I have visited schools all over the world. From the poverty of South African Township schools to the richness of Newport Beach schools in California. I have worked with teachers overwhelmed and struggling to make progress and high achieving institutes in Shanghai and Singapore. Now and then I came across a school worthy of special mention. Oxon Hill Middle School is such a place.
Back in the eighties schools inspired. Students learned by doing. Teachers encouraged them to think, explore, experiment. Academic and practical knowledge fused together. When Seymour Papert invented Logo software and the Turtle he gave teachers a way of adopting this approach. Teachers could use the technology to explain complex ideas while students could become learners free to think and explore. It is a pleasure to find a school embracing this credo.
I find this attractive because it reflected my working life as an engineer. I had practical and academic training. Yet my main skill was to learn, think and problem solve. I think schools making this a teaching method sheer genius.
Oxon Hill Middle School is in Prince George’s County, Maryland. CEO, Dr. Kevin Maxwell supervises the schools, which is on the fringes of Washington DC. Under his leadership, the district is carrying out an Arts Integration Policy. This is STEAM – STEM with Arts. Consultant Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein suggested they should look at the Robotic Performing Arts project and so they launched Full STEAM Ahead.
Managed by teacher Kenneth Williams, the Oxon Hill students produced a movie explaining their schools’ Peace Pledge. Given Roamer had signed the European Pledge to Peace they could not choose a better subject. Principal Wendell Coleman set up the Pledge to guide staff and students in the right direction. It worked. The school he created is an example to all. Like children, Roamer thrives in this atmosphere.
Teacher Kenneth Williams managed the Oxon Hill Robotic Performing Arts Project. Here he speaks about the experience.
The students completed their video in time to show it at STEM on the Hill. Every year the Science Engineering Technology Working Group holds this exhibit for the U.S. House of Representatives. The show keeps Congress up-to-date about educational matters. Dr. Lowenstein organized this video on arts integration in action. When I showed it to a few teachers and heads in the UK, they all asked me to make it available to a wider audience. It is good to remind ourselves of the possibilities. I hope you enjoy it.
There must be something about Prince George’s County. Jim Henson went to school and college in the district. While there he started to create the Muppets. Bringing inanimate objects to life like Robots, puppets, creation myths express something deep in the psyche of the human race.
The Oxon Hill Teacher’s doing Performing Arts.