By Heather Waldron
STEM skills are becoming increasingly important in a variety of fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for STEM occupations in the U.S. is more than twice that of non-STEM occupations and STEM Occupations are projected to grow by 8.0 % between 2019 and 2029, compared with 3.4% projected growth for non-STEM occupations. Additionally, the Colorado Talent Pipeline reports the majority of the top 10 highest growing occupations in the Denver Metro area are STEM-aligned careers, from IT, to Statisticians, to veterinarians; our students will need STEM knowledge and skills to fill these projected openings. Jeffco students have the potential to solve the world's greatest and most complex problems, and a high quality STEM education will allow them to develop the knowledge and skills to turn those ideas into reality.
Jeffco Schools currently offers numerous STEM programs for students throughout our district. Some are vendor specific, such as Creative Learning Systems or Project Lead the Way, however many are teacher developed programs that pull together a variety of resources. The common thread across all STEM programs should be the emphasis on transferable STEM specific skills such as defining problems and designing solutions. (See STEM Skills in Figure 1). These unifying STEM skills have been taken from Next Generation Science Standards Science and Engineering Practices. They are applicable across STEM careers, intersect with core content, and are directly aligned to state legislation allowing for a STEM Endorsed Diploma upon high school graduation.
Figure 1: Transferable STEM skills (see NGSS SEPs) apply to a variety of STEM-Aligned Career Pathways.
STEM content and skills are emphasized for students PK-12 in core content courses through inquiry and phenomena-based science, complex tasks in mathematics that emphasize standards of mathematical practice, and computer science and engineering design integration across disciplines. In addition to core content, secondary students have the opportunity to engage in industry aligned career pathways that develop the academic, technical, and professional skills necessary for a successful future in STEM.
Figure 2: K-12 progression of STEM programming
For questions or support please contact Jeffco STEM Coordinator, Heather Waldron.
By Megan Motley
Call me a millennial, but if we chat long enough, I will inevitably insert “I heard about that on a podcast” into our conversation. According to the Pew Research Center, I’m not alone; in 2021, 41% of Americans ages 12 or older have listened to a podcast in the past month, up from just 9% in 2008. Secondary students listen even more than the average American, with 48% of students aged 13-17 reporting listening to a podcast in 2020 according to a study by Marie Götting.
This relatively new form of media offers a dynamic way for students to learn as listeners and creators.
I loved listening to podcasts with my students because of the flexibility of the genre and its use in the classroom. Want to provide background before starting a new unit in science? Check out “How Galaxies Work” by Stuff You Should Know. Debating the inherent selfishness or selflessness of humans as you read Lord of the Flies? Listen to this real life example of challenged humanity from The Science of Survival: “The Everest Effect.” Need to show students how to approach a controversial topic in a nuanced way? “30-50 Feral Hogs” by ReplyAll begins with a question about gun control and ends in Texas investigating a feral hog infestation. No matter what you’re studying next: there’s a podcast for that.
The flexibility doesn’t end with content. How you use them in the classroom is up to you and the needs of your students. Listen together so you can pause, question, and discuss, offer an episode as an alternative to reading the textbook to gain background knowledge, link a podcast on a choice board, add an episode to stations…. When it comes to listening, flexibility and differentiation are the name of the game for you and your students.
A note before you press play: while listening is in the Colorado State Standards, it is rare that we ask students to learn exclusively through audio. They are familiar with following along during a read aloud, watching a video, or looking at slides during a lecture. Scaffold their listening comprehension accordingly with graphic organizers, time to pause and process, and the option to go back and relisten if necessary.
One of Jeffco’s tier one tech tools is an audio recording program called Soundtrap. In my experience, secondary students need very little technical assistance in getting started recording with Soundtrap. Unlike many things in the classroom, you don’t need to be an expert in this program before bringing it to your students; if students run into technical problems, both Soundtrap for Education and the Jeffco Ed Tech team provide tutorials and support.
