gmhTODAY 26 gmhTODAY June July 2019 - Page 70

School Days: Gilroy Unified School District iSchool and SLED Make an Impact By Melanie Corona, Public Information Officer, Gilroy Unified School District 70 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN I n March 2019, a group of students and staff members from Gilroy and Christopher High Schools and Brownell and Solorsano Middle Schools had a chance to participate in the innovative Students Leading Education (SLED) program. iSchool Initiative is a program developed by Travis Allen that offers solutions to what he thought was a problem in public education. His YouTube video—which contends that students learn best when they identify an opportunity with an answer that can’t be “googled”—has translated to schools and school districts nationwide. Gilroy Unified School District Superintendent Deborah Flores first saw Allen give a keynote address at a leadership conference and decided to introduce him to the District’s staff and students. She brought him in as a keynote speaker at the August 2018 GUSD Management Retreat and invited principals, one staff member, and one parent at all 15 school sites as well as a handful of students from each of the middle and high schools in the District. The Superintendent’s Cabinet invited iSchool back to GUSD in March 2019 with the Escape the Bus program. Essentially it’s an “escape room” on wheels. Groups of staff members and stu- dents at the seven secondary sites were invited to enter the escape room and complete challenges using technology in order to escape in under 30 minutes. The end result was impactful team- building and problem-solving opportunities that were some- times successful and sometimes not. Following the Escape the Bus experience, staff and students were invited to participate in the SLED program. The iSchool team taught participants how to present to groups, to convince them of their conviction in a problem or scenario, and best practices for other presentation tools and methods. They talked at length about different challenges at school sites and ways these opportunities could be addressed. The program culminated with presentations by student teams and staff teams and the commitment to address the problems for the next year. Opportunities included revamping the garden at Brownell Middle School to provide food resources to the homeless, filming a homework video library to provide assistance to students who may be struggling in class, and developing a video announcement system to combat aging loudspeakers that make daily announcements hard to hear. Students also proposed ways to address the constant pressure to perform academically and the need to learn how to cope with that stress, as well as providing SAT prep courses to all high school students onsite and free of charge. A total of 75 students and ten staff members completed the SLED program and are now part of SLED clubs on their campuses. Updates will be provided throughout their year-long process and the consensus is that the learning that will take place throughout the process will carry them forward as learners and world citizens. In the words of one SLED participant, “I’d recommend this program because it taught me to accept the challenge of think- ing for myself and not look to someone else for the answer.” Learn more online at ischoolinitiative.com/sled. june/july 2019 gmhtoday.com