A Lego creation in Martin Evans' class at Buddy Taylor Middle School. Photo by Brent Woronoff
Palm Coast Observer
Before COVID, the Flagler County Education Foundation hosted in-person school tours for community members on a regular basis. They have revived them this year.
"We really wanted to get the community into the schools to experience what they do," said Teresa Rizzo, the Ed Foundation's executive director.
Teresa Phillips, a digital support specialist with Flagler Schools, said a recent lunch and learn at Flagler Palm Coast High School included recent FPC graduates who were surprised to see so many new classroom to career programs.
"They went there 10 years ago, and they couldn't believe the changes," Phillips said. "There was a whole fire training program and there was a health lab. And we heard, 'Where was all this stuff when we were here 10 years ago?' So, it was neat to let people see that."
Technology Coordinator Maria McGovern said the tours, which showcase different programs at different schools, create awareness of what the district does with the half-cent surtax, which provides support for technology, safety and transportation.
"All those things keep the schools running," she said. "Technology integrates with so many departments, like providing microscopes (for science classes) and 3D printers (for engineering and robotics programs)."
The Observer was invited to join a tour on Nov. 3 with community members, including incoming School Board member Sally Hunt. The tour visited Buddy Taylor Middle School and Bunnell Elementary School, focusing on STEM programs.
3D PRINTING AND ENGINEERING
Buddy Taylor Middle School teacher Martin Evans held out a handful of red Lego bricks for the tour to see. Some were actual Legos, some were copies designed by students using the Fusion 360 3D-printing program.
"It's just for fun," said Evans, who is an instructor for robotics and 3D design certifications. "It's pretty amazing."
"It's pretty exciting. We're kind of pushing the envelope. With all of these certifications in middle school, just imagine what they can do in high school?"
— MARTIN EVANS, Buddy Taylor Middle School robotics and 3D design certification teacher
Equally amazing are the certifications in engineering and 3D design his young students are working toward.
"It's very rare for middle schools to have this program," he said. "In a year or two, these kids will be able to get certification in Fusion 360 design."
The students can then go on to earn higher certifications in high school. Evans also has students working toward introductory engineering certification, which covers fundamentals in mechanical, electrical and computer engineering. The two-year program leads into a more advanced certification program.
"It's pretty exciting," Evans said. "We're kind of pushing the envelope. With all of these certifications in middle school, just imagine what they can do in high school?"
WHO WAS THAT SHARK?
Buddy Taylor science teacher Larry Tanenbaum attended a weeklong professional development program at the University of Florida where teachers learned how to bridge the fields of artificial intelligence and paleontology in their classrooms.
Tanenbaum is working with his Eagle Advisory students to teach computers how to use shape, color and texture to identify the species of extinct shark teeth. For now, it's a pilot program to work into regular classes, Tanenbaum said.
Tanenbaum is in his 37th year teaching and 34th year at Buddy Taylor. During the tour, Tanenbaum asked his students to raise their hand if he had taught one of their family members. Several students raised their hand.
Eagle Advisory is a 50-minute class carved into Buddy Taylor's block schedule grouping kids together based on their needs to provide enrichment or extra support in specific areas, assistant principal Rachel Bovino said.
After Tanenbaum's class, the tour stopped at Buddy Taylor's store where students can "purchase" treats, Buddy Taylor T-shirts and other items with their points earned through Positive Behavior Intervention Support program.
GARDENING, CULINARY AND MORE
Catherine Zanella, a Bunnell Elementary School health teacher, is known as Coach Cathie to her students. The fifth graders in her after-school club run the REACH lab, which stands for Research, Agriculture, Culinary and Health.
The students tend three gardens — traditional, hydroponic and aquaponic. They prepare recipes with the food they grow and now they will also produce their own cooking show on their YouTube channel. The equipment is all grant-funded. The students led a tour of each of the gardens and the greenhouse.
Vegetables grow in soil in the traditional garden. Water is the medium for the hydroponic and aquaponic gardens. In aquaponics, fish are used provide nutrients for the plants. The ammonia produced as waste by the fish is converted by bacteria into nutrients for the plants. By using the nutrients, the plants clean the water which gets pumped back into the fish tank.
"I love how we all get a chance to participate in the gardening, and we all get a chance to cook different recipes. We feed the fish, take care of them, make sure they're healthy. We all get a chance to volunteer."
— Melissa Ryon, Bunnell Elementary School fifth grader
The fish start out as little goldfish, Zanella said. But they quickly grow. She said a goal for later in the school year is to raise tilapia.
"I love how we all get a chance to participate in the gardening, and we all get a chance to cook different recipes," fifth-grader Melissa Ryon said. "We feed the fish, take care of them, make sure they're healthy. We all get a chance to volunteer."
The traditional garden recently had a termite infestation and students had to remove the wooden boxes housing the plants.
After the tour of the gardens, the student tour guides — Piper Hankerd, Ava Blanchard, Caroline Irving, Melissa Ryon, Kavoni Howard, Ryder Ingram and Micah Evensen — served quinoa slaw bowls to the tour participants.
Another program at Bunnell Elementary that incorporates lessons from several subjects is Class Equity, which teaches financial literacy.
"It helps with classroom management," said teacher Jamie Lambert. "The kids can pay fines and they can earn bonuses. They use their money to pay rent, so it’s real life experiences. I think they get so much out of it. You have to pay bills, so it balances wants and needs. It’s really making them realize, 'I have to pay my rent, I have to pay electricity in the school before I buy (a stylus, headphones or a treat).'"
Math is incorporated and the program can be used in all grades, Lambert said. In kindergarten, the kids can add and subtract dollars. In fifth grade, they use decimals, which are part of the state standards.
Currently, Lambert and Heidi Blanchard, who do flexible grouping with their classes, are the only teachers at BES using the program. But other teachers were scheduled to do a training via Zoom with the creators of the program.
"They've been very supportive," Lambert said of the program creators. "They were both teachers, and it's obvious."