Like listening, recording podcasts lends significant flexibility in content, purpose, and differentiation. In my classroom, students worked in groups to research, write, and record a podcast about a moment in American history as their first semester final. The cumulative project took weeks and gave me the chance to assess a wide range of skills students had been practicing all semester. During finals week, rather than take a test, we had a podcast party and listened to everyone’s recordings. Listening to the podcasts in class meant that students were each other’s audience and that I didn’t have to bring a stack of essays home to grade at the end of the semester (win-win!). Every year I looked forward to the creative ways that my students would incorporate their research, music they composed, primary source audio, and synthesis into their podcasts.
Podcast recording does not have to be a giant summative project. Students can record one minute book reports or reviews, explanations of concepts to share for class-wide study materials, PSAs as formative practice for argumentative writing… No matter what you’re studying next: there’s a podcast waiting to be made for that.
If you want to learn more about creating or listening to podcasts in your classroom, contact your secondary ELA TOSAs, Megan Motley and Robyn Kehoe Ramsey. We are excited to support you and your students in exploring this dynamic text type.
skills, collaborating and co-teaching to promote authentic technology integration and providing access to information. This has evolved with our needs, from remote learning and the need for 1:1 access for all students and staff to being in schools and supporting technology integration as teachers and students return to classrooms. DTLs continue to support technology integration, as we roll out of this pandemic and beyond the 21st century. And although technology use is strong, promoting a love of reading is still one of the core values of all libraries, providing avenues for students to explore new ideas, dream and create and get lost in books. As students return to school, library book check out has soared and our DTLs are working diligently to curate a collection that ensures students find their “just right” fit.
Cultivating Equitable Libraries with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Through focused professional learning, Digital Teacher Librarians have embarked on a path to Cultivating Equitable Libraries. Jeffco Library Services, in collaboration with Jeffco’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team, have partnered over the past few years to create a rich and meaningful plan to curate collections that have the “just right” books for each student.
Title I: Promoting Belonging Through Literature
Jeffco Library partnerships expanded into the Title I team as they learned about our library work with Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. This school year, the Title I team has been able to support Title I school libraries financially, taking our work into action and providing $5000 for each school library to Promote Belonging through Literature. Title I, Jeffco Libraries, along with Social Emotional Learning Specialists (SELS) and FELS (Family Engagement Liaisons) have strived to bring this work to fruition. This is an amazing opportunity for so many of our schools that will have lasting impacts on many of our students and staff, far beyond this school year.
Jeffco Public Libraries
This work was supported by another community partner, Jefferson County Public Libraries. The Title I DTLs requested time to research and evaluate books, thinking critically about each of their communities and collections. JCPL provided the space and hundreds of titles for DTLs to read and review. Our partners at JCPL provided the books we requested and offered us so many more. DTLs who participated said that this was a game changer, that they filled their buckets professionally and were able to use their expertise to knowledgeably curate their schools collection.
Follett Library Solutions
As Covid was on the rise, our plans to meet in person were put on hold. Jeffco’s library book vendor, Follett, stepped in and provided full preview access to books on our purchasing platform. Follett spent countless hours in coordination with various publishers to provide DTLs with full access to preview titles digitally. This increased access allowed DTLs to continue their work. Follett has also partnered closely in the work the Title I DTLs have done, working to ensure the books ordred will arrive before the end of the school year.
Example of success
A recent post on the Jeffco Ed Tech blog , An Accidental Love Letter, highlighted a few examples of how this work is directly impacting students. There are many more untold stories that reflect the impact of the work that DTLs are doing. Our students face a variety of seen and unseen challenges; the need to have mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors is essential for all learners. These stories share glimpses into the heart of our work.
Where do we go next?
As we begin to wrap up this year’s professional learning, we are far from finished. DTLs will continuously seek opportunities to promote belonging through literature; including building lists of books to add to library collections, finding ways to build a budget that can sustain equity in our school library collections and as equity leaders in our buildings. DTLs will also continue to create shared and collaborative opportunities for students to thrive as learners, readers and thinkers using technology, information, and literature. We are committed to being the hub of our learning community, serving all learners.
