Sienna Plantation is served by two Fort Bend ISD middle schools: Billy Baines Middle and First Colony Middle.
Baines Middle School serves students in grades six, seven and eight.
Baines is equipped with advanced technology, including e-connectivity systems designed to keep FBISD in the vanguard for the delivery of technical information to its students.
Baines Middle School in Sienna Plantation displays the newest and best of what the district has to offer. But it’s the strong commitment of the school’s principal, teachers and parents that is making this school a stand-out among sister campuses.
It starts with the principal, Fort Bend veteran educator David Yaffie, who prefers to walk the halls among the students and visit classrooms than spend most of his time at his desk.
“You have to be out there with the students, setting an example and showing them you’re involved,” said Yaffie, who taught for 10 years at Quail Valley Middle School before moving to Clements High School where he was an assistant and later an associate principal. “If you don’t want to be out there with the kids, you’re in the wrong job. We’re interested here and we want to see them performing.”
Helping the students perform is a strong emphasis on technology. The school is heavily equipped with computers – three computer labs with 30 computers each, 19 computer stations in the library and, of course, computers in every classroom. But the teachers also have been given state-of-the-art technology tools to facilitate learning. Rather than the 27-inch televisions found in most Fort Bend ISD classrooms, Baines has ceiling-mounted data projectors that are networked to teachers’ computers. Teachers can easily project PowerPoint presentations, charts, graphs or other information to students rather than asking them to cluster around a television monitor.
“My kids are really excited about the smart boards,” said mom and PTO board member Lauren Travers. “They can stay at their desks and take notes, plus the teachers are able to put together some really interesting presentations to explain the information.”
The projectors are just one tool teachers are using in the innovative LoTi program – Levels of Technology Implementation. Baines is one of only five Fort Bend schools piloting the program, which has become an internationally recognized symbol and catalyst for how technology is used in the classroom to stimulate complex thinking skills.
With the technological framework in place, teachers encourage students to do more than memorize information. They guide students into taking the next step toward higher levels of learning: analysis and application of information and then use of that information to create a new project and evaluate its worth.
“By using appropriate technology in lessons, we can get the kids to think on higher levels,” Yaffie said. “We’re using this approach in every classroom, from special education to gifted and talented. And you can see it working just by visiting the classrooms and listening to the interaction between teachers and students.”
Another aspect in creating an environment for proactive learning is the physical layout of the school. Baines’ state-of-the-art instructional classrooms combine with a variety of laboratories to encourage learning through hands-on activities. Classrooms are grouped by grade level in clusters of four classrooms and one science lab. Students also have specific classrooms for drama; band, orchestra, ensemble and choir (with practice rooms and instrument storage); journalism; and competition and practice gyms. In addition to the computer labs, there also are foreign language classrooms, art classrooms, a technology lab and traditional shop, and a life management lab.
Student athletes – the Baines Longhorns – can make use of a football field, weight room, four tennis courts and practice fields for baseball, softball and soccer.
“The parent volunteers have been remarkable,” Yaffie said. And indeed, parents were in the school well before the students. Parents shelved thousands of library books and assembled overhead projector carts in preparation for the school’s opening. They’ve started Longhorn Fever, designing, ordering and then selling school T-shirts. And parents were on hand on opening day, assisting students with schedules and lockers.
The Baines Parent-Teacher Organization has launched a monthly fundraiser, Market Days, where a portion of online food sales benefits Baines Middle School. Other activities are in the works.
“I’ve been so pleased with the school,” Travers said. “The building is beautiful with lots of windows. It’s just a wonderful atmosphere for learning. The teachers all seem very excited and so happy to be here.”
“I was very selective about accepting a principal position in the district,” Yaffie said. “I really wanted to go someplace special. Baines Middle School is special and even though it’s brand-new, it easily has the potential to be truly great.”
Visit their website: Billy Baines Middle School
Since 1985, First Colony Middle School has been providing exceptional education for students in grades 6th thru 8th. First Colony Middle is a previous National Blue Ribbon school winner. While the boundaries and the population have changed dramatically, one thing that has not wavered is the endeavor to maintain high expectations and to emphasize strong character among all associated with the school. First Colony students know that they are the leaders of tomorrow and they expect a curriculum that will train them for their future positions.
First Colony Middle School (FCMS) is committed to fostering academic excellence while developing the individual strengths and talents of the students, faculty, staff, and community. By addressing the unique needs of early adolescents a supportive and caring environment, they will develop independent thinking citizens of character.
The rigorous curriculum at First Colony reflects the goals and target areas of importance identified in their mission statement. A broad range of elective courses are offered reflecting the interest and needs of the students. The fine arts department includes orchestra, band, choir, art and theater. The athletic program offers football, girl's volleyball, girl's and boy's basketball, track, and tennis. First Colony has a Math Counts Club and foreign language class for Spanish as well as several clubs for students. FCMS believes it is important for students to be involved as it fosters teamwork and school pride.
Visit their website: First Colony Middle School
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