BOCES OC21 Program Brings Local Students Together for Project Sharing at Fall Symposium

January 22, 2018

What do students from Bronxville, Chappaqua, Eastchester, John Jay, Lakeland, Panas, Peekskill and Valhalla all have in common? They’re all taking a leap into the 21st Century together thanks to PNW BOCES’ OC21 program.

More than 50 students from these high schools gathered at Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES’ Yorktown campus on January 8th to take part in the OC21 program's Fall Symposium. The event was the first of the program’s two bi-annual symposiums, and invited students to discuss their classes and share their final projects with each other.

“Yesterday was an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the semester's learning,” said OC21 Project Coordinator Dr. Gregory Brown. “Students shared their course work and projects with peers from different schools and classes, which allowed each student to give and receive feedback while offering fresh perspectives on each project.”

The OC21 program offers courses that provide students with authentic learning experiences in a blended environment, coupling face-to-face learning with online learning. Students participate in two half-day sessions in person with instructors, and complete the rest of their coursework in an online classroom. Course topics range from subjects such as Anthropology to “Zero to Sixty,” which guides students through writing their first novella.

At the symposium, students were also able to discuss their OC21 field experience, as the program offers partnerships with companies and organizations like: Turner Construction, the American Museum of Natural History, the NFL, local farmers, Organic Chefs and Mindfulness Coaches.

When asked what they enjoyed most about taking online classes, students responded that the flexibility of the class schedule appealed to them, and that they liked getting to know other students from other school districts.

Lakeland student Mahira Ahmad, who recently completed her first online class, Zero to Sixty, found out about the course from her guidance counselor and said she gained new skills from her OC21 experience.

“It was a really engaging course,” Ahmad said. “This class offered me the chance to really develop my writing. In the beginning I suffered from procrastination when it came to writing, but taking this class gave me the tools to get myself more into my writing. I learned how to manage my time better and the course made me more comfortable with group work.”

Students aren’t the only ones giving the OC21 program flattering reviews. Teachers have said that it offers a fresh take on instruction as well.

“I think the program offers a lot of creativity to the teacher and allows them to explore their topic in many different ways, using media, articles, podcasts and more,” said Eastchester teacher Matt Caraccio, who teaches an OC21 course in Sports Leadership, Management and Analytics. “The students have done a really nice job incorporating these resources into their assignments and I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on their end.”

Caraccio said the switch to online classes requires some adaptation for students, but said it’s a beneficial jump to make while still in high school since many post-secondary courses are now offered online.

“The future of education in one way, shape or form, is going to be incorporating online classes as a medium,” Caraccio added.

Dr. Brown also spoke about the added benefits students experience from taking online courses.

“OC21 courses provide students with more than just an opportunity to learn the content of the course they are taking,” Brown said. “They also find out more about who they are as learners in a way that is new and different from their previous high school experiences. These skills are the "hidden curriculum" and are essential for life after high school.”

For more information on the OC21 program, please contact OC21 Project Coordinator Dr. Gregory Brown at 914-248-2382 or visit the OC21 webpage here.

PHOTO: Peekskill student Preston England enjoyed connecting with fellow OC21 students in his Anthropology course’s virtual classroom