Enhancing Hands-On Learning and Technology

Middle School Science Teacher Casey Kleiman

To Middle School Science Teacher Casey Kleiman, teaching is about reliving discovery through the eyes of his students and sharing in their passion. “It’s about showing them that you can enjoy learning.”

Kleiman won the Nellie Hilleary Carter and Judge Joseph Carter Chair in Innovative Teaching Technology in August and he has already invested much of the funds that accompany the distinction in a range of technologies to benefit students, including an audio podcast kit, video equipment to use for live broadcasts, a domino joiner for the Woodshop, and tools to create a maker space where students from all divisions can learn and explore.

The Carter Chair is named for the parents of the late Joe Carter ’58. “Joe Carter was a true champion of St. Paul’s,” said Head of External Affairs Kevin Sottak. “Joe understood that true innovation demands investment in people, not just tools.” He created the Carter Chair to promote innovative uses of teaching technology in and outside of the classroom. Kleiman will hold the honor for three years during which he will have an annual discretionary budget to support technology purchases, professional growth, and other activities consonant with the Chair’s purpose.

“Appointment to a teaching Chair is a mark of professional distinction, identifying the recipient as a master of his or her craft and an exemplar of the St. Paul’s teaching tradition,” said Headmaster David C. Faus.

“Mr. Kleiman knew exactly how to teach us. He would make class fun and keep us engaged my making jokes related to the material we were learning or the task at hand,” said Gavin Sullivan ’18. Since my experience with him as my 8th grade science teacher I have gone back to visit him several times a year. He offers me help on my current school work, as well as letting me assist in labs he does for the younger guys. Mr. Kleiman is one of my favorite people at St. Paul’s and I am happy that he has won this award.”

Through the generosity of donors, St. Paul’s offers five endowed chairs, providing not only recognition for outstanding teaching, but also providing resources that enable faculty to explore new frontiers and bring that knowledge back to their classrooms.

Equipment to Enhance Hands-On Learning

Kleiman dedicated a portion of the Carter Chair funds to purchase an audio podcast kit for the Middle School radio station. The equipment has allowed students to expand their portable studios used to record the student audiobooks in the 6th grade, as well as to record live debates both in Mr. Keal’s 8th grade English class and Mr. Walsh’s 7th grade Geography class.

6th Grade Teacher Matt Byars said the new equipment doubled the School’s number of recording studios they had previously, increasing our efficiency in the boys’ recording of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.

In Mr. Keal’s class, the boys recorded debates about John Steinbeck’s use of language in Of Mice and Men, and Mr. Walsh’s 7th graders debated the appropriate response to the Cuban Missile Crisis. “In both cases, the teachers marveled at how the presence of the recording equipment changed the tenor of the debates significantly, causing the boys to take it much more seriously and see it as an authentic task rather than just something else that happened in class,” Byars said. “Our hope is to create a St. Paul’s podcast channel that will give us an authentic publishing platform for such work and be widely available for easy download by the entire SP community.”

New video equipment for the Middle School library will be used for student-directed and produced live news broadcasts. There are also hopes to use the equipment to record 8th grade speeches.

A domino joiner was purchased for the Woodshop. This hand-held mortising machine automates the domino process. “It has already been put to good use,” said Doug Finkel, Woodshop teacher. “The boys are building tables with it. This is a new project that we’ve never been able to do before.”

Maker Space

Kleiman also plans to create a maker space in his classroom. This area is a space for students to create, invent, and learn, and will feature several new pieces of technology, including multiple 3D printers and robots. This maker space will be used during his class, as well as after school, and will be open to the St. Paul’s community.

“Adolescent boys need to build stuff,” Kleiman said. “It’s about giving them the confidence that they can initiate a project and see it through to completion. It’s about being able come up with a problem that you own and to then solve it.”

While the maker space is still growing, Kleiman is already using the robots with his 8th grade students. These students take a quarter-long computer science class that focuses on using the Python programming language to learn essential problem solving skills. At the culmination of this class they participate in the Crossover Challenge, where they build, program, and battle Vex robots. Kleiman describes this as a very fun, yet challenging project. The boys’ robots compete to move different colored hex spheres from one side to the other, with teams awarded points for the quantity and location of spheres they land. “The challenge comes with how well they can program the robot to respond to radio signals sent by the wireless controller,” he explains. “It requires both programming finesse and an iterative approach to maximize the robots efficiency in moving their hex spheres.”

Click here to see more photos of the maker space.


Jill Wagoner

Jill Wagoner

Mrs. Wagoner is the Director of Strategic Communications for St. Paul's. She came to the School in 2015 and previously spent three years as Director of Communications and Marketing at an independent school in North Carolina. She also has experience working for a full-service marketing firm and a daily newspaper. She can be reached at jwagoner@stpaulsschool.org

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