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Learning Labs Offer Structure, Curriculum for Middle School Students

October 12, 2021

The Parma City School District is proud to offer more educational opportunities this school year for our middle school students in their Learning Labs.

Learning Labs at all three middle schools now have additional mathematics and ELA, or English Language Arts, curriculum through SuccessMaker as well as Social Emotional Learning that aligns with standards outlined by the Ohio Department of Education. 

This change in Learning Lab has created more structure for middle school students during their day, which has been a welcomed change for the buildings.

Olivia Hoysak, a Learning Lab Teacher at Greenbriar Middle School, said Learning Lab in the three years she has been teaching has always had some structure at Greenbriar, but what’s different this year is a dedicated curriculum.

“We start learning lab with a social-emotional video that leads into prompts and discussions for the day,” she explained. “We focus on four different topics: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship skills. We have Learning Lab journals to answer prompts and facilitate discussions. After this, students work on math and ELA.”

The class is 42 minutes with about 15 minutes dedicated to social-emotional learning, 20 minutes on math and ELA, and the remaining time for study hall or catch up on other work. 

Hoysak added that the topics discussed in the social-emotional learning part of the class are very relatable to what middle school students might go through such as a friend failed a test – ‘How would you support your friend?’ or ‘How would you feel if you failed a test?’.

“The change this year in Learning Lab has been a very positive change here at Shiloh,” Principal Todd Griffen shared. “Our teachers are happy to have this structure. The feedback I have gotten is that the management in this class is a lot better because there are expectations for both students and teachers.”

Griffen further described that the social-emotional piece of the class as helping students manage their emotions better when they are in difficult situations. It’s a more proactive approach than a reactive approach when they find themselves in a similar situation as one that was discussed in class.

“SuccessMaker has been a great addition too because this is gap closing in ELA and math that is tailored to our students,” he expressed. “This is aligned well with our curriculum and helping students get remediation, invention, and enrichment to achieve in these areas.”

“Students react better and thrive in structure,” Hoysak said. “They know what they need to do and they know to be ready when the bell rings. It’s been really nice to see students react so well to this change.”

Tiffany Stropko, PCSD Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, provided more details about social and emotional learning at the September 30, 2021 Regular Meeting of the Board of Education. 

“Social-emotional learning focuses on building the resilient learner,” she described. “Ohio Department of Education is driving social-emotional learning (adopting standards in 2019) and we are supporting this here in Parma for all students grades K -12. Our main competencies are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Our standards are there for students, support staff, and educators to walk through at their own pace. Across all grade levels, students and faculty are working on these standards in our buildings.”

Second Step curriculum is used in grades K – 4 one day a week in social studies, preschool during circle time, and grade 5 during health. This curriculum focuses on skills for learning, empathy, emotions, and problem-solving.

Middle Schools have been enhanced with SEL topics in Learning Labs with an emphasis on reading, writing, and discussing relatable scenarios and different life experiences. Grades 5 – 7 receive other supports with school counselors throughout the day.

Grades 8 – 12 have freshman experience, health, and college and career readiness courses at the High School level that focus on social-emotional learning. School counselors are also engaged with students to support their needs. Some topics include boys leadership, girls leadership, social skills management, circle of change/wellness, and anxiety.

Visit this link to view Mrs. Stropko’s full presentation to the Board of Education.