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Ripley teachers become the students on expedition

November 2, 2016
By David Prenatt - , Westfield Republican

RIPLEY - Forty members of Ripley Central School's faculty and staff put on their "student hats" on Oct. 20 and 21 in order to experience a slice of an expedition in EL Education.

Ripley Superintendent Dr. Lauren Ormsby said "we want the teachers to experience the elements of EL Education." Staff members and substitute teachers were included in the activities because "it's important that all the employees understand the philosophy of EL Education and the work we're trying to do with our students."

Cindy Rice, EL Education School Designer from Rochester, NY, is assisting Ripley Central School in the transition to becoming a total credentialed EL school. Rice facilitated the teachers' learning expedition experience.

Article Photos

Photo by David Prenatt
Cindy Rice, School Designer for EL Education from Rochester, helps Ripley teachers interpret their experience at the Grape Discovery Center in Westfield.

On Thursday, following some background work at the school, teachers and staff boarded a school bus and were transported to the Grape Discovery Center in Westfield, NY. to experience a learning expedition.

Wearing their "student hats" participants used the interactive displays at the center, did research, obtained information on the grape industry, and recorded their findings in field journals.

English Language Arts teacher Karen Kondrick said "I'm actually enjoying this a lot. I like learning new things that I didn't already know. I knew the word escarpment, so I thought I was pretty smart."

Math teacher Lisa Stonefoot commented that "It's very different, but I think it's really good every now and then for teachers to remember what it's like to be in the student desk. It's important to remember what it's like to have those anxieties that the students have coming into EL Learning, so we can better meet their needs."

Building Substitute Ashley Pinzok noted that "It's completely opposite. When you take kids on a field trip, you are watching them, making sure they don't touch anything, seeing how they're learning, but today, we are doing the learning."

School receptionist Pam Boll, said "It's nice to go on a field trip with everybody. We are the students today."

UPK teacher Amber Dyer added "It lets me see what the kids see, " and building substitute Danni Riley said, "It's a different perspective. It's cool to get to know what El learning is about."

At the conclusion of their time at the Grape Discovery Center, participants gathered with Rice. She asked the teachers to review their learning targets: recognizing the relationship between geography, economics, and history in the grape industry, and identifying social actions that can be implemented to support the grape industry.

Rice asked the participants to discuss the difference between a field trip and field work. ELA teacher Kondrick said field work has a purpose, like reading for a purpose, not just as an activity. Krystal Miller said field work is expanding on something you've already done in class, it's a critical part of the curriculum.

Rice noted that one of the key considerations when planning field work should be "what is it about the experience that is going to position students to better meet the learning target?"

Rice reminded the faculty that on Friday they would be introduced to two experts who would share background information and answer questions. Mr. Robert Betts is a local grape grower and Mr. Luke Haggerty is a viticulturist from the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Rice asked the participants to write down one question for each of the experts.

Ormsby said the teachers would meet with the experts, then they would have 45 minutes to come up with their final product, which must be a persuasive, evidence-based claim to be presented to the town board.

Groups of teachers will be asked to present their recommendations for positive economic growth through improved marketing of the grape industry to the Ripley town planning board. Ormsby noted that El Learning always has an authentic task which encompasses teamwork.

In the end, it is important that the faculty and staff come to understand the essential components of a learning expedition said Ormsby . We will debrief after the experience she said. "This is our "everyone get on board moment," Ormsby added.

Ormsby gave a special thank-you to several local business-persons who assisted in the experience. They are: Luke Haggerty, viticulturist from Cornell Cooperative Extension; local grape farmer George Travis ; Grape Discovery Center manager Christina McKane; William Northrop of Northrop Farms; and Steve Cockram, general manager of the Growers Cooperative.



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