In partnership with the Department of Conservation, the Columbia school district is developing a 10-day program where fifth graders from Boone County can get hands-on learning experience outdoors. Kids that get to participate may enjoy getting out of the classroom to learn about wildlife, conservation, and survival skills. But why limit project-based learning to a few days?
At one elementary school in Kansas, kids in kindergarten through fourth grade split time between their classrooms, a greenhouse, and a small farm right on school grounds. As a charter school, Walton Rural Life Center is able to replace traditional curriculums with a project-based program that focuses on agriculture. Students at Walton have chores and sell plants they grow and eggs from chickens they raise to supplement what they learn in the classroom.
I am thankful that my niece and nephew are able to attend Walton and I know how much the community cherishes the school, but I wonder why students in Missouri do not have access to similar opportunities. The article about the Columbia project mentions that the idea for a magnet-type nature school fizzled out because of a lack of state funding a few years ago. But using the charter school model could help solve that. A charter school, as in the case of Walton, would be eligible for additional federal funds to help defray starting costs.
With the flexibility and innovation that comes with charter schools, communities in Missouri could have customized schools that meet the needs and interest of their students instead of settling for programs that last just a few days. Whether it is project-based learning or a college-prep academy, charter schools can provide new opportunities to students in all parts of the state.