Active Learning and Student Leadership in Tulsa Schools

Jasmin (below) explained how the fifth and sixth graders at Jenks East Intermediate put a stop to bullying by applying problem solving strategies. She explained how they promoted kindness through an empathy project.

Jenks Public Schools (@jenksps), like Union and Broken Arrow, is a high performing one high school district south of Tulsa. Despite really low state funding (that has recently come to national attention), metro Tulsa schools are creating great learning experiences for students.On a recent visit, Principal Linda Hasler Reid (@lindahaslerreid), with tour guides Jasmin and Khai (above) ‏showed how the 1000 diverse students at Jenks Intermediate explore design challenges and are encouraged to take on leadership roles.

“What makes Jenks East Intermediate special is how it empowers students to gain both leadership skills and personal responsibility,” said Alex Paschal from regional support organization ImpactTulsa.

In the STEM lab, students build bridges, race electric vehicles and program robots.

Jenks students program OzoBots in the STEM Lab (below). Powered by Google’s Blockly, a visual programming language, OzoBlockly offers modes from novice to master programmer.

Jenks schools are organized into elementary (P-4), intermediate (5-6), middle (7-8), and a high school with a freshman academy.

Intermediate students take on a variety of leadership roles and jobs at school including leadership council. Some serve as crossing guards, some provide technical support, some host visitors.

Shared values underpin the Jenks Intermediate culture: tolerance, teamwork and sportsmanship, compassion, respect, self-discipline, responsibility, perseverance, honesty and integrity, and courage. They study one value each month. Teachers and counselor promote them in class and in the school culture.

“By cultivating an environment for fifth and sixth graders that encourages and expects students to take roles of responsibility such as running student assemblies and student voice initiatives, they are also creating a place for students to find their strengths and capabilities that will carry them through adulthood,” said Paschal.

The feeder elementary schools feature dual language feeders in Chinese and Spanish. Principal Reid explains how they extend language fluency through intermediate grades with daily instruction. In fifth grade, students have a core subject taught daily in the second language (social studies through Spanish, science through Chinese) with an additional weekly advanced language instruction class. In six grade the students have a daily advanced language class.

Designers, innovators, engineers, and leaders of tomorrow are experiencing success in the Jenks STEM lab today.

Collective Impact

Jenks Public Schools is one of 15 districts in the county supported by ImpactTulsa, an opportunity wrangler for the region. ImpactTulsa and its partners articulated six outcomes along the education pipeline the everyone committed to jointly impact.

ImpactTulsa recently released a Community Action Report outlining progress and the challenges that lie ahead for the region.

Thoughtful school, district, and regional leadership will ensure that the small recent increase in state funding will help accelerate progress at Jenks schools.

For more see:

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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