W.K. Kellogg Foundation

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Grant-funded Project: Waters Foundation/Systems Thinking Group — Systems Thinking in School Communities July, 2017 – June, 2019
Desired Outcomes and Project Goals: The Systems Thinking in School Communities project aims to develop a model that would scale the value of a systems thinking (ST) approach to school improvement, community engagement and student empowerment in early education (preschool – elementary grades). This project focuses on school districts and their elementary schools, challenged to work with and meet the needs of communities that are high poverty and under-served with little to no prior ST background.

Capacity building that includes a set of research-based Habits of systems thinking and a commonly understood vocabulary and palette of visual tools to foster deeper learning, will build district, school and community members’ abilities to support and foster high-quality early childhood environments and services.

Workshops, follow-up coaching and collaborative sharing structures support teachers and school, district and community leaders in two regional locations that include: East Central Alabama, with participating districts Auburn City Schools and Lee County Schools; and Eastern Kentucky, involving Owsley County Schools and Lee County School District.

  • In the first six months of the project, over 90% of the 100 teacher and leader participants showed evidence of active ST applications to classroom instruction, and school and district leadership.
  • Teachers and administrators in both regions reported significant student engagement and depth of knowledge when applying ST Habits and tools.
  • Inter and intra-school and district collaborative structures in both regions support ST learning that encourages ongoing professional, collegial relationships and learning opportunities.
  • Over 75 artifacts of ST applications created by students, teachers and leaders have been collected throughout the first 6 months of the project and will be incorporated into an e-library of resources for all district members.
  • Learning partnerships have developed between participating districts and other organizations interested in ST at each region including, Auburn University (AL), Kentucky Valley Education Cooperative (KVEC) and Central Kentucky Head Start.