Better Together: An Example Explained

Jen Sigrist, director of teaching and learning at Van Meter Schools and former social studies teacher, is leading the social studies team to create blended curriculum as part of the Iowa Communities of Practice and Innovation (IACoPi) pilot to scale project.

Social studies is an important part of the 21st Century learner’s education. It is the one content area where students can make sense of and connect all the other fields of learning into a common frame of reference. It’s the doorway to becoming a responsible, global citizen. 21st Century learners are more connected with the world than ever before, and it takes an understanding of social sciences as a whole to participate in this environment -Jen Sigrist

The social studies team is truly working together to accomplish the unprecedented work of Iowa Communities of Practice and Innovation (IACoPi). The team consists of classroom teachers, special education literacy specialists, project-based learning experts, and district level administration. The collaborative dynamic is working, and Sigrist explains the group was cohesive from the beginning. “We are challenging each other’s thinking. We are connected by our drive. We are passionate about improving social studies education, so it is meaningful for our kids.”

To support the improvement, many IACoPi social studies educators attended the Buck Institute on Project Based Learning professional development. The professional development supports the mission of the social studies group, the promise of Iowa Core/Common Core, and the goal of IACoPi. Project Based Learning invites students into the content making the learning and assessment relevant, meaningful, and authentic. As educators across the state continue to address curriculum, the need for a paradigm shift becomes evident, and the need for educator collaboration becomes necessary. Iowa Communities of Practice and Innovation brought passionate professionals together, and amazing work is being accomplished.

Housed on a Moodle server, the social studies curriculum is impressive. Since its birth, the project has evolved, and the metamorphosis was inspired by a need to create essential content. The blended curriculum is aligned with universal constructs. “When you think of the stereotypical social studies education, it is irrelevant. Relevant is global citizenship, empathy, information literacy, civic activism, and civic responsibility.”

One of the many collaborative gems is the global citizenship project. Sigrist and the team knew to be effective, the curriculum would have to center around current issues. The blended ecurriculum is designed to be malleable. The community will utilize the adaptable work to meet the needs of students and their respective districts. The blended learning format is not about covering the content, but about students uncovering.

There is no doubt, teachers working together will benefit Iowa students. The enthusiasm is evident in the work, and the relentless journey to improve is impressive. Jen Sigrist believes in the curriculum and the quest, “I am proud of the way we are working together, proud of the type of unit, and I am sold it is the type of thing kids need, but teachers have not been given.”

Educators involved in the Iowa Communities of Practice Innovation blended ecurriculum mission will meet the end of July to further develop and examine curriculum.

#IACoPi feature post authored by Erin Olson (@eolsonteacher)

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Filed under blended learning, Buck Institute, ecurriculum, iowa1to1, moodle, PBL, teachers, technology

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