A Year in the Life of a New EAST Facilitator — Part II

Phase I class, July 1, 2011

New EAST Facilitator Training Phase I Grads, July 1, 2011

The EAST classroom is very different from the traditional one where teachers dole out information and students attempt to memorize it. In EAST, students design and self-direct their own projects. EAST teacher-facilitators must complete special training in facilitating this form of project-based learning. We thought it might be interesting to follow the progress of some EAST newbies throughout their first year of facilitating an EAST classroom. Our two volunteers, Josh Worthy of Sonora Elementary School in Springdale, Arkansas (front row, far left, kneeling) and Paula Nixon of Bald Knob (Arkansas) High School (front row, third from right), will each report in once a month or so, giving us a peek behind the scenes. Wish them luck!

This will be my 21st year of teaching. Along with EAST, I will be teaching two 6th grade science classes.  I hope to incorporate more student-based inquiry into my science classes this upcoming year. My goal is to
move away from the traditional classroom setting and focus more on letting students take responsibility for their learning. Although I feel like I am moving in the right direction, I’m still trying to figure out how to accomplish this and complete the science frameworks. My plan is to take it one day at a time and monitor and adjust as needed!

My summer months have been filled with many exciting events from softball, basketball, the beach, to—you guessed it—a week of EAST facilitator training. The latter of these events left me with feelings of excitement for the upcoming school year. However, along with the excitement are thoughts of, “Snap, what did I get myself into?”

I was fortunate to visit a couple of schools with successful EAST programs at the end of the school year. Each facilitator shared ideas of how they started off their school year in the EAST classroom. One idea that I thought would be beneficial to my students is doing a scavenger hunt on the EAST user website in order to gain knowledge of EAST and explore activities that others are doing. I also attended the EAST conference in Hot Springs in March and kept a folder of the brochures that were given out by many different schools.  My plan is to let my students go through these brochures and see what types of projects other students are doing and hopefully this will ignite a spark in their minds.

I am still awaiting the call from Mr. Tim Van Dusen, EAST network manager, stating that all the equipment has arrived and is ready to be set up. Unfortunately, I am also awaiting the call from school saying that my room is ready! I have been to school on three separate occasions to measure computer tables and walls and  finally the furniture was placed. Next in line: electrical hook-ups. I am hoping that they were able to get that completed last week, but I haven’t received that news yet. 😦

Overall, I welcome the challenge that the upcoming school year holds. I am ready to put 100% into this new position and feel very confident that I have plenty of people to look to for support. Wish me luck!

Paula Nixon
Bald Knob Middle School
Bald Knob, Arkansas

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