Manheim Central School District

Curriculum & Instruction Newsletter, Winter 2016

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The Goal of Education by Dr. Peter J. Aiken, Assistant Superintendent

I had the privilege to attend a conference in early December. The keynote speaker shared a story that has stuck with me.


The speaker lives in Chicago. He and his wife have three school-aged children. In the beginning of the year, the teacher of one of his children sent a memo home. The memo asked parents to state the education goals they have for their respective children for the current school year.


After some deliberation, he stated this: I have one goal. I want my son to be as excited about school at the end of this year as he was when he left for the first day of school.

As I reflected on this, I came to this conclusion: Isn’t this what education is about?

As we hit the halfway point of the year, I believe these are questions we must continually challenge ourselves with…


Are we making learning enjoyable?

Is the learning relevant?

Are we showing our students the practicality of their learning?

Are we challenging our students?

Above all, are we connecting with and caring for every student who comes into our schools?


We live in challenging times. More demands are being placed on our profession constantly. Yet, in spite of it all, our goal remains the same: preparing every one of our students to be a lifelong learner. Lifelong learning becomes a reality when we make it engaging.


Kids excited about learning. Seems so simple.


“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” -William Butler Yeats


Yours in Education,

Dr. Peter J. Aiken

Spotlight on New Teachers

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ALICE Training

On January 5th and 6th 2016, Mr. Fultz, High School Assistant Principal, along with Sgt. Aaron Szulborski of the Manheim Borough Police Department, attended a two day ALICE Training at Millersville University. ALICE is an acronym that stands for: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. This training prepares individuals on how to handle the threat of an active shooter. The program teaches people to participate in their own survival, while leading others to safety. During the training, participants had the opportunity to analyze past school shooting incidents from around the country and examine recent school safety research in an attempt to learn from the past. In addition, participants took part in live simulations, during which, skills learned throughout the ALICE training were applied to possible “real life” situations. After each of the simulations, the participants debriefed with the trainers. During this time, the simulation was analyzed to review what had happened and the instructor explained how participants made decisions on how to react by utilizing the skills they were taught during the ALICE training. Upon returning to the district, information was discussed on how to put skills learned at the ALICE training into practice throughout the district. Ultimately, strategies will be shared with our students and staff as part of our constant review of best safety practices. This is done in an effort to continuously educate and prepare our students and staff for events/dangers that schools could face in 21st Century.

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Manheim Central Earns PLTW Program Certification by Tom Bechtel

Manheim Central School District and the Technology Education and Engineering Department began a journey with Project Lead the Way (PLTW), during the summer of 2011. Tom Bechtel and Tom Eckman, both Technology Education teachers attended the summer PLTW training to teach Introduction to Engineering Design (IED), to the students at the high school. This was our first course that offered a STEM integrative approach of instruction to our students. Project Lead the Way is a nationally renowned program designed to integrate science, technology, and mathematics in an engineering delivery format. Since the 2011 start the high school has expanded its PLTW program to include Principles of Engineering (POE), Civil Engineering and Architecture (CEA), and Aerospace Engineering (AE). In the fall of 2016 the Business Department will offer a PLTW Computer Science elective adding one more course to our PLTW family here at Manheim Central High School.


In the fall of 2012 the middle school introduced PLTW’s Design and Modeling to 7th graders and PLTW’s Automation and Robotics to 8th graders. In the fall of 2016 we hope to add PLTW’s Launch program to the 5th and 6th graders. These courses offer students an exposure at an early age to STEM and the integrative application of science, technology, and mathematics.


The most recent PLTW district success was accomplished this fall when a Project Lead the Way evaluation team visited the district to review our program. Upon completion of a comprehensive ‘self-assessment’ and full day of observations and discussions with our high school administrative team, members of our Technology Education and Engineering Advisory Board, TE & E teachers, and current PLTW students, PLTW review team granted us program certification! This certification comes on the heels of hours of work on the part of administration, staff, and students. The certification allows our students to earn college credits through Rochester Institute of Technology. Several other colleges and universities will also honor and give credit hours for the diligence that students demonstrate in successful completion of these three credit PLTW courses offered at MCHS.

Beginning with the End in Mind - By: Courtney Murphy

Ok, so it’s January and with one quick flick of a calendar page, you’ve been dropped into a new year. Let’s be honest, we all know what the new year brings - that dreaded four letter word: PSSA.


“It seems like we’re just teaching to the test.”

This common complaint echoes throughout hallways and faculty rooms. But is it true? Are we teaching to the test? And if we are, is that a bad thing?


It’s time to rethink those four dreaded letters. Those four letters represent one test, one day, one small snapshot of a student. We all know that this one test cannot define a student, nor should its results be our motivation for doing this job that we love. So let’s look past the results of this state-mandated test, and instead look at the bigger picture.

The bigger picture reveals that the test was derived from the state standards. It is the standards, not the test, that we should be focusing on. If we focus on the standards, our students will (by default) do well on the test. But we do not teach so that students do well on the test. We know that in the real world students will not be stopped on the street and pressured into answering an insane amount of multiple choice questions. However, the real world will demand students to solve problems and think critically. If we teach our students can master the standards, we will equip them with the skills necessary to be successful, contributing members of society beyond our classroom walls.


