Greene Co. Classroom Transformations Take Students on Adventures

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email
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August 19, 2013

Teachers have been hard at work this summer at Ruckersville Elementary School in Greene County to transform some classrooms.

When kids return on Wednesday, they will head on a trip without even leaving the school.

"It's about creating a magical learning environment where the kids can be inspired," said third-grade teacher Mara Zornes.

Every teacher at Ruckersville Elementary developed a theme for his or her classroom. The themes promote innovative instructional strategies with an engaging atmosphere to keep kids' imaginations going strong.

Third-grade teacher Nick Tchurekow used his childhood fascination with superheroes as the inspiration for his classroom.

"I've got the speech bubbles in here that give the kids an opportunity to interact with the superheroes on the wall, maybe create their own story using the different sorts of superheroes," he said.

Special education teacher Krystin Cooper had a similar idea for her redesign, which she calls a gift to her kids. She calls the classroom the "Ruckersville Rhapsody."

"What this theme is all about is making my students feel like rock stars," Cooper said. "This is a time for them to really shine and for each of them to step out of their comfort zones and step into the limelight and be a rock star."

Many of the teachers tailored their own interests for their kids. Third-grade teacher Mara Zornes wants to take her kids to outer space with a Star Wars theme. Her classroom motto, in the words of Yoda, is "Truly wonderful the mind of a child is."

"That is just to remind my students they can do great things just by putting their mind to something," Zornes said.

Another idea behind the classroom transformation is to encourage students in the classroom, to make them want to attend school.

"I want them to come in and say, 'This is a cool place, I want to be here, I want to explore,'" third-grade teacher Debbie Day said.

Day, who teaches social studies and science, transformed her classroom into a jungle.

"I think nowadays you really need to grab the students right from the start and get them interested," she said. "I'm hoping that the painting on the walls, the extra little things, will make them want to get up every morning, will make them want to ask questions about science."

And fifth-grade teacher Lyndsay Ealey was inspired by a trip with her daughter to Cirque du Soleil. Her classroom redesign is inspired by a circus.

"I wanted a classroom that was center-based where the kids didn't have individual desks, so that's where the round tables come from," Ealey said. "So everything kind of reflects the idea of being rings and the kids working in