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CA Curious

Innovation on Vacation

August 24, 2023

Have you ever wondered what our teachers are up to during their summer breaks? Each year, many CA faculty spend their well-deserved summer vacation on professional development opportunities that translate their interests into incredible learning opportunities for our students—in the classroom and beyond. 

Cary Academy offers two major grant programs to support the professional development of our faculty during the summer months: the Friday Fellowship and the Innovative Curriculum Grant.

So, what exactly did our tireless teachers work on this summer through these grant programs?

Kendall Bell, Heidi Maloy, and Charlotte Kelly, Upper School science teachers, received a collaborative fellowship to interweave DEI work into the chemistry curriculum, incorporating a broader range of scientific, cultural, and professional examples of who contributes to our understanding of chemical concepts, with the goal of giving all students the opportunity to see themselves doing chemistry.


Lauren Bullock, Middle School language arts and social studies teacher, received fellowship funding to participate in the Kundiman summer retreat for Asian American writers.   Participation in the retreat not only helped to sharpen Lauren’s own skills as a writer, but also enabled Lauren to foster connections to the writing world as the language arts team searches for more diverse voices to add to the Cary Academy literary canon and even invite onto campus.


Tamara Friend and Danae Shipp, Middle School science teachers, received a collaborative fellowship to research and develop a plan for creating a dedicated STEM space in the Middle School building.  Tamara and Danae attended the 2023 ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference with a focus on sessions and exhibitions related to Makerspace development, and also conducted site visits to local schools and public libraries with Makerspaces. They used the information they gathered to produce a layout and equipment acquisition plan for a pilot STEM space to be housed in a first-floor science classroom, with the goal of having the space outfitted and ready to use late in the first semester or early in the second semester of the 2023-24 school year.

David Kaufmann, Middle School math teacher, received a fellowship to participate in the 2023 ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference to learn more about supporting student learning through gamification, coding, and technology-enhanced projects that encourage both application and creative expression. David used the conference experience to design three new digital projects for his math classes.


Ty van de Zande, digital arts and coding teacher, received fellowship funding to undertake a visualization project using hand-made glass objects to model fundamental concepts and principles of computer science. Ty produced a set of models built from glass, photos of the glass models, photo documentation of the building process, and a write-up describing the models and how they represent the fundamental processes. Through the photography process, the glass models can be combined and arranged with other glass models to represent a real computer code program. 


Crystal Bozeman, Middle School learning specialist, and Katie Taylor, Middle School language arts teacher, received a collaborative grant to create a “Leaders in Literacy” program to support Middle School students in developing their literacy skills, especially reading and writing. The new program focuses on teaching the science of reading and writing and strategies that will work across texts, emphasizing hands-on activities that give students active and engaging ways to build their literacy skills.

  
Kara Caccuitto, Upper School English teacher, received grant funding to develop a new English elective for juniors and seniors on Magical Realism. The majority of anchor texts in the new course are of Latin American origin, giving students a chance to explore the art, history, and culture of this part of the world.  Students also have ample opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of the characteristics of magical realism through a variety of creative self-expression activities, including producing a podcast, compiling an electronic cookbook, and developing a poetry or song anthology.

Sam Krieg, Upper School Spanish teacher, received a grant to develop a new Spanish elective focused on Spanish for business use. The course provides opportunities for students to communicate with professionals from throughout the Spanish-speaking world representing a range of commercial endeavors, including hospitality, banking, agriculture, and education. Students also have the chance to learn about, and reflect on, the (in)equalities of business relationships at different levels and to explore the essential roles of immigrants in different commercial contexts.


Kristi Ramey, Upper School math teacher, received grant funding to create a new model for Calculus 1 that expands access to the course content by creating both a regular and an advanced pathway within the same class. Kristi’s work focused on creating appropriately differentiated assignments and assessments to meet the needs of both groups of students, as well as appropriate supplemental materials for those students opting to pursue the AP exam.