In my opinion, the phrase “teaching to the test” simply acknowledges that we are all working toward common goals. The standards, quite simply, give us common goals for our grade level. We desperately need this – it unites us in our daily efforts from one classroom to the next. We need to start the year with a clear picture of what we want the outcome to be.


Perhaps even more importantly, we need to ensure our students know the desired outcomes as well. Think about a time when you wanted to learn something new. When you began to learn this skill, you knew what you wanted the end result to be. It was helpful for you to know where you were going in order to get there. It’s no different for our students. They, too, need to know what we want the outcome to be. So begin your days, weeks, and school year with the end in mind – what are the standards that your students need to master? Let those standards, not a test, influence your decisions and drive your instruction. So go ahead, “teach to the test” – your students will thank you.

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Literacy in the Art Room - Julie Hibshman, Middle School Art Teacher

This year, seventh and eighth grade encore art students are exploring the creative process through the art of personal story telling. Students’ stories cover a wide variety of topics, each a narrative of moments evoking emotions from pure joy to embarrassment to sorrow. Individually, these narratives become the focal point that guides the student through to the creation of a finished, hand-built clay mask. Students then reflect on their work by critically analyzing their finished piece through a written artist statement, a testimonial that provides insight into their artwork and allows the viewer to see the process through the imaginative eyes of the artist. The artwork that the students create is both personal and revealing. This creative exploration reinforces the value of the visual arts as a vital format for students to incorporate essential 21st century literacy skills.

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”An Hour of Code for Every Student"

By: Jean DiSanza, Business and Information Technology, Manheim Central High School


This is the motto for the Code.org website that has been endorsed by President Obama, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to name a few. Since our last issue, our Manheim Central School District students in grades K-12 were given the opportunity to participate in a worldwide event known as An Hour of Code, provided absolutely free on the code.org website. Our students, along with those in over 100 cities, 18 states and seven nations, tackle Computer Science, endeavoring to become 21st century citizens. Code.org's mission is to unlock the mysteries of computer programming, or simply - "code," and show that anybody can learn the basics. Through highly motivating tutorials featuring Star Wars, Minecraft, Flappy Birds and Frozen, our students learned that coding is simply designing a set of instructions to complete a task - sometimes simple, sometimes complex. Directions as well as videos featuring celebrities, politicians and technology insiders explained the logical steps needed to complete a given scenario. Young coders were able to develop problem solving skills, expand their creativity and even collaborate with others to demystify coding.


Students in Mrs. Elliot's 3rd grade class are deeply engrossed with code during the December 7th Week of Code. In a recent email, Hadi Partovi, the founder of the site, celebrated President Obama's continued support with a new initiative called, CS for All, which will provide increased funding, professional development and opportunities for all students to connect with computer science, highlighting a need for increased participation by women and underrepresented students of color.

The Every Student Succeeds Act passed in December, replacing No Child Left Behind, seeks to place computer science into more U.S. classrooms to produce students literate in CS and capable of competing in a 21st century, global society. Within ESSA, Computer Science has been included in the new definition of well-rounded education along with reading, writing, and math. Mrs. DiSanza's 9th grade student challenged themselves with the Star Wars and Minecraft games.


Where do we go from here? Parents and students can continue to access the Code.org site from any computer, tablet or phone with internet connection. Work with your students or play alone to develop your own coding skills. Additional resources and free apps such as Hopscotch, Codester, Scratch from MIT and the widely respected Kahn Academy can provide hours of fun, creativity, and challenge for you and your 21st century learners.


"Our economy is rapidly shifting, and both educators and business leaders are increasingly recognizing that computer science (CS) is a “new basic” skill necessary for economic opportunity and social mobility." President Barak Obama

Front Row Takes the ‘front row’ in Classrooms - By: Laura Campbell

There is a new app that you will find being used across classrooms in the Manheim Central School District. This app is called Front Row. Front Row is both an app and a web-based program. Thus, it can be accessed on a tablet or on a laptop.


Front Row began as a differentiated math program. However, this school year, it expanded and now offers a differentiated reading program. Front Row is the only math and English language arts program that is made for teachers by teachers. Front Row provides over 30,000 common core aligned questions that are graded automatically and given to students based on their level.


The app-based program is a virtual teacher’s aide in the classroom, offering one-on-one lesson for K-8 graders and real-time progress reports for teachers and parents.

To start, students take a diagnostic test in a content area of the teacher’s choosing. This determines if they are at grade level, advanced, or if they need to practice certain skill sets. The app tailors each lesson to each student’s individualized needs and they learn at their own pace.


The ability to adapt is one of the app’s distinguishing features. If a third grader is performing at a fifth grade level, it will pick that up and increase the difficulty. It can also identify students’ weak spots and tailor lesson to strengthen those skills.

There are video lessons, interactive exercises, and a read-aloud function for younger students or struggling readers. Front Row also recently introduced lessons that use real-life scenarios to explain basic math concepts so kids can easily relate to them.


The English language art portion of the program is similar in that of the differentiation aspect. Front Row offers non-fiction articles at five different reading levels (based on grade level). These articles include biographies, science, and even one on how ice cream was created! Students read the article and can do different activities with the vocabulary. Students also answer multiple choice questions and have to practice writing a response.