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Want Secondary Inspiration? Visit an Elementary School

As I have mentioned before, I am very fortunate to straddle two districts: I work in one high performing district and I live in and send my kids to school in another high performing district. Both districts share similar values and provide amazing learning opportunities for their learners. That said, I have spent the majority of my time in education as a high school person and have only recently spent a little bit of time at the elementary level as a parent (and as one half of a touring duo where educators from other districts visit both my campus and an elementary campus as a part of one tour experience).

There are lots of reasons to consider the elementary and secondary worlds as being different. First, you have the age of the learners, which means that different things will be developmentally appropriate to different groups. Second, you also have differences in understanding, experience, and attention span; all very real things that classroom teachers from across the school system will tell you about. That said, there are a lot of similarities and as I found recently, you can even get a lot of inspiration from how things are handled at different levels in the education system. I had two experiences in particular that really had me thinking of new ways to work with the high school learners under my care.

picture of Lee Elementary from the CISD website
The first experience was a tour that I participated in with one of my counterparts at Lee Elementary school in Coppell ISD. Lee Elementary and my school, New Tech High @ Coppell, are often paired together for tours that focus on innovative ways to educate. If you want to see a truly different way to "do" elementary school, Richard J. Lee Elementary- A Net Zero Campus is one of the schools that you want to put on your list. From the physical design of the school (built around a flexible learning environment) to the instructional design of the school (learning that isn't necessarily tied to grade level, challenge based learning, etc.), I was truly inspired to think about what "walls" exist in my own school and how we unintentionally use those walls in ways that inhibit our learners. For example, it is easy to feel locked in by the high school graduation credit system and partition learning off into specific courses at specific grade levels. There is some of that that is necessary for documenting the learning that is required for a high school diploma, but my visit to Lee Elementary definitely had me thinking about how we could engage learners across grade levels and contents.

picture from our 4/10 field trip to the Trinity River Audubon
The second experience I had was as the parent of my daughter who goes to Cannon Elementary: A GCISD STEM School. I have long been drawn to the concept of a STEM school and design thinking and I especially enjoy being a part of that as a parent. I have been to the school on a number of occasions but I was especially inspired by my last visit as a chaperone on a field trip to the Trinity River Audubon Center. Even though the field trip was geared toward the age of the group (young elementary learners), I went back to my campus telling my science facilitators about the place we visited and all of the connections that could be made to what they do in their own classrooms. From the design thinking process that is inherent to the STEM campus culture, to the way that learners were engaged to interact with both the environment and with each other, I was inspired to see more connections for our high school learners to the real world. 

Both of these visits reaffirmed my joy in learning from different places and situations and I hope to have many other opportunities to visit schools of all levels and programs for inspiration. As someone whose campus gets toured quite often, I know that exposure to new ideas adds to the artistry that is involved in educating for the world of tomorrow. 


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