Plymouth School of Inquiry begins

PLYMOUTH — Although the Plymouth School of Inquiry (SOI) has been commonly referred to as the New Tech school, Director Ken Olson said technology isn’t actually what makes the new school — which launched this week with a little more than 100 freshmen — different from the rest of Plymouth High School.
“For most other schools transitioning to New Tech, the challenge is the 1:1 computers,” said Olson Thursday. “Well, Plymouth was already 1:1. The technology is not what makes (Plymouth School of Inquiry) unique. What does make us unique is that we have a culture that empowers students. Students are part of the process. We (also) have teachers that engage students, and that’s because of this project-based method that we are using.”
All the Plymouth School of Inquiry facilitators spent time stressing the school’s motto — trust, respect, responsibility — to the students Thursday during what Olson called “culture days.” In Michael Delp’s algebra class, students discussed their personality type with Director of Advisement John Fishback rather than jumping straight into their math curriculum.
“I’ve never done this in an algebra class before,” said Delp, observing his students give presentations on the traits of their personalities. “(But) it’s super important to understand the personalities of students that you have. This class has a huge number of active, not really attention to detail kids and that’s important for me to know. Otherwise I might lose this class.”
Students are spending time in the first few days of school creating “trust cards,” a card that they will keep with their student ID detailing what they expect from their classmates.
“This is to keep them accountable to each other,” said Director of Communication Kelsey Flynn.
Jennifer Felke, Director of Staff Development and facilitator, said, “I don’t think things could be going any better. I’m thrilled. This is completely different from what (students) are used to.”
She said a representative from the national New Tech committee had visited SOI earlier and mentioned that the school seems like it is already in its second or third year.
“That was a huge compliment,” said Felke.
Although students listed concerns during a “get to know you” time ranging from worries about staying focused to thoughts about forming new relationships, overall they seemed to be engaged in the school day Thursday.
“Im excited to see what kids want to come next year and if the whole school will ever (become New Tech),” said freshman John Hunter.
Curtis Smith mentioned that he is most looking forward to working with group projects — a major key to the New Tech model of learning.
“It’s easier to collaborate and a more professional, realistic environment,” said Smith of the new school Thursday.
Students will spend most of the school year in remodeled SOI classrooms in the English and Business hallway while construction continues on what will eventually become the permanent home for the New Tech school. Construction is expected to be completed by March 2013.

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