High-tech changes in Highland Park schools
Communications Media Arts facilitators Laura Baartmans (left) and Elaine Juarez (right) are shown with some of the new studio equipment on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, at Northwood Jr. High in Highland Park. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 23, 2012 12:12PM
The most prominent educational change waiting for students this school year is new high-tech learning labs in all three North Shore School District 112 middle schools.
“It’s probably the most significant change in a decade,” said Monica Schroeder, Northwood Junior High’s co-principal. “We’ve never seen anything like this in our district.”
Northwood, Elm Place and Edgewood all boast sparkling new labs that house the district’s newest curriculum adoption: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, commonly called STEM, and Communications Media Arts, or CMA.
The STEM lab features equipment for students to build and program robotics and machinery; engineer, model and test structures; and participate in energy efficient design challenges and circuitry projects.
The CMA classroom allows students to produce animated movies and music, as well as train in web design and software engineering. A state-of-the-art broadcasting studio can be used to create newscasts and video projects.
More than 100 educational launch-points are offered, allowing students to drive their own learning path in the hands-on environment. The program is based off the White House’s progressive learning initiative.
All three rooms in each Highland Park middle school look far different than the traditional classroom, and more like professional research labs, newsrooms or the offices at a tech start-up.
“The kids are going to be so excited and blown away by all the equipment and options,” Schroeder said.
Every middle school student across the district will have a nine-week rotation between STEM, CMA, visual arts and general music classes.
The other half of the district’s $955,000 CAPE, or Creative Arts and Physical Education, curriculum adoption will pair Physical Education and Wellness classes on a daily basis for all three years. Those costs cover the cutting-edge materials and supplies, but did not include the build-out, district officials said.
Laura Baartmans, the CMA facilitator at Northwood, completed training on the equipment last week. She said she’s especially excited to see her students dive in when school opens.
“It’s limitless,” added Elaine Juarez, the CMA facilitator at Edgewood. “The kids are going to love how they direct their own learning.”
After four days of teacher training, Juarez and Baartmans couldn’t hide how re-energized they are to begin the school year. Their excitement peaked when they sat in the directors’ chairs behind the tri-caster production desk in the broadcasting studio.
The new technology will undoubtedly deliver the same impact on students, they said.
“It opens up every opportunity to explore creativity, expression and all different types of communication,” Juarez said.