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Gwinnett County Public Schools

April 2024 - Excellence in the Discovery Cluster

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Join us as we examine Excellence in our Discovery Cluster.

Through Excellence— the quality of being outstanding or extremely good, we ensure that Team GCPS students and families have access to postsecondary and workforce readiness pathways to success, based on demonstrated knowledge, skills, abilities and interests making GCPS a preferred education destination. Our school communities know that Excellence is not optional; it is the standard. GCPS supports two-way communication and believes families and staff are partners in supporting student learning and development. Each and every student and staff member are valued, provided with leadership opportunities, and celebrated in their success.

In the Discovery Cluster, “Paving the Pathway to Excellence,” is accomplished through community involvement, real-world experiences, workforce development training, supporting students in personal growth, and celebrating individuality.

Excellence is wise at Baggett ES through the Wise Girls Read (WGR) Club! Join Marqueisha Pless and her 13 super readers as they encourage one another to love themselves, grow, and foster relationships through the power of literature.

Baggett ES Wise Girls Read

WGR members demonstrate Excellence through exploring high-quality grade-level books that promote diversity and representation. Reading is an essential skill and a way to increase vocabulary, WGR members take the content they learn about and use critical thinking skills to discuss what they’ve learned. Furthermore, they’re creating a space to foster community and girl-power.

“Providing a space for excellence in literacy amongst girls means creating an environment where girls are supported, inspired, encouraged, and empowered to succeed in reading and writing,” Ms. Pless shared. “We offer resources, guidance, and a safe space for the girls to be themselves, all while providing opportunities for them to develop strong literacy skills and ultimately reach their full potential as confident readers.”

In a WGR session, you can find the girls snacking, journaling, reading, facilitating thoughtful discussion, and having “self-work” sessions. The club also produces a magazine, The WGR Magazine, that caters to other young ladies at Baggett Elementary in grades 2nd-5th which allows them to utilize their creativity, writing, and team building skills.

“I love being here so much and I love reading here with everybody. The best part is reading together because we get to have turns and even if some people get stuck, I'm always able to help them. I also love how we always do activities together. I like that it’s just girls because we’re all comfortable with each other,” says Alivia, 2nd grade WGR member.

BOTS the Musical cast backstage

Warm up your vocals chords and get your dance moves ready for BOTS! A New Children’s Musical! The Baggett ES drama program is under five years old and is constantly striving to find new ways to incorporate the arts into its curriculum. Baggett ES is a prospective STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) school, and Drama Instructor Robin Colwell was excited about partnering with the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (GSMST) to create a show about a robotics competition.

“When we first started rehearsals, one of our GSMST Interns did a robot presentation for our cast and crew. Our students were captivated seeing a real robot in action, and it was a great starting point for our design team. Our GSMST technical theatre intern, Daphne, put together a wonderful design presentation as inspiration,” Ms. Colwell shares.

BOTS! the musical at Baggett HS

More than 60 Baggett ES students started preparing for the musical in August of 2023, with rehearsals twice a week from September to February. To bring BOTS! to life, students designed animations, while technical teams, drama instructors, and other collaborations with Discovery HS, School of The Arts (SOTA) at Central Gwinnett HS, and GCPS employees made the effort possible. The musical provided a space for students to explore their creativity and see a STEAM event come together from start to finish in a unique way. It proved that there is a place for each and every student in STEAM.

“We are consistently working to provide programs and opportunities to students that spark interest, engagement, and enthusiasm and give them every reason to say that they love coming to Baggett,” Ms. Colwell says. “We are after no less than changing the world and believe that quality arts experiences such as this are a critical component to our eventual success.”

Baggett ES Musical with robots

Ms. Colwell and her collaborators Jody Holland, Music Director; Amy Sapp, Science Instructor; Kristyn Lopez, Art Instructor, and Dance Instructor Shanelle Freeman committed themselves to creating a “Brave Space” for Excellence, a space that encourages students to try new things, enter a world outside of their normal, and approach any challenges unafraid.

On opening night of the show, students and families were met with games and pre-show animations as they were gearing up for the opening number “Gearing Up for Glory!”

“My favorite part was having my first costume fitting in my robot costume! I enjoyed learning choreography and the experience we had after feeling like we did it…it was fun! I enjoyed spending time with my friends and getting to feel that feeling of accomplishment,” says Amayah, a 5th grade BOTS! participant.

