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10 SCHOOLS REDEFINING THE CURRICULUM
For children, school is a full-time job. A job that isn't always fun, engaging, or exciting. Dry coursework, outdated supplies and repetitive lectures that fall on deaf ears. Being an educator can be tough. For a long time, our education system has been crumbling. The issue is students aren't learning, aren't engaged and aren't included. The teachers are overwhelmed by overcrowded classrooms. Students read outdated history books or learn from lesson plans that have been recycled for years. The material isn't inspiring and passion is fleeting for educators. The schools fail because of outrageous class sizes, abysmal test scores, and bored pupils. Children enjoy learning new things when they feel engaged. Some schools around the U.S have made changes for their students and the future of education.
Lakeview Academy, Saratoga Springs, UT
This school is out of this world! Lakeview Academy prides itself in its innovative STEM style learning. A charter school that has its own space simulator. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. The classes all have time in the simulator to put their skills from the classroom to the test.
While maintaining focus in science, and math, Lakeview supports young artist's creativity. The school holds gallery nights each quarter, so students can display their pieces. Friday's are reserved to immerse the student in "real-world experiences" The day is shorter and involves field trips, student research projects, and community service events.
Cardinal Community Middle School, Eldon, IA
Cardinal serves grades 5-8 dividing the elementary, middle, and high school terms equally into four years. The entire school district is getting a makeover. Cardinal Middle School included in the change that brings the school into the 21st century. There is a movement being made across the state that is altering the traditional classroom. Desks are changing, as well as arranged seating. The message that rings in educator's ears is children learn better when it isn't forced, or rigid.
The classrooms are remodeled and reflect a "Student-Centered" focus. The desks have been replaced with couches or community seating. State of the art technology and resources are made to be at the disposal of the student. Computers, equipped with Photoshop, 50in television display screens, and even 3D printers are available. The walls are replacing paint with whiteboards. The walls are within reach for the students for collaborative work, or demonstration. The emphasis is on the students learning and thriving together opposed to competitive and stressful environments.
Killington Elementary School, Killington, VT
A strong foundation for learning is built during the first years of starting school. The elementary years can determine the success in the middle, and high school levels. Killington has set itself apart from other schools in Vermont because it insists on working together. Public schools are often seen as affordable and overwhelmed. Killington works to keep class sizes small and manageable. The teachers are equipped to handle a smaller class and are able to accommodate all their student's needs.
School lunches are notorious for being bland, unhealthy, and unfulfilling. Killington's lunch menu feature's a "World Flavor's Day" and has beef sourced from local farms in the state. A salad bar is open daily, along with fruits and vegetables. Options for picky eaters, and variety span throughout the month for every student to enjoy something at school.
Legacy High School, Bismarck ND
A feature that is becoming more common in public schools is a personalized schedule. Legacy offers a 22 mod schedule tailored to the individual's learning needs. This benefits the student significantly. If math is a weaker subject for one student they may be directed to a smaller group setting where the instructor can provide more guidance and attention. The growing class size across the country has proven to be an obstacle for many schools. This helps educators build understanding with more students while building relationships. The mods are 20 minutes in length and vary significantly for each student. Each mod includes a set time titled "SABER Time" A designated time to meet with their instructors, complete projects, or study. The courses offered vary as well.
Legacy even mentions a course in Leadership. While that may seem peculiar, leadership can be honed and many kids aren't encouraged to build those skills. Surprisingly a personal finance course is available. Finally, a course that teaches you how to balance a bank account. The school offers core subject courses, as well as computer graphics, theater arts, and family consumer sciences. Culinary arts, parenting, and child-related career courses are also available. The school feels devoted to the student and the demands of the future.
Elkhorn Grandview Middle School, Omaha NE
Nebraska ranks as one of the top 10 states in Education. This middle school in the city of Omaha is an excellent example of public education making a change for the students. Technology is advancing and students are immersed. The curriculum needs to change in order to engage the class as much as possible, which is why many schools have developed individualized learning. Elkhorn Grandview serves students in grades 6-8. The programs are separated into three groups; core, exploratory, and specials.
The monthly newsletter highlights all school activities, resources for parents and students. The letter home emphasizes the importance of conversation at home, that reinforce policies at school. When the parents and the school work together, the student benefits. The website allows a parent to create a private account to check the student's progress or upcoming projects.
