Shannon McParland, principal at Metcalf Middle School, recently received an invitation she definitely didn’t want to turn down.
Eighth-grade students in teacher Steve Orth’s Blaze Time class invited McParland to their presentations of proposed changes they’d like to see at their school. Blaze Time, which takes place at all middle schools in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191, is one class period each day focused on enrichment, acceleration or intervention programming for students.
For Orth’s class, it was an enrichment opportunity for students to research and create presentations about changes they would suggest for Metcalf.
Orth wanted this to be an authentic learning opportunity for students. The goal was for them to see the value of not just gathering information, but also sharing their suggestions in order to bring about change.
“If you want something changed, you need to explain why,” he told students, “and data is important.”
Students’ research included electronically polling classmates, analyzing the results, and compiling slide show presentations – many with colorful graphs.
Their suggestions (in brief) were:
- Advisory: Shorten it and make it like a study hall
- Chromebooks/electronics: Let them be used at lunch
- Passing time: Lengthen the current three-minute time by one-to-two minutes
- Field trips: Increase them to at least two per school year
- Stairwells: Open an additional stairwell during passing times
“Student voices matter,” said McParland. “This is how change is made: by researching, gathering data, and developing proposals, and then presenting them to people who can make the changes happen.”
McParland said she’ll review their proposals with her leadership team and report back to the class.
Over the summer, McParland and her team also invited student leaders to share ideas for creating a more positive culture at Metcalf and for revitalizing the school’s PBIS focus.