Editor's Note: This story is part of The Partnership Project, a series of content written in an effort by The Daily News to follow the formal collaboration of Ball State University and Muncie Community Schools. Read more in this series here.
At the Muncie Community Schools (MCS) Board meeting, Northside Middle School Principal Eric Grim discussed the school’s successes and areas of improvement.
Among the various positives at Northside, Grim reflected on the “innovation” happening in the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) classes and the school’s soccer program, at the board meeting held Tuesday at the school’s auditorium.
According to its website, PLTW is a nonprofit organization that provides learning experiences for pre-K through 12 students and teachers across the country.
“It’s hands on. It’s tech savvy. The kids eat it up,” said Kurtis Rumple, who teaches “Innovators and Makers,” one of the two PLTW classes at Northside.
“If [the students] can spend half the day coding in class, their very content to do that,” he said. “The kind of focus that I see in their eyes … it’s otherworldly.”
Rumple said everything students do is built toward a final project where students create a device to solve a real-world problem, like one group that’s working on an automatic pet food dispenser which is activated by a pressure sensor to feed pets when the owner is away.
“I’m just so excited for everything PLTW. It really sets the kids up to succeed,” he said. “I think it’s been a great investment. As far as I know, the kids are really enjoying it.”
The program currently has between 50 to 60 students, he said, but they will have new students join in since it is set up to start every nine weeks.
Grim said he brought up in his principal’s meeting expanding the PLTW class to a semester-long class, “buddying it up” with the physical education class and making it “more of a requirement for students to take.”
He also highlighted the achievements of Northside’s soccer team which was created following the success of the school’s intramural programs.
“We’re currently undefeated, have not lost a match, really haven’t been challenged too much in a match,” Grim said. “We’ve got a really good team. We’ve got a bunch of really great kids and they’re loving it.”
Rumple, who also coaches the school’s soccer team, said the students have been “grateful” for the program.
“I’ve been really surprised at how appreciative they’ve been of this program,” he said. “To add to that, their parents are blown me away with their support.”
Some other successes Grim focused on include avoiding any unfilled substitute teacher needs this academic year, the school’s diversity in student population, it’s implementation of Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports and social-emotional learning, 334 high school credits having been awarded to Northside students and updating classroom technology.
Apart from improving English and math scores, he said Northside needs “some kind of unique draw” to attract and retain families in the school.
“I think it does go along with the innovation plan and I would be definitely on board to having discussions and meetings on what that might look like,” Grim said. “I think that’s definitely something that Northside can offer to a family and community, and could definitely help improve our schools.”
Following the principal’s presentation, Jim Williams, MCS board president, wanted to clear some misunderstandings the community might have about the future of Northside.
Williams said the board had no plans to do anything other than keeping Northside operating as a middle school and that Ball State was “fully supportive” of that.
“I know there have been questions raised in the community periodically and folks have perhaps made some decisions based on anecdotal gossip,” he said. “That bears no relation to the reality of the policies of this board.”
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