are varied in order to assist students who may have different learning strengths. For example, spatial learners may receive graphic organizers and aural learners have access to the audio for books we are reading in class. For kinesthetic learners, we recently played a game in class where students had to organize pieces of paper that represented the parts of a paragraph in the correct order.

A student offering assistance.

Every student has accommodations that are approved by the MLA Education Department in order to meet their individual needs and to make sure they are learning in a timely manner. A single class is an hour long and the last part of the class is reserved for working on assignments. This allows each student the opportunity to finish that day’s assignment in class without the need for the assignment to become homework. Just in case a student does not finish their classwork, there is also a dedicated study hall class for students to complete their assignments.

I hope this article gave many of you greater insight into how classes function at Maple Lake Academy! Depending on reader interest, we may post another article highlighting a different class! See you all soon!

This article was written by Seth Campbell the English teacher at Maple Lake Academy.