The cell phone suggested by a student likely wouldn’t work deep in the forest, said officer Teresa Gallagher, who visited three classes at Freedom Shores Elementary School in Boca Raton
The exercise, as well as animal-identification assignments and map explorations, helped the 7- and 8-year-olds imagine themselves in Florida’s forests, parks, seashores and riverbeds. The lessons are part of a multifaceted curriculum designed to show them the diversity of life close to their homes, said teacher Tracy Haynes, who wrote the syllabus with the school’s other second-grade teachers.
Ocala National Forest, John Pennekamp State Park, the St. John’s River, Cape Canaveral National Seashore: All are within a few hours’ drive of Boynton Beach, and Haynes hopes the students and their families go for a visit.
“We want to give them a sense of what Florida has to offer,” Haynes said. “We want them to be vested in what’s going on in their world.”
The lessons reinforce the new Common Core standards, adopted by Florida’s state Board of Education in 2010 but implemented for the first time in the current school year. The standards emphasize critical thinking skills, reading complex paragraphs and understanding math concepts instead of memorizing by rote. The standards set detailed expectations but don’t specify what materials to use or how to teach the core subjects.
Resistance to Common Core across the country has been enormous. Groups such as Arizonans Against Common Core and Utahns Against Common Core, as well as New York’s statewide teachers’ union and comedian Louis C.K., complain about a range of issues, including the emphasis on nonfiction reading, the complexity of math questions and a perceived national takeover of education.
Still, Freedom Shores Principal Patricia Trejo said no one has protested at her diverse school, where 28 percent of students are African-American, 30 percent are Hispanic and 34 percent are white.
“What I like about it is it’s the same across all the states,” Trejo said. “If a family moves to a different state, they will find the same curriculum and the child will be up to speed. The teachers like that, too.”