It’s always a good day for a site visit (or two!). A trip to Chicago in the spring allowed me the opportunity to squeeze in some stops at a pair of schools not too far from the Windy City!
Even better? Both visits were to the classrooms of Walking Classroom Ambassadors — one at Liberty Elementary and one at Glenbrook Elementary! Anxious to get started, I headed right from the airport to my first stop just after I landed.
Looking at Liberty Elementary
My first visit was to Liberty Elementary. Located in Bartlett, Illinois, Liberty Elementary is one of 40 (yes, that’s right, 40!) elementary schools in Elgin Area School District U-46. It is a large school, serving over 650 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, and has been led by principal Juanita Jimenez since the 2013-2014 school year.
At Liberty, I spent time with Walking Classroom Ambassador Trecia Shales and her fifth and sixth grade combination ELL/ESL class. An educator for fifteen years, Mrs. Shales has been using Program 5 since August of 2015, when she was granted her class set of Walking Classroom materials.
Checking In and Heading Out!
I arrived at Liberty Elementary a bit earlier than the scheduled visit time of 11:15 a.m. After I had signed in at the office, I was directed to Mrs. Shales’ room. I had some time to chat with the students about The Walking Classroom before we headed out on our walk. As the students had been learning about westward expansion, the podcast of the day was to be The Pony Express (5-#44, Combined-#109). We grabbed our coats and WalkKits, headed down the hall, and out the door.
Once outside in the brisk (32 degrees Fahrenheit!) air, we made our way to a track the class uses for its outdoor walks. Located on the east side of the school property, the paved track is a relatively new addition, just several years old. There, ready to listen and learn, we began our walk.
While it was rather chilly, the students were used to the temperature and remained unfazed, maintaining a steady pace for the duration of the podcast. As students finished listening, they removed their earbuds and walked and talked in pairs or small groups. After everyone had finished, we gathered to the side of the track for a quick wrap-up. Students summarized the big ideas of the podcast and responded to questions asked by Mrs. Shales.
Once we were back inside, a student helped pass out the gifts I’d brought for the class. Then we got in a few group photos before I had to leave for my next destination.
Going to Glenbrook Elementary
Just ten minutes northeast of Liberty Elementary (and thank goodness for that, as I had a tight schedule!), Glenbrook Elementary is located in a neighborhood in Streamwood, Illinois. Another of the elementary schools in Elgin Area School District U-46, Glenbrook Elementary serves over 540 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. The school has been led by Principal Cheryl DeRoo since the 2007-2008 school year.
At Glenbrook, I visited Walking Classroom Ambassador Ellen Smith and her class of fourth grade gifted students. An educator for over ten years, Mrs. Smith is in her second year using The Walking Classroom. She has been implementing the program since January of 2017, when she was granted a class set of Program 4 materials.
Listening and Learning (and, of course, Walking!)
As the students were at lunch when I arrived, I had a few minutes to check out the classroom and to chat with Mrs. Smith. She let me know that the class had recently embarked on a study of poetry, so the podcast for the day would be Langston Hughes (4-#16, Combined-#34).
When the students returned, we had time for brief introductions. After that, we grabbed our WalkKits and our jackets, and bundled up for what would be an envigorating walk. We exited through a side door and began.
Our brisk stroll took us around the outside of the school, down a hill on one side and up on another. This change in terrain added a bit of a challenge for me, but not for the students, who were more than used to it!
Following the walk, we remained outside for a podcast recap. The students summarized the information they had heard and made some connections between what they had heard on the podcast and prior learning. While outside, we managed to get in some group photos too.
Then we headed back indoors, where Mrs. Smith read aloud one of the poems mentioned in the podcast. After some additional discussion about Langston Hughes, I answered the students’ questions about The Walking Classroom, Mrs. Fenn, and more!
. . . and Time to Hit the Trail!
Our conversation eventually drew to a close, and it was time for me to leave. I thanked Mrs. Smith and her students, and found my way back to the office where I signed out. Then I got on the road for the drive to my hotel.
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