Dayton STEM school hosts Innovation summit

For four years, the Project: WRIGHT Symposium has aimed to provide educators in Ohio with an annual professional development session designed by their fellow teachers. In Year No. 5, however, organizers are changing things up, beginning with the event’s name: The Innovative Teaching Summit, as it is now called, will still be held at the Dayton Regional STEM School, but it has shifted focus to reflect an expanded agenda. For details on the session, set for Nov. 9 in the Kettering, Ohio, school’s Training Center, we contacted Jenn Reid, Training Center coordinator and College Credit Plus instructor:

Q: You previously planned the Project: WRIGHT Symposium as a professional development opportunity for educators and stakeholders. You are now setting up the Innovative Teaching Summit. Tell us the goal for each event, how they differ and how one might build on the other.

A: We decided that in its fifth year, we were ready to change the name of this professional development day to be more inclusive of the variety of best practices in education.

Project: WRIGHT derived its name from our focus on student craftsmanship and projects; while the Dayton Regional STEM School (DRSS) and many schools locally use project-based learning as a pedagogy, there are other issues facing teachers in the classroom that deserve our attention.

Finally, because the city of Dayton is known for its spirit of innovation, we thought that this name was more akin to the kinds of students we know local educators are trying to develop.

Q: Is there an overriding theme for the Innovative Teaching Summit? What makes this PD opportunity unique?

A: We feel very strongly in valuing teachers’ voices, and this professional development opportunity allows teachers to highlight the important work that they are doing in their classrooms.

I believe practicing teachers are the best experts in education. That being said, we are also seeking presentations from mental health professionals and experts in other areas because we all know that teachers do a lot more than simply instruct in their classrooms.

Most important, this is an event planned by a committee of practicing teachers, so it is important to us that the experience be engaging, affirming and fun for our colleagues.

Q: Can you list any of those already scheduled to present and their topics? 

  1. Here is a sampling:
  • Tuning Protocol — Underneath the Chairs: Where Math, Physics, and Language Arts Meet, Jade McDaniel, Nancy Schaefer, Meena Neelakantan, Alyxis Petry, Dayton Regional STEM School

Teachers will present a design project for juniors in Technical Reading & Writing (TRW), Algebra II/Trigonometry and Physics with the driving question, “How can we find and propose a better solution to the noisy, damaging chair situation (i.e., better solution than tennis balls) in DRSS classrooms?” In language arts, students will prepare surveys and workplace documents such as agendas, meeting minutes, memos and proposals. Students in math will propose materials for testing by gathering and analyzing data on noise levels of different materials, implementing the engineering design process, and graphing and mathematically describing the final model. In physics, students will test friction properties for different materials and communicate with juniors in material properties through reports and consultations.

  • Mediating Civil Discourse: Classroom Strategies from the Field, Arch Grieve, Dayton Mediation Center

This session will provide participants with an overview of Transformative Mediation and explore how the underlying beliefs of the Transformative Approach can provide a framework for understanding the increasingly partisan society we are living in today. More important, teachers will be introduced to some of the tools that mediators use and explain how these tools can be utilized in any classroom, with the goal of helping students go from conflict to conversation about controversial topics.

  • Authenticity in Projects and Audience, Kevin Lydy, Yellow Springs High School

A sure-fire way to ensure that a project is considered “gold standard” is to identify an authentic need for the end product and to have students present to an audience that could genuinely benefit from the fruits of the students’ labor.  To demonstrate increasing the level of authenticity in both an overall project and the intended audience of the project, I will share a project that my 11th- and 12th-grade Government class worked on (and is still working on) involving the establishment of a “Teen Court” in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

  • Improv in the Classroom: How “Yes, And” Can Transform Your Teaching, Tyler Benedict, The Miami Valley School

This session is an immersive, hands-on workshop demonstrating how the techniques used in improvisational comedy can aid in classroom management, relationship-building, project brainstorming and much more. You’ll leave the session with a toolbox of new ideas that you can bring into your classroom or office right away.

  • Less Chaos and More Calm! — Building Social Emotional Skills in a Trauma Sensitive Classroom, Jessica Davies and Jackie Renegado, Montgomery County Educational Service Center

The mental health needs of today’s students are increasing, and teachers are expected to manage more significant social and behavioral challenges. This session will help participants understand how stress and trauma impact learning, and how teachers can create classroom environments that decrease behavior problems, better support social emotional learning and build resilient students. Practical strategies and tools based on the latest brain research will be shared and can be implemented in classrooms the next day.

  • Competent Masters: Using Competency Based Assessment to Demonstrate Mastery, Brandon Williams, Global Impact STEM Academy

This team-based presentation would focus on the mechanics of mastery grading through each subject area as well as how we, as a middle school team, use competency based assessment. We also will walk through students’ own evaluations of their learning and placing assessment in their hands through the use of portfolio technology such as Seesaw.

  • A Framework for Explanatory Thinking Using iPads, Jonathan Zemmer, Instructional Designer, Wright State University

This session will share insights from e-learning activities designed by Lisa Kenyon, Ben Penry and Jonathan Zemmer for a general education science course to include explanatory thinking. Leveraging iPads and the Explain Everything app, students worked in small groups creating explanatory models to answer specific questions. This allowed opportunities for creativity, providing tools for animation and narration in student models. Attendees will participate in small groups using one of our iPads to construct an explanatory model. We will share our explanatory thinking framework, student examples and how these activities parallel our course.

Q: Will there be a keynote speaker?

A: For the second year in a row, we are choosing not to feature a keynote to allow for more sessions during the day and for more time between sessions for folks to network.

Q: Will non-educators, or those in the community, play a role in the new event?

A: This year, we are ending our event with an Ice Cream Social and Partner Showcase.

Community partners are an important part of every project, whether they serve as guest speakers, experts to critique student work, or a practical audience when a project is finished. We are inviting local partners whose expertise can benefit our students to join us during our closing session to share their opportunities and expertise with our attendees.

As always, our own DRSS students will serve as ambassadors throughout the day, running the registration table, serving as IT support, and, for the first time, presenting at a session! We hear that some of our own students might be submitting a proposal of their own for the conference; stay tuned!

Q: How will those in attendance benefit?

A: We want teachers to leave each session at the summit with tools and resources that inspire them and that are useful to them. We want them to connect with like-minded educators from throughout the region. And we want them to enjoy some GREAT food — the popular taco bar is back, and who can resist an ice cream sundae in the middle of the afternoon?

Q: How can interested educators get more information about the Innovative Teaching Summit?

A: Visit our website,, or join our DRSS Training Center Facebook page to stay up to date on the Innovative Teaching Summit and other PD opportunities at the Dayton Regional STEM School.

Early bird registration for the Summit ends on October 1.




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