The Gemini Project changes things up

Chloe Jones, Editor

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With modern technology constantly advancing, it’s become necessary to make advancements in the education system. The Gemini Project was formed by the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) and encourages a new look at what is currently being done in order to hopefully expand the pre-set boundaries that restrict the possibilities of improvement.

There is one elementary school and one secondary school from each of the 21 districts participating. For USD 290, those chosen schools are Lincoln Elementary School and Ottawa High School.

“The purpose is to get schools to think differently about how they drive instruction and they assess student success,” Ryan Cobbs [assistant superintendent] said. “There’s enough data out there to support that the needs of high schools are vastly different today than they were even ten years ago.”

One of the main ideas behind the project is enhancement of workforce development and the skills needed at an early age. Since each community offers different opportunities, a “one-size-fits-all approach to education” doesn’t work in every setting.

“The idea behind it is that each community can create a system that works with their community, with the understanding that as the community grows and changes, our education system grows and changes,” Cobbs said.

Some of the changes are already in the works, such as creating a comprehensive pre-K plan that will properly prepare kids in all Ottawa preschools, without taking away the core aspects of private schools and provide better services to parents.

“There are some real issues with preparedness for school, especially at the early childhood level and ensuring that we’re meeting the needs of our pre-K kids and our families. Social and emotional skills of our kids has become a topic that is probably first-and-foremost upon everybody’s list, aside from graduation,” Cobbs said. “And then developing work skills versus solely content knowledge.”

The idea of school redesign actually began in Ottawa several years before it was a part of the Gemini Project. Implementing the C3 program is an example of previous redesign, allowing students the opportunity to gain college credit at a lower cost through a partnership with Neosho County Community College.

While the community has been supportive of the current changes, it can be difficult to get people to think in a different scope about the possibilities.

“Is content the key in terms of what we’re doing for our kids when all they have to do is Google something and they have a thousand different ways to gain information? We have to think about education and how we’re preparing our kids to utilize the digital age and what they’re going to need to be successful outside of the school day,” Cobbs said.

The digital age has made a huge impact on the education system, yet students are taught the same way as it’s always been.

“Let’s give ourselves the insight to say, what happens if we blow it all up and think of it completely differently? What could we provide for kids?” Cobbs said. “And that really gets people thinking in a much different mindset, and, ultimately, that’s why we did it.”

Changes will continue to happen at different times throughout the years to come. Possibilities range from a shift in course requirements and assessment strategies to complete schedule changes.

According to Cobbs, something that is at work at the high school, but will be expanded on through the project, is “individual plans of study and really defining a pathway for kids.”

This individual plan of study would be tailored to the student’s target career, and could potentially result in changes to the requirements for graduation. The plan of study would be flexible enough for students to change their mind, yet specific to the individual students so they receive the best education that they will actually use in the workplace.

“That’s not to say that any of these things are going to come to fruition, but we’re at least going to have a conversation about how to best set up a system to meet the needs of the students that are here in our community,” Cobbs said.

The Gemini Project is hoping to benefit all students individually and expand the possibilities of the education system.