Better Together

Geist Montessori Academy@GeistAcademy

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Digital Learning Community Advisory Grant

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Grant Mission

Geist Montessori Academy (GMA), serving students K-8th grade, will enhance the educational opportunities for our students by providing world class STEM education to 100% of our students. In doing so, our aim is to intentionally integrate science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines, which will launch problem-based and inquiry-based approaches to teaching and learning in the classroom. This will, concurrently, help develop critical thinking skills and create the vital pathways to postsecondary readiness and career opportunities.



Geist Montessori Academy will ensure that 100% of its teachers, as well as assistants, and administrators are prepared to provide every student, grades K–8, with an evidence-based, effective STEM education by 2020-2021.

Professional Development Plan for 100% of Teachers and 100% of Administration

After reviewing data from our AdvancED Engagement report 2019, we are looking to improve in areas of deficit, specifically, Resource Capacity Domain, standard 3.1, “The institute plans and delivers professional learning to improve the learning environment, learner achievement, and institution’s effectiveness.

To increase capacity for innovation through technology integration, 100% of teachers and administrators (Executive Director: Cindy Schuler and Assistant Executive Director: Logan Bonar, as well as the Special Education Coordinator: Interim Jill Zapf) will receive training through our Partner: Project Lead the Way, (PLTW), who will provide District Transformation Professional Development to ALL staff members, teachers, and assistants in the summer of 2020. By including all teachers, assistants, administrators, executive director, assistant executive director, and the special education coordinator, GMA is proclaiming loud and clear that STEM education is a priority in the district. The professional development immersion plan ( A complimentary $9500 on-site, 2 full-day intensive training and introduction to PLTW)

will be known by ALL to better support and develop ALL students.

District Transformation Core Training immerses teachers in a hands-on, collaborative learning environment that challenges them to look at their classrooms in a new way. Teachers take on the role of a student, engage in in-depth exploration of PLTW coursework, and gain invaluable experience to take back to their classrooms.

Core Training helps teachers build skills and confidence around activity-, project-, and problem-based (APB) learning; prepares educators to become facilitators and coaches; and empowers them to bring learning to life through their PLTW program.

According to research, What Research Says about K-8 Science Learning and Teaching, “The TCTT report emphasizes preparing a work force for the 21st century that must engage more and more in creative work and less and less in routine work. The TCTT report recommends that we "develop standards, assessments, and curriculum that reflect today's needs and tomorrow's requirements," while a core RAGS issue is "attracting and retaining students in STEM education."

Being mindful of this, an underlying current of GMA’s STEM vision is to shift students away from learning isolated bits and pieces of knowledge and rote learning, and work to develop a student’s ability to think logically, solve problems, innovate in authentic experiences, engage in inquiry, collaborate with peers, and develop self-motivation and the love of lifelong learning. To do so, GMA STEM will help students intentionally make the cross-curricular connections. We are willing and eager, as a staff, to make sure our Montessori philosophical beliefs that connect education to students' own interests and experiences is being upheld.

We realize that in order to evolve into a true STEM school environment, we must establish a common district/school mission/vision. By incorporating STEM education at all levels at GMA, K- grade 8, by engaging local business and the community, and by adopting the PLTW curriculum and instructional practices, GMA will significantly improve student performance.

GMA is committed to prioritizing STEM education.

Teachers in grades K- grade 5 will receive PLTW Launch Professional Development which engages teachers in a collaborative, hands-on learning experience that challenges them to look at their role in a different way.Teachers will develop an understanding of the activity-, project-, problem-based (APB) instructional approach, embrace their role as facilitators of learning, and gain familiarity with grade-level PLTW Launch modules.

What PLTW Launch does is tap into students’ exploratory nature, engage them in learning that feels like play, and encourages them to keep discovering, becoming lifelong learners. PLTW Launch’s 28 interdisciplinary modules bring learning to life. The program empowers students to adopt a design-thinking mindset through compelling activities, projects, and problems that build upon each other and relate to the world around them. And as students engage in hands-on activities in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science, they become creative, collaborative problem solvers ready to take on any challenge.

All of the PLTW Launch modules engage students in cross-disciplinary activities that spark a lifelong love of learning and build knowledge and skills in areas including computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. In addition, each module empowers students to develop essential skills such as problem solving, critical and creative thinking, communication, collaboration, and perseverance.

For our middle school teachers, Project Lead The Way will provide training on both of their middle school computer science courses (App Creators and Computer Science for Innovators and Makers).

Middle school is a time of exploration, a time when students are figuring out what they’re passionate about today and how that relates to who they’ll become tomorrow.

During this transitional time, PLTW Gateway’s 10 units empower students to lead their own discovery. The hands-on program boosts classroom engagement and excitement, drives collaboration, and inspires “aha! moments” and deep comprehension. And as students engage in PLTW’s activities in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science, they see a range of paths and possibilities they can look forward to in high school and beyond.

