The decade of the 80s was a transitional time for C.E. Mason’s campus. District programs filled the building, young scholars visited campus for special programs and child care was established for teenage students with babies of their own.
One of those elementary aged students, G., who spent every Thursday at C.E. Mason is now an innovator for our district, a teacher on special assignment and happy collaborator on our BSD Future Bus. G. remembered getting on a yellow school bus at Cedar Mill Elementary and driving to C.E. Mason for “enrichment” and active learning.
At C.E. Mason, he and students from other elementary schools dissected cow eyes, made stop motion animation, and once simulated a medieval city. Taking one day a week, 20% of his 4th, 5th, and 6th grade years, to come to this little school where he was challenged, inspired, and encouraged was life changing for for G. and the students from across the district given the opportunity.
As a participant, he remembered, it was “awesome” to do the extremely hands on activities; as a social practice, he reflected, “not so much.”
The 1980s were a time of tracking in education, and G. recalled that while a handful of students from each class were allowed the bus ride to C.E. Mason for challenging curriculum and creative thinking, those who remained in their elementary classrooms were offered instead an extra chocolate milk at lunch.
The world of education has changed greatly since then. Heterogeneously grouped classes, hands on activities integrated throughout the curriculum, and innovators like G. hired to work with teachers to bring creativity, making, and doing into classrooms, show that while once certain kids were put on a bus to go to innovation, now that innovation comes to all kids …sometimes on a brightly painted bus.
At C.E. Mason in the mid 1980s, however, it was cadres of curious, hand picked pupils who studied mental abstraction and spatial reasoning, learned science by doing, and history through creative simulations. Technology loomed large for those students, albeit on floppy disks, and creativity using that technology was expected and encouraged.
For any who believe that education has slipped in the past thirty years, I’d suggest that many of those same approaches and activities that worked for the chosen few students can be seen on campus today …for every student. That, I’d argue, is progress.