Erick Crepsac, Middle School math teacher, was selected to participate in the Teachers Across Borders Program in Southern Africa (TAB-SA). Erick was part of a team of American math and science teachers who traveled to South Africa during the summer to conduct curriculum-specific workshops with their South African colleagues from rural schools, sharing methodology, techniques, and pedagogy in STEM content areas.

Written by Martina Greene, Dean of Faculty

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Uncomfortable Magic

mission accomplished

Magazine of CA

Mission Accomplished

September 14, 2020

When reflecting on events of the last academic year, many well-worn phrases spring to mind. Unprecedented challenges. Uncharted territories. Unpredictable futures. Amidst so much uncertainty, however, an unwavering absolute: CA’s enduring resiliency, creativity, and commitment to our mission—to discovery, innovation, collaboration, and excellence—to each other, and our broader community.

Discovery

At CA, we teach our students to lean into discomfort. To look for the learning opportunities. To own and leverage their strengths. And to embrace challenge and adversity as an opportunity for further discovery, growth, and positive change. It is through this same introspective lens that we—as an institution and community—have approached the challenges presented by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Success in the face of the crisis—with its requisite shift to virtual teaching, learning, and working; a decrease in face-to-face instructional time; loss of in-person social interactions; and a heightened focus on wellness in all its forms—demanded new perspectives and insights into our traditional programming and curriculum. It led us more quickly down the path to creating the competency-based learning environment envisioned in our strategic plan.

“The need to pare down our curriculum to essential learning goals jump-started the process of establishing core competencies for our students in each content area. And the challenge of securely testing in a virtual environment led many teachers to experiment with more project-oriented ways for students to apply their learning and demonstrate their mastery,” points out Dean of Faculty Martina Greene. “Both represent major strides toward our strategic goal of transitioning from a content-driven to a skills-based approach, and that makes room for a lot more student voice and choice.”

Sheer necessity helped to cultivate an increased sense of flexibility, openness, and tolerance of change that would prove remarkably productive. Guided by our mission, we made fruitful discoveries—uncovering unique opportunities to advance our strategic plan further and benefit our students and community. What could have been a stagnant period became, instead, one of creative and lucrative experimentation, showing us new—perhaps even better—ways that we could teach, work and learn together.

“Change is only as difficult as you want it to be,” offers math department chair Craig Lazarski, reflecting on one of his key takeaways from the last year. “Often, we are paralyzed when thinking about what possible changes may do to our existing paradigm. This has taught us that we can try new things, to not be afraid of the unknown.”

Unfettered by conventional constraints and open to change, a laser-focused discovery process lent momentum and new urgency to a host of forward-thinking ideas—many of which had been long under consideration as part of our larger strategic plan. The later start times and new hybrid schedule that will debut in the fall are just two such examples of pivotal and promising changes on the horizon.

Designed to maximize student wellness, the new schedule reflects lessons learned from our pandemic experience and is informed by research around stress reduction and student wellness—including the importance of sleep and the need to ease cognitive load by reducing transitions and task switching throughout the day. Blending synchronous on-campus learning with asynchronous and synchronous off-campus virtual and experiential learning opportunities, the new schedule also offers a full “flex day” to provide students and teachers alike unscripted, dedicated time to pursue various projects.

“Our new weekly schedules in both divisions actually improve on our prior schedule and enhance opportunities for experiential learning,” enthuses Experiential Learning Director Michael McElreath. “The flex day and what it can do for teaching and learning at CA is huge—I can’t wait to see how we use it!”

zoom classroom

Innovation and collaboration

Innovation has always been at the heart of CA, denoting the vital role that technology plays in our learning community. Without question, our existing technological infrastructure and fluency played an integral part in our successful virtual pivot.

Information Services agilely launched a new institutional platform for teleconferencing—Zoom—that would be instrumental in our virtual learning efforts, while simultaneously grappling with heightened demands around online security and access. Students and faculty alike experimented with transformative new digital tools like Flipgrid. And faculty delved into the advanced features of OneNote and Microsoft Teams to find the best ways to engage students, foster personal interaction and connection, and provide feedback online.

While crucial, CA’s pandemic innovation did not start and end with technological implementation, however. Rather, it was the driving force behind a highly collaborative effort to create an engaging curriculum that sought to translate all aspects of a well-rounded CA experience into an engaging virtual one.

