School games

Jac Zomermaand watches fellow seventh-grade students Brodie Van Regenmorter and Seth Andersen play air hockey on a table they all created in science class. The entire seventh-grade at Sioux Center Middle School is piloting the Summit Learning platform. 

SIOUX CENTER—New to the Sioux Center Middle School this year is the Summit Learning platform, a way to make personalizing and differentiating learning more easily accessible to seventh-grade students.

There are three components of the platform:

  • Projects.
  • Self-direction.
  • One-on-one mentoring.

Seventh-grade teacher Jill Harskamp said the first component occurs during class time.

“Learning happens through various activities, workshops and projects that allow us to give students feedback on their learning as they work toward proficiency,” she said.

Through the first component, teachers are able to differentiate each student’s needs based on the feedback the students have been given and the teachers’ observations of students understanding of the material.

The self-direction component gives students an opportunity to learn and practice necessary skills and information for future projects.

“Learning is often categorized by lower-level thinking and learning or high-order thinking and learning,” Harskamp said.

She said lower-level thinking and learning is done through focus areas during self-directed learning time, and students are able to work at their own pace, choose resources that work best for them.

The high-order thinking and learning happens during project time when students are able to apply their learning from the focus areas to the project.

The final component brings a mentor to each student on a weekly basis.

Harskamp said the mentors are teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals and administrators who build personal relationships with students to help them succeed in life.

“The mentoring is spent discussing daily life and student interests as well as setting both long-term and short-term goals for school and their life beyond school,” Harskamp said.

All of the seventh-graders are participating in Summit Learning, and Harskamp said students have become better at owning their learning.

“They are beginning to gain valuable skills such as goal setting, time management and prioritizing tasks,” she said. “Many students love the ability to move through the focus areas at their own pace, and several have already moved on to some accelerated learning. We’ve also found that there are students who struggled with the traditional school structure in the past who are thriving in Summit.”