Birmingham Public Schools is known for its top-notch teachers, curriculum and dedication to students, but now one Birmingham school is known world-wide for its innovative approach to student instruction.
The Birmingham Covington School (BCS) — Birmigham's combined elementary and middle school designed for students looking for a rigorous approach to interdisciplinary learning — took home first place at Microsoft's annual Global Forum Educator Awards, held in Prague in late November. The school is physically located in Bloomfield Township and serves many local residents.
BCS and several of its teachers were awarded first place in the "Collaboration" category for their project, "Doing Business in Birmingham," during which 54 fifth- and sixth-graders went into the community to educate local business owners about sustainability and going green. The project was completed during the 2011-12 school year.
"Doing Business in Birmingham" was the brainchild of BCS teachers Pauline Roberts and Rick Joseph and was intended to promote science and the scientific process in personal decision-making. As part of the project, BCS students used Microsoft Office, Photosynth, Publisher and MovieMaker.
Both teachers were first honored at Microsoft's Partners in Learning U.S. Forum, held Aug. 2 in Redmond, WA, with the project receiving first place in the "Extended Learning Beyond the Classroom" category.
"Having the opportunity to be at the Microsoft Global Forum has been one of the most meaningful experiences for both Pauline and me as teachers, principally because we have the opportunity to interact with other practitioners from around the globe," Joseph said in the Journal, an industry magazine for education and technology.
"We as teachers believe our children learn in a global environment," he added. "When we can get together with teachers from around the world and see what they're doing and see the ways in which they engage their students, it's very energizing to us because it really enables us to be the best that we can be."
The Global Forum Educator Awards recognized 21 winners during the ceremony in Prague, culled from 250,000 participants in 115 countries.
In total, only three U.S. schools were recognized at the awards ceremony. Coming in second place in the "Cutting Edge Use of Technology" category was the Washington State School for the Blind, which used videoconferences and Microsoft Lync to allow its remote math teacher to instruct her students.
And in third place in the "Educators' Choice" category was the Roosevelt Community Middle School in West Palm Beach, FL for the project "What's Up Egypt?", in which students created a TV show about ancient Egypt.
Judging was done by an international panel of education professionals through a scoring process that included virtual classroom tours and onsite interviews. Finalists were invited to the ceremony in Prague, where 500 other educators gathered to meet and share ideas.
On Monday night, those Birmingham businesses that helped BCS students with the project came out to help everyone celebrate. Both teachers, students and business owners met for an informal discussion on sustainable business practices, followed by awards and closing comments from Microsoft's senior director of strategy and innovation, Andrew Ko.
Microsoft names BCS an 'Innovative School' in October
This isn't the first time, however, BCS has been recognized for its innovation by Microsoft. In early October, BCS was named a Microsoft Innovative School for 2012-13 — one of eight U.S. schools to make the list of 99.
"These U.S. schools and districts are inspiring examples of how school leaders can push boundaries and drive real change by captivating students' interest in learning through creative teaching with technology," said Byron Garrett, U.S. Innovative Schools program director with Microsoft in a recent press release.
Through grants and resources, the Innovative Schools program connects school leaders in order to better foster innovative teaching practices and 21st century learning. Schools are then expected to share these best practices.
BCS was named a "Pathfinder School" as part of Microsoft's program. According to Microsoft, Pathfinder Schools have demonstrated a record of innovation that has transformed education and improved student outcomes in their school districts and communities.
According to a release from Microsoft, BCS was chosen as a Pathfinder School because of its commitment to being a "Global Learning Hub" — "where people can see, learn and participate in intellectually rich, future-oriented activities."
To learn more about "Doing Business in Birmingham," visit http://doingbusinessinbirmingham.wikis.birmingham.k12.mi.us.