By Dave Yonkie
“Intelligence and skill can only function at the peak of capacity when the body is healthy and strong.”
~ John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States
Physical education is an important educational component in grades K-12. Research shows a strong correlation between physical fitness and improved academic success. Plus, healthy students have fewer absences and behavioral issues which also contribute to academic achievement. P.E. teachers strive to teach physical literacy. A physically literate student has the “motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value, and take responsibility for a lifetime of physical activity.” (Whitehead, 2014)
For good health, SHAPE America and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend school age children spend at least sixty minutes per day engaged in some form of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). P.E. teachers play an important role not only in helping students achieve these MVPA goals, but also in shaping the habits and attitudes that set them on a lifelong path of health enhancing physical activity.
Transforming the Learning Experience
JeffCo P.E. teachers are turning to wireless heart rate (HR) technology in their relentless quest to improve health and physical fitness outcomes for students. The use of wireless HR monitors is transforming the learning experience by giving students a voice in their own health and wellness journeys. HR monitors allow students to privately view “in-the-moment” biometric feedback to help them understand what is happening inside their body during exercise. The tracking and reporting capabilities of the system helps motivate them to take ownership of their physical activity time and intensity as they work toward realizing their personal goals for health and wellness.
The Student Experience
Wireless HR technology has been deployed in all JeffCo middle and high schools, and in a few elementary buildings. Students find the technology engaging and easy to understand; their reactions have been overwhelmingly positive! Said one 7th grade student, “I like wearing the heart rate monitors, because they motivate me to work toward a higher heart rate, so I don’t slack off.” In one survey of middle school teachers who are actively using the tool, teachers report 91% showed moderate-to-high levels of increases in the amount of time students spend in health enhancing heart rate zones.
Implications for Teaching & Learning
Beyond promoting increases in MVPA time, heart rate monitors provide a pathway for P.E. teachers to teach important curricular outcomes, including; goal driven fitness planning, and training principles such as resting, recovery and training heart rates, rates of perceived exertion, specificity, progression, overload, resistance and tedium to name a few.
HR technology is the most accurate and objective tool for measuring exercise intensity. Some teachers are using the technology to measure their effectiveness in helping students realize their fitness goals. System feedback and reporting capabilities can help teachers understand if they’re on the right path, or if adjustments in their planning and instruction are necessary. The level of detail in the reporting gives teachers the information they need to offer students a higher level of personalized support, regardless of their fitness level. The data generated through HR systems can help support a well crafted teacher growth goal.
School & Family Connections
Health and physical fitness outcomes are enhanced when schools, students and families work together. The reporting capabilities of HR systems allows teachers to share personalized, daily reports with students and parents that are simple and easy to understand. With just one “click” of a button each family can receive a student report containing information about the amount of time and level of intensity spent in health enhancing activity. These reports can provide a nice segue into conversations at the dinner table, or during school conferences!
The pandemic of the last two years has complicated the successful implementation of this amazing technology. Remote learning, initiative fatigue, teacher hesitancy and fear of spreading the Covid virus by sharing HR monitors have presented some challenges that will need to be overcome with some creative thinking, in order for this work to realize it’s full potential. Teachers continue to receive professional learning using small group, and direct one-to-one support. Teachers have access to District “in-house” expert trainers and dedicated vendor support. A semester-long MVPA Challenge has been started to incentivize more teachers to use their monitors. This contest recognizes teachers on a weekly basis for the number of sessions they post using the monitors, and for the highest average time their students spend in MVPA time.
P.E. teachers strive not only to give students the knowledge and competency, but the habits and attitudes to live a healthy, physically active lifestyle. HR Technology is a tool that can help teachers reach these goals. HR technology puts ownership of physical activity in the hands of students and provides opportunities for teachers to address important curricular outcomes. Working together, P.E. teachers, students and parents can help reach health & fitness outcomes that last a lifetime!
