Some Cabell County students took part in their first full day of classes Monday at the Explorer Academy.
It’s the first Expeditionary Learning School in the state of West Virginia. It’s an undertaking of the Cabell County School Board. Peyton Elementary and Geneva Kent Elementary were closed and consolidated to form the academy.
The students will eventually attend classes at the former Beverly Hills Middle School, which is being renovated. The building was left after the consolidation of middle schools in the area just a year earlier. But until the building is ready around spring break, classes are underway at Geneva Kent. As for now, the increased number of students has forced the county to add modular buildings behind the school.
As part of the expeditionary learning environment students will become part of a crew working together on an assignment, each taking their own responsibilities with hands-on experiences. The hope is to promote more engagement and less time sitting behind a desk listening to lectures.
The new Explorer Academy opened Thursday, but had two days of staggered classes, meaning only half the students went each day. Monday marked the first day of full student attendance.
The name Explorer Academy is appropriate, since assignments from kindergarten through 5th grade will involve exploration and hands-on experiences.
It’s a learning environment that principal Ryan McKenzie says will set the school apart.
Our kids will be in the field a lot more, expeditionary learning calls it field work, and there is a real emphasis on how it’s tied to the curriculum back in the classroom. The kids may go to the same spot more than once say if we’re doing a water quality analysis the kids may be there two or three times, so it’s a little different approach to the way we do curriculum.
McKenzie says it’s the same material, content standards and tests, they’re just teaching the material to the students in a new way. He says it’s that novelty that will make a difference. McKenzie says the county has been told that they can expect to see a bump in test scores as a result of the new learning environments. About 500 students are attending the Explorer Academy.