Lancer Letter – Hearts, Minds, and Bodies in the Middle

Submitted by Richard Scaletta, GM School District

This week I want to share three exciting programs from our middle school.

If you were fortunate as I was to see the middle school’s production of Seussical Jr. last week, I’m sure you came away impressed and amazed. The young talent was exceptional and the professional level of production was impressive.

I went on opening night and since it was the first night, I expected to see some opening night jitters and a few missteps, especially given the young age of the performers; however, the young men and women who took that stage took it like they owned it! The confidence level blew me away and there was not a misstep to be seen or heard! The singing, dancing and acting I witnessed was way beyond the typical middle school production. I left in disbelief!

We are grateful to Kate Amatuzzo, the staff she assembled and the many parent volunteers who worked so hard to make this production possible. And, we are very proud of our young performers!

While visiting the middle school last week, I had opportunity to visit the art classroom of Christina Martin. I was excited to see the makerspace she created. (For more on makerspaces, see Lancer Letter #317 STEM) A project assigned to students called, “Learning by Design” asked students to create something that was an extension of the body or something to wear. Some of the things students created were wings, hats and dresses.

As part of the project, Mrs. Martin provided a great deal of background, showing students various designs and teaching elements of design. Then, once armed with this background knowledge, the students were set loose in an area with tables filled with paper tubes of various sizes, tape, string, rope, buttons, spools and many other simple everyday items.

I think we sell our students short when we don’t believe they can be creative. I feel it is critically important to provide the right environment where creativity and problem solving can flourish. Our students will do amazing things when that happens. My hat is off to Mrs. Martin for making that happen.

While at the middle school I also visited the physical education department. This year, they are implementing a new curriculum that focuses on personal fitness. They converted an old storage area into their fitness technology room and in conjunction with the aforementioned art department, students designed and painted graphics on the wall to represent the various activities of the curriculum.

When middle school students go to physical education class, they first go to this technology room and get a wristwatch style device which they wear throughout the class. During the class, the device is recording their heart rate and calories burned. At the end of class, they return the watch to the technology room, first placing it over a scanner which records their statistics from that day. Eventually, those results will be emailed to students (and parents) so that their overall fitness efforts can be tracked.

The teachers report that the wrist devices have significantly increased student motivation. The children start moving as soon as they put the device on because they want to maximize the heart rate reached and calories burned. Students recently combined this love for the technology, desire for fitness and philanthropic desires into a fund-raiser for the American Heart Association. Collecting pledges for their efforts with jump ropes, the students raised over $1300. Look for an upcoming story in the Erie Times News on this program.

This new approach to emphasizing personal fitness to our students is the result of hard work and a high level of teamwork among our three middle school health/PE teachers, Bob Santos, Heather Karns and Luke Jahn. They’ve really worked together to design and execute the program in an effective way. I think middle school is a great time for students to begin to understand that there is a science to fitness and that science can be used to maximize our fitness efforts.

Great things are happening for the students at James W. Parker Middle School. We are proud of what our teachers and students are accomplishing!

The Lancer Letter is a weekly editorial by Richard Scaletta, Superintendent of Schools, General McLane School District. Opinions expressed are Mr. Scaletta’s views on the issues and subjects of discussion, and not necessarily those of or our sponsors.

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