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Lyons Center welcomes new principal, new program

$50,000 grant will help teachers implement Inquiry-based Learning

September 01, 2010 | 08:49 AM
Lyons Township — It won't be hard to pick out what's new at Lyons Center Elementary School this year.

Just go right to the principal's office. Susan Mosher is Lyons' brand new principal this year.

Except for the principal, the staff is the same, said Mosher.

Not that Mosher is new to Lyons.

She taught fourth grade at Lyons for nine years before moving on to Dover Center as principal, she said.

Been here before

And she's worked in the district for 22 years, teaching both third and fourth grades, before moving up to the principal's office.

But this year brings a new school and a new program that Mosher said she can hardly wait to become a part of.

"We're excited about the new year," said Mosher "The staff has delved into inquiry-based learning initiative."

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Inquiry-based learning started last year at Lyons (grades K-4) and Dyer Intermediate School (grades 5-6).

Lyons second-grade teacher Suzanne Cowan wrote for a grant to implement Inquiry-based learning about two years ago.

Last year, the school received a $20,000 grant from Project CAPE (Collaboration to Advance Public Education) to start the program on a trial basis.

This year, the Burlington Area School District received another $50,000 grant through CAPE for teacher guidebooks and in-service training in the Inquiry-based Learning method, Mosher said.

The grant will also pay for substitute teachers if the staff teachers find they need to take time out to coordinate the program among themselves, she said.

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Students decide

The new teaching method allows students to decide what they want to learn, what questions they must answer about a subject and where they must look to find the answers they seek, Mosher said.

Those sources might be books, Internet sites, magazines, encyclopedias or even other classmates.

An Inquiry-based lesson may start with students reading a book.

After completing the reading, students may then break into groups and discuss those topics.

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Classmates listen to each other and share new information.

Last year, Lyons Center used Inquiry-based Learning throughout their curriculum, from reading and history to science and math, with the new method taking up about half the classroom time.

Teachers found that students asked to stay in during recess to do research, and would come back from the weekend excited that they found an answer online with the help of their parents.

"Even our reluctant learners are becoming excited with this," said Mosher.

Inquiry-based learning also helps teachers find ways for different grades to work together.

Younger students will often come up with questions and older students will work with them to research the answers.

The new teaching method subtly changes the jobs of teachers in the classroom.

"The teachers are not necessarily the source of information," Mosher said.

Teachers guide

Teachers act as guides to lead students to sources where they can find the information.

However, teachers also must still make sure, that students are meeting state educational requirements.

Lyons Center is now using Inquiry-based Learning throughout its curriculum, from reading and history to science and math.

Inquiry based learning is primarily aimed at grades K-8, said Mosher.

It has not expanded to the high school in the Burlington district.

There is a five year plan to further develop inquiry-based learning, Mosher said.

Mosher said that classes at Lyons start Sept. 1. Students and parents are invited to an open house from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 31.

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