New Science Curriculum Boosts Student Engagement

Posted Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Active learning and hands-on experiences are driving a new science curriculum at KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy (KSPA) and KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School (KNDMS). The new curriculum is part of a strategy that emphasizes more computer science, technology and engineering tracks, and is being adopted by KIPP schools across the country. 

The new curriculum is called Amplify, and it moves students away from memory-based learning and toward active engagement in which students “figure out” new concepts instead of “learning about” them through memorization.

For example, in a recent lesson about energy, Mr. Mullet’s 7th grade class at KNDMS simulated the movement of molecules by shaking magnets in a lab that illustrated how kinetic energy works. During class, the students also reviewed how molecules become solids, liquids, and gas using an online activity with the classroom’s laptops. 

So far, the new curriculum is receiving positive reviews from both staff and students. 

“It’s more fun,” said Tyanna, a 7th grade student at KNDMS. “We do a lot more labs now. Before it was boring and not as cool because we would just do worksheets and read out of books.”

The curriculum is more than just fun and games, though. It provides assessments to measure individual students’ areas of growth, and can provide recommended activities based on those results to ensure students are on track to master the subject matter. While many of the class activities are done as a group, instructors can now provide individualized lessons and activities for students using online tools and in-class laptop computers. 

The adoption of the Amplify curriculum is part of a broader move to spark a greater interest in science, technology, engineering, and math, sometimes referred to as STEM subjects. With many post-secondary career opportunities in STEM fields, developing a passion for science can help students prepare for choice and opportunities in careers that may not even exist today. 

As is the case in other subjects, teachers continue to have a great deal of autonomy in deciding how best to adopt and implement the Amplify curriculum. Mr. Mullet has opted to create small group lessons, allowing half the students to complete the hands-on portion of the lesson, while the other half to review the science behind it, before switching halfway through the lesson. Mullet believes this is a powerful factor in allowing students to take ownership of the lesson, and thus feel more invested in the learning process. 

The curriculum also facilitates collaboration across schools and state lines for teachers. Teachers can connect about Amplify and share feedback or advice on presenting the curriculum. After learning about Amplify over the summer at the KIPP summit, Mr. Mullet visited a KIPP school in Baltimore to see how they implemented it. Now, he and his colleagues believe the new curriculum represents an important evolution in how students at KNDMS and schools across the country learn to love science.

Tags: KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School

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KIPPsters Find Life Lessons at High Altitude

Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2018

KIPPsters from KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy and KIPP Denver Collegiate High School got a real-life lesson about what it means to get back up after a fall, as teachers from the two schools organized the first ever KIPP Colorado snowboard and ski trips. Students across all grades participated, and, for many, this was their first time on a snowboard or skis. 

The schools partnered with SOS Outreach, a Colorado nonprofit founded in 1993 to help teach youth character strengths like courage, integrity, wisdom, and compassion by connecting them with the outdoors through activities like skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and camping. 

Phoebe Novitsky, a special education teacher at KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy, organized the snowboarding outing to Vail Mountain for KIPPsters in January. Having managed youth programs for SOS Outreach in the past, she hopes providing access and exposure to new experiences will help students step out of their comfort zones and learn how failure can be integral to being successful. 

“This experience aligns with the character strengths KIPP teaches, like grit, resilience, and positivity,” said Novitsky. “Accepting that an experience is challenging and pushing through it is a lesson that aligns with KIPP’s mission and values. We’re excited to continue to find ways to integrate more outdoor learning experiences to complement what students are learning in the classroom.”

Alyssa Bull, who helped organize the outing for KIPP Denver Collegiate High School, saw her students take a strong interest in the mountains. 

“It was really cool to see what each student took away from this experience,” said Bull. “Some kids didn’t end up loving it but they still were glad to have tried it, while other kids were asking ‘when can I move to the mountain?’ Other students hadn’t realized there were so many people who worked in the mountains to keep them running each day. It got them to reflect on their own interests and possibilities in outdoor recreation that they might have never considered.”

SOS outreach coordinates with the mountain parks to provide inexpensive tickets to the slopes. For $25, they provide each student with a lift ticket, ski rentals, a helmet, boots, and skis/snowboard. They also provide all the special clothing students need, like ski pants, jackets, gloves, and goggles. 

Ms. Novitski and Ms. Bull both hope to continue and grow the program, so that students can continue to learn about the outdoors and about themselves in the process.  

“As a math teacher, I feel like I have great days in the classroom and not-so-great days,” said Bull. “It can be hard to make math memorable all the time, especially for every student. But to have a day when you can tell students that they are going to grow from this and remember and cherish it for a long time is really cool, because I feel the same way. I’m going to remember this and cherish this forever.”


Tags: KIPP Denver Collegiate High School , KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy

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Friends Who Work Hard Together, Stay Together

Posted Wednesday, December 20, 2017

On December 15th, KIPP Denver Collegiate Seniors and best friends Jesus and Rodrigo received a double dose of good news: both received offers of admission to the college of their dreams: Duke University.

Earlier this year, Jesus and Rodrigo participated in the Duke Preview Program, an all-expenses-paid, four-day visit to Duke University, complete with interviews with admissions counselors. During their visit, the pair of KIPPsters sat in on lectures, attended a football game, and explored the city of Durham, North Carolina. 

