While Silverton Paideia Academy serves its local neighborhood, it also acts as a magnet school for the Cincinnati Public School district. The core focus of the magnet school portion of Silverton is leadership development. Because of their dual enrollment approach, students in the neighborhoods surrounding Silverton, as well as students from across the district, are given the opportunity to enhance their leadership skills. As the lead agency for Silverton Paideia Academy, Activities Beyond the Classroom is fortunate to be a partner in the school’s development and successes.
In the 2015-2016 school year Silverton Paideia adopted the “Leader in Me” program, an evidence-based approach to cultivate life-ready leaders. This whole-school approach is designed to incorporate leadership skills at every level, from as young as preschool, all the way up to the school’s administration and culture.
The Leader in Me program is built upon Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. Through the program, students are taught critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making skills that will serve them throughout their lifetime. One particular concept that students at Silverton are taught is “moonshot thinking.” When using this approach, they are encouraged to create lofty goals and create a strategy to achieving those goals utilizing the many resources they have at their disposal including peers, teachers and technology.
The goal of the Leader in Me program is to cultivate responsible, caring, compassionate and productive individuals. Throughout the school day, students at Silverton participate in DEAL clubs (Drop Everything And Lead). The DEAL clubs allow students to explore their interests from a variety of topics, with everything from arts to insects. Additionally, every student at Silverton gets to participate in student-led Town Hall sessions. During the Town Hall sessions the students discuss topics they deem important while enhancing their public speaking and leadership skills.
The CPS Vision 2020 initiative has a goal of ensuring equity, access, and opportunity for all CPS students by the year 2020 (https://www.cps-k12.org/academics/Vision2020). Each school is given the autonomy to determine how they will achieve the district-wide goal. Thus, Silverton elected to focus their efforts on becoming a Digital Leadership Academy.
In the 2018-2019 school year, Silverton Paideia began the transition which included an influx of technological devices, a blended curriculum, and additional opportunities that incorporate technology including after-school clubs that focus on coding and 3D printing. Because of this influx of technology, every student at Silverton has 1:1 access to a laptop computer, opportunities to interact with the school’s 3D printer, and the chance to work in the new Mac Lab.
Silverton continues to work toward cultivating digital leaders, defined as students who “embrace technology and act responsible in its usage.” Thus, Principal Kristen Grode made the decision to partner with Hamilton County Education Service Center to ensure the teaching staff was well prepared to help the students and integrate technology in their curriculum. As a result, each teacher received one-on-one technology training, in which they were taught advanced computer skills and encouraged to increase their risk threshold.
Silverton Paideia’s Resource Coordinator, Linda Johnson-Towles, is an ABC employee who works to improve parent engagement and defining the role parents play in developing digital leaders. On May 21, 2019, Silverton Paideia hosted a “TLIM and Digital Leadership Day” in which parents and community partners, such as Activities Beyond the Classroom, were invited to tour the school and learn first-hand about the changes the school has made in the areas of leadership and technology advancement.
During this event, ABC was able to speak with parents, students, and educators about their experiences in these programs. One parent, Jennifer, has three children who attend Silverton (in Kindergarten, 1st and 3rd grades). She says she has noticed a positive change as a results of the technology rich curriculum. Her children choose to continue learning at home versus using the home computer to play video games or watch videos. “They come home and ask to use the computer to do activities such as Zearn.”
At Silverton, each kindergartener is paired with a 4th Grade Buddy. The 4th Grade Buddy works with the younger students to help them understand the technology. They also help the kindergartners make good choices, and even correct them when they misbehave. “This is my favorite part of the school,” Jennifer exclaimed as she entered a Kindergarten class, filled with pairs of older and younger students using tablets.
In the Vocab Lab, students were dancing to music generated by achieving a record high score on a computer problem. Parents and guests were thrilled to see students out of their seats and working collaboratively! Students did not appear to notice they were learning new words as their combined score bank continued to climb.
In the Mac Lab, visitors spoke with the young ladies who participated in the Girls Who Code after-school program. The students demonstrated how they use coding algorithms to create games and apps. One student had created a dancing dinosaur game called “Rex”. She explained that she was inspired by her father, who had introduced her to block coding when she was younger. Due to her interaction with the afterschool program, she learned how to integrate music in the program, and thus “Rex” was born.
Linda Johnson-Towles, who also leads the Girls Who Code program, explained that the students also use this blocking technique outside of the computer lab. “When they are faced with difficult situations they use this technique to breakdown the problem into smaller bits. This makes it easier for them to address the problem and come up with solutions.” Another instructor explained that some of her students have adopted using PowerPoint presentations when they ask their parents for something they really want.
As CPS Schools like Silverton Paideia Academy continue to work toward achieving the district-wide Vision 2020 initiative, student access to resources such as technology will continue to increase. Activities Beyond the Classroom is proud to partner with CPS to help foster an environment where learning and personal development go hand in hand.