Recreating advisory programming and student club experiences. Organizing virtual field trips, guest speakers, and online cultural exchanges with students from across the world. Improvising makeshift sporting equipment to create agility and obstacle courses at home for PE classes. Figuring out how to design art projects around the unconventional and natural materials students might have at home. Devising socially-distant ways to support student emotional and physical health (Zoom yoga, anyone?). Honoring important milestones with meaningful and heartfelt digital celebrations. And countless other examples—far too many to list here—illustrate the many ways our community rose to the occasion with bold, outside-of-the-box thinking and adjusted on the fly with remarkable resilience and good humor.

Despite these numerous virtual “wins,” we developed a more profound appreciation of the in-person relationships that form the heart of our community—and which ultimately grounded and facilitated our virtual efforts. However, the crisis also demonstrated that our bonds are strong enough to sustain us while we are physically apart.

“The bonds we formed with our students allow us not just to persevere, but to flourish when we are only together on computer screens,” offers Upper School science department chair, Heidi Maloy.

innovation and collaboration

Whether Zooming in for community lunches with leadership, participating in a virtual alumni meetup, getting the family out for the first-ever virtual 5K, or donning Charger gear for online Spirit Week, innovative virtual community-building efforts helped to nurture that important sense of connection.

And, as is the CA way, our innovative and collaborative energies did not end at our virtual campus. They were also channeled into helping others, particularly as the virus lay bare the stark inequities, heightened needs, and challenges facing our broader community.

Prohibited from in-person service-learning opportunities, Delta Service Club—the Upper School’s service-learning club—collaborated to compile a list of socially-distant ways to make a difference (https://bit.ly/DeltaServiceClub). Using CA’s 3D printers, Middle School math teacher Leslie Williams partnered with North Carolina State University to print much-needed, FDA-approved personal protective equipment (with many others in the CA community following suit). And stories shared by alums highlighted the many ways Chargers collaborate and innovate for the greater good even after they leave campus—from working on the frontlines of the crisis to launching fundraising campaigns to support their community to developing new technologies that address COVID-related challenges.

Excellence

While we can say that our experimental virtual pivot was a success, our enduring commitment to excellence demands that we not rest on our laurels. Instead, we continue to push the envelope, to strive for improvement and growth, and to flex further to meet our students’ needs.

That’s why, this summer, our hard-working faculty dedicated three weeks of their well-deserved vacation to intensively redesign their curricula for a hybrid approach to course delivery, building a strong digital core that serves as a virtual home base for learning, whether students are on-campus or off. Developed using the same design thinking approach we teach our students, the digital core incorporates lessons learned and newly-discovered best practices gleaned from recent months. It is designed to offer all CA students a high-quality virtual learning environment that complements our physical learning environment and reflects the academic rigor, innovation, and holistic, personalized, relevant learning for which CA is known.

Earth Day Week art project

Our commitment to excellence also demands ongoing efforts to evolve into the best versions of ourselves individually, as well as the best version of our community. In the face of adversity and undeniable evidence of the division and inequities within our broader community—it demands we find ways to work across differences, to work for equity, and to support each other and our broader community with inclusivity, empathy, and kindness.

To that end, over the next year, we will also be actively engaging in ongoing anti-racist and equity work as a community. Together, we will work to ensure all members of our community feel valued and known for who they are, and can fully participate, lend their voice, and be heard with respect and compassion.

As we prepare to welcome students back to campus and attempt to plan for the unknowns of the next year, we rest assured not only in the lessons learned from recent months, but in those reaped from a twenty-four-year tradition of discovery, innovation, collaboration, and excellence. We are well-prepared for the challenging opportunities that lie ahead. And, with clarity of vision, mission, and values, we will continue to learn, grow, persevere, and thrive, together, no matter what 2020-2021 brings.


CA FUND KEEPS D.I.C.E. ROLLING DURING T3

Our commitment to discovery, innovation, and collaboration in the pursuit of excellence never wavered during the spring trimester. Our ability to lean productively into our mission and find success was made possible, in large part, by the generosity of our community and the unrestricted resources of the CA Fund.

