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We’re more than the ‘Three Rs’

By Edwina Harder

Southgate Principal

One night while relaxing and watching a home improvement show, I heard an interior designer talk about how the kitchen is really the “hub” of the house. Much of a family’s time is spent in the kitchen, and as such, you want to be sure it is centrally located and has the proper equipment for all. This got me thinking about how schools of today have really become a “hub” of the community and how they keep evolving to meet the needs of all.

We are fortunate to live in a country that values education for the masses. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are things that all students in America have been taught since our country’s formation. Job requirements have changed dramatically over time, and the levels of reading, writing, and arithmetic competency to be successful in those jobs have necessitated higher levels of content knowledge. As such, children who are going through school today are seeing basic algebraic concepts introduced in elementary schools. High schoolers are exposed to higher levels of math and science than were even available in schools 20 years ago.

In addition to adapting what is taught in the core content areas, schools continue to be responsive in offering elective classes and extracurricular activities that meet the needs of today’s learners. Legos and other toys used to be at-home play activities. Pairing them with motors, these building toys have become learning tools that help students design solutions for real-world issues. Computer coding, once a high school class that involved writing strings of code and running it through the computer to check its accuracy, is now something that even our youngest students can do very simply with an Ipad and an inexpensive robot.

At the high school level we have seen the re-emergence of our FFA club, the creation of a mountain-biking club, and a high school class focused on food science and chemistry. All three were formed because of grass-roots efforts. In the case of the FFA club and the food science class, both of these will directly prepare students for a career in growing fields.

School buildings have changed over time as well. I.J. Holton Intermediate School is an example within our community. There are still classrooms, but the furniture within the rooms allows for more flexible groupings. The addition of large group areas between pods of classrooms allows for teams to have room to spread out for more active learning opportunities. These features are not exclusive to only the new school in our community.  All buildings have found creative ways to use space. Examples include redesigning library spaces or the creation of learning suites. As older furniture needs replacing, new furniture that provides more flexibility is purchased. Every building looks for ways to provide the flexible spaces needed for large and small group work to better prepare students for the future.

Schools of today are expanding the services they provide to help meet needs beyond academics. Every school in Austin participates in the backpack program. This program is for students who have food scarcity.  The United Way partners with the schools to support the work of the Children’s Dental Health Clinic in our schools. These service providers come into the schools twice a year to provide dental services to select students. Other community groups have provided resources to the schools that allow them to ensure that basic needs are being met for our students.

All of these examples illustrate how schools of today do so much more than teaching the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Schools of today help connect families with the services they need. Today’s schools stay responsive to the needs of the people they serve in order to prepare our children with the skills they need to build a better tomorrow for all of us. I believe it could be said that schools are really the “hub” of the community they serve.