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Leadership Academy Gives Des Moines Students A Jump On ‘Rigor’ |

Leadership Academy Gives Des Moines Students A Jump On ‘Rigor’

DES MOINES, IA — Fifth-graders at Oak Park Elementary School started their post-winter-break classroom activities at Grand View University this week, where the focus was on shared goals and teamwork to tackle learning challenges. The youths were getting ready for what they will experience when they transition to Harding Middle School and, ultimately, North High School, which are district buildings immersed in the Schools for Rigor style of learning that focuses on student-centered work.

The Grand View trip and team-building activities that followed on Thursday were among the exercises for Oak Park students as part of a week-long Fifth Grade Leadership Academy created by Oak Park Principal Jill Bryson and her staff.


“We wanted to do something to prepare our fifth-graders for the collaborative learning ahead, and right after winter break made sense as a great time for a fresh start,” Bryson said in an article on the Des Moines district’s website. “We wanted to get them off by themselves to make the point that this was a special opportunity just for them.”

Their challenges required creative solutions arrived at in small groups. Whether it was how to move a seed from one side of the room to another without carrying it or removing a tablecloth from under table settings without disturbing the dinnerware, the students collaborated on ways to reach their goals, with facilitators from Community Youth Concepts to help engage the students.

Schools for Rigor is a new model for urban education in the Des Moines district. The goal is to meet the requirements of the Iowa Core Curriculum in ways that engage students in critical-thinking, analysis, deduction, creativity and the ability to work both independently and cooperatively in teams to solve complex problems. This is the second year of a phased rollout of the program.

The Schools for Rigor model eventually will be followed in all district schools. It began in the 2016-17 school year at North, Weeks Middle School, and Findley, Howe, Lovejoy and Perkins elementaries. This year, 16 additional schools are following the model — including Lincoln High School and Harding, Hiatt and Hoyt middle schools — which has included for teachers “accelerated, intensive training in strategies to transform their schools and classrooms into student-centered places of engaging and academically demanding learning,” according to the district.

Oak Park students will share with their families how they got a jump start in the Schools for Rigor model at a final event and dinner Monday night that celebrates completion of their leadership academy.

Oak Park Elementary School fifth-graders work on a group challenge to move a seed across the room via troughs without touching it. (Photo courtesy of Des Moines schools)

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