Monday, May 24, 2010

Experiencing the Underground Railroad...Elementary School Style

I have the opportunity to serve on our school district’s education foundation and I love it! A couple of weeks ago I was invited to Celia Hays Elementary to see one of our grants in action. Wow. Was I ever amazed.

The grant involved every 5th grader and was titled “What if the Underground Railroad had GPS?” This was the culmination of an in depth study on the Underground Railroad. The students used GPS devices to find geo-caches that had been hidden at locations all over school property. The students worked together in small groups to follow the Underground Railroad to freedom. Each location had information leading them to the next location, a journaling topic and obstacles that had to be overcome. It integrated social studies, science, language arts, math, music….100% cross curricular.

The final location, where the students made it to freedom? The school flagpole of course! Waiting for them there was Harriet Tubman. A school staff member, dressed in period costume, met the students and led them to freedom. Goosebumps!! Those students didn’t just learn about the Underground Railroad, they experienced it. Truly innovative teaching at its very best.

Not only was I speechless over the lesson and its execution, but I was amazed at what great ambassadors the staff were for their school.

When I arrived I was greeted in the front office by the school secretary and the principal, who both welcomed me. One of the fifth grade teachers came and escorted me down to the fifth grade classrooms so she could show me the work the students had done in preparation for the activity. She then directed me out to the playground where they were searching for the geo-caches. Every teacher I encountered was so excited, appreciative and full of great things to say about their students and their campus.

I love opportunities that enable me to see first hand that critics of public schools are dead wrong! As a member of this awesome profession, I feel it’s my honor and my duty to share these achievements with everyone I encounter…my family, my friends, at church, on the soccer fields, in line at the grocery store. It’s high time those of us with formal connections to public schools be vocal about the success we witness.

As this school year comes to an end, let’s take moment to celebrate all the strengths and achievements that 2009-2010 has brought to the children of Texas.