Success with RCCD  

January 30, 2015
Nancy Welniak, Ord Public School 7-12 English teacher participated in the Regional Consortium Language Arts training in August. During this training, grade level teachers learned about the Rigorous Curriculum Design process and wrote their first unit of study based on the Nebraska College and Career Language Arts Standards. Nancy worked collaboratively with other eighth grade English teachers and created a community service unit.

One component of the unit included creating performance tasks and an engaging scenario which would provide students with the opportunity to apply their learning of the standards to a real-life situation. The engaging scenario and performance tasks include:

•Engaging Scenario: Community Service is an opportunity to better improve your community (not for personal gain). The city manager and council are interested in hearing your ideas for a community improvement project. Your role is to develop and present a proposal to the council for an area of need in your community.  In this proposal, you will list the steps and materials necessary to achieve your goal.
•Task 1: Brainstorm areas of interest for community improvements. Suggestions include: surveys, talking with family, visual survey/picture.
•Task 2: Include a “before” picture of your proposed area for improvements. Generate a 1-3 paragraph written description with detailed descriptions and rationale of WHY this is a good project.
•Task 3: Formulate a written plan of HOW you are going to achieve your plan of action. Your plan must include the following items: location, contact information (name of person who owns the property), materials needed, cost involved, transportation, projected timeline, required man-power (including your assigned roles within the group). You may add more details as you discover them. Prepare any helpful visual aids (charts, diagrams, tables, potential post-picture).
•Task 4: Using self-monitoring and peer revision strengthen your writing with powerful word choices, complex sentence structure, and figurative language when appropriate. Practice good speaking techniques and presentation of visual aids (all group members must speak in the presentation).  
•Task 5: Communicate your ideas and information in a clear and concise manner. This will include a final copy of your proposal, visual aids (digital or created) to enhance your presentation and a polished, professional performance of your proposal.

William Bolen and I visited the Ord Public School on November 3rd and conducted interviews with Mrs. Welniak, eighth grade students, and the community panel to capture the impact this unit of study had on both the students and community members. I would like to share some of their comments to illustrate the partnership and learning that evolved as a result of this process.

“It was learning without even realizing that they were learning. It is so much different when you have ownership in a project and you get to decide the direction with your partners in the group which way the project will evolve. I think they not only did a nice job of working together but they especially did a nice job of not only picking out what needs to be done in our community, but then bringing it back and organizing it and putting it into a package that they could sell to our panel members. This project turned out better than I could have ever imagined. It is teaching with a purpose.”  ~Nancy Welniak, classroom teacher

“I was really impressed by the research that the students had done in preparing their projects and their presentations were really inspiring and informative. This project expanded their awareness and gave the students ownership in their community.”
~Dawn Haage, Hometown Competitive Director for Valley County

“I thought the project was really fun and I liked working for a cause. It was good to lend a helping hand in the community. It makes me feel really good that I am helping out someone else.” ~Ord Eighth grade student

“Mrs. Welniak had to adjust her teaching a little bit and give up a certain amount of control in the classroom which can be scary and difficult but watching her grow as an instructor has been very rewarding. We see this as an opportunity to enhance what we currently feel like are good practices or best practices in the classroom. Whenever you are able to collaborate with other teachers in the ESU 10 region, we need to take advantage of it.” ~Mark Haage, 7-12 Principal of Ord Public School

“We had to think more outside of the box.  We didn’t have to just think about our grades and we could do something to help the community and not just ourselves." ~Ord Eighth grade student

The Ord students, staff and administration did an outstanding job with this unit of study and plan to continue working with the community to ensure that the students’ projects become a reality.  One group of students will be holding a talent show on December 6th to raise money for the new community swimming pool. 

William and I have created a couple of videos to share with the community during their talent show and other teachers in the ESU 10 Regional Consortium.  We hope this will encourage other teachers participating in the RCCD process to see this as “learning with a purpose” and finding ways to make connections to real-life applications.

-Dallas Lewandowski, Teaching and Learning Coodinator