A group of bouncy, eager elementary school children, some dressed in bee costumes, helped Tongass School of Arts and Sciences teachers and administrators present the charter school’s report to the Ketchikan School Board last week.
Tongass School Principal Marian Gonzalez said her school picks a theme each year as a focus for students. Last year, the theme was interdependence.
Teacher Melissia Williams and her first- and second-grade students studied bees. She said they researched bee facts, wrote reports about bees and raised money for a bee study. The students told the board a little about their project.
“We chose to do a social action project to help save the bees, because we found out about CCD, which is called colony collapse disorder,” one student said.
Another student explained, “We performed the Honey Bee Dance at The Plaza last year and raised $486 to help bee research at Penn State.”
The students demonstrated “body mapping,” movements to help them remember facts, in this case about bees and ants.
Gonzales said Tongass School teachers are trained using a Highly Effective Teaching model, and the school presents lessons in various ways.
“Some students learn better through auditory listening, that would be a lecture, an explanation,” she said. “Some students however might learn better with visual anchors, mind maps, charts, graphs, things like that, might help a student develop a deeper understanding of a concept. Other students might learn better more through interacting with each other, social interactions and dialogue.”
Tongass School also integrates life skills into the classroom, with a focus on problem solving, tolerance and health, emotional as well as physical. Counselor, PE and health teacher Lane Johnson said that the school chooses healthy ways to celebrate special occasions.
“When there’s a celebration in the classroom, there’s recommended foods. We’re not just bringing in candy,” he said. “So if you go by our school, and there’s a Christmas or a winter celebration just before winter break, it’s great for me because I can go classroom to classroom and get really good food. It’s not just sugar.”
Gonzales said parent involvement is another important part of the school’s philosophy. Tongass School operates a home-school program, and she said those parent-teachers are welcome to participate in extra school programs.
One of those programs is the annual DaVinci Night, which last year focused on engineering. Two special guests from Seattle gave presentations about rocket science, and then worked with students on projects for the public DaVinci Night.
Throughout the year, officials from each school in the Ketchikan School District are asked to come before the School Board and tell the community what their school has accomplished.