Stress relief, making friends: Students choose learning priorities

Mar 23, 2018

When Old Rochester Regional administrators considered how to best help students during the next school year, they made no assumptions. They went right to the people who could answer the question.

For students in grades 5-12, social and emotional help is needed, the administrators learned.

"That means helping them learn methods to deal with stress, with how to socialize and make friends," Assistant Superintendent Elise Frangos told the Joint School Committee on March 22. The board approved a new "learning strategy" with priorities addressing stress management, how to make friends, and how to solve problems that are close to home.

The second priority for students, Frangos reported, is learning about cultural connections: diversity, different cultures and student heritage.

When it comes to direct classroom learning, students said they wanted "authentic, hands-on" projects and a clear, fair grading system.

Students are also looking for support in specific areas. In what she described as a surprise, Frangos explained that 370 students said they wanted to become better public speakers.

Students weren't the only people queried. Parents, especially of middle schoolers, had their own ideas of what their children should be learning.

Both parents and students agreed that mindfulness and stress management are important skills to learn. Parents also want to see their children learn planning and time-management skills, and to see schools prioritize science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

"So," Frangos said. "How do we synthesize all those wants and needs into a plan that honors the responses we received?"

In the future, the school district will be implementing "Project and Problem-Based Learning."

In project-based learning, students work in teams to solve questions that often have local and realistic value.

"It would be like asking students how to fix water run-off in the tri-town," Frangos explained.

She added that because the learning strategy is based on teams giving presentations, the students will gain valuable public speaking, research and teamwork experience. "It really prepares students for the workplace or a university."