Students 'do to learn,' rather than 'learn to do'

  • Wednesday, July 2, 2014

This garden will be tended by the students at Charleston Collegiate School. STAFF PHOTOS BY SULLY WITTE

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Charleston Collegiate School on Johns Island might seem like a hike for East Cooper residents considering sending their kids to a preparatory school. But a new daily bus service was created by school officials to service the East Cooper area.

Because of its unique location and its diversified population, Charleston Collegiate attracts students from far-reaching areas such as Daniel Island, Mount Pleasant, Sullivan's Island, the Isle of Palms and Summerville.

At the school's core are four main pillars: project-based learning, hands-on design thinking, problem solving, and arts and creativity.

Charleston Collegiate School is a nonsectarian, independent school organized as a lower school (PS-4), middle school (5-8) and upper school (9-12). Charleston Collegiate is fully accredited.

Headmaster Hacker Burr has been with the school for 12 years and just finished his second year as their leader.

“We value the right brain,” Burr said. That means not just teaching the basics, but including leadership skills, outdoor education, entrepreneurship and financial literacy into the curriculum.

“Learning basic personal finance and how to start your own business is crucial in today's world,” Burr explained.

At Charleston Collegiate, teachers are not depositing information into the kids' brains, but challenging them to think on their feet and problem solve. “That's made us who we are as a school,” said Burr.

He said the school molds action-oriented students who are good people with strong morals and who are good decision makers. They learn to be not only leaders but valuable team members as well, he said.

And they all have a day-to-day job at the school using a method called the Abby System. Students are ranked by their peers, teachers and school staff to perform certain tasks. The rankings come from students initiative, dependability, fairness and leadership ability. They take on roles such as president and vice president right on down to helping with admissions, outdoor facilities and more. Seniors put together an agenda and crews report back. The students run their own meetings and manage their own workloads.

Higher-ranking students deal with personnel issues – all the while learning how to be a boss and troubleshoot. But each leader is in the trenches working with their crews, Burr explained.

Burr said that Charleston Collegiate School is not homogenous like other prep schools. Students from all over the world come to attend. The school boasts a 30-percent minority rate and an average of eight students per teacher.

Financially, the school is on solid ground, Burr said, and 80 percent of the teachers hold advanced degrees.

Their athletic teams have bragging rights too, as their basketball team won the state championship.

There is also a participation requirement for the students that “they be a part of the life of the school.”

Whether it be athletics or theater, there is something for everyone.

The 30-acre campus features vast playing fields and wooded trails, and a 14-acre nature trail with a ropes and challenge course.

The HOME program was formally established in 2012 on Johns Island on the grounds of Charleston Collegiate School. Brooke Haynie, a former employee of Outward Bound and graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School, directs the HOME program. He is assisted by other faculty members, students and parents at the school in the program.

Charleston Collegiate School (CCS) is a South Carolina independent school located on one of the state's sea islands and has an enrollment of 200 students from pre-K to 12th grade. CCS is located on 30 acres of land which possess fields, pine forests and hard-bottom swamps. The campus is home to hawks, foxes, eagles, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, snakes, owls and a plethora of other animals and plants. A 5,400-square-foot polyculture garden is located at the school and serves as an additional classroom for every student at the school.

Charleston Collegiate's HOME program offers credited outdoor education classes, field trips for all grade levels, Project Learning Tree curriculum classes, week-long winterim trips, internships for high school students, programs for corporate and nonprofit groups, certification through American Red Cross and American Canoe Association and summer camps.

The school used to be called Sea Island Academy, and while the name has changed, the focus has not. In fact, alumni of Sea Island Academy are reconnecting with the school by hosting reunions, creating a booster club and more. And the student body and faculty are a close-knit group. “You'll see hugs at graduation, not just handshakes,” Burr said. Charleston Collegiate School is a “do to learn,” rather than a “learn to do” school. That philosophy is working, said Burr. One-hundred percent of their graduates are accepted to colleges and universities.

To learn more, visit www.charlestoncollegiate.org.

For more updates from the desk of the Moultrie News editor, Sully Witte, please follow Sully's Scoop on Twitter @SullysScoop and like Sully's Scoop Facebook page.

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