Thursday, May 19, 2016

Program Strengths: A Holistic Lens

This morning as I think about our overall teaching/learning program for fifth graders, I realize that there are many wonderful components, components that could be replicated to teach children well elsewhere.

I've noted the elements below:

Art Class
Each week our students are taught by an art teacher who has devoted 30 years to her craft. She is also a professional artist. Her creativity is amazing and allows students to learn in invigorating, multi-modal, hands-on ways. They paint, work with clay, weave, draw, build, and more. She regularly integrates the stories of fine artists, and the school is filled with students' wonderful, thought provoking, colorful design and creation.

Music and Instrumental Classes
Our students all have at least two music classes a week. The first is a general music class where they sing, play instruments, compose, learn about musicians and composers, and more. The next is a more targeted 30-minute music workshop or instrumental lessons. Most students also participate in the weekly band and strings ensembles too.

Fifth Grade Play
At fifth grade students get an extra artistic benefit by participating in the fifth grade play. The play includes every fifth grader. They tell a story with words, acting, singing, dancing, and playing instruments. It's an amazing collaborative event.

Our schools are filled with computers, and for an average of 30 minutes a week students attend technology class. There they learn a lot about digital citizenship and learn to use countless tech programs and products as they created interdisciplinary projects. Students also use technology often in the classroom time.

Our school has a wonderful library and librarian. Students have library classes for an average of 30 minutes a week. There they learn all kinds of library, research, writing, and reading skills. They also have almost limitless opportunity to visit the library and take out wonderful books.

Physical Education and Wellness
Once a week students attend physical education classes where they learn all kinds of physical fitness and wellness skills. They play many sports games and even include the arts as they participate in dance classes.

Our school has a great, big, green grassy playground where students love everyday. We have a good amount of recess. Our school sits nicely on the playground so it's accessible to teachers when needed. At times, students will have impromptu, short recesses just to move and play as a energizing transition. The community recently voted to update playground equipment too which all the children are looking forward to.

Math Study
Students engage in multiple math lessons including hands-on, tech, paper/pencil, collaborative, and projects. Students' overall math learning and success has been on the rise.

Reading and Writing
Students read and write a lot! There's been tremendous efforts to build these programs and there's been wonderful growth. As I always say, So many students love to read and almost every fifth grader is reading at a wonderful level.

Our school system has been supporting a move towards more STEAM study. Every grade level is incorporating three or more STEAM projects this year. STEAM centers are beginning to develop at every grade-level.

Science and Social Studies
Every grade level engages in a number of interdisciplinary, engaging science and social studies projects. Most of those project include wonderful field studies, visiting experts, and other special events.

School Garden, Courtyard, and Composting
The Town's green team and committed parents and educators continue to develop our school gardent and composing efforts. Recently they moved the garden to a location where students can more readily engage with it.

Friendly, Welcoming Environment
Our school is generally a happy and welcoming environment. Efforts to buy more student-friendly, ergonomic furniture has helped to make our classrooms "homes away from home" which are comfortable for teaching and learning.

School Nurse
We have a very caring school nurse that looks out for students' needs daily and spends considerable time on prevention too.

Service Learning Program
We have a strong service learning program which builds tremendous empathy, collaboration, contribution, and interdisciplinary learning/teaching.

These constructs have helped to build greater teaching/learning collaboration and targeted response.

Local Foundation Support: Innovation
We have a local foundation that supports innovation in our schools.

After school and Before School Program
There's an after school and before school program at our school which is a great support for working parents. The program is playful and enriching. There are also a number of fee-based special programs offered such as STEAM workshops, foreign language, and drama. There are scholarships available for students who may not have the funds to attend.

Local Sports Leagues and Lessons
Although this is not part of the official elementary school program, there are countless sports leagues and lessons available in the area. Again scholarships are available if money is an issue.

Professional Learning
All teachers are welcome to take a few days each year for professional learning. Typically those events are supported through systemwide funding.

We have a lot at our school and I don't write this to boast, but to say that every school needs to have these essential programs to teach well. Of course there's room for growth and change to make the programming and results even better, but we can't forget how much we have in place at this time.

A lot of this wonderful programming and structure is due to substantial community support and investment in children and schools. I believe it's within our ability as a population to provide similar student-friendly programming for children everywhere.