The mood was festive at Jackson Intermediate as Dr. Lorraine Reich greeted me along with members of the Jackson Intermediate PTA and Local School Council.
A school with an enrollment of approximately 850 students, school leaders have done a great job of making the school feel small and intimate. One of the first things I noticed as I walked the halls is a photo of famed primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall. She visited the school in 2010 as part of her Roots & Shoots program. Jackson’s chapter of this national program began in 2006 at the urging of parents whose children wanted to do more for the environment. The school’s ecological theme continued with colorful turtles on the library windows.
A few steps away the mood turned mythological and I found myself inside of a fictional castle, complete with a dragon! It was the school’s beautifully decorated media center – a perfect place to let students’ imaginations wander and develop. The castle “wall” wraps around the room along with a friendly looking dragon protecting all of the school’s books. This was the perfect place for my first photo with my new pal, Backpack Bear from the Jackson primary campus! Take a look at our photo below! Media Specialist Kelly Maguire showed me how she completed the decor with a cozy reading nook in the center of the room. I only wish I had the time to lounge there!
The school was built in 1966 and its unique (actually it’s really weird in the only-the-60s-can-design-it weird way) floor plan allows for grade levels to be clustered in a “suite” that opens up a central space where students can also gather. While I was there, I stopped in to see teacher Stephanie Shumacher who had created a hands-on learning experience outside one classroom. Students kneeled on the floor around a long strip of blue construction paper that represented a river near land students had “inherited”. They then had to account for any pollution that their land use created by tossing toothpicks into the river. What a great hands-on eco-conscious project.
There is an extremely active parent community at Jackson. I saw parents in many of the classrooms volunteering. An old book room now functions as a sensory room that parents painted and carpeted. I even stumbled on a school tour and introduced myself to prospective parents who had gathered in Mr. White’s music room. He’s been a teacher 15 years and has spent five at Jackson. His enthusiasm for learning is obvious and I’m sure the parents could see it too.
After the tour I had a chance to meet with the school’s principal, Local School Council and PTA members where I listened to their thoughts about the school and the future of the district. We also chatted about how the school can continue to support the vision and goals of the district as a whole and possibly serve as a mentor to other school parent groups. I enjoyed being able to have such an open conversation with everyone around the table, and I’m happy the school’s leaders built in time to talk about their hopes and desires for Jackson and APS.