Educators are expanding opportunities for teachers and students in Burrell School District thanks to two grants recently awarded.
Burrell joined five other southwest Pennsylvania school districts to collaborate through the Consortium for Public Education with funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. Leadership teams from the districts are working together through the consortium and with teams in their individual school systems to improve school design, strengthen family and community engagement, and increase career readiness for students.
In Burrell, there are about 20 team members working together, with one focus of the initiative on increasing engagement with parents, families, and community members, said Dr. John Boylan, Burrell High School principal and a member of the consortium's collaborative group.
"A lot of that starts with getting feedback from our community, parents, and students," Boylan said. "We want to get feedback from as many community members as possible to become better at what we do."
Dr. Autumn Turk, Burrell's director of curriculum and development who is also part of the consortium's collaborative, said the district's team has been working together throughout the current academic year. She and Boylan are part of a district team sharing best practices with other districts. The consortium hopes to continue the collaboration beyond the current school year, Turk said.
Burrell is also benefiting from a second grant, this one for $25,000 from Arconic Corp. This money covers the revamping of Makerspace to better support career readiness skills in the classroom, said Courtney Barbiaux, who leads the program at Charles A Huston Middle School. The program emphasizes personalized project-based learning, aligned with career pathways, and combining skills in science, technology, engineering, art, and math.
"Everything I'm trying to push is project-based learning," Barbiaux said, adding that she also includes a focus on Habits of Mind and Career Ready Skills.
Barbiaux used the grant money to offer students the resources they need to work on various projects and to develop important insights and skills from those projects. For example, she purchased a wide-format printer that students used to design posters for the school, including promotional flyers for a musical production. Also, she purchased four new 3-D printers, a vinyl cutter, an embroidery machine, a direct-to-garment printer, small color printers, and a Padlet subscription to encourage student and teacher engagement.
Barbiaux said the program has impacted the work of all of the more than 425 students at the school who have taken part in some aspect of the program. "They're coming up with some cool stuff that I'm excited to share," she said.