After they returned to Colorado, they received a notification from the school informing them they were KIPP pre-review finalists, meaning they could expect to be offered admission to the school.

“We were the most nervous about that letter,” Rodrigo said. “It came on a day when we had a soccer game, so we were just waiting before the game to see if we were going to be accepted or not. We were most excited then because that was basically the in.” 

Jesus and Rodrigo first met when they entered 5th grade at KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy, and by 6th grade, their friendship had taken off. When a representative from Duke presented to their KIPP Through College class their Sophomore year at KIPP Denver Collegiate High School, the two students set their sights on it as their dream college. 

As part of KIPP’s mission to support students in their search for the college that's the best fit, the KIPP Through College team provides students with KIPP’s College Match—a set of four factors that help students select the postsecondary option that’s best for them. The program helps students build lists of schools based on a number of factors to help maximize the student’s ability and desire to persist through and graduate from college. 

“Since we started this process, we told ourselves, we’re both going to go,” Rodrigo said. 

They’re happy to have each other as supporters and friends as they prepare to embark on their collegiate journey thousands of miles from home. 

Despite the distance from Denver, Jesus felt at home at Duke as soon as he stepped foot on campus. 

“I’ve always been in small schools,” Jesus said. “I’m excited for something big like Duke, to have more people around me.”  

Both students will be the first in their families to go to college. They hope that students will see that having a goal and a plan are the first steps to achieving their dreams. 

“I don’t think that it was about sacrifices,” said Rodrigo. “It was about doing the best we can—that was our mentality the whole time. We didn’t think we had to give anything up.”

“I always tell my little brother, ‘If you are meeting your expectations on a daily basis, you’re probably not reaching high enough,” said Jesus. “‘So, reach for the highest goals you can and you should be on a good path.’”


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KIPP Colorado Alumnus Joins KIPPster Policy Fellowship

Posted Monday, December 18, 2017

KIPP Colorado alumnus and current Colorado State University student, Brandon Gonzalez, will join a cohort of KIPPsters for an internship on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC this summer as part of the third annual KIPPster Federal Policy Fellowship Program. Through this program, he will gain invaluable first-hand knowledge of the inner-workings of our nation’s government. 

The opportunity is part of KIPP’s mission to prepare students for success through college and in the competitive world beyond. This means doing more than simply preparing students for the academic demands of college. Instead, our nationally-recognized KIPP Through College team supports alumni during their entire college career, for up to six years, helping students find meaningful programs and experiences that truly prepare them for success in whatever path they choose after completing college. 

Brandon wants to be engaged in the policy arena because he wants to see a path towards citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “There are thousands of others like myself who would take advantage of the privilege to vote and excercise their right and vote for more progressive pieces of legislation," he said. 

In addition to giving him resume-boosting work experience, Brandon’s internship will help provide real-world context for his current studies in college. 

Brandon, and All KIPPster Federal Policy Fellows, will receive financial resources to help cover the cost of living and business expenses, including housing at George Washington University, public transportation assistance, business attire, a bi-monthly paycheck, and field lessons. 

To learn more about the KIPPster Federal Policy Fellowship Program, click here.



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Team and Family Profile: KSPA School Leader, Michael Kreger

Posted Thursday, November 30, 2017

For the 2017-18 school year, KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy welcomed Michael Kreger as its new school leader. Mr. Kreger has been part of the KIPP Colorado Team & Family for five years, first as an 8th grade reading teacher at KSPA, then as the founding assistant principal at KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy. Ascending to the school leader role at KSPA brings Mr. Kreger right back to where he wants to be. 

“There are other teachers and staff here that are so highly qualified,” Kreger said. “The fact that I get to be their leader is super humbling to me. The same with our families; our families are so amazing that I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.” 

Mr. Kreger has a unique background, having worked in both Far Northeast Denver and Southwest Denver. To him, the KIPP Team & Family is about leveraging relationships across Denver to learn from each other and share school protocols and models. 

With his father working in the Navy, Mr. Kreger attended at least 10 different schools during his K-12 education, giving him a sense of the many factors that can help foster a love of learning and student achievement. 

“I went to some really great schools and also to some schools where I really struggled,” he said, “that’s something that shapes the way I look at things when creating policies and building a school that seeks to create an environment where students can be successful.”

Mr. Kreger’s priorities this year are to strengthen community and family engagement by helping to build KIPP Sunshine Peak’s Family Association. He also hopes KSPA can host community-run events once every trimester. 

“If we can get that right this year, we will be rooted in greatness,” Mr. Kreger said. 

Additionally, KSPA engages students beyond the classroom with enrichment programs offering everything from drones to guitar to screen printing. Mr. Kreger sees these programs as a tool not only to honor diversity and the shared experience of the students, but also to help students be successful and creative in overcoming challenges in and out of the classroom. 

To Mr. Kreger the ideal vision for KSPA is an equitable, inclusive, joyful space with high results, which he believes can be driven by everyone at KSPA—not just the school leader. 

Mr. Kreger maintains finds his own joy factor by making sure he has plenty of time to spend with students. He monitors 5th grade lunch each day and tries to spend as much time in classrooms as he can. 

“I’ve never had a job that feels so rewarding,” he said. 



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