Thursday, September 21, 2017

Homework due the first day? Collier debuts elementary Cambridge Programs


Wednesday was the first day of school for most students in Collier County, and some students already had homework due.

At Corkscrew Elementary, students in the Cambridge program were already handing in assignments from a required reading over the summer.

This year marked the first year of the Cambridge Primary program in Collier County Public Schools, with the program in third through fifth grade classrooms. Next year it will be added to kindergarten through second grade, district Superintendent Kamela Patton said, allowing for a Cambridge program education through the entire K-12 line.

“We need to challenge all of our kids,” Patton said about the expanded program. “What this is doing is adding in a lot more rigor for our advanced kids in elementary and middle school. We had advanced classes, honors, but it wasn’t really as high up as what they’re doing.”

Each grade level had its own book which students had to read over the summer, and identify traits within a character in the book which fit the program’s learner attributes.

Jessica Shelbaugh, a fifth-grade teacher at Corkscrew, said she was surprised at how every student in her classroom came in prepared and ready to discuss the book in class.

“I was very pleasantly surprised, it was a tough assignment, it was a tough book to get through and they all, even if it wasn’t their favorite book to read, came ready to talk about their characters in the story,” Shelbaugh said. “It also tied into their learner qualities, being responsible and engaged so it already had them thinking about what’s expected of them.”

Teachers who are running the elementary Cambridge classes had been training to run the classrooms since January, Patton said, including returning from summer a week early. The curriculum focuses on developing critical thinking and collaboration skills, and is designed to let students discover the answers to a problem on their own.

“Our middle school teachers were saying that’s what they found the hardest, when the kids ask questions not to give them the answers,” Patton said. “We want the kids to become internally-driven and become inquiry-based. That’s what makes them lifelong learners, the earlier we can teach kids those kind of skills, the better.”

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