St. Vrain Valley School District Workshop (11/01/12)

On the first day of November last year, TPS @ Metro State went to Longmont, Colorado, to work with educators from the St. Vrain Valley School District. It was our second visit to Longmont in 2012.  In early June, we conducted a very successful two-day workshop with over 60 social studies educators. We were excited for the opportunity to return to Longmont!

For this workshop, the majority of participants were English/Language Arts teachers, ranging from grades 5-12. This was something quite different than workshops we normally conduct, as we work mostly with social studies educators. This posed a few different challenges for our presenters Taylor Kendal and TPS Consultant Cindy Stout. One major difficulty was making the workshop applicable to English teachers.

“Many teachers often think the value of Library of Congress resources relates only to social studies,” Taylor said, “but even when we demonstrated our standard activities, the teachers found that just making slight modifications, they could apply them to their English classrooms.”

“We’ve mainly held workshops for social studies teachers ,” Cindy said, “so I was a bit nervous about making the workshop relevant to an English teacher’s needs.”

To remedy this, Taylor and Cindy decided to structure the workshop specifically around the inquiry process. While we always have some focus on the inquiry process in all of our workshops, this one was unique in that the central tenet of the entire workshop was the inquiry process. We’ve talked a lot about it on this blog, but what was most interesting about  this workshop was the idea of the inquiry process’s tangibility.  What makes inquiry so powerful are its concrete steps. A teacher can easily describe and define each individual step (Connect, Wonder, etc.) to their students, which then allows the students themselves to understand the entire process clearly. The level of abstraction is minimal. The participants found this an incredibly powerful tool to engage their students in new and exciting ways. “We focused on what skills the teachers needed to have to allow their students to be good readers and writers,”  Cindy said, “and this time it really was more about the process than the content.”

We were grateful for the opportunity to break out of our own mold and work with educators in other disciplines.

“The next time I work with a group of English teachers I will definitely feel less trepidation about it,” Cindy said, laughing.

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