The Howard Gardner School Opens New Classroom Building
The school held an open house Tuesday to display the facility.
Months of delays have come to an end. Two weeks ago, the new building at The Howard Gardner School officially opened for business. For director Katherine Keith, this is a culmination of a dream.
"It shows how flexible our parents – and teachers are," said Keith, as she addressed a group of educators this week.
Shelley Witiak, who teaches math and art electives, plans to put a lot of artwork on her class walls. She is looking forward to looking out the window at the wildflowers in the spring, she said.
"We have field studies every Tuesday," said Keith. "This adds a whole other dimension and makes things come alive."
One week they might take water samples for the environmental class or visit a battlefield to learn about history.
Chad Thomas teaches concurrent physics and psychology at the school and said that he was surprised when students came from other schools that were used to memorizing information.
Keith said that instead of memorizing, the students experience the lesson. They have no SOL's and most of the tests are open notes. Students with special needs can have additional time to complete test.
While The Howard Gardner School is not a special education school, it is inclusive. As such, they are able to address issues with anxiety, ADHD and some level of learning disabilities (LD).
Emily Pavot, learning specialist and mentor teacher, is a co-founder of the school. She said, "It's amazing the progress we've made with LD kids. They come in here 4-5 years behind, but once they lose the stigma, they are able to move forward."
One of the guests inquired about homework, and Keith said, "We do have homework, but it is a much reduced homework load. Instead of giving 25 math problems, we give 5 to 7 problems. Students work on projects and papers in small chunks."
As is typical with this progressive school, students were part of the design and decision processes for the new building. Several of them addressed the group, talking about their weekly internships, which is a mainstay of The Howard Gardner School.
Stacey Gaffney is a senior who has done her internship at local schools – two years with a preschool and this year with a middle school. She has been given liberty to teach classes and plan lessons. She hopes to attend James Madison University next year.
"I love working with children," she said.
Sam Gordon has been doing his internship at a local skate shop, and said, "I told them that they should tone down the colors in their graphics [on their clothing] and I think it helped."
He has modeled the clothes, helped sell it in Richmond, VA, and taken photos of the merchandise. Keith said he got an "amazing letter of recommendation" from the owner for his college application. Gordon plans to major in business administration or entrepreneurship.