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Introducing Rancho Minerva Students to the World of Work

Rancho Minerva Middle School isn’t the typical middle school. “It’s a unique school with many unique learners,” says Principal Juan Ayala. “Our goal is to make sure every student is known on campus, they have a meaningful connection with someone, and they feel comfortable on campus.”


Students at an  experienceship  at Solatube

Students working together at an "experienceship" at local company Solatube.


Rancho Minerva is a Summit Learning school that brings personalized learning to each student. One of the key elements of Summit Learning is that students are free to access educational content whenever they want, which lets them to go at their own pace. “That is a huge advantage,” says Principal Ayala. “We have some 6th graders who are already working on 7th grade material. We don’t want the learning to stop, so when students can access this content from home they have more time to learn.”


VUSD personal learning pathway
The Vista Unified School District Personal Learning Pathway


Another element is project-based learning. Project-based learning changes the relationship between the student and teacher. Instead of the teacher delivering information to students, they’re working together. “It’s been a really positive change for students,” says Principal Ayala. “We encourage our students’ strengths to come out in everything they do.”


To help students focuses on their strengths they use Thrively, a strengths assessment. It outlines the type of learner a student is and gives them strategies to use. Students discover strengths they perhaps didn’t think or know they had. They then pursue classes and extracurricular activities they might not have otherwise. Students become more engaged in their education and have a more positive understanding of themselves.


Students working in the maker s lab at RMMS
Students working in the maker's lab at Rancho Minerva Middle School


Each student also has a mentor: a teacher or staff member who shares in their on-campus experience. They have bi-weekly meetings to discuss home life, academic struggles, or just to check in. Mentors support students and ensure their emotional and social needs are met in addition to their academic needs. Students learn self-direction and know who they can reach out to for guidance.


Getting students ready for life beyond school

The traditional career day - parading doctors and lawyers into a school - is over. At least, it is at Rancho Minerva Middle School. Instead, two programs collectively known as World of Work give students real world work experience. Service Learning provides students with the communication, collaboration, and presentation skills necessary to succeed in any career path. Talent Cities connects students with local businesses for in-depth experience with a variety of potential career opportunities. Both inspire deeper, more critical thinking and allow them to find solutions to real world problems.


Talent Cities excursion to Solatube
Students participating in a Talent Cities excursion to local employer Solatube.


World of Work helps students see that there’s more available to them than typical career paths. Principal Ayala says this is essential because, “middle school students rarely receive exposure to career options - traditional or otherwise. Their focus is learning.” By the time students enter college they’ll need to be prepared for careers that may not exist yet. Rancho Minerva has implemented alternative electives not found in many middle schools. CTE classes prepare students for emerging fields such as robotics and advanced art. There’s a medical forensics class, a Project Lead The Way coding class, and a maker’s lab with a laser cutter and pottery studio. Getting students ready and excited for an uncertain future is what Rancho Minerva does best.


Rancho Minerva has already won international recognition for this technique. The video production students traveled to the Panasonic KWN Global Summit in Japan where they won an award for their film, “Dear America.” Principal Ayala praised the film for being “far greater than anyone else's in the United States.” This success is due to the teacher’s emphasis on the storytelling process. “What we do well here is we focus on literacy through video production,” he says. So while the technical skills of video production are part of the class, students have to complete a storyboard before they ever pick up a camera.


RMMS video production team at KWN in Japan
Rancho Minerva's video production team representing the USA in Japan.


Empowering teachers at Rancho Minerva

Rancho Minerva teachers are an integral component to student success. When teachers want to bring a new program to Rancho Minerva, Principal Ayala says yes. Teachers are empowered to take on a leadership role and make their ideas a reality. “Teachers take ownership of their ideas and we support them in any way we can, even if that means writing a grant,” says Principal Ayala. Many of the 21st century programs at Rancho Minerva are the result of its teachers’ own ideas.


Student iPad at RMMS
A 1:1 iPad program ensures each student has access to technology to help them learn.


New access to technology gives students flexible learning opportunities. Technology can level the educational field among all students, especially those who didn’t have access at home. New technologies also help teachers provide that student-centered, personalized learning experience.


Want to keep in touch with innovation at Rancho Minerva? Follow them on Twitter and Instagram or visit the website for the latest news. Don’t miss the WavePOD podcast for Principal Ayala’s own words about Rancho Minerva.


By Lindsay Mineo

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District Published:4/9/18
Audience: Homepage and Homepage