As the summer begins to wind down, parents begin to trek to the stores with supply lists in hand and the summer learning break turns to talk about our education system.
What do teachers do over their summer break? Some take to the classroom to do a little learning themselves. Some of the best of the best travel to Denver for Science in the Rockies, a 3-day hands-on science class taught to teachers by our very own Steve Spangler.
Over 100 teachers from across the country (and a few from across the globe) came to learn how to squeeze a little science, a little laughter and a little engagement into their classrooms this next school year.
As testing pressures increase, budgets shrink and class sizes grow, how do teachers motivate and cultivate learning and thinking inside and out of their classroom?
Preschool is all about hands-on learning – tactiles, imaginative play, color mixing and science centers. But what happens when they trek off to elementary school?
At our elementary school, science and social studies rotate. Two weeks for science, while social studies take a break, then two weeks for social studies. The same is true for arts and culture – art, music and P.E. all rotate. I can’t complain about the “specials” rotation. I’m just glad they are still part of the curriculum.
Those classes are special, but I believe they are as important as math and reading. We want to expose our children to a lot of different experiences, right? Well rounded children are stronger functioning members of society and have a better chance at being successful in their adult lives than those who only have a few skills.
I understand that teachers have a lot to pack into a day. They are under a lot of pressure to squeeze in a full curriculum that is not only based in essentials of learning but also diverse.
When my oldest was about to enter kindergarten, a local charter school was highly recommended in our area. I went to parent night. Not having any preconceived notions about what was expected outside of my own education, I went in with an open mind.
Yes, this school ranked high on the Colorado standardized tests in math and reading. But where was the rest of the children’s education? Three-fourths of the kindergarten day was dedicated to math and reading. That’s great, but where was the rest of their education? The principal promised that all kindergarteners would be reading at a first grade level by Christmas. They were proud of their reading program.
The kindergarteners had 10 minutes for recess. They had reading and math homework every night. Those test scores will be bright come 3rd grade.
I thought this was great, until they began describing the rest of the program. There wasn’t much time for social studies, science or art. The kids would be so busy learning the important subjects, these lesser important and non-tested subjects would happen in a rotation. The teachers would sneak an art project in once every three weeks. Creativity once every three weeks…in KINDERGARTEN?
Then they took us on a tour of the school. I did a double take when I saw a graph on the lunchroom wall “______ days of quiet lunch.”
No socializing either.
The principal made a comment about “if you are lucky enough to become a family here…”
I realized at that moment that this school was not for us. I want my children to be strong in reading and math. But I also want them to learn how to learn, understand about the world we live in, create masterpieces and get to know their friends during lunch.
Teachers have a huge job. Schools and districts have a huge responsibility. Parents have a huge job and responsibility to raise their kids and find the right fit for their children.
My hat is off to the teachers and educators who put children first, who make it memorable and bring the lessons to life. Those teachers who are innovative enough to figure out a way to sneak in a science activity during a birthday cupcake celebration, get their students excited about learning and know how to motivate their students beyond the covers of a book.