Coaching/Instructional Leader Support

Coaching/Instructional Leader Support

An area of weakness noted in our AdvancED report was standard 3.3, “The institution provides instruction, mentoring, and coaching programs that ensure all staff members have knowledge and skills to improve student performance and organizational effectiveness. Accordingly, our partner, Project Lead the Way will offer complimentary train-the-trainer professional development to ensure that there is sustainability and continual growth as a district. As such, each level of our program at GMA will have a lead teacher trained in-depth (kindergarten teacher, a lower elementary teacher, grades 1-3, an upper elementary teacher, grades 4-6, and a middle school teacher, grades 7-8). These eleven in-house trainers will then lead bi-monthly professional development in their areas. PLTW professional development is designed to create dynamic learning experiences for educators through powerful and flexible instructional support, as well as an ongoing professional community. PLTW’s approach to professional development prepares educators to lead the engaging PLTW experience in their classrooms and also provides continuing support.

For instance, PLTW Launch teachers have access to ongoing training opportunities throughout the school year, including robust instructional support, on-demand resources, and a community of collaborative educators to connect and interact through our online tool community. Furthermore, PLTW Launch Professional Development goes beyond preparing teachers to facilitate and deliver a transformative learning experience in their classroom. It also provides teachers with the opportunity to advance their careers as instructional leaders and program champions.

Technology Integration Plan

Technology Integration Plan

Another area of weakness noted on the AdvancED Report was standard 3.5, “The institution integrates digital resources into teaching, learning, and operations to improve professional practice, student performance, and organizational effectiveness.”

Therefore, GMA is going to explicitly and intentionally address ALL three strands:

1. Instruction and Learning: Daily Scale Evidence-Based STEM Curriculum, PLTW instruction, will be delivered to 100% of the students. Through the grant, teachers will have access to grade appropriate modules and hands-on learning engagements to bring the learning to life for our students.

2. Leadership and Development: ALL staff and administrators will have intensive, 2 full-day on-site immersion CORE professional development in the evidence-based STEM curriculum, PLTW. Additionally, the grade level area train-the-trainers will provide bi-monthly training to their specific grade levels to continually enhance and inform best practice.

3. College and Career Ready: By providing 100% of our students with daily PLTW instruction/curriculum, GMA students will be exposed to the skills necessary to foster the love of STEM. In addition, GMA will create and sustain robust STEM partnerships through our neighboring outreach partnerships with Roche, Lily, PLTW, Engineering for Kids, and Vex Robotics which will inform curriculum, instruction, and student experiences to foster college and career readiness.

As stated before, all of the PLTW Launch modules engage students in cross-disciplinary activities that spark a lifelong love of learning and build knowledge and skills in areas including computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. In addition, each module empowers students to develop essential skills such as problem solving, critical and creative thinking, communication, collaboration, and perseverance. Also, during the transitional time of middle school, PLTW Gateway’s 10 units empower students to lead their own discovery. The hands-on program boosts classroom engagement and excitement, drives collaboration, and inspires “aha! moments” and deep comprehension. And as students engage in PLTW’s activities in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science, they see a range of paths and possibilities they can look forward to in high school and beyond.

Extended Learning

Extended Learning:

Currently, students at GMA have very limited STEM opportunities. As noted in our AdvancED report, a large area for growth at GMA was a digital learning environment. On a 4 point scale, GMA rated between 1.21-1.86. This domain encompassed: learners use digital tools/technology to gather, evaluate, and or use information for learning; to conduct research, solve problems, and/or create original works for learning; and to communicate and/or work collaboratively for learning. Since GMA is starting at such a minimal level, the intensive training and PLTW curriculum that the grant will allow us to purchase will definitely help build capacity in our teachers which will allow for expanding curricular learning opportunities for ALL levels of our students. Because we are starting from the ground up, we can intentionally build a strong foundation at the K level, which will be vertically aligned all the way through to our middle school students’ experiences. This explicit instruction will build upon itself, allowing ALL of our students to progress in STEM.

Expanding extracurricular opportunities is also essential for our students to enable them to fully develop their STEM Passion. STEM education is meant to be equitable, providing all students’ opportunities to learn, develop, and acquire the necessary skills that will provide the love of learning and success in life. As such, we will offer 100% of GMA students the opportunity to partake in an engineering summer camp through our local partner, Engineering for Kids. For grades K-2, our little engineers will learn about many different fields of engineering! They will explore coral reefs like Marine Engineers, make fun mixtures like Chemical Engineers, explore magnets like Electrical Engineers, and so much more!! Our engineers will also explore the fields of Aerospace Engineering & Mechanical Engineering during this full week summer camp.

