Rocket Ready program reimagines approach to education

Teacher+Jennifer+Merritt%2C+Torrey+Menne+and+Ben+Sharp+work+together+to+secure+the+solar+panel+to+the+roof+of+the+garden+shed.+Recently%2C+the+Rocket+Ready+program+has+been+implemented+district-wide+to+expose+students+to+real-world+situations.+
Teacher Jennifer Merritt, Torrey Menne and Ben Sharp work together to secure the solar panel to the roof of the garden shed. Recently, the Rocket Ready program has been implemented district-wide to expose students to real-world situations.

Teacher Jennifer Merritt, Torrey Menne and Ben Sharp work together to secure the solar panel to the roof of the garden shed. Recently, the Rocket Ready program has been implemented district-wide to expose students to real-world situations.

Parta Perkins

Parta Perkins

Teacher Jennifer Merritt, Torrey Menne and Ben Sharp work together to secure the solar panel to the roof of the garden shed. Recently, the Rocket Ready program has been implemented district-wide to expose students to real-world situations.

Kammie George, Editor-in-Chief/Web Manager

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At the start of the 2016-17 school year, the Laguna Beach Unified School District technology department introduced Rocket Ready, a district-wide program. The purpose of the Rocket Ready program is to help implement professional learning via a variety of projects while providing innovative ideas and technology to better society. The overall goal of this program is to immerse students and teachers into real-world situations that expand knowledge.  

“This project was started because traditional staff development, which might be a ‘class,’ does not always reward the outcome,” said Chief Technology Officer Michael Morrison. “We have rethought this so that we pay teachers for the outcomes.”

Each teacher must meet qualifications in order to get through various “levels.” These include getting equipment for the class, receiving technology support, undergoing group training by LBUSD staff, having a substitute teacher, inviting guest speakers and going on field trips. Additional challenges include working with other teachers both inside and outside the district and working with other schools from different countries.

“It’s a program where teachers can invest in and connect with another school in another part of the world, trying to teach and collaborate in those different arenas,” said Scholarship and Financial Aid Coordinator Lynn Gregory. “At El Moro, [there is] a class working to connect with a class in Africa, and the kids are actually working together.”

The district has created micro-credentials to follow in order to achieve more professional learning. These credentials are tech essentials specialists, engagement specialists, representation specialists, action and expression specialists, and world changers.

As a social studies teacher, this [program] has allowed me to expose students to hands-on real-life experiences of the judicial and criminal system, which, in turn, will make them productive 21st-century citizens,” said Thurston Middle School social studies teacher Michelle Martinez.

So far, Martinez is involved in a forensic science program started by her daughter, Noelle. This program is investigating the death of Blackbeard by Sir Francis Drake, loosely based on historical facts. The students in her new forensic class created evidence, artifacts and an underwater robot to retrieve the body of Blackbeard.

“We hope to expose many students to forensic crime scene investigation and expand the program. We have many girls involved in both the class and after-school program,” said Martinez.

In addition, LBHS science teachers Jennifer Merritt and Parta Perkins are working on a project named “Juice in the Shed.” The goal of their project is to develop off-grid sources of energy using solar panels. Merritt and Perkins did a practice run at Top of the World Elementary School by installing a solar panel system with a commercially built battery bank on the garden shed. Now, they are working on bringing those power supplies to the science wing at LBHS to allow for easier access to power during labs.

Our goal is to do an initial install of the panel and the battery bank by the end of this school year.  Next year, we want to work on finding the right components that will maximize efficiency and increase the number of solar panels used,” said Merritt.

Overall, this program is a great addition to the school district. It will expand students’ and teachers’ opportunities for a wider variety of education, as well as provide schools with a better understanding of the educational opportunities the world has to offer. For more information on how this program plans to move forward, visit the technology page at lbusd.org.

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