21st century learning to be found at Sullivan's Island Elementary School

  • Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The view from the back learning roof at Sullivan's Island Elementary. Students will grow and care for plants, fruits and vegetables here.

Photos

School started Monday, and while last week the construction crews were dashing around putting the finishing touches on the new Sullivan's Island Elementary School (SIES), Principal Susan King was not concerned.

She and her faculty and staff proudly flung the doors open to students and parents anticipating a glimpse of the facility nestled along the shores of Sullivan's Island.

This new schoolhouse is like no other in Charleston County.

While in preparations for renovation, an earthquake readiness evaluation was performed, which found that SIES (and multiple other district schools) failed to meet current code regulations. As part of the Charleston County School District's 2011-2016 Building Program, the 500-student school was rebuilt and will operate as a partial magnet.

The local coastal environment is the theme throughout the entire school as well as part of the magnet learning experience.

Four ecosystems are celebrated throughout the school including the salt marsh, the maritime forest, the beach and the ocean.

Natural light shines through the hundreds of large windows in each classroom and hallway with many areas overlooking the ocean vista. And these aren't your typical rectangular window, many classrooms boast portholes. For SIES, it's about bringing nature inside when the students can't be outside.

In addition, King said the idea behind windows not just facing out of the building but into the halls as well is to promote “whole-school learning” and interaction, rather than just individual classroom learning.

The chosen color palette for the interior reflects blues and greens and sand colors to coordinate with the theme as well.

At then end of each naturally lit hallway are flex spaces for learning, which according to Principal King, is a shift in teaching being seen nationwide.

Balconies line the exterior of the school which can also be used for instruction.

Two learning balconies, with views you can't find anywhere else, will feature electricity and water.

Officials worked with Green Rooftop Outfitters to construct grow containers in which every grade level will play a role in planting and caring for everything from fruits and vegetables to various salt and marsh grasses.

There's a wellness thread throughout the school as well. Special seating to promote learning for grades K-2 is being implemented, much like using an exercise ball as a chair.

A new organic menu has been designed as part of the farm-to-school effort to bring fresh fruits, vegetables and soups to the menu. Kids will enjoy a salad bar, much like upper school students do in their multi-purpose cafeteria/performing arts center/indoor physical education room. Outdoor seating will be made available on the back deck as well.

There are state-of-the-art music and art labs as well as marine science labs.

One of the first things classroom visitors see as they enter the school is the wet lab where a 100-gallon touch tank is featured, among three other tanks of fresh, salt and brackish marine life. Many of the inhabitants of the tank will be caught in the seine by the students of SIES.

The tanks are portable and will be moved to various classrooms each week for purposes of learning not just marine science, but math, journaling and more.

They were donated to the school through a fundraising effort by parents and the community to the tune of $33,000.

The raised building features outdoor class settings on the ground floor for debriefing after a session on the beach and as a space for shaded recreation activities.

The building bustled not only with incoming students, but with excitement from the students about a new learning environment like they've never seen before.

See photos online at www.moultrienews.com/photos.

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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