Colonial teachers went back to school on Election Day

While the students were off for Election Day, it was back to school for teachers and staff with a full day of professional development. From learning new curriculum to finding different ways to engage and assess students, Colonial School District’s professional development targets the specific needs of the staff. 

Adults siting in a large circle of round tables with laptops


New hands-on science 

For the District’s second grade teachers, that meant learning about a new trimester-long student-centered science unit where the children will use the engineering process to make glue.

“It’s a material that they use, that they like, that they interact with every day, and now they’ll get to see how and why it works,” said Jordan Kapel, who teaches at Whitemarsh Elementary.

Rather than walking the students through the process, the teachers act more as facilitators while the children make discoveries, problem solve and test different ideas in an effort to make the most effective product.

“I’m looking forward to the experiments, kids doing hands-on science and really having fun with it,” said Caryn Lester, a teacher at Ridge Park Elementary.

Colonial School District’s Curriculum Supervisor for Science Maria Wileczek traveled to Harrisburg earlier this year to work on the Pennsylvania science standards and align them with the more engineering-based Next Generation Science Standards. The new science curriculum incorporates skills and concepts that build on the two sets of standards.  

A dozen adults sitting around a table listening to one speak

Universal Design at CMS

This year, the social studies classes at Colonial Middle School (CMS) are fully inclusion, which means that students with special needs who learned social studies in a separate classroom in the past find out about Roman times, Greek philosophers, the American Revolutionary War and more side-by-side with their peers. 

While all students are responsible for similar content, some might need modifications to a project or an assessment to be successful, and Universal Design provides tools for the teacher's toolbox to help meet the needs of students who struggle, as well as learners who could use extra challenges. 

International Baccalaureate Career Programme at PWHS

Select Plymouth Whitemarsh High School (PWHS) teachers from math, social studies, English Language Arts and EDI (Entrepreneurship, Design and Innovation) worked together to flesh out the details for the courses and other components related to the new International Baccalaureate Career Programme (IBCP) rolling out next year for PWHS students interested in pursuing Business or Design Technology.

Two adults talking across a table that is covered in papers


For the IBCP, PWHS is adding an upper level marketing class and a computer-aided drafting (CAD) class, introducing three new courses designed by the International Baccalaureate, and outlining expectations for independent IBCP requirements that include 50 hours of service learning, 50 hours of language development and a reflective project. 

“I think the exciting part about this program is the potential for students to engage in independent study on something that’s interesting for them and that they’re passionate about,” said Rebecca Hepler, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at PWHS who will be working with the students on their language development requirement.  

Nearly 100 different sessions

The day of professional development featured 43 elementary sessions for teachers of kindergarten through grade five and 52 secondary sessions for teachers at CMS and PWHS. The Colonial School District Curriculum Department plans and runs the Professional Development program for the District.