Traditional math classes in high school typically involve students working on math problems revolving around hypothetical scenarios but when Green Mountain High School’s Scott Burke arrived on the …
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Traditional math classes in high school typically involve students working on math problems revolving around hypothetical scenarios but when Green Mountain High School’s Scott Burke arrived on the school’s campus last year, things changed for the school’s freshmen and sophomores.
Burke, who teaches math and the program, helped start the Geometry in Construction program over ten years ago at Loveland High School and brought the program to Green Mountain High School last year. Now, other schools are starting to follow.
Some Jeffco Public Schools like Columbine High School, Chatfield High School, Golden High School, Jefferson County Open School and McLain Community High School are now offering Burke’s Geometry in Construction program this school year. Half of the program teaches students basic geometry skills, and the other half requires students to apply geometry to constructing a house that is donated to Habitat for Humanity — a nonprofit organization that works to provide residents in need with a home.
“I hated math in middle school, and once I got to this, it became my favorite subject. I really enjoy doing all the math on the inside, and the construction on the outside,” said Green Mountain High School sophomore Olivia Graves, a student in the program. “It gives me a hands-on activity and a way to understand what we’re doing in math and how to put it together outside. It’s a good life experience.”
Andrea Sardoni, who runs the Geometry in Construction program at Columbine High School, said the telling point for her on the program’s impact came during parent-teacher conferences. One of her students in the class is doing extremely well in it, she says. The student’s mother asked if her son should be moved into a higher math class, but he said no _ because of how much he enjoys the class.
“I think this is the best course I’ve ever taught. It’s a super exciting opportunity for these kids to be able to learn the math, use it, learn marketable skills, and beyond that, to serve in the community,” said Sardoni. “There’s so many wonderful aspects of this program.”
At McLain Community High School, students in the Geometry in Construction program have already started using geometry skills learned in class to build two chicken coops to get used to using power tools. In a couple of weeks, McLain Community High School will merge with Green Mountain High School to build a house.
“(Students in the program) get to see something that is bigger than themselves. They’re really excited to be able to give back while still earning high school credit,” said Melodiegh Christiansen, who teaches the Geometry in Construction program at McLain Community High School. “I think the math is challenging for our students, which is good. Once they see where it’s used, you see the light bulb go off, and it kind of just clicks for them.”
Last year, Burke, Green Mountain High School Principal Colleen Owens, Tracy Csavina, a teacher in the program, and administrator Lora Bong, were awarded The Succeeds Prize 2018 for Excellence in Education Innovation. The award is given to Colorado public schools and educators who strive for student success from Colorado Succeeds — a nonprofit organization that brings business leaders to ensure all Colorado children are educated to their greatest potential.
“I feel really humbled and fortunate that so many people put so much value in the program. We’re doing two things,” said Burke. “We’re providing an education for kids, but we’re also teaching kids employable skills. (We’re) giving kids the most bang for your buck you can provide in a school day.”
Jeffco Schools Superintendent Jason Glass said he is thrilled that the Geometry in Construction program is being emulated in other places in the school district.
“Green Mountain High School has been setting a fast pace for school innovation and creating incredible new learning opportunities for Jeffco students for some time. The Geometry in Construction program is a great example of this innovative spirit in action,” said Glass.
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