There were plenty of topics to choose from for Red Hawk Ridge Elementary students taking part in the Peak Academies program during a warm fall afternoon earlier this month.
One classroom hosted a “Master Chef Mini” cooking class, a session that saw students from different grade levels coming together to learn simple, straightforward and healthy recipes. Down the hall, they gathered in pairs to puzzle over LEGO building blocks and finalize their own unique designs. In the “Ductivities” sessions, kids found a wealth of innovative uses for duct tape; they used the household staple to fashion handbags, complementary ribbons and bows and other colorful creations.
All of the students who gathered in classrooms at the Red Hawk Ridge campus in Aurora on Sept. 25 were focused and intent on their work.
"The kids are doing the inquiring and the investigating … They know they’re going to have something to present at the end that they’re excited about."
-- Yvette Wrona, Red Hawk Ridge ELA teacher and Peak Academies instructor
A lot of that had to do with their personal investment in the subject at hand.
The more than 300 students who took part in the school’s Peak Academies session had signed up for their specialized session. These students were in these classes because they wanted to be there; they’d specifically chosen these courses rooted in a hands-on, inquiry-based approach to learning. Thanks to a Cherry Creek Schools Foundation grant of $950 delivered last year, these students were able to take part in the program at no cost starting last October.
The funds gave hundreds of Red Hawk Ridge students access to a program rooted in individual initiative and passion. That element of choice made all the difference, according to Red Hawk Ridge staff involved with the program.
“I feel like I’m on stage less. The kids are doing the inquiring and the investigating … They know they’re going to have something to present at the end that they’re excited about,” said Yvette Wrona, an ELA teacher at Red Hawk Ridge who also teaches Peak Academies sessions. “The hope is that they’ll take the excitement and passion for learning and start applying it to the rest of their day.”
Since the Peak Academies program started nearly a year ago, hundreds of students have been able to choose between classes that incorporate elements of art, science, technology, engineering, math and everything in between. The class list includes wilderness games, music activities, cooking classes and engineering-based curriculum via Hot Wheels and LEGO blocks. Hundreds of first- through sixth-graders took part in the six-week long series last year, and more are signed up to do the same for the 2014-15 school year.
Red Hawk Ridge staff were able to set aside enough money from the original grant of nearly $1,000 to extend the program into the 2014-15 year.
According to Wrona, the impact of those six sessions was impossible to miss.
“At the end of the day, standing out by the buses, you’ll see them carrying projects and they’re just bubbling,” she said. “During writing time, when kids say, ‘I don’t have anything to write about,’ now they have Peak Academies. It’s easy to go back to that and go back to those experiences.”
Posted Sept. 30, 2014