Atwood New Tech Magnet School
Attwood New Tech Magnet School may be designated as a school of choice in its enrollment process, but the term “choice” means so much more to the Attwood school community. Student choice, along with student voice, are two of the hallmarks of focus for the 4-6 grade elementary school in Lansing, Michigan.
Principal Carla Laws emphasizes her main goals for her students: she wants to ensure Attwood students are given the opportunity to explore their passions, as well as the tools to be successful in pursuing them.
“My hope is that students are able to identify their strengths and their passions, and leave equipped with the tools to support those passions, and that includes collaboration and communication,” says Laws.
Through implementing New Tech Network’s (NTN) project-based learning model, Attwood New Tech staff like Magnet Focus Teacher Amber Moreno have witnessed students more engaged in their learning as they produce projects relevant to their world and their community.
“I love how project-based learning gives students choice,” says Moreno. “They get to choose how they demonstrate their end-product; they choose the way they want to learn. They have a voice and they’re heard; their voices are being communicated. It’s a great fit for our students.” Moreno reports that the classroom work integrated with technology not only engages and excites the students, but also opens doors to opportunities in tech fields.
“Some of this work features components kids would only ever see on TV, like coding or 3D printing; now, they learn that they can do that and have access to it in the classroom as part of their project-based learning work.”
The school’s focus on 21st-century skills and learning outcomes reinforces the significance of student voice as a major component for success beyond the classrooms of the school. Agency is one of the five NTN Learning Outcomes and is most heavily stressed at Attwood New Tech, and Laws believes it means much more, including advocating and speaking up for oneself. “Agency is an umbrella term; if you have that ownership, drive, and responsibility you take action for your own self. It’s a skill everyone needs —learn to advocate for yourself,” Laws says.
As students from Attwood New Tech advance throughout their school journey, Laws’ reiterates her hopes that students encounter their passions early on through projects of choice and relevance, advocate for themselves, and continue to hone the skills required to be successful in their chosen paths.
“I’m aware that half of the jobs they will be doing in the future haven’t been created yet,” says Laws. “But I know they’ll have the basic skills they’ll need to be successful. They will do just fine.”