Heart Tech Plus (HTP) Customer Support
Heart Tech Plus (HTP) YouTube Channel
Dedicated HTP Contact - Brad Hull at: 877-456-3198, or email at: brad@HeartTechPlus.com
Interactive Health Technologies (IHT) Vimeo Tutorials
Interactive Health Technologies Website
Dedicated IHT Contact - Lois Mach at: 701-799-8432, or email at: Lois@ihtusa.com
P.E. Internal Website: The MVPA Challenge
SHAPE America Physical Activity Guidelines
Centers for Disease Control Physical Activity Guidelines for School Age Children
David.Yonkie@jeffco.k12.co.us - Curriculum & Instruction, K-12 P.E. Coordinator
Whitehead, M. (Ed.) (2010). Physical Literacy: Throughout the Lifecourse. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
By Jenn Edgar
“Postsecondary Opportunities” in Jeffco are any opportunities for high school students to earn college credit while still in high school. This encompasses Concurrent Enrollment (CE), Dual Enrollment (DE), Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB). Although these are similar, they each have their own specifics and some lend themselves to more equitable access than others.
To help staff, students, and families in Jeffco understand what each of these opportunities are, we have created the Jeffco Postsecondary Options grid that compares and contrasts each of these items side by side.
Additionally, we have a searchable database for both our district high schools and charter high schools, where anyone can look up which college credit opportunities exist at each school.
How many Postsecondary Opportunities are in Jeffco?
Over the past 5 years, Jeffco has increased its percentage of credits earned from 6% to 18%. Currently Warren Tech offers the most credits across their 3 campuses (North, Central, and South). In addition, for traditional high schools, Chatfield High School offers the most concurrent enrollment with 119 credits.
In the past two years, neighborhood high schools have been working to increase their concurrent enrollment opportunities through surveying current teachers to see who has qualifying credentials, identifying other concurrent enrollment opportunities from existing approved teachers, and having strategic conversations with reluctant schools and staff. Additionally, Jeffco has been able to grow opportunities utilizing 5A dollars and grants.
During Spring 2021, we piloted a synchronous remote concurrent enrollment course using 5A dollars. In partnership with Red Rocks Community College, we hired an English faculty member to offer one section of English Composition in a synchronous remote format. We worked with two of our Alternative Education Campuses--Brady Exploration and Jeffco County Open School to identify a group of 20 students who would benefit from this opportunity, and had an 85% success rate. Based on this pilot, the PWR Coordinator applied for and was awarded the Concurrent Enrollment Expansion & Innovation grant in the amount of $50,000 to replicate and expand upon the pilot. This expanded model launches Spring 2022 with seven Guaranteed Transfer course options with participants from across the district. Our hopes are that we can continue replicating this model, using Jeffco HLC-qualified teachers to continue bringing opportunities to our students.
Jeffco was also invited to participate in the Colorado Education Initiative Jumpstart program, which started this fall. The goal of CEI Jumpstart is to increase and diversify CE participation and success for the 2022-23 school year, and we identified Bear Creek High School and the Jeffco Remote Learning Program as our two target schools. Through research, data digging, and student voice, the goal is to create equitable and strategic growth in access to Concurrent Enrollment courses at these two schools, and hopefully applying our learning to other schools in the district.
If you’re interested in learning more about Postsecondary Opportunities, feel free to contact Jenn.Edgar@jeffco.k12.co.us or 303.982.7842. Additionally, you can access the Postsecondary Opportunities monthly newsletter here--feel free to bookmark it so you have it easily accessible.
