By Wes Platt
DURHAM - Middle school students in Durham Public Schools now have several options for focused learning in non-magnet programs.
DPS administrators Monday announced new instructional focus areas for Brogden, Carrington, Githens and Lucas middle schools.
The changes are the result of several "kitchen table conversations" conducted last year by the district.
"We had lots of discussion in our community in regard to program offerings in our middle schools, wanting to make sure our middle schools had programming that would serve all students, regardless if they attended a magnet middle school or a traditional home-based middle school," said Eric Becoats, DPS superintendent, during Monday's briefing.
The new effort, dubbed "Moving in the Middle," encompasses this revamped focus for four non-magnet schools as well as new magnet options: The School for Creative Studies (a design academy for grades 6-12 where Chewning Middle currently resides) and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs at Neal and Lowe's Grove.
DPS worked with school improvement teams, consisting of teachers, faculty and parents, to devise focus areas for the non-magnet schools.
Brogden Middle chose leadership development, inspired by Stephen Covey's "Leader in Me" curriculum. Students are expected to learn problem-solving skills, public speaking, debate, interdisciplinary studies and community service.
Renee Trapp, Brogden principal, said "teachers and parents really embraced this concept."
Carrington Middle picked global connections, with an eye toward global consciousness and collaboration.
"Globally conscientious students can excel in an interconnected world," said Holly Emanuel, principal at Carrington.
Githens Middle will offer leadership through service, promoting community service, character development, compassion and civic responsibility.
Principal Tonya Williams said Githens teachers will let students take the lead in proposing ideas for service projects, such as homelessness and hunger, and then teachers will connect those interests to the curriculum.
"The options are endless," she said.
Lucas Middle, which opened this fall with a project-based-learning focus, will expand on that in 2013-2014. Principal Thomas Seckler said Lucas projects last 10 to 14 days and feature one topic.
"Moving forward, we're going to have more ambitious projects," Seckler said. The projects will last longer and cover multiple disciplines.
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