Baggett ES students creating Prosthetic Arms using Legos

Create, build, and move at Cedar Hill ES during Terell Hamlet’s Computer Science class where coding is a constant topic. Mr. Hamlet was inspired to help students visualize and understand coding in action, and that’s how, together, they built a robotic arm. He devised the project to help students understand the application of coding, programming, and engineering in their daily lives. 

During previous units the class discussed accessibility, and Mr. Hamlet wanted to expand the students' understanding of how having a robotic hand could help people with disabilities. The class discussed industrial robots, which are used in manufacturing settings to perform tasks such as sorting, welding, painting, product assembly, packaging, labeling, and quality inspection.

Students were given a team assignment to design a robot arm capable of meeting specific criteria and constraints. Before they started brainstorming and sketching their designs, students were encouraged to consider how movement of the arm would be controlled from a distance and what the strength of the grip would be when picking up different types of cups.

students creating prosthetic arms using Legos in Mr. Hamlet's class

The students formed groups of four where two of them worked on the arm's base, and the others worked on the hand's portion. Each student had a designated role, with the first student being the timekeeper, the second and third students were computer users, and the fourth student was responsible for maintaining the organization of the LEGO® Education SPIKE™ Prime Sets (LEGO® building elements). After building the arm, the students collaborated to code it for use by another student with the goal of being able to pick up a cup.

“Sometimes, students get caught up in thinking that computer science only focuses on computers, and this project [allowed] students to learn about design concepts, teamwork, problem-solving techniques, and simple machines,” says Mr. Hamlet. “Students learn best when they are studying something that captures their imagination and interest.”

Cedar Hill ES Principal Tony Patino adds that Excellence in a school involves setting a clear set of values and beliefs that are practiced and reinforced throughout the school. It involves meeting the collective and individual needs of students, including psychological, physiological, belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization, and supporting teachers who are the backbone of great schools.

“By integrating creativity into education policies, we can move one step closer to achieving the overall goal of developing an education system that supports the holistic development of each and every student throughout their educational journey,” Principal Patino says.

Alford ES Math Night Carnival

Grab some popcorn, practice your bean bag tossing skills, and get ready to laugh at the clowns... we’re headed to the carnival! On second thought, you’ll probably need some scissors and your math knowledge.

A carnival-themed Math Night event at Alford ES provided opportunities for families to learn about Math Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS) standards, and Indicators of Achievement (IOAs) per grade level. Each grade level had a different math game and a different math activity that students and families participated in together.

Families were given the opportunity to watch teachers model the Math IOAs and engage in math games and activities like ring toss, bean bag toss, fishpond multiplication, estimation stations, math and movement, and balloon pop multiplication. This allowed for a heightened level of student engagement and confidence in students. Families visited multiple grade levels during the night and had an opportunity to learn, implement, ask questions, and receive resources about multiple Math AKS and IOAs.

Alford ES Math Night Carnival

“The modeling and hands-on learning experiences provided families with the opportunity to learn more about math through two-way communication, as well as how to better support their child/children at home to enhance math skills,” said Instructional Coach Nicole Hicks. “Education is a partnership, and Math Night provides families with the opportunity to learn together with their children in a fun and engaging way!”

Head over to Discovery HS where opportunities to develop essential knowledge, skills, and experience are cultivated in, and out, of the classroom. A special connection with the city of Lawrenceville provides leadership and learning opportunities for students throughout the year.

Students that participated in Love Lawrenceville, a half-day job shadowing event.

Through Love Lawrenceville Day, a half-day business shadowing event, students can job shadow with local businesses and connect with Lawrenceville itself, starting with a visit to City Hall. Lawrenceville Legacy Leaders (L3) is an eight-month program designed to develop and promote student success by cultivating a legacy of leaders in Lawrenceville. Students have the chance to learn about local government, meet community leaders, and embrace their purpose through leadership development. Summer of Impact is an internship program in collaboration with the City of Lawrenceville, local non-profit Impact 46, and local businesses to provide summer internships to students at Discovery HS. Students participate in workforce development training centered around resumes and interview skills before applying to the summer internships. In addition to the students working at local businesses, with the help of city leaders, students create a community impact project for the City of Lawrenceville that addresses a need they see within the community. 

