(TNS) — GOSHEN, Ind. — When the new school year starts Aug. 4 at Goshen Middle School, a new school will launch inside its walls.
That school, called New Tech, will be staffed by 17 teachers (or "facilitators, in New Tech-speak) and attended by about 500 middle school students.
Goshen Middle School was one of two Goshen schools this year to join the New Tech Network, a group of schools that integrate technology in the classroom while challenging students to tackle real-world problems to learn the required standards.
When I visited the school in late April, I could feel the energy as teachers and administrators prepared for the launch. I saw a few teachers slip away to start planning projects, and I met Renee Manno, who was recently hired by Goshen Community Schools as the New Tech coach.
Although things are falling into place for the 2016-17 launch year, Principal Lori Shreiner said a big challenge is informing the community about what New Tech is all about. Here's a small guide that should help.
1. Although a lot of schools in the area are experimenting with project-based learning, Goshen is the first district to join the New Tech Network.
I've visited a lot of schools that use project-based learning in classrooms, and it's a lot of fun to see. Rather than learning the standards out of a textbook, students gain knowledge by solving complex problems in the world.
For example: A class at another school recently completed a project-based learning unit for Flint, Mich., by organizing a water bottle drive to benefit the citizens during the water crisis. Students were helping with a real-world problem, but they also learned communication skills by creating fliers for the event and math skills by figuring out how many water bottles could fit on a truck and how much they would weigh.
Goshen is the only district in the county to move forward with project-based learning with the support and established framework of the New Tech Network. By signing a contract with that organization, Goshen teachers have access to coaching and professional development.
2. Although New Tech will be considered a "school-within-a-school," students will still be included as part of Goshen Middle School.
The New Tech school will effectively be separate from Goshen Middle School, with a separate wing in the school and a separate staff, but New Tech students will be included in the larger Goshen Middle School culture.
New Tech students will take all core classes together, but they will be free to join their non-New Tech peers in the cafeteria, on the soccer field or on the stage. New Tech students may also participate in elective classes outside of New Tech.
3. The goal of New Tech is to help students develop skills needed for jobs in the future, like "agency."
Grit. Perseverance. Resolve.
Those are traits that educators are trying to instill in students. Schools might not know what the world will look like in 10 years or which jobs will be available, but if students have grit, they can succeed in any situation.
New Tech has its own word for that: "agency." New Tech schools try to teach students to be in charge of their own learning and to be comfortable advocating for themselves and their community.
"We want students to be really excited about learning and to be a part of society, and communication is a big part of that," Manno said. "When students have agency, they're able to communicate with adults they've never met. It's impressive."
4. Goshen launched the New Tech school to build on the strengths of Goshen Middle School, not to "fix" something.
"This is not an answer to a school that is broken," Shreiner said. "It is a way to align curriculum and use data to help all students grow."
This story is part of an ongoing series in which reporter Michelle Sokol plans to tour and report from all 55 schools in Elkhart County.
©2016 The Elkhart Truth (Elkhart, Ind.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.