Owensboro is launching a new public school with the start of the academic year on Aug. 7. Owensboro Innovation Middle School has 300 students who represent all of the elementary buildings in the Owensboro Public Schools district.
The only entrance requirement for Innovation Middle is the interest of the student and parents. This year is first-come, first-served, and there’s already a waiting list.
Innovation Middle School for grades 6-8 opens four years after the launch of Owensboro Innovation Academy, a public high school that focuses on hands-on, project-based learning. That requires students to take the contents of a subject, like science, math or English, and work in teams to solve problems.
At both of Owensboro's "innovation" schools, teachers are called “facilitators” and the principal is called a “director.”
Mark Moore, who has 20 years of experience in education, is director of the new Innovation Middle School. He was on the staff of Owensboro Innovation Academy high school when it opened and has recently been principal at the district's traditional middle school.
Innovation Middle, nicknamed iMiddle, is located at what has been the south campus of Owensboro Middle School, which had been divided into adjoining north and south campuses. Students at Innovation Middle will have access to classes and activites at the adjoining traditional middle school.
Moore said academic rigor is important and always a priority, but it's also critical for students to apply what they learn.
“Because when you’re working with project-based learning, you’re going to have to work with others, work in groups to solve the problems, much like we do in the real world," said Moore. "There are very few jobs nowadays where you don’t have to work with others to accomplish a goal.”
He said an example of a collaborative English and social studies project is to have students work in groups to create a new “colony.”
“And then they have to sell their colony to newcomers, anybody that’s coming to the new world," said Moore. "And they have to kind of create an ad campaign on why people should choose their colony and what’s the advantages and disadvantages of living in their colony. And that’s based on geography. That’s based on the study of other cultures and other colonies. And they'll use persuasive language and that gets into your English standards."
Both of Owensboro's innovation schools are part of the New Tech Network, a nonprofit that’s working with more than 100 school districts across the nation.