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Warrior Tech begins new chapter at Magna Vista
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Monday for the new Warrior Tech Academy at Magna Vista High School. Henry County Schools superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton (from left) officially opens the facility with Magna Vista students Jimmy Ortiz, Cody Cox, Melissa Dinh, Eoghan Harmon, Keshon Kellum, Seraina Dailey, Ciearra Moyer, Diahvici Gillespie, and Magna Vista principal Gracie Agnew. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Monday at Magna Vista High School’s Warrior Tech Academy.
The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academy is beginning this year with 100 ninth-graders, and plans are to add 100 students each year the second, third and fourth years, school officials have said.
Warrior Tech is the first New Tech Network school in Virginia, officials have said. Project-based learning, integrated (multi-subject) classes and educators guiding students in learning rather than lecturing are among the techniques.
Jared Cotton, superintendent of Henry County Schools, said during the ceremony and in an interview that the day was “so exciting” and that Warrior Tech students “are pioneers, not guinea pigs,” helping the school division redefine its high school program.
Joe DeVault, chairman of the Henry County School Board, said he was impressed with the enthusiasm of those present. He said he thinks Warrior Tech looks great and that he expects Warrior Tech to produce graduates with skills that some employers in the area have found lacking in job applicants. He also said he looks forward to opening a New Tech Network school at Bassett High School when funding can be obtained.
“Overwhelming, to say the least,” was Horsepasture District school board member Terri Flanagan’s reaction to Warrior Tech. She said she hopes the innovative concepts in learning at Warrior Tech will be embraced by and catch on quickly with students. She also praised Cotton and Magna Vista Principal Gracie Agnew for their vision.
Warrior Tech students had met in other parts of the school from the start of school Aug. 12 until completion of the renovation of approximately 16,000 square feet of space.
That time was used for such things as “culture building” activities emphasizing trust, respect and responsibility; the project-based learning style; and skills needed to be college and career ready, according to Lindsay Favero, director of Warrior Tech, and a blog by Cotton.
Cotton wrote, “We were given the go-ahead to let students occupy the new learning labs and the commons area in the newly renovated Warrior Tech (on Aug. 21). The look on the students’ faces was priceless. ...
“Several students stated that it (the space) was ‘beautiful’ and ‘bright.’ One student commented on how big the learning space is as she noted the high ceilings and open work areas.”
After the ribbon cutting, Warrior Tech students began work on specific projects.
For instance, in the World History 1 and English 9 integrated class, students will research and develop an online exhibit for the Virginia Museum of Natural History focusing on the archeological studies of the culture of Paleolithic and Neolithic man.
According to a letter from VMNH to New Tech students, as they research this time period and prepare their exhibit, they are asked to discover the following: “How was life in the early hunter-gatherer societies shaped by the physical environment? What were the characteristics of hunter-gatherer societies during the Paleolithic Era? How did the Agricultural Revolution promote the rise of settled communities during the Neolithic Era? How does archeology provide knowledge of early life and its changes?”
Students are asked to present their research findings to VMNH on Sept. 27. “We will choose the best exhibits to attach to our official web page,” says the letter from Dr. Dennis Casey, VMNH’s director of education and public programs.
“Your online exhibit should include the following: components of geography; content displaying understanding of subject; examples of artifacts & culture of early man; a title for the exhibit; an overarching theme and 3-4 subthemes; a learning objective for site visitors; an opportunity for online visitors to participate with the site; real world connections.”
In that integrated class Monday morning, facilitators Drew Lowery (World History I) and Brook Hankins (English 9) led students in learning activities in which they watched a film about the evolution of mankind, and each student wrote down at least one thing in the film he or she agreed or disagreed with, made an assumption about and would aspire to as a result of seeing the film. Students then grouped and discussed the major ideas.
Lowery said it’s OK to respectfully disagree and that students will have difficulty if they are not-open minded.
Student Erin Perry said of the lesson: “We all have different opinions. It’s OK we can share them.” She feels Warrior Tech will provide her a better mind-set for how to learn, especially allowing creativity, she said.
Several other students explained some things they like about Warrior Tech. Tyler Flowers said he likes working in groups. Cameron Page said he feels attending Warrior Tech will be attractive to colleges. Liz Vera said she feels Warrior Tech’s learning methods are more advanced, have more technology, are more like the real world and help students to be responsible for their own learning.
“It’s very exciting getting into the new facilities. Students are responding very well,” Favero said.
Installing carpeting at the entrance of Warrior Tech is the only work remaining, Cotton said.