ELKHART — The 2014-15 school year is bringing big change to Roosevelt Elementary School.
Students will wear uniforms. The school day will be shorter. And teachers will be teaching in a new way.
“It's going to be centered around STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics),” principal Jeff Komins said. “It's the exact same thing as STEM but it's throwing in the art parts — and that's going to be the big part.”
The focus on certain subjects also means that teachers will be more like facilitators — encouraging students to work in groups and find their own, hands-on ways of solving problems.
Komins thinks that this way of teaching will keep students more active. They will be making things, he said, rather than just sitting and listening.
Teachers are already starting this new kind of teaching.
Kindergarten teacher Jenna Labash said she appreciates the freedom to let ideas for learning come from kids.
“It's just more natural for kids,” she said. “They don't want to sit at a desk and do worksheets all day.”
Labash recently had her students figure out how to move tennis balls and ping-pong balls down the hallway without using their hands. That project had the kids scooting along the halls, using straws and air to propel the balls.
“We are doing physics,” Labash said. “To say 5-year-olds are doing physics, that's a big deal. And they reached all the right conclusions by themselves.”
Komins said that Roosevelt is the only elementary school in the district that is implementing a STEAM focus next year. But other Elkhart Community Schools may pursue STEAM in the future, he said.
“We are going to be the example,” Komins said.
Roosevelt also has a higher poverty rate than any other elementary school. About 95 percent of the students are on the free or reduced lunch program, Komins said.
He sees the STEAM program as a way to teach kids skills they could need in college or in the workforce. He also hopes to have every student, starting in first grade, playing an instrument at school.
This is all part of expanding what education looks like at Roosevelt, and Komins said it's needed.
“For some of (the students), they live day by day, rather than looking to the future,” Komins said. “And we want to open their eyes and show them that there is something out there for them.”
He added, “We are trying to develop kids with good character, to start getting them thinking about how they can have a future.”
Ÿ Starting Monday, Dec. 9, Roosevelt's school day will be 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day. Roosevelt will not have the 45-minute early release on Wednesdays like other Elkhart Community Schools.
This schedule gives Roosevelt teachers time for training on STEAM strategies. Komins said that he appreciates the school board's willingness to adjust Roosevelt's schedule to support STEAM.
Ÿ Students will be wearing uniforms — most likely khakis and polo shirts in school colors — starting next school year. Komins said he is working on low-cost options for parents.
Ÿ Roosevelt will be looking for community support from individuals and businesses. Komins said he would like professionals to volunteer their time to come to the school and talk to students about careers or teach them job skills. Businesses could help by offering field trips. To find out how to help contact Komins at 295-4840 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.