Grades have changed if you haven't been a student in a few years. A,B,C,D,F grading scale seems to have been eliminated and replaced with a scale of 1-5 which breaks down as 1 (93-100%), 2 (85-92%), 3 (78-84%), 4 (70-77%), 5 (0-69%)
Odyssey Charter School, Palm Bay, FL
Charter schools usually ring as expensive or tuition-based options for education. This specific Charter school is public, meaning no annual tuition fees. Odyssey is known for its spectacular meal program. The menu provides, vegan, and vegetarian options, organic produce, as well as traditional meat dishes.
Odyssey describes a "holistic" approach when it comes to education. The whole child is educated instead of one part. The curriculum blends technique from traditional public schools, with Montessori school styles. The result is an environment that challenges the student, engages them appropriately and maintains inclusivity. Children should be nurtured and this approach has worked well for the school. The mission emphasizes the need to "raise radiant children". This is defined by three subcategories; green environment, wise nutrition, and nurturing the whole child. The school utilizes solar power and naturally lit classrooms. The whole child is defined as mental intelligence, physical intelligence, social and emotional intelligence, as well as spiritual intelligence. Odyssey Charter is an option as early as kindergarten up to grade 12.
Issaquah High School, Issaquah, WA
Washington comes in at number 4 in the ranks of education. Issaquah High Scool is implementing "Nest Schedules". After a school survey was issued 97% of the student population commented that they would benefit from having time during school to work on themselves or coursework. High school graduates in the past have complained that there is a lot of pressure in and out of school. With heavy coursework, part-time jobs, chores, or extra-curricular activities the pressures to succeed are intense. Students are admitting there is little time to reflect on the self or develop important life skills that get swept under the rug. The survey illustrated that 87% of teachers voted in favor of this change.
The nesting time occurs between the student's 2nd and 3rd-period courses. Everyone has 35 minutes to catch their breath, and use their time how they see fit. The students are free to use the time as a social period or choose to use it to make up tests, get extra support from teachers, as well as attend lessons that help develop the "Future you". This designated time is an effort to help students achieve more.
Bernice A. Ray School, Hanover, NH
A school in New Hampshire is taking its students outside, and not just for recess. The classroom is anywhere a teacher creates one. The Ray School offers enrichment programs for students to observe and participate in the world around them.
Camp Brook is an actual brook outside the classroom. Fourth graders are invited to explore and record observations. Touch the rocks, smell the plants, hear the songbirds chirping, while they breathe in the fresh air.
The Meadow is available for kindergarten and first-grade students. This outdoor laboratory is perfect for young inquisitive minds to learn about animals, plants, and how they interact with each other. The whole world is outside, and this school is thinking outside of the walls of a classroom.
The Colonial House was constructed in the 70s by local volunteers. The house is modeled after 1700 architecture. This house is complete with furnishings that are authentic to the era. Students take a short trip outside and walk back in time. A colonial museum is right behind the school.
The Vernal Pool is a temporary pond that only appears in the spring. A fantastic reason to explore and appreciate the gifts the different seasons bring. The pond forms, and with it, new life. Students get to observe tadpoles becoming frogs, or watch the salamanders swim. The pool is visited throughout the school year to conduct research on how the environment changes with each season.
Ridge High School, Basking Ridge, NJ
New Jersey is holding the number two spot in education this year. Ridge High is teeming with impressive accreditations. The school is confident in its abilities to prepare their graduates for college. Their enrollment sits just below 2,000 students but maintains an impressive 12:1 student to teacher ratio.
The courses are just as impressive, students can enroll in financial accounting, speech and debate, or cybersecurity. The teachers are current and well-versed in the times that are constantly changing. The school seems to blend course work that is challenging with a supportive environment.
Elm Street School, Gardner, MA
It doesn't take a brainiac to know that not every school is a COOL school. Elm Street Elementary School is certifiably COOL. COOL schools have a Creative Outlook On Learning (COOL). Which means they focus on common core standards for education with an artistic emphasis. For decades schools in the U.S have bred an exclusive, not for everyone type of environment. Public schools have been known to fail students that can't flourish in a traditional school setting. Every child is different and Elm Street is working to embrace those differences. They are evolving to meet the needs of all their students and breed an inclusive environment.
Elm Street's mission is to teach students about compassion, love, and trust. When students and teachers connect, the messages are translated clearly and concepts are internalized. The teachers encourage participation and perseverance. Engaging through the arts is an effective motivator for student participation. Schools don't have to be boring anymore, Elm Street is proving there are other ways to succeed.
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