School Spotlight: Sandburg Middle School
Think of Sandburg Middle School as a new school.
“We are building a culture and a climate,” said Principal Amy O’Hern. “We started off the school year with establishing expectations, routines, creating many many, team building activities.”
The building had been closed as a middle school for eight years. So when it reopened this year, it was all new to the 570 students who came there from three other middle schools in the district as well as charter schools, private schools and other districts.
“Building a school from the ground up,” said O’Hern. “We also had all our sixth graders move in from various elementary schools and having them figure out who they are as a new middle school student.”
The day we visited, seventh graders were getting their hands on microscopes for the first time. Hands on learning is key to this age group and this school.
“They want to have their hands in it,” said O’Hern.
You can see that in many areas of the school. When the weather warms up, students will go hands on in what will be the school’s new community garden.
“We used to have a playground out here, we took it out in the fall so that our garden can go in this square area,” said science teacher Mara McCusker. “Students are going to do everything from building raised garden beds to deciding what seeds are going to go where.”
In another classroom, sixth graders are becoming a visual part of a slide show report on heat transfer and insulation. For example, what’s the best way to keep a frozen penguin-shaped ice cube from melting?
“We did two designs and the first one melted a lot and the second one didn’t,” said one student.
A story board is translated into a slid show to help foster understanding.
“They’re sharing it just for them to be able to see the big picture in the story of what we’ve been doing for the past month,” said science teacher Kristen Hoffman.
Art is another natural subject for a hands on learning opportunity. Its about the art, and then some.
“Hands on learning offers creative problem solving teamwork and the fact that students work together to set up their work stations to make creative choices,” said art teacher Leah Dussault.
A lot of changes happen during middle school. When you’re building a new one from the group up, Principal O’Hern says its important to bring families in.
“Having opportunities for students to showcase their experiences whether its art science or social studies or whatever it is, letting that culture of collaboration spread throughout Golden Valley,” she said.