By Sarah Hurd and Natalie Schaefer
“There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others” - Michelle Obama
February may be the shortest month of the year in terms of number of days, but anyone who has taught through the month of February knows that it is a mighty month. We have Groundhog Day (although, there’s something about the past year that feels a little like a continual version of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day!), President’s Day, and, of course, the month-long celebration of Black History Month. Black History Month is an opportunity to focus on highlighting courageous leaders such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks. It is also a month to celebrate Black voices and perspectives through the sharing of stories, poetry, oration, and narratives that demonstrate the experiences and contributions of foundational Americans. It is 28 days to affirm cultural traits and contributions and reframe thinking. In Jeffco, we not only want to make sure we take the time to celebrate Black History Month, but also to honor that these stories should not only be taught this month, but all throughout the curriculum.
As Learning for Justice reports, students throughout the country often encounter curriculum that does not fully address the history of Black Americans. “What students often get instead is a condensed version of factoids, a February full of “holidays and heroes,” when they can explore sanitized experiences of Black people without any context.”1 The Social Studies curriculum team is currently adjusting unit-specific materials to push teaching beyond chronicles of “famous firsts”, exceptional Black people, and trauma spotlights in relation to marginalized populations in the United States. Honoring Black history is inextricably connected with the broader objectives of racial justice and racial healing for people from all communities, and pushing ourselves to think intersectionally about other marginalized social identities that can lead to compounding struggles. As Audre Lorde states “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives”.
We encourage teachers and students to think critically about key figures in history. Learning for Justice explains it this way:
Too often we present historical events and figures as one dimensional—all good or all bad. But we know people are more complex. For example, the Smithsonian’s Paradox of Liberty exhibit tells the complex story of Monticello, the home of founding father Thomas Jefferson, as a place of innovation and excellence through craftsmanship as well as a place of oppression and the brutality of slavery.
This process of examining the complexity of a person or event helps students practice four thinking dispositions that Dr. Cabrera, author of Thinking at Every Desk, calls critical in order for a student to take on more rigorous content in the classroom: distinction (how are things different), relationship (how are things the same), system (how are things connected), and perspective (what are the possible ways to understand this thing).
The social studies team, through the strong partnership with the Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion team, are collaborating in the work of allyship and are working to move Jeffco beyond the bite sized pieces of Black history to infuse our curriculum with the rich history of our country that is Black History, Indigenous History, Womens’ History, and also continues to elevate the history of the United States. We are also working with other content areas such as English/ Language Arts, to create strong connections across content areas and through disciplinary literacy to expand opportunities for students to engage in these topics.
To conclude, we are excited to see the lessons of Black history, and ways the teachers and schools will honor the resilience, creativity, and vitality of Black people in the face of inequity and violence, past and present. And just how we encourage the use of other commemorative months such as American Indian Heritage Month (November), Asian Pacific Heritage Month (May), and Women's History Month (March) to highlight stories and contributions of various American groups, we also strive to do the same within the curriculum and resources available to teachers and students in Jeffco. Below you will find a list of resources to support learning, discovery, and lesson planning this month from several trusted sources. Jeffco teachers can find various resources across grade levels in Bridge to Curriculum that support examples mentioned above.
Sarah.Hurd@jeffco.k12.co.us and Natalie.Schaefer@jeffco.k12.co.us - Curriculum & Instruction TOSAs/ Social Studies
Dillard, C. (2019, January 11). Why We Need Black History Month. Retrieved February 02, 2021, from https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/why-we-need-black-history-month
By Jill Kalb
“Should this Math 7th student be in Algebra 1? The body of evidence is strong!” “ Did this student opt out of Algebra 1 credit in MS? If so, what math do they take as a freshman?” These are questions and discussions that are happening at this time of the year. Knowing that accurate placement is imperative to a student’s future plans and academic pathway, we need to be extremely considerate of our process of placing students in math courses. When having these collaborative conversations in your buildings and with your teams, consider the following reflective questions:
Step 1: Establishing Communication
According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ position on Access and Equity in Mathematics Education , “Achieving access and equity requires that all stakeholders:
MS Placement doc
HS Placement doc
5-12 Math Pathways
Jeffco Math Acceleration Process
Please reach out to the Secondary Math team (Jill Kalb, Lindsey Kjoller and Ali Tanner) with questions or if you would like a thought partner around math course placement and scheduling.
