As you walk around LME on Friday mornings, you can feel the students' excitement in the air. Some enrichment clusters are busy with cutting, talking, building and movement. Some are peaceful with concentration and focus. But no matter what enrichment cluster you observe, all of the children are engaged, collaborating, thinking critically, being creative and communicating with each other. It is an impressive sight to behold.
As I was touring parents around this morning, I was reminded of another aspect of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model that makes it so unique and helps create world-class talent at LME. Today and over the past several weeks, we have had several visitors come to spend time with our enrichment clusters.
Mr. Roby Brown, Director of Video Services for RRISD, demonstrated the process of making a video from start to finish with our "Take One" enrichment cluster.
Ms. Nicki Loftin, author of Nightingale’s Nest and The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, talked to our students in the "2015 Reading Academy Awards" enrichment cluster over Skype. She answered their questions about writing a book.
(Read more about Ms. Loftin here: http://nikkiloftin.com/about/)
Ms. Lisa Rhodes, former LME mom and volunteer with Red Arena, presented to our "Animal Helpers" enrichment cluster about hippotherapy (horse therapy). She shared stories of those who have been helped by hippotherapy in our community.
(Read more about Red Arena here: http://www.redarena.org/)
The previous week, Officer Andrew of the Austin Police Department and his K9, Rocko, came to talk to this cluster. Officer Rocko shared how Rocko helps keep our community safe and helps students in schools.
And the week before that, Ms. Erika Simono and her service dog, Buddy from the Austin Dog Alliance, came to visit with the students. She discussed dog training and the many jobs that service dogs perform for their owners and others. She also talked about the different between service and therapy dogs.
(Read more about the Austin Dog Alliance here: http://austindogalliance.org/)
Our very own Mrs. Debbie Bretsch brought her English Cocker Spaniel, Truman, to the "Fur and Purr" enrichment cluster this week. During her "free time", Mrs. Bretsch breeds and shows these dogs. She talked to the students about training, grooming and the general care of her dogs.
The week before, we had Dr. Annetrea Cassens, DVM, talked to this enrichment cluster about her career in veterinarian medicine and medically taking care of our pets.
Mrs. Monica Araoz, owner of Art + Academy, came for two weeks in a row and taught our "Passionate Painters" about different painting techniques and how to paint a landscape.
(Read more about Art+ Academy here: http://www.artplusacademy.com/)
You might be thinking, all of these people sound interesting and this seems like an awesome experience for the students. But what is so unique about this?
Well, the typical model for career development at an elementary school involves a "Career Day". You are probably familiar with this concept. This happens one time a year. Parents and community members come to talk to different classes about their jobs, their education and what they generally do on a day-to-day basis.
This is a great way to expose students to a variety of career choices. But what guarantee do you have that all of the kids in that class want to listen to a doctor or an engineer or an artist? Whose to say that all the students in that class are interested in that same career?
And that is what makes our visitors and enrichment clusters so special. When our guest speakers are presenting to an enrichment cluster, it is guaranteed that all of those children are a captive audience. They want to listen because that presenter is talking about something that they are interested in! For a kid, that is an awesome experience. As I watched our kids today listen and participate with our visitors, I saw engaged and interested learners.
Watching a few minutes of the Skype call with Ms. Loftin, I swear if those students could crawl through the computer to sit with her in her home, they would. They were on the edge of their seats!
Watching the students follow Ms. Araoz's art instruction about brush stokes, you could tell why those students chose to be a part of the "Passionate Painters" enrichment clusters.
Seeing all of the children in "Fur and Purr" run towards Truman wanting to pet and snuggle with him, you could see that all of those kids love animals.
It is a very validating experience for our kids when we give them an opportunity during the school day to meet with peers who share the same interest and passion. And to top that off, we show our students that if they are truly interested in a topic, it can turn into a career that they love. Or at the very least, it can turn into a hobby that they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.
We invest in knowledge at Laurel Mountain. And from what I see everyday at school, that investment is paying off. Experts sharing their knowledge and skills, investing in students who share the same interests is another way we create world-class talent at Laurel Mountain.