LOWELL | More than 300 Lowell High School freshmen took the stage Wednesday night as they explained to their parents the philosophy behind New Tech.
The high school rolled out New Tech and iPrep this fall for freshmen, new learning styles for students that focus on project-based learning.
School leaders say project-based learning helps students build strong relationships. It also builds their oral communication skills, ability to work in a team, professionalism, written communication and critical thinking skills. While teamwork is a huge part of the New Tech experience, school officials say students still are graded as individuals.
Students used the first three weeks of school to learn about New Tech, what will be expected of them, how they will learn and be assessed, and prepared projects to explain it to their parents.
Dozens of parents showed up for the event, and groups of students made presentations in the cafeteria, Little Theater and the auditorium.
English teacher Lindsay O'Neill, who co-teaches a class called English 9: College & Careers & Digital Citizenship, said the school is part of the California-based New Tech Network. She and other teachers attended training this summer, and other teachers will be trained over the next three years as the high school transitions wholly to a New Tech School.
O'Neill said new Principal Lori Pavell and Superintendent Debra Howe both have a background in New Tech. School officials said the shift in learning style has been spearheaded by a team of teachers, central office leaders administrators. The New Tech model has been studied in Tri-Creek for more than a year.
Teachers also told parents the skills students are learning through New Tech are the kind of things that employers have been demanding. Tri-Creek joins other school districts across Northwest Indiana that have implemented New Tech and project-based learning environments.
Parent Kathy Nipp said she thinks there are a lot of positives in the new teaching approach, but she said her son Michael is "uncomfortable" with public speaking.
"I think it prepares students for life after high school. It's new. It's a change. I'm not sure that everything ought to be done with a group — not everyone participates," she said.
Freshman Matt Wells, 14, whose mother Susan watched the presentations, said he kind of likes New Tech because he likes working on computers but he added, "it's still pretty confusing right now."