Our GMA students in grades 3-8 will study engineering, as well. These engineers will design, create, and test many machines and mechanical systems. They will learn the basics of energy, traction, aerodynamics, and trajectory all while constructing roller coasters, catapults, and much more during this full week summer camp.

By offering these extensions to learning during the summer months, our learners will internalize that STEM is full time. Inquiry, engagement, and the thrill of learning is every day.

As such, GMA will offer Vex Robotics for all middle school students. This after school program will engage students in a fun, hands-on learning experience. “Elementary and middle school is the most formative time in a young student's life. The best way to instill a lifelong interest in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is to provide a fun, engaging, and hands-on opportunity to explore and experience it for themselves.”

By its nature, the study of robotics inherently incorporates all four pillars of STEM. VEX IQ is a snap-together robotics system designed from the ground up to provide this opportunity to future engineers of all skill levels. By packaging advanced concepts into an accessible package, the system also naturally encourages teamwork, problem solving, and leadership for students. “VEX Competitions bring STEM skills to life by tasking teams of students with designing and building a robot to play against other teams in a game-based engineering challenge. Classroom STEM concepts are put to the test as students learn lifelong skills in teamwork, leadership, communications, and more. Tournaments are held year-round at the regional, state, and national levels and culminate at the VEX Robotics World Championship each April!”



In order to be successful in implementing rich and robust STEM educational experiences for our students, GMA must have a long-term vision and mission. By intentionally vertically articulating the PLTW curriculum, we will have a firm foundation in place. Further, through the train–the-trainer program that we will initiate at ALL levels of our school, if there is turnover, new teachers will be supported. Teachers will not grow stagnant in their thinking or lessons due to the bi-monthly professional development that these trainers will provide. Once the grant cycle is complete, teachers will be able to continue to hone their skills through the online modules, resources, and PLTW training materials.

Moreover, PLTW helps redesign and frame the way a class approaches learning. These skills of inquiry and higher level critical thinking skills transcend subjects, are cross-curricular, and will enable our students to be successful beyond their K-8 grade years within our GMA school family. The commitment and priority that the administration is placing on this comprehensive endeavor also reiterates solidarity and longevity.

Staff will have developed the skills to use free resources, such as Buck Institute’s Project Based Learning (PBL) Videos, Portal Resources for Indiana Science and Mathematics (PRISM), which is a free website that provides collections of online resources for Indiana educators in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); STARBASE Indiana, which has FREE STEM Academies sponsored by the Department of Defense in the State of Indiana; The STEM Connection, which provides professional development to empower educators by sharing STEM content knowledge, developing STEM practices, and building confidence to provide more meaningful STEM experiences for youth. As STEM continues to grow, more and more such resources and opportunities will arise, and our GMA school family will be equipped to provide our students with these learning experiences.

Along with this, GMA’s outreach partners: Lily, Roche, Engineering for Kids, and PLTW will continue to grow and evolve. Our school's town of McCordsville is also in a period of extensive growth. The administration and teaching staff has been proactive in meeting with town officials to build even more partners within the community as the business community grows. These authentic learning partners reinforce that STEM thinking is a way of being, it’s everywhere, it’s FUN, and it’s forever!


Please see the attachment. Thank you!


Summer 2020: District-wide Core Training

Fall 2020: PLTW Launch K-5 Curriculum/Instruction Roll-Out, Computer Science

Fall 2020: Middle School PLTW Professional Development/ Computer Science Roll-out

Fall: Outreach partner: Roche does K-8 Career Exploration PD for Students

October--April: VEX Robotics Team, After School STEM, Middle School

Bi-Monthly: Coaches Provide In-House PD to their levels

Monthly: PLTW Progress Monitoring by Administration

December 2021: PLTW Engineering Kits

April 2021: PLTW Biomedical Modules

Bi-Monthly: Coaches Provide In-House PD to their levels

Summer 2021: Engineering for Kids Summer Camp, grades K-8

Fall 2021: Enhanced PLTW training, going deeper

Ongoing thereafter: Bi-monthly coaches provide in-house PD to their levels

Ongoing: Progress Monitoring results, engagement, critical thinking, and levels of student inquiry

Ongoing: Enhancing and developing techniques, curriculum, and the lifelong love of learning!

Bonus Points

Bonus Points: PLTW is our IDOE Matching Funds Partner, which will provide the district in-depth training, Train-the-Trainer Training, and pay for the computer science middle school teacher training.

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FAr out!

Upper elementary students in Ms. Abby's class had a wonderful hands-on learning experience, where they gained a deeper understanding and perspective of just how far out our planets really are! Please enjoy their hallway scale map of our solar system.

Together, we are so much better!

Meet Geist Montessori Academy's Executive Director: Cindy Schuler

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