Bismarck Public Schools

What the heck is a Charrette?!

Wikipedia: “A charrette refers to a collaborative process in which a group or groups draft solutions to a design problem. These sessions can quickly generate ideas while integrating the aptitudes and interests of a diverse group of people.”

In November, architects from DLR Group and J2 Studios pulled together groups of people to talk about the design of the new high school. There were four group meetings: high school and district administrators, high school teachers and specialists, high school students, and a diverse group of community/business members and parents.

One thing the groups agreed on is that schools should be student-centered; that education should be about how students learn versus how teachers teach. While this concept is not unusual, the new building and classrooms may look different than what we are used to. After looking at designs of a couple new U.S. high schools and watching a video called High Tech High, groups discussed their visions.

Administrators, for example, favored a large open commons area and windows into some classroom areas so you can see learning taking place and projects students are working on, similar to the Career Academy. This transparency also promotes student safety. Students liked the idea because they would be able to visually see a course that they may explore later. Students also liked the open areas, natural light and small group work spaces in the hallways. They talked about textbooks on iPads vs. heavy backpacks, a fitness center concept vs. typical PE, coat areas vs. lockers, more science electives, and project-based learning. They also expressed a strong interest in all of the arts.

Teachers saw an opportunity for more collaboration among educators and students based on potential building design. One said, “The space is more conducive to student activities, learning and engagement. The commons area is more student-friendly, and the open (windowed lab) areas could showcase curriculum, fine arts and athletics to the community.” Another said, “We can’t keep doing everything the same way; we need to be more progressive and think outside of the box because we are training kids for jobs that haven’t even been created yet.”

Community members, comprised mainly of business people who are also parents, talked about basic skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, initiative, information analysis, etc. They said chances for students to interact in small groups are important because social skills are suffering with the increased use of technology. Safety, the arts, career planning and exploration were also important to this group. They spoke about the conservative nature of western ND and encouraged the district to keep the public informed about the educational value of any new school design features and practices.

The architects will consider this input as they begin drawing sketches of the new high school for the district to consider.

Important meeting on Middle School Endorsements

An informational meeting for all K-12 teachers in Bismarck and Mandan will be held Monday, December 17, from 4-6 pm in the Simle auditorium regarding middle school endorsements and content major information. Bev Sandness with ESPB will be there, as will Lisa Kudelka from BPS Human Resources and Simle principal Russ Riehl. Riehl will share news from University of Mary and Dickinson State which will make this process as easy and affordable as possible on a ONETIME ONLY basis as Bismarck Public Schools prepares to change its grade level configurations. If you are thinking or have ever thought of getting a middle school endorsement or taking content major courses, now is the time to explore that idea! Teachers will be asked how and when courses should be delivered to accommodate as many educators as possible. Questions will be addressed during and after the presentation.