Helping Battle Creek Public Schools expand their curriculum
As part of a multi-year partnership with the Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS), three GVSU math faculty members – Drs. Dave Coffey, Lisa Kasmer and Paul Yu – and a group of students have been collaborating with Battle Creek faculty and administrators to share their expertise in expanding STEM-related curricula at BCPS.
The GVSU-BCPS partnership started in 2019 funded by a $15.5M grant awarded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to GVSU with the purpose of transforming education in the district. The partnership includes work at both the middle and high school grades, college and career exploration and advising, BCPS educator professional development and support, and more. There are many components to the program, one of which is the collaboration of GVSU faculty with BCPS teachers and administrators on the development of an integrated STEM curriculum for BCPS’ STEM Innovation Center, the Battle Creek area’s only STEM-focused middle school. Drs. Kasmer and Yu have been involved in this project, using their expertise in middle school mathematics curriculum and technology to design a mathematics curriculum for grades 6-8. They have also supported the teachers at BCPS through class visits and virtual consultations as part of the curriculum and pedagogical development work both at the middle and high school levels. Currently two Grand Valley math and secondary major students, Dustin Danckaert and Emily Waggoner, are also part of the team providing further support by creating lesson plans using their own skills and knowledge on the middle school curriculum learned in MTH 329, Teaching Middle Grades Mathematics. They examine the curriculum that the STEM Innovation Center uses and then transform this curriculum into a lesson plan that a substitute teacher with little to no math or education experience can understand and use. They are also developing user guides for the implementation of DreamBox, an online mathematics learning tool, used at the school.
In 2021, Dr. Paul Yu was additionally tasked with forming and leading a group of GVSU faculty members from education, engineering, integrated science, mathematics and nursing to work with BCPS educators to co-construct a high school curriculum for ten elective junior/senior level courses focused on career pathways. These courses will introduce BCPS students to topics such as ethics in STEM, health sciences and careers, and capstone experiences. This curriculum work builds on the other career services support GVSU provides through this grant such as the career counseling and exploration options offered at GVSU Battle Creek Regional Outreach Center, and the opportunity to attend the career exploration STEM-, health- and education-focused summer camps at GVSU.
Dr. Dave Coffey has also used his expertise in design thinking and introduced teachers at BCPS to design thinking and supported them in its use to design lessons. Dr. Kasmer notes that this project has been a challenging but worthwhile endeavor. She adds “The curriculum that we've developed is exciting, transformative, and very engaging for middle school students.”
Dr. Yu thinks that this GV-BCPS partnership has provided wonderful opportunities for Grand Valley education majors to get community-engagement learning experiences to support their education courses. He’s excited to see that some recent GV mathematics education graduates (Dustin See, Ashley Latham, and Devan Washington) have taken positions in the Battle Creek school district, and hopes they support their students to someday study STEM at Grand Valley.
Reflecting on her participation in the program, Emily says “I think the experience has been very valuable for me and getting to create these lesson plans has given me a better understanding of the curriculum. The experience has allowed me to explore my future career and has reaffirmed my excitement to teach math.”