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Summer study opportunities enhance lessons, educators say

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When principals and teachers spend time in other countries or working with other educators they find ideas for new, more effective lessons for students; but schools don’t always have money to fly them across the nation or world.

So teachers and principals look for other ways to cover travel and training costs.


This summer, Northwood Elementary School Principal Katie Crites will spend two weeks in Japan, traveling to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto to visit schools, businesses, museums and government agencies. She applied for and received a grant from The Japan Foundation, based in Los Angeles, that will pay for the roughly $5,000 trip.

Superintendent David Clendening told Crites and other Franklin administrators about the grant, encouraging them to apply. When Crites returns, she plans to work with students and teachers at Franklin Community High School to find ways to include lessons on Japanese language and culture in some Northwood classes. Younger students can start considering whether they want to take Japanese in high school, Crites said.

“(The lessons) won’t be really in depth, but they will be an introduction for them to get excited to potentially take Japanese in high school,” Crites said.

Other Johnson County school districts also regularly encourage teachers to apply for programs or grants that give them opportunities to see the world. Teachers and principals aren’t required to find grants for summer training, but those who do typically return with new methods to teach students about different cultures, administrators said.

“It makes learning fun, and we always encourage hands-on learning and exposure for our students. And it’s important for teachers and administrators to have that opportunity as well,” Crites said.

At Clark-Pleasant, school officials often try to bring educators giving presentations to Whiteland, instead of sending one or more of their employees on an overnight trip, assistant superintendent John Schilawski said. School officials also have been looking for grants and other programs that will cover the costs of sending teachers to training sessions.

Last year, for example, Clark-Pleasant received a grant that pays students who take specific Advanced Placement courses and earn top scores on the end-of-year exams. Part of that grant also paid for the school district to send at least 14 teachers to summer training sessions, which show teachers more ways to help students succeed in the courses. Before Clark-Pleasant received the grant, school officials could afford to send only one teacher per year to the training.

Educators also seek out grants and programs on their own. Last year, Whiteland Community High School band director Pete Sampson received a grant that paid for him to go to England, where he spent time studying folk music.

When he returned, he created lessons based on the English folk songs. Schilawski said Sampson likely wouldn’t have been able to plan those lessons if he hadn’t taken the trip and experienced the performances firsthand.

“You have teachers who are constantly seeking improvement, so they seek out professional development opportunities,” Schilawski said.

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