Flexible CA Fund dollars granted us the freedom to think creatively and outside of the box while still preserving CA’s fiscal health during these unforeseen circumstances. It allowed us to seek out, unhindered, the most innovative and student-centric solutions to challenges wrought by the pandemic.

As a result, we were able to seek out the best technological and digital tools to foster secure, easy collaboration—whether advancing group projects, sketching out curriculum, hearing from the Head of School, or participating in a virtual variety show. And support a technological upgrade for Berger Hall that allowed us to better live stream events, such as Baccalaureate and the Upper School End-of-Year Awards, to your phones, laptops, and tablets.

The CA Fund supported our community by protecting our faculty and staff’s job security, alleviating stress, and allowing for unwavering focus. It allowed us to launch a new program—the CA Emergency Tuition Assistance Program— to provide financial support to those families that were negatively impacted by the crisis.

Written by Mandy Dailey, Director of Communications

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red car

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The Drive to Discover

January 16, 2020

One of the great things about Cary Academy is that the school’s mission is always prodding us to explore something new. This is true for the adults in our community as much as it is for the students. I love how we CA teachers are encouraged to expand and share our deep interests with our students in ways that enhance our learning community. 

I am a car guy. I love cars and all things automotive. I like to drive a car that is impeccably clean, and I have been known to insist on helping certain colleagues treat their own cars with love and respect. For the last few years, I offered a mini-course for seniors on basic car maintenance. In 2018, that passion for cars went into overdrive: I was approached by students who wanted to offer a Discovery Term course on all things automotive, called Motorheads. We studied car maintenance and function, and we visited the NASCAR Museum and Raceway in Charlotte. The course also gave students an opportunity to learn about cars by working with the local non-profit Wheels 4 Hope, prepping donated cars for people transitioning into greater independence from various institutions (often halfway houses or shelters).   

We offered the course a second time in 2019, then I learned about an opportunity to go deeper. This is often how things develop at CA! 

To understand the next awesome turn in this story, you need to know about CA parent Mike Gozon (father of Peyton ’19 and Paige ‘21). Mike was the catalyst behind a new mode of student engagement that began last year, what he called a “learning sprint”: a brief expedition for deep learning on a topic of genuine student interest. We offered the first learning sprint last year during Discovery Term, when eight students learned about the field of corporate headhunting, then helped to conduct a search for new leadership at CarMax.  

In the early fall, Mike told the Center for Community Engagement about the Factory Five Racing Car Build School at Mott Community College, outside Detroit. Two of the most committed students from the 2019 Motorheads Discovery TermDane Fekete ’20 and Cy Reading ’22, along with Evan Wirth ’23— jumped at the chance to spend three days in Michigan building a racecar. This hands-on workshop guides students through building a real sports car from the bare frame up to a completely drivable vehicle in just three days. 

The school made the arrangements, and in early November, Mike, Dane, Cy, Evan, and I flew to Michigan. Over three days, along with about a dozen course participants, we unpacked the kit and disassembled the body of a Factory Five Mk4 Roadster down to its bare chassis. With guidance from instructors, we installed the suspension system, axles, brakes, and all necessary hoses and cables. And that was just Day 1!  

Over the next two days, we installed the engine, transmission, exhaust, cooling systems, fuel system, electronics, safety devices, and interior cabin features. Students crawled under and over the chassis to make it all work, and by the end of Day 3, we faced the ultimate proficiency test when we were able to take the car on a successful test drive.  

Of course, now we’re thinking: Where can this arc of learning go from here? We hope to find out this spring. We’re daydreaming about purchasing a build kit as well as an engine (not included) that we would house on our campus. Kits can be re-used several times, and then maybe auctioned off to recoup some of their cost. Purchasing the kit would make the car building experience available to many more CA students at a fraction of the cost, and in a far more equitable way. We’ll see what’s possible

What we know for certain is that the spirit of discovery and innovation will keep us pressing forward, finding the next way to stretch and grow. 

Written by Shelton Shepard, US math teacher

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