Students working on their vinyl designs at the Discovery Design Cricut Counter

Join your fellow entrepreneurs in the Discovery Design Program at the Clyde Strickland Entrepreneurship Center where you’ll get a real-world experience through a school-based enterprise in digital design and printing, and build interpersonal skills as you collaborate with peers to meet the needs of clients. You’ll learn product printing development including engraving, embroidery, sublimation, photography, banner design, and much more.

Discovery Creative Media team working in the studio

In Discovery HS classrooms, collaborative learning, building connections, and hands-on experiences also help students prepare for a successful future. Meet the school’s Creative Media Team— these students play a vital role in bringing Discovery to life. In the classroom, students learn the technical aspects of audio-video tools and gain an understanding of how to work with talent in front of the camera.

“[These] students collaborate, develop, and produce projects that capture life at Discovery High School,” says Assistant Principal Brent Cruce.

Discovery HS Coffee Shop ran by students in the Special Education program

In the self-contained, or small group, special education classes, students have many opportunities to practice life skills through community-based instruction, vocational training, and Special Olympics participation. Students and staff visit places like Target and Walmart, where they practice their money skills by purchasing items for themselves or their family members. Students also receive vocational training at school where they use the Home Living area to practice daily living skills and task skills like making copies. In the school’s Coffee Shop, students help stock items and prepare for customers.

“Small group classrooms at Discovery HS show that each and every student matters. Not only do our students benefit from an inclusive environment, but our teachers do also as well,” says Assistant Principal Michele Jones.

Discovery HS 9th grade students participating in the Career Connections event

Next, head over to the Discovery Career Connections event. This half-day experience exposes 9th grade students to the career and workforce opportunities that await them beyond high school. Students can explore the Career Academy Pathways offered by Discovery’s four main academies: Business & Entrepreneurship, Fine Arts, Health & Human Services, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) through three engaging learning opportunities. First, visit the Career Expo, a dynamic setup of booths hosted by local businesses, Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs), and academies to explore careers in healthcare, human resources, logistics, entertainment, and others. The Business Partner Panel taps into the wisdom of industry leaders who provide valuable insight into the knowledge, skills, and experience required in today's workforce. Finally, the Discovery Student Panel provides reflections and experiences of students who've walked the path the 9th graders aim to walk as rising 10th graders. At the end of the event, students use their newfound knowledge to choose the Academy Pathway that best suits their current career interests.

Benefield ES students participating in STEM Day

Preparing students for the future starts early at Benefield ES, from the littlest learners to students getting ready for middle school, Excellence means providing opportunities for growth and exploration of career and educational options. Events like Career Day and STEM Day celebrate various career fields and help students learn about college and trade pathways.

With Play 2 Learn, and the school’s pilot Pre-K program, Little Learners Academy, Benefield ES aims to prepare students for their future as early as possible. Play 2 Learn guides parents through their child’s GELDS (Georgia Early Learning Development Standards) to assist with preparing students for their developmental milestones and promotes learning through hands-on activities. Families who cannot commit to meeting every week can participate in Little Learners Academy, offered once a month.

Mentoring is essential to student development, and the J.E.W.E.L.S Girls Mentoring Program at Richards MS focuses on middle school girls' empowerment. The program, with more than 10 mentors, connects the mentees and a caring staff member whom they can call on. This approach contributes to the “Whole Child” and forms a sense of belonging in small group discussions.

J.E.W.E.L.S. students on a trip to Grayson HS

The group meets once a week and starts the meeting with a group check-in to see how everyone is feeling. They then begin a topic of discussion that helps guide the conversation, such as “being a good friend” or “conflict resolution.” Together, they create goals to reach once they leave the meeting and apply the things they learned and discussed in their groups into their classrooms and lives.

“I’m excited to be part of such an amazing program. I like helping my mentee girls learn strategies to cope with their emotions and issues, so that they can focus on their academic learning and get along better with others,” says Kasey Hoffman, J.E.W.E.L.S Girls Mentoring Program Advisor.

students in the J.E.W.E.L.S Program

The mentees also serve their community by sending art supplies to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta during the holidays and collecting hygiene products from their school community to give to others.

“I look forward to going to mentoring. I like that we talk about diverse topics and how inclusive it is,” says Zoey, an 8th grade mentoring participant. “I feel like I am more prepared for High School because of the program.”

At all schools in the Discovery Cluster, the pathway to Excellence is paved with the creative efforts of staff members who provide learning activities that foster student inquiry and participation, and allow students to explore their imagination in interesting and meaningful ways. 

The Discovery Cluster includes the following schools: