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Macedonia Middle cultivating a culture of contagious creativity

Published Tuesday, September 8, 2019

From lessons involving vertical hydroponic gardens to STEAM activities involving student choice boards, 3D printers and virtual reality/augmented reality headsets, what’s happening in classrooms at Macedonia Middle is far from what students experienced in the 80s and 90s.

Traditional rows of desks are nearly nonexistent. Students are engaged, and teachers are supported to become more innovative in the classroom.

For that reason, Macedonia Middle was recognized at the September 10, 2019 Berkeley County Board of Education meeting.

BCSD Chief Academics and Innovation Officer Dr. Kelly Wulf credited the innovation visible on the campus to a “change in culture, with a purpose.”

A short walk down the halls is all you need to see how teachers at the school are challenged and supported to be creative. Every inch of learning space is utilized as students spread out their work and collaborate on assignments. The occasional sound of a teen shouting brings smiles. Unlike learning environments of the past, an occasional shout is a sign students are excited about lessons.

Macedonia Middle Principal Don Walton describes his school as one where “teachers of all experience levels are taking chances.” He and Assistant Principal Amanda Bise say the transformation is contagious and the result of continuous reminders that each day is not about the upcoming test, but the value of the lesson and the sustainability of the knowledge.

“They know they are still covering the standards, but they are allowed to do it the way that they want to try to do it,” he said. “If it doesn’t work as well as they thought it would, they build on it and start immediately discussing what they can do differently next time. They are always trying new things, and that’s what I want to see.”

While students are benefiting, administrators say the culture has also created a positive environment for educators. Idea sharing is rampant in the hallways of Macedonia Middle. Teachers are learning from each other – different strategies that can be used, what other educators are doing and the level of success. Teachers are leading discussions with the support of their administrators. Ultimately, the next chapter at Macedonia Middle will be determined by those taking risks in the classroom.

 “Our morale is higher because our teachers aren’t scared to ask for things,” Mrs. Bise said.

As a result, activities are more hands-on. Students are fascinated by instruction, and it all fits within the South Carolina Department of Education’s framework on personalized learning.

“I want them to know that I want our test scores to be good, but we cannot let that drown our creativity,” Walton said. “We have to look at the data, and we will do that. But test scores are only one measurement. When I ask a kid about a lesson, I want them to actually get excited about it instead of the typical response of, ‘I don’t know.’”

Brian Troutman