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The Algebra Project goes to Northern Minnesota!

St. Louis County, MN – At the invitation of Ms. Lowana Greensky, Director of Indian Education for ISD 2142, and her staff, Gary Benenson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the City College of New York, co- author of “Stuff that works!” curriculum guides, Heinemann (2002) and member of the Algebra Project Professional Development and Materials Development teams, made two trips to Minnesota last winter and spring 2009 to introduce Algebra Project Teacher Resource Materials and Student Workbook called “Pop Ups!”  ISD 2142 covers an area roughly the size of NJ running from Duluth to the Canadian border.

The workshops in Virginia, MN, the headquarters and a central location in the District, were facilitated by Gary and Annie Lerew, a Grade 9 Math Teacher at Banana Kelly High School in the Bronx, NY.  The Algebra Project “Pop Ups!” workshop was the first ever district-wide PD workshop sponsored by the Indian Education Program, and it provided Lowana Greensky with an opportunity to address issues about the education of Native students within the district.

Over the course of two days, eighteen teachers and several staff representatives from seven rural PreK-12 schools in St. Louis County were given the opportunity to experience Algebra Project methods first hand.


Gary Benenson with student at the Pop-Ups Workshop in MN

Benenson, Greensky and Lerew also traveled to Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet, MN, where they presented sections of the Mechanisms unit (Exploring pop-ups, and making pop-ups) to students, teachers, and three members of the Indian Education staff, attending the Gidiakimanongniwiigamig, (which means “Our Earth Lodge” in Ojibwe), a seasonal science and math enrichment camp at the college.   Participants included eight teachers, three Indian Education staff members, and roughly 15-20 students, ranging from elementary to college age. The teachers all commented favorably on the engagement of the students and the quality of their work.

Lowana Greensky, and her staff coordinated follow-up professional development sessions for teachers, including distribution of materials and also provided project coordination.  All instructional materials used in the workshops, including pop-up books, templates, and charts, are available for further use in the District.

Gary Benenson returned to St. Louis County in late April to assess the progress of the initial Algebra Project curriculum trial with teachers and Indian Education Program (IEP) staff, visiting six St. Louis County schools.  Four of the schools had already begun implementing the materials, a fifth school was to begin implementation during the Summer, and a sixth school expressed interest in the elementary science materials.  In each of the four schools that had already begun, Gary met with an interdisciplinary group involved in implementation.

Plans for Future Work

To support the ongoing collaboration with St. Louis County schools, Lowana Greensky and Darilynn Ronn attended the Algebra Project 2009 Summer Institute in Chicago, where they learned more about AP pedagogy and curriculum, and also began to develop personal connections with other members of the national AP network.  Several of the St. Louis County Schools have been selected as field-test sites for the Physical Science Comes Alive, an elementary science initiative based at City College which Benenson helps lead.  This provides opportunities for follow up with the St. Louis County schools over the next two years.

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