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Kepner Beacon School in Denver Combines Innovation with Global Learning

A growing number of tech-forward schools are integrating global collaboration into their STEM programs by partnering with Level Up Village. A great example of this is Kepner Beacon Middle School, an innovative new school within the Denver Public School district. 

Beacon Network Schools, which consists of Kepner Beacon and Grant Beacon, all started with a question in 2011.

“A team of teachers and administrators at Grant Beacon Middle School asked, ‘How can we educate better?’ We brought students, parents, and community members together in search of the answer and started an exploration of cutting-edge schools, innovative teaching methods, and whole-child learning programs,” explained Taylor Hammrich, STEAM Teacher at Kepner Beacon Middle School. “We leveraged Colorado innovation laws and set out to design a program that would serve all students, and worked to rebrand and refocus Grant Beacon to have more autonomy.”

Based on the success of Grant Beacon, the team of educators was asked in 2015 to replicate that model.

“We launched the new Kepner Beacon Middle School in the fall of 2016 with our first class of 6th graders,” said Taylor.

Both Title 1 schools, Grant Beacon and Kepner Beacon serve 600 students – 93% of students are minority, 50% are second language learners, 90% receive free or reduced lunch and 20% receive Special Education, explained Taylor. The school network also offers two center-based special education programs and operates on an extended school day schedule, with the final hour of each day dedicated to community-based programs, teacher-led enrichment and tutoring. Technology is integrated throughout the curriculum.

“We are one-to-one technology in both schools and utilize a variety of software for Blended Learning, such as Google apps for communications and student work, Moodle for content delivery, and Engrade for our assessments and data repository,” said Taylor.

This year, Kepner Beacon decided to take things one step further by partnering with Level Up Village.

“I believe it is incredibly important for our students to experience the world around them and to know how to interact with students from all over the world,” said Taylor. “This is a new path for our schools/network to be on.”

So far, Taylor’s favorite LUV course to teach has been Global Inventors, which focuses on 3D printing, CAD and the engineering design cycle. The final project is to co-design and 3D print a solar-powered light together with a partner student from across the world.

“Teaching critical thinking and problem-solving skills through STEAM is incredibly important, especially to students that are significantly underrepresented in STEAM professions.  Further, being able to teach these skills while also educating students how to use and create their own designs in CAD software and to see their creations come to life from a 3D printer allows my students to envision themselves having a future in STEAM,” said Taylor.

In addition to learning cutting-edge STEAM skills, students learned to communicate and collaborate with their global partner students through project collaboration and the exchange of video messages. Each quarter Taylor has taught this course, he has found two moments to be truly exciting.

“The first is when my students realize that they can create their own designs and to have them 3D printed.  The second is the moment that my students realize they can use that ability to help others in their communities and around the world,” said Taylor

Here’s what some of Taylor’s students had to say about the experience:

“I felt like it was a fun way to use technology and the 3D printer. You can use the 3D printer to build anything.”

“My global partner is from Jordan. I learned that she can be shy just like me, and that we both have learned a lot in Global Inventors.”

“It feels great knowing I am helping children around the world through STEAM.”

Through this experience, Taylor’s students made big strides towards gaining global perspective, while simultaneously improving their communications skills.

“With our world becoming smaller and smaller with the increasing access we have to information, the internet and ability to travel, we need to understand how to communicate with people all over the world,” said Taylor “The Global Inventors class through LUV has provided a platform for my students to accomplish all of this, and to have their doors opened to the world around them.”