The Future is Now

It’s happening quietly inside a brick building on Six Forks Road.

By Carla Turchetti
Photo by Davies Photography

A dedicated team of educators and administrators is hard at work building innovators who will change the world. Learning for the 21st century and beyond is happening right now inside Carroll Middle School.

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It was back in the 1960s that the first students entered the doors at Carroll, then a junior high school. Those students might be surprised to return today and find out what goes on inside a modern magnet school with a curriculum theme based around Leadership in Technology. Students here are in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and each one has a school-issued iPad. There’s an Innovation Lab and a gaming room. 3-d printers, laser cutters, and Dash and Dot Robots that kids learn to code while they play. Carroll Middle School is a place where technology isn’t a separate part of education, it’s in every part of education.

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“It’s just authentically integrated, and it’s a vehicle to enhance learning and teaching,” says Elizabeth MacWilliams, Principal and Lead Learner at Carroll Middle School, and one of five finalists for2017-18 Principal of the Year in the Wake County Public Schools. “It’s not something that is necessarily taught in isolation to our kids who were born in the digital age, and they are coming to us with skills that appear to be inherent because it’s something they have been exposed to their entire lives.”

Any parent who has ever had to ask a child to change the setting on a smartphone knows how much at-home the current generation is with devices and connections. Carroll’s Leadership in Technology magnet theme builds on the concept of STEM, emphasizing the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, while building leaders who can make a difference in a constantly changing world.

“Beyond the technology, which is important, we want to use that as a vehicle to ensure our children are problem solvers and that they are able to function in a digital world,” MacWilliams says.

Carroll students study the leadership and character development in Dr. Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The school was the first in Wake County to embrace The Positivity Project, a school-wide initiative that teaches students how to understand, appreciate and exemplify 24 character strengths in themselves and in others. Teachers at Carroll created the curriculum for other middle schools to implement to teach about these character strengths. This is not a place where teachers stand at the front of the room lecturing and students take notes to memorize before tests.

“Our challenge-based learning work is incredible, all very relevant and real-world friendly,” MacWilliams says. “We have great community partnerships. Our students are working on community service projects and sustainability projects and thinking about their futures and how they can be focused on global sustainability.”

And since Carroll is a magnet school option for families who live beyond its base assignment neighborhoods, MacWilliams encourages parents to take a close look at this Leadership in Technology school as an education option.

“This is transformational work – and it’s important work, and I would encourage every family to visit our school and spend time in our classrooms or contact me directly,” MacWilliams says. “What we are doing here is incredible and doesn’t happen overnight. But 100 percent I believe this middle school is going to be the best middle school in Wake County and beyond because of the incredible work that is happening.”

MacWilliams, who has graced the pages of People Magazine with her visits to her students’ homes, is quick to praise the faculty for their work on behalf of Carroll’s student population.

“They are committed and dedicated to a vision of excellence, and I look forward to moving mountains and achieving great things and celebrating with our community in Midtown.”

And as a mother, how does MacWilliams believe her school is doing?

“The test is, would I want my child here? And the answer is yes.”

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