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Oltman Middle School teachers ready to 'flip' their classrooms

From left, Oltman Assistant Principal Jesse Hopkins, and Principal Becky Schroeder accept a $9,800 grant from 3M staff members Vickie Batroot and Rick Goecke. (Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner)

This summer, seven Oltman Middle School teachers are learning to "flip the classroom," with the help of a $9,800 3M grant.

In the flipped classroom, students do their homework, using iPods, ahead of the class. Finding information suggested by the teacher, students bring what they learn to the next day's class. Teachers, who add information and help students through the lesson, are no longer the sole keepers of information. They guide students toward solutions.

It's the opposite of the traditional classroom in which teachers deliver a lecture, students take notes and do reading and worksheets at home and then spit back the answers on tests.

But colleges, business leaders and educators have questioned traditional school for turning out students who can't can't think or solve problems.

It's not too soon in middle school to teach kids how analyze problems, work with others in a group situation, ask questions and come to a solution that can survive a gauntlet of other questions, according to District 833 educators.

The grant was written by teachers Gina Gamnis, Kevin Hagen, Rachel Ruzzi, Stacy Hinz and Erik Thomley. They are among the first to volunteer to learn new ways to guide young minds in grades 6 and 7 through "project-based learning." They will learn how to teach other teachers, and the eighth grade will come on board in 2014-15.

The project, which has a real-life link to the destruction of an amusement park by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, is to build an amusement park.

The grant, which has funding for staff development, comes with class materials. It will also be guided by 3M staff members Rick Goecke and Vickie Batroot.

"The project centers around computers, communication, creativity and critical thinking," said Oltman Principal Becky Schroeder. "Everything we do in life involves problem solving."

This year, 3M gave grants of more than $260,000 to 3M communities in 18 states that benefits 14,423 students.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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