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Chestnut Mountain school puts students tech skills to use
Kids explain lessons through online journals
First-grader Tanner Conn prepares his blog about a historical figure during class.

Coming soon

Hall County has three new charter schools this year. Each Tuesday, we’ll introduce you to one of them.

Children today are more technologically savvy than ever and at least one school in Hall County is taking full advantage of that fact.

“Our focus is on inquiry-based instruction — create and creativity and 21st-century learning skills,” Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry principal Sabrina May said. “What is different about the model we use is we have students doing a lot of research and they’re using Web 2.0 tools, which are interactive websites, to create presentations on what they’ve learned in class.”

Rather than demonstrating their knowledge strictly through written reports, students can create a collage on the computer, write a play, a story or a song or blog about a lesson to explain what they’ve learned.

Several classes are using blogs, which are online journals, to replace the standard class notebook assignment.

Instead of collecting a notebook from each student, teachers are able to log on to a website and read students’ blogs. Students can also read their classmates’ blog entries and share their own ideas with one another.

The school’s focus is part of its status as one of three new charter schools in Hall County, but the learning model isn’t exactly new.

The school piloted the program for two years before the charter was accepted by the state in April.

The model was developed and implemented by the teachers and taught in certain grades each year.

May said the pilot program allowed teachers, students and parents to see how well the program works. She said the students are scoring higher and exceeding expectations on their Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

“I think the most exciting thing that I’ve seen is the teachers are excited about teaching and students are excited about learning because they have a lot of choice in the model,” May said.

The students are still being taught using Georgia Performance Standards and Common Core Standards, but they’re able to choose how they demonstrate what they learn.

Ashley Hayes, part-time instructional coach and part-time gifted teacher, said by giving the students choices they’re asking more questions and seeking out their own answers.

“Children are naturally inquisitive and they want to know they can ask a lot of questions,” Hayes said.

Hayes said that even the teachers are excited about increasing their own skills to better help students.

“I think the teachers are starting to see the benefit of teaching this way instead of the old stand-and-deliver model. We’re seeing that we can release control and trust in the students to learn,” Hayes said.

Hayes said the students aren’t afraid to ask questions and they’re learning to problem-solve and find answers.

The charter and pilot program have also given parents more opportunity to get involved.

“It has given us a focus and a direction to move and it has given us common goals,” May said.

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