By Sheri Bryant
Did you hear the buzz about the fall semester Career Expo? Wondering how 1300 students, 120 industry professionals, 80 educators and 30 volunteers made that happen? These connections continue well after the event! Meet the Work-Based Learning Team, Jeffco Career Links! With one administrator and two specialists, we provide those services to a district of 80,000+ students, with a primary focus in the secondary levels.
But let’s take a closer look at who really does that career-connected learning in Jeffco Public Schools. This collaborative effort started with a vision for students to have authentic engagement with community and industry professionals. Our team seeks out those key partners by elevating the work of teachers, administrators and counselors. Whether that is making a cold call, sending an introductory email or attending a community event or chamber of commerce meeting, we know that when educators and school staff open their minds to what is possible, that is where the true magic can begin. Think about students in classrooms who no longer have to “imagine you are a…”, because industry experts from throughout our community are giving their knowledge and expertise so students can hear first-hand about those career cluster opportunities in business, agriculture, energy and natural resources, STEM and IT, hospitality, human services and education, health sciences, criminal justice and public safety, and skilled trades and technical sciences. Work-based learning experiences can occur in all grade levels, whether it's a Kindergarten class learning about careers, a middle school STEM class designing a city planning project, or a senior English class engaging in interviews with designated industry experts. Work-based learning is for all!
Students can engage in everything from an informational interview, job shadow, mentorship, internship, CareerWise apprenticeship, and paid work experience or on the job training. This work is vital to assisting a student in answering that age old question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” or “When will I ever use this?” Because of work-based learning (WBL) engagement, students have multiple pathways for career options that can lead them directly into the workforce, military, or any amount of college and beyond.
Recent school-based and district WBL programming include Golden Senior English Industry Interviews, McLain Job Fair and Industry Days, Standley Lake Industry Interviews, District Wide Mentorship Fair, Arvada West Informational Interviews, Arvada Capstone Pitches, Green Mountain Capstone Pitches, Dakota Ridge STEM Engineering Fair and Capstone Presentations, and Career Explore Trainings with students from Chatfield, Bear Creek, Dakota Ridge and Wheat Ridge. Next on the radar for the Career Links team are Spring Job Fairs, mentorship supports for English & Math Capstones, and programming for both students and industry on developing and growing their WBL skills.
Looking for ways to connect with our team? Check out our Jeffco Career Links website at: https://www.jeffcopublicschools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=627965&pageId=6121129
We look forward to collaborating with you on how to begin the career-connected conversation in your classroom and beyond!
By Megan Hurley
Last science blog we discussed ways to shift our science instruction with one small teacher move: Using phenomenon for students to first explore and then to explain. Today, I would like to introduce a planning tool that can help us tackle the other three aspects of shifting our instruction to a three-dimensional approach. The four pieces that are necessary are task, content, teacher moves, and student moves. Let’s take a closer look:
As you are planning consider these 4 questions:
Coping with Stress and Enjoying the Holidays
By Kathleen Remington, EAP
The holiday season is meant to bring feelings of love and happiness, yet it can also bring holiday stress for many of us. In fact, according to a poll by Verywell Mind, more than 80 percent of us find the holiday season to be ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ stressful.
The holiday season may bring with it some unwelcome guests - stress and sometimes even depression. The holidays often bring on a wide array of demands such as shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining. You may be feeling additional stress about the Coronavirus, or you may be worrying about your and your loved ones' health. You may also feel stressed, even sad or anxious, because your holiday plans may look different during the pandemic.
Here are some tips so you can minimize the stress that may accompany the holidays.
Tips for preventing holiday stress
When stress is at its peak, it's hard to step back and take a break. It’s best to try and prevent stress in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.
Take control of the holidaysDon't let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and sadness that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to distress. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.
Curriculum & Instruction