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May 2, 2013

State's top educator touts O'Maley model

State's top educator touts O'Maley model

In a visit to Gloucester schools Wednesday, state Secretary of Education Matthew Malone stopped by O’Maley Innovation Middle School, admiring the curriculum and speaking about “replicating” the O’Maley education model in more innovation schools he hopes will pop up across the state.

“I like what I see,” Malone said of the school and its curriculum.

Malone is rallying the state Senate to include money for innovation schools in legislation. In the meantime, the new secretary of education, who visited Gloucester in his 14th week at the helm, plans to tour more schools throughout the state. He hopes to increase the state’s number of innovation schools from the existing 47 and create a network between them.

“The whole premise is for us to be innovative, to move away from the boxes that we have as schools, move into the 21st century,” he said Wednesday.

In O’Maley’s first-floor drafting and engineering room, Malone knelt down to check out the bridge-building project a group of students were concentrating on. One student dabbed glue onto thin pieces of wood, clamping them together with paper fasteners to dry, while his teammate used a scissor-like tool to cut more pieces, measured just so.

“We don’t usually do a good enough job of letting kids tinker,” Malone said. “This seems like an excellent example of this kind of learning.”

David Brown, the eighth-grade science teacher leading the students, explained that students first learn to draw with pencil, then he teaches them how to draft and test a design on the computer, and then the teams create their bridges.

“They spend more time on analysis and testing,” Brown said, referring to computer design tests. “It’s a bigger thing than just gluing the pieces together.”

In the final test, and maybe most crucial to students, the teens will place ice cream sundaes beneath their bridge then test their structure’s strength by walking over it, hoping to avoid picking splinters from their whipped cream and hot fudge.

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