Audio visual recording by Kali Roskowski and Zabrina Yannella
Article by Patrice Johnson, Elizabeth Cyr and Bob Richards
If the Michigan Department of Education executive expected a ho-hum walk-through when she visited Stockbridge Community Schools on Thursday morning, Nov. 30, she was in for a surprise.
“We are pleased to have MDE Chief of Staff Wendy Larvick visit our innovative and successful K through 12 programs,” Superintendent Karl Heidrich said as he introduced the dark-haired executive to school administrators, teachers and students in Smith and Heritage Elementaries.
“We are very proud of our programs district-wide,” director of instruction Michelle Hilla said, “including our long-standing work with the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support in our elementary buildings.”
On arrival at the high school and Elizabeth Cyr’s class, Larvick, Hilla and Heidrich were greeted by well-prepared journalism/yearbook teams. Senior yearbook editor-in-chief Madison Gee-Montgomery ran through the state and national competition system. She demonstrated Cyr’s student-led experience through a team meeting using digital work-flow tools and computer technology made available through recent bond purchases. Gee-Montgomery went on to explain the National Scholastic Press Association critique system that the Panther yearbook team had received on the prior evening. In earning five of five marks of distinction in essentials, coverage, writing and editing, design, and photography, the team ranked the coveted All American score.
“We hold people accountable,” student Kali Roskowski said while scrolling through a PowerPoint presentation in the robotics lab. “Governor Snyder came here last year, and a question one of our Uncaged reporters asked was selected to air on TV.”
Zabrina Yannella, in describing how students learn through teaching, said veteran students mentor younger and less experienced students. “Bigs helping Littles,” she said, adding, “Fifth graders loved our program, so they created Paw Times.”
“So what are your goals long term?” Larvick asked.
Without hesitation, Roskowski replied, “Journalism and photo journalism.”
Next up, Madison Howard and Faith Whitt partnered to summarize the robotics teams’ myriad achievements from sea lamprey research, to winning an esteemed $10,000 MIT InvenTeams award, and to selection “as one of the top 14 teams in the nation.”
“We filed yesterday for a patent,” Whitt said in an apparent afterthought.
Howard added, almost in passing, “our teams competed against teams from MIT, U-M, China, Egypt, and other nations and universities. Last year we finished eighth in the world.”
“How do you fund all this travel?” Larvick asked while eyeing the robotics lab’s state-of-the-art technology. “You have a lot of equipment. How do you pay for this?”
Howard described a systematic and professional approach that involved marketing teams, grant applications, and recruitment of family, friends and corporate sponsors. “We raised more than $50,000 last year,” she said.
Whitt passed a robotic, prosthetic, hand to Larvick. “Next week we’re meeting with a child with no function in her arm. We’ll try to equip her with a hand.” When asked about her future plans, Whitt brightened and said, “I hope to pursue a degree in medical biology.” As for Howard, she indicated she was focused on “biomedical engineering.”
The group migrated to an adjacent robotics lab room. There, Hailey Howard, Madison’s younger sister, demonstrated the use of a myo-electric sensor to control a laptop computer.
“Our ultimate goal,” robotics and business teacher Bob Richards explained, “is not to enter competitions but to apply real-world solutions.”
Larvick’s pleasant expression, which had long ago deepened to awe, flushed to what read of amazement. No doubt she returned to Lansing with a great deal to report.