Brennan-Rogers 1st-Graders Show Project to Sen. Blumenthal

May 29, 2013
Project is an example of new partnership between teachers and rising leaders that aims to increase  student engagement in the classroom with creative lessons

As part of Brennan-Rogers School’s emphasis on problem-solving and project-based learning, one class of first-graders researched endangered animals and wrote to their senator as part of the interdisciplinary lesson. On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal visited Brennan-Rogers School to accept the first-graders’ letters and to hear what they had to say about the global challenge of endangered species.
Brennan-Rogers School is both a communications and media-themed magnet school and an Expeditionary Learning school, meaning the school uses hands-on projects that build problem-solving skills and get the students thinking about how they can make a difference in the world. Teacher Heather Ventura’s first-grade classroom also benefits from a New Haven Public Schools Leadership Development initiative that pairs emerging leaders with “trailblazer” teachers and tasks them with designing innovative classroom lessons that get students excited and more engaged. Ventura’s mentor in designing her endangered animals lesson is Gail DeBlasio, a participant in the district’s Leadership Development program and an administrative intern at Brennan-Rogers.
On Wednesday, Brennan-Rogers Principal Karen Lott and Gemma Joseph Lumpkin, Executive Manager of Leadership Development, gathered with students, teachers and staff to welcome Senator Blumenthal to the school. Principal Lott talked about Brennan-Rogers’ mission as an Expeditionary Learning school with an emphasis on communications, media and technology. Along with DeBlasio and teacher Ventura, the first-grade students presented their project to Senator Blumenthal and handed them letters they wrote asking him to join their fight to protect endangered animals.
“I was thrilled to receive such well-written letters from these young students at Brennan-Rogers advocating passionately for the protection of endangered species. I applaud their teachers and the Brennan-Roger school for their dedication and skill in connecting classroom lessons to important global issues—not a simple task with such young students.” said Senator Blumenthal.
For their project, the students researched endangered animals from habitats around the world and wrote about the reasons the animals became endangered. The students developed action plans to address the problem and learned how to use their voice to take a stand. The interdisciplinary project combined social studies, science, literacy, math, writing and service learning, as the students organized a Donation Day at school on May 30 to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund. The project also included fieldwork – a trip to Beardsley Zoo – and a visit from experts from the Audubon Society.
The endangered animals project was one of dozens of Expeditionary Learning projects on display Wednesday at Brennan-Rogers as part of the school’s annual exhibition of student projects.
“Students here and across the district are becoming more engaged and more excited to learn thanks to an increased emphasis on designing lessons that get kids thinking about how to solve real-world problems,” said Superintendent Mayo. “The Leadership Development program encourages collaboration and innovative thinking that takes classroom learning to a new level.”
“Nothing thrills me more as an educator than walking into a classroom and watching the faces of children so totally absorbed in learning that they don’t even recognize the passage of time, or the level of work that they accomplishing,” DeBlasio said. “This is where a life-long love of learning will be born.”