Our Town: Professional Development, Curriculum, & Support Packages
Topics. land use planning communities, habitats, brownfields, soil / water / toxicology, green building, environmental justice, public policy and government.
Audience. grades 6-8, 9-12, higher ed, adult ed
Disciplines. earth science, biology, environmental science, chemistry, civics, language arts, economics, design health
Career Workforce Connections. urban planning, civil and environmental engineering, HAZMAT, architecture and design, government, law, public health, GIS, geography, environmental policy, landscape architecture, construction and building trades.
News. We're working with the Jackson County (MI) Intermediate School District to integrate Our Town into regional high school courses. The program is made possible by a grant from the James A. and Faith Knight Foundation to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. We thank these partners for their support.
Partners sought. Are you a 6-12 educator interested in making Our Town a part of your curriculum or the focus of an after school program? Are you a teacher educator that would you like to integrate the program into your courses? We're seeking partners interested in receiving on-going professional development, planning support, curriculum licensing and evaluation. Contact us to learn more.
Level I programs introduce new ways of reframing content and instruction through a lens of sustainable communities and other Our Town themes. Participants envision and define possibilities for change as they experience approaches they can replicate in their own classes. A typical package includes:
Example: An urban educational institution is seeking ways to improve student achievement and community engagement, and wants to explore sustainable communities and regional revitalization as a possible focus for reframing curriculum. In a two-day workshop, Creative Change engages teachers in hands-on activities that use the local community as a context for learning. Topics include regional environmental trends, community social fabric, and the links between culture and community Educators review age-specific curricula and resources, and evaluate ways the approaches can be integrated into existing instruction to meet achievement goals.
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Our Plan the Change programs provide 3-6 months of strategic planning to help institutions define goals, strategies, evaluation, and a timeline. The work is guided by our Instruction Change framework, a needs assessment tool that examines institutional culture, curriculum, professional development, and other factors affecting the successful integration of sustainability.
Example: After collecting data on faculty impressions and interests, Creative Change meets with the leadership team to develop a plan for integrating sustainability into the curriculum in ways that support existing initiatives.
Level III programs provide professional development, curriculum licensing and ongoing support focused on revising curriculum, courses and programs. Spread over a year or more, a typical package includes:
Example: After completing the Level I program, the same institution works with Creative Change to map out a year-long initiative focused on reframing core units around Our Town programs theme of sustainable communities, public health and environmental restoration. The initiative unfolds over a calendar year in three steps: A) on-site professional development, B) instructional redesign, and C) evaluation and communication.
Workshops begin by immersing teachers in content knowledge and research-based pedagogical strategies. To model effective approaches, the sessions engage staff in hands-on activities they can replicate with their students, followed by thoughtful analysis and discussion. Approaches include:
Through these activities, educators define how Our Town themes can serve context for reinvigorating learning and student engagement. The staff then evaluates their existing curriculum and set goals for reshaping it. A life science teacher engages students in mapping invasive species and increasing native plantings on campus. A math teacher uses local demographic data as the basis for graphing, while a social studies teacher examines local and state land use policies. The historical society serves as a resource for the students to develop oral histories—starting with their own families. The literacy coach develops activities to support reading and writing.
At the college level, teacher education faculty would focus on introducing these types of activities into methods courses, while an interdisciplinary team of faculty might collaborate on a new course examining brownfields redevelopment.
The PD now shifts to the on-the-ground work of redesigning the units based on the goals set. Creative Change’s approach to instructional design. provides educators with a process and framework for planning units that start with students’ experiences, build an integrated knowledge base, and culminate in meaningful civic engagement. In-depth workshop materials and multimedia curriculum resources from the on-line Curriculum and Resource Center support teachers as they
As teachers continue their work in a learning community approach, Creative Change provides on-going planning support through phone, email, and in-person meetings. Support strategies include unit planning, developing assessments, and evaluation support. For example, Creative Change helps a teacher team develop specialized assessment tools to ensure the project meets achievement goals.
By the end of the year, the teachers’ efforts have evaluated the impacts of their work and are ready to replicate the approaches in other areas of the curriculum. To support this, Creative Change compiles pictures, reports, presentations and other documentation in order to communicate results to the district leadership team and provide models for replication. Based on the success of the work, the collaboration with Creative Change grows to other departments or schools through a Level IV program.
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Level IV programs enable schools and districts to deepen instructional change by building internal capacity to institutionalize successful approaches. Clients gain training, resources and strategic planning assistance focused on preparing an internal team to lead, evaluate, and sustain instructional change. These packages, spread over a year or more, typically include: