BOULDER – There are lots of innovative and exciting projects underway at Boulder Elementary School this year, but one of the most exciting is what is staying the same. This is Elizabeth Julian’s fourth year as Lead Teacher and Administrator, and there are returning paraprofessionals (assistant teachers) for the first time in years. Elizabeth’s team includes Molly Benson, Lexi Johnson, and Michala Alldredge, all of whom worked at the school last year.
This continuity in leadership has allowed for the development of a strong curriculum that meets students where they are while encouraging growth. Elizabeth and the other teachers have been using both formal and informal assessments to drive instruction as well as Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Elizabeth is excited about the multiage learning approach that the school has adopted. As Elizabeth noted, “Boulder’s small size allows for the unique ability to teach students in a multiage learning environment, meaning students of different ages learn together in one class, not separated by grade level.” Meeting students at their current learning level helps to support growth, filling in any gaps while providing appropriate challenges.
The students aren’t the only ones learning. In July, Molly, Michala, and Elizabeth all traveled to Las Vegas for the weeklong National Teachers’ Conference organized by the Professional Development for Educators. In addition, Elizabeth is continuing her professional development by enrolling in an online Mathematics for Educators course through Stanford’s Graduate School of Education this fall.
For the first time, BES will be providing a fulltime preschool program this year! The program, running four afternoons per week, is open to all children in the community who are 3, 4, or 5 years old. BES will provide preschoolers with an exploratory-based curriculum, as well as kindergarten readiness, which allows children to engage in interdisciplinary learning, weaving together mathematics, science, literacy, and social-emotional learning.
The school was able to work with Betsy Sunderland, Speech Language Pathologist Early Childhood coordinator for the Utah State Office of Education, in acquiring funding through a grant for both Kaplan Early Learning Connect 4 Learning, preschool curriculum, and The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Project Utah Reaching Potentials Through Recommended Practices, ongoing professional development training and a mentor teacher for Michala, preschool para.
The curriculum, mentor teacher, and grants were initiated and made possible due to the efforts of Heather Weiler, Garfield County School District’s Speech Language Pathologist and Vonnie Parkin, Panguitch Elementary’s Preschool Teacher, and supported by Chirs Kupfer, Garfield Country School District’s Special Education Director.
One of the school’s goals for this year is to provide even more opportunities for community involvement and connection. One way the community can get involved is through the monthly Community Prompts. Each month there will be a prompt to interpret through any creative medium: writing, drawing, painting, writing a song, photography, creating a short movie or slide show, or anything creative! On the second Friday of each month, from 10:15-11:30, the students and the community members will have an opportunity to come together to share their interpretations at the school. Those who do not share publicly still have the option to submit their piece to be included in a collection that will be published.
This creative endeavor will be an excellent way for adults and families who homeschool to engage creatively with the school and the larger community and for everyone to be awed by the talent in our community. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to present their work to an audience larger than their peer group.
The dates and prompts for the academic year are as follows:
October 13 – Something with Two Heads
November 10 – A Pattern
December 8 – Light
January 12 – Something with Wings
February 9 – Under the Bed
March 9 – Object on your Desk
April 13 – Trash
May 11 – Animal Hybrid
Another opportunity that the school is planning to provide for the community is continuing Adult Education courses and workshops. Some classes in the works include: American History, Arctic studies, financing, photography, computer skills, and first aid/CPR. Elizabeth described these courses as “a way to demonstrate learning as a lifelong opportunity and to provide a variety of experiences to our community.” These courses will support the mission of Garfield County School District, “Igniting Hearts and Minds to Empower and Motivate Lifelong Learners.”
For the past two years, each semester has included a weeklong arts intensive. Last May, the Utah Children’s Theater in SLC brought five actors for a week of Theatre. They hosted workshops for both children and adults that ended in a performance. Additionally, the actors performed two of their current shows for the community. Escalante Elementary School’s Kindergarten through Second Graders traveled over to watch Aesop’s Fables.
Earlier in the year, a musician from SUU visited BES with a collection of instruments, culminating in a concert by the students. The year previous, SUU’s PLAY Group also put on a weeklong theatrical intensive in conjunction with the Cedar City Shakespeare Festival. These dynamic intensives will continue this year, provided through a grant from the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program.
Elizabeth is currently working on a grant with others in the school district and community organizations, including Boulder Community Alliance, through Utah’s STEM Action Center to add weeklong Technology, Engineering, and Math intensives this year in Boulder. Possible topics include coding, robotics, and animation. Elizabeth explained, “These week-long intensives allow students to work hands-on in various fields and gain exposure to a variety of high-quality professionals.” The grant could also support the high school to provide additional course options in these areas and possibly provide coding camps in the summer months.
Elizabeth would like to thank Mary Jane and Vard Coombs, who recently retired as the school’s custodian and groundskeeper, for their dedication to and support of the school over the years.
For more information on what is happening at BES, visit http://bes.garfk12.org/. You’ll find staff biographies, curriculum information, and up-to-date calendar events. You can also subscribe to the school’s digital bulletin for updates and insights.
by Caitlin Gorman