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‘Any kid anywhere would want to be part of this project’

Herkimer BOCES Pathways Academy opening activity aims to build school community
Sept. 11, 2018

Two students next to their powerpoint presentation as assistant principal and teacher look on

From left: Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Pathways Academy 10th-grader Kyle Boyer, of Dolgeville, and Pathways Academy seventh-grader Tyler Sawyer, of Central Valley, help with their team’s presentation about their Mud Cups product on Tuesday, Sept. 11, as part of the Pathways opening event, as Herkimer BOCES Assistant Principal of Alternative Education Dominick Stewart and Pathways Academy English teacher Meg Loveless look on as judges for the “Shark Tank” style activity.

ILION – Students in the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Pathways Academy at Remington spent the first several days of school working on a project while teamed up with students from various grade levels and at least two adult faculty and staff members per group.

Each team chose a dessert or sweet, came up with a name for the product, developed a slogan for it, conducted marketing such as placing signs around the school, presented about the product in a “Shark Tank” style activity in front of judges, made the products and then competed to sell them for fake money in a culminating marketplace event in the gymnasium.

Herkimer BOCES Principal of Alternative Education Patrick Corrigan said students were very involved in the project, and there was a lot of cooperation.

“The teachers were enthusiastic and organized, and they really worked hard to make it an engaging activity for the kids and instructionally beneficial,” he said. “It’s a great way to start the year.”

The Pathways Academy at the former Remington Elementary School building in Ilion includes both special education classes and alternative education classes for students who have had a difficult time in a traditional school structure or have to catch up on credits but have the ability to get a high school diploma. Pathways Academy classes are project-driven and infuse career and technical education.

The opening orientation activity has become a tradition at Pathways Academy the last few years, and took place this year on school days from Sept. 5-11.

“In my career, it’s pretty unique,” Corrigan said. “You don’t see this a lot. You talk about it. It’s good to see us doing it here. Any kid anywhere would want to be part of this project.”

Assistant Principal of Alternative Education Dominick Stewart said it’s his first year at Pathways, and it’s good to see students, teachers, teaching assistants and others all cooperating on a project.

“I think it’s a great beginning step for these kids to be working in a team-building setting and learning entrepreneurial skills,” Stewart said.

‘Community builder’

Pathways Academy English teacher Meg Loveless and social studies teacher Greg Jaros were the lead organizers for this year’s opening project.

The event provides a chance for students to work together, for shy students to step up and contribute and for many students to show off their creativity, Jaros said.

“The kids are great,” he said.

The project teaches leadership, teamwork, communication, public speaking and more, Jaros said.

“This had to do with all that,” he said.

Loveless described the activity as an entrepreneurial, interdisciplinary, student-led project. There were 15 groups, and the group that makes the most pretend money wins.

The groups could earn the pretend money by competing in challenges such as physical events and puzzles each day, turning in parts of the project on time, impressing judges during the “Shark Tank” style presentations and selling their products during the marketplace event at the end, Loveless said.

The opening activity two years ago was similar to this year, but there were some changes this year to keep students more competitive and engaged, Loveless said:

  • There were more opportunities throughout the day to earn the pretend money.

  • Groups were awarded pretend money for participating and also for performing well by placing in the top three in activities.

  • The group’s pretend bank accounts were updated live through Google Drive as viewable documents, so students were frequently refreshing it to see where they stood.

Because students are coming from various schools to attend Pathways Academy, many of them don’t know each other before starting, so the project helps create relationships, Loveless said.

“I think it’s a great community builder,” she said.

It’s also helpful that the teams include a variety of students and staff, Loveless said.

“It’s nice because in this school, kids are very much affiliated with their grade level, and this gives them a chance to make friends outside of their grade level,” she said.

‘More comfortable’

Pathways Academy 12th-grader Kodi Wellington, of West Canada Valley, was a member of the Dirty Boy Bakery team, which made a product called Mud Cups that were created using Oreos, Cool Whip and pudding.

Wellington said he enjoyed the creating and designing aspects of the project – as well as working together to make the desserts.

“It was just fun getting to know everybody,” he said. “We did sneak a couple Oreos here and there.”

The project gets you to work with other people right in the beginning of the school year, so it’s easier later in the year if you interact with someone or need to go to someone for resources, Wellington said.

“It makes it a little more comfortable,” he said.

Members of the Rice Krispies S’mores team used a slogan about the product being “so gooey good you’ll want s’more.”

Rice Krispies S’mores team member Aonna Sageer, at Pathways Academy 10th-grader of Central Valley, said she thinks it’s good that the project showed that if the team members can cooperate and get along with each other, then they’ll be able to work together successfully as a team.

“It was really fun,” she said.

Her teammate, Pathways Academy eighth-grader Jace Reel, of Poland, agreed and said he liked that “we get to work together and work with different people and pay attention to what we have to do.”

Another teammate, Pathways Academy 10th-grader Destiny Charles, of Central Valley, also agreed.

“And we can meet people and talk to people we wouldn’t usually talk to,” she said.

Pathways Academy seventh-grader Storm Fidler, of Poland, was on a team that made chocolate chip cookies.

“My favorite part, I think, was taste-testing the cookies,” he said, before adding that he also enjoyed the baking.

Participating in the project also helps you meet people throughout the school, he said.

“When you’re in the baking room, there is a bunch of people,” he said. “I was just sitting there talking to people. I made a bunch of friends.”