New fifth ‘special’ to launch in Pennsbury elementary schools

SPARK classes will offer opportunities to code, learn key concepts regarding digital citizenship and more

With the passage of the 2019-2020 school district final budget on June 20, the Pennsbury board of school directors approved the reinstatement of a fifth “special” to the elementary schedule.

Supplementing the current specials that include physical education, music, art and library will be the introduction of a new weekly class for grades K-5 known as SPARK. The introduction of Chromebooks for student use in classrooms district-wide eliminated the need for the previous fifth special, which had been a weekly computer class.

“SPARK is an innovative elementary literacy and problem-solving program based on STEM principles that is meant to ‘spark’ curiosity and learning,” said Michele Spack, Pennsbury’s director of elementary education, who is the lead administrator overseeing the initiative. “In staffing this new program, we sought experienced teachers who have familiarity with teaching elementary and/or middle level literacy, mathematics and science, along with other aspects of Inquiry-Based Learning.”

The 10 Pennsbury faculty members selected to be SPARK teachers beginning in the fall of 2019 are Terri Boileau, Catherine Cantrell, Mackenzie Carpenter, Mark Costanzo, Kara Covello, Kristy Davis, Lynn Holmes, Rebecca Orbert-Thorn, Terri Sherman and Kristin Slota.

In addition to enabling students to explore the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum, SPARK classes will also offer opportunities to code, learn key concepts regarding digital citizenship, and create projects using the Genius Hour framework.

The foundation of the curriculum will be the interdisciplinary modules of the PLTW “Launch” program. These empower students through compelling activities, projects and problems that build upon each other and relate to the world around them. Students will develop perseverance, design thinking, resilience and kinetic knowledge through real-world applications of these skills.

The cost to the district for the introduction of PLTW includes approximately $9,500 for initial training and about $95,000 for materials the first year. After that, materials replacement costs will be approximately $27,000 a year. All costs will be covered by the Elementary Curriculum budget.

SPARK teachers will develop formal and informal pathways to enhance professional learning for all teachers in the school community by infusing technology for deeper learning. They will also support, collaborate and co-teach with peers in the design and implementation of lessons and projects.