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District highlighted new course at national conference

A team of Fayetteville-Manlius educators were recently invited to present on the national stage, highlighting a new middle school course the district piloted during the 2018-19 school year.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Mary Coughlin, Eagle Hill Middle School Principal Maureen McCrystal, Wellwood Middle School Principal Melissa Corbin; and teachers Jennifer Leslie and Vanessa Rose presented at the 27th Annual Model Schools Conference on the middle schools’ pilot year of the eighth-grade elective “Agents of Change.”

“We wanted to highlight this course as it is one that gives students voice and choice,” Superintendent Craig J. Tice said. “When students have the ability to focus on areas of their own interest, while applying the principles and processes we are trying to instill in them, they are more invested and excited about the work they are doing. The learning becomes ingrained in the process.”

The annual Model Schools Conference brings together educators from across the country to share innovative teaching and learning practices. Fayetteville-Manlius was invited to present at the June gathering as an “Innovative District.”

“Our vision as a school community is to inspire students and promote personal success, and this course aligns with that commitment,” Tice said. “I am proud that we were able to represent the district in front of a national audience and showcase the innovative teaching and learning that is taking place within our schools that touches on the needs of our community and its residents.”

Agents of Change has been added to the eighth-grade elective course offerings at Eagle Hill and Wellwood middle schools. The 20-week class, which was piloted at both schools in 2018, prompts students to drive their own learning and develop skills, knowledge and values for active citizenship.

As part of the class, participating students identify a community need or issue and work together to generate a solution. They collaborate on discussions, perform research, set goals and craft action plans in support of their case.

Throughout the process, students learn how to actively listen to others’ viewpoints, study social movements of the past and strengthen their individual ability to bring about change.

During the pilot year, F-M’s Agents of Change students chose to focus on varying topics, including eliminating mental health stigmas, impacts of changing school start times, improving school bike racks, establishing a local dog park and implementing small, free libraries within the community.

Upon successful course completion, students receive one-half credit towards high school graduation.