· What makes Gateways different?
Gateways is different from conventional classes because it is designed specifically to incorporate project-based learning and elements of STEM, while still delivering standards-based instruction and learning experiences. This course still hits every standard that is found in a traditional classroom; however, the majority of the projects and assignments are interdisciplinary in nature, which allows students to make connections between the core subjects. Additionally, teachers are trained to deliver Project Lead the Way units, which incorporate principles of engineering and the engineering design process. These units bring science and engineering principles into the classroom in the form of hands-on activities and technology-based projects. Gateways incorporates many types of technology, including Computer Aided Design software and robotics equipment.
· What about the regular subject areas?
In the world beyond the classroom walls, significant questions, issues, and situations are not neatly defined or answered in terms of single, separated academic subject areas. Ideas and concepts, information and strategies come from multiple fields to crisscross and merge into new learning and progress. While some of our activities will have more of a scientific, historical, or literary focus, we strive to find connections between other disciplines and explore these common threads. Although we do so in a different way, we still address every language arts, science, and social studies standard that all 8th graders must learn.
· But will I be ready for high school if I choose Gateways and don't have traditional courses?
Seeing the connections between topics and the cause and effect relationships among them are at the heart of the Gateways curriculum. Asking questions and researching how things work and where they came from are skills that will benefit students far beyond the classroom. In addition, Gateways teaches the intangible skills of being a student, such as project management, research skills, writing in all content areas, goal setting, and managing group work. By focusing our attention on these essential learning skills in Gateways, we provide full preparation for the rigors of ninth grade. Indeed, over the years, Gateways students, as a group, have proven themselves as successful in freshman courses as their peers who chose the conventional curriculum. Standardized test scores, freshman grades, data on student participation in all types of high school activities, and anecdotal evidence from students, parents and high school teachers all demonstrate that Gateways students do at least as well in high school as their classmates. Additionally, many Gateways alumni have gone on to be leaders in the high school by becoming class officers, star athletes, noted artistic performers, and award-winning scholars.
· How does Gateways address students who were recommended for accelerated classes?
The Gateways teachers work hard to create differentiation opportunities throughout each of the 3 core subjects (Science/Social Studies/Language Arts). The year holds multiple opportunities to read higher-level novels, to participate in higher-level science activities, and engage in higher-level social studies discussions. Additionally, we work closely with the Gifted Department, which allows us to use pull-out grouping and to create deeper projects and assignments. We also stress research skills and have databases of higher-level resources for our students to use for any assignment.
· Is Gateways just for gifted students?
In Gateways, we believe every student is gifted in some way, and we treat everyone in ways that encourage the development of each student's talents and improvement in areas of less strength. Gateways does NOT restrict participation to any specific subset of students. In fact, every year we have quite the continuum of students, ranging from students who receive special education supports to those who meet with the teacher of gifted learners and everyone in between.
· How does Gateways address students with learning needs?
We work very closely with the Special Education department and the English Language Development department to make sure all students' needs are being met. We have created multiple levels of materials for the majority of assignments, which allow us to meet each student exactly where they are.
· What is a day's schedule like in Gateways?
The Gateways program accounts for just about two thirds of a student's day. Gateways is its own Advisory. While any given year may see a different arrangement or order of class periods in the master schedule, Gateways always uses four of the regular class periods. Like all other 8th graders, Gateways students have a regular math class and a world language class every day. They have two elective periods, as do students on traditional teams. However, every single day in the Gateways periods is different! We are lucky to have flexibility, which allows us to format each day with either a variety of activities/learning experiences or a longer, deeper look into a topic. One thing is for sure—no two days will ever be the same!
· My child is enrolled in an advanced Math class, will they still be able to participate in Gateways?
YES! Gateways students attend their separate math classes during 1st period each day. This schedule also allows for any student to attend an advanced class at RHS as well.
· What about grades?
Gateways students receive a report card with grades for math, world language, elective/specials classes, and a single Gateways grade. Our science, social studies, and language arts assessments go into a single grade because nearly all assignments are integrated between two or more disciplines. The final Gateways grade is comprised of a combination of projects, presentations, essays, labs, tests, quizzes, classwork, and homework.
· Do Gateways students have lockers?
Yes, Gateways students each receive a locker located near the Gateways room. Each also has a small, personal locker in the Gateways classroom to store materials we use frequently and a personal "mailbox" in the room to receive messages and returned papers.
· How much homework should we expect?
Gateways counts as 3 core subjects (Science/Social Studies/Language Arts) and will have about the same amount of homework as those 3 courses would have on a traditional team. A benefit of Gateways is that the instructors are able to balance the due dates of assignments from these 3 core subject areas.
· Are there tests?
Yes, there are some tests throughout the year. We try to vary the types of assessments so that students can develop multiple skills in preparation for high school.
Not at all! One large team is located at each far end of the long academic wing, and Soundings and Gateways are side-by-side in the middle. Thus all teams are evenly distributed. Additionally, as described in the daily schedule section, Gateways students go to world language, gym, health, an elective, and usually math with students from other teams. Of course, Gateways students eat lunch with the rest of the eighth grade, too.
· Does Gateways attend field trips?
Yes, Gateways students can anticipate going on about 6-8 field trips with the Gateways class. These field trips are extensions of our curriculum and can correlate with a topic covered in class or can show the students potential STEM careers.
· Do Gateways students attend the same field trips as the traditional teams do?
YES! Gateways students always attend Sandy Hill and Dorney Park. They also have the choice to attend the 8th Grade Dance.
· What if I have trouble affording the field trips?
The guidance office is able to help families who are having trouble affording the field trips. Typical trips cost about $15-$25. We have never turned away a student who couldn't afford the field trips, and we never will!
· How do I know if Gateways is right for me (or for my child)?
We think every student can be successful in Gateways, and it is designed specifically to help each student be successful and achieve his or her best, regardless of individual strengths or weaknesses.
So if you . . .
- Enjoy working & learning in groups
- Like to explore & “dig deeper”
- Enjoy getting out of the classroom to explore real-world applications to the curriculum
- Thrive in an environment where much of the learning is “hands-on”
- Seek some independence and choice in learning
- Want to learn and to improve your skills and abilities
- Are ready and willing to accept responsibility
- Want to be ready for the 21st century
- Are looking for something different
Then Gateways is right for you!