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Fluency Project could be implemented in more Carlynton classes

| Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, 4:42 p.m.

Kristen Fischer's English class at Carlynton Junior-Senior High School recently went on a “data collection walk” around campus, taking photos, compiling data and identifying improvements they would like to see implemented.

It's not the usual way to study the writings of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

And that's the exactly the point, says Fischer.

“This is exciting for us because traditionally we are English teachers and you wouldn't think of kids using numbers and technology and robotics in the classroom,” she said.

“It's a different way of doing it. It's being student-driven and led. That inquiry is what we're trying to foster.”

This new way of teaching, called The Fluency Project, is a product of Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab.

Fischer and Wendy Steiner were two of 12 teachers from area school districts accepted into a two-week residency at Carnegie Mellon last summer to study the program.

According to CMU's website, The Fluency Project empowers teachers and students with the capabilities to “participate in today's big data movement, to find a home for inquiry, narrative, and advocacy in the classroom, and personalize problem-based learning.”

Steiner said the “Fluency” model is a three-step process: Inquiry, data collection and advocacy, or using information to affect change.

“It's to foster inquiry and thinking and questioning and wondering.”

Steiner and Fischer's long-term goal is to implement Fluency Project initiatives into all classrooms in the school district.

At a Carlynton school directors' meeting last month, they proposed a semester-long elective course in which high school students could explore a topic and pursue self-directed learning.

They also would like Carlynton to implement a coaching position during the 2017-18 school year to work with teachers at all grade levels.

“We're reaching a small amount of kids right now and really there are activities that can go in all classrooms across the district,” Steiner said.

Superintendent Gary Peiffer said it's important to avoid the “compartmentalization” of math, science and English classes.

“I think it's exciting. I think it's a direction we need to go.”

Steiner plans to have her English students design and create a robot that reflects a theme of the novel “Frankenstein” when it is studied in class next February.

“I feel like we are on the cusp of something no other school district in the area is doing. We have assets, we have resources. (CMU) is willing to work with us. We can really be pioneers in the way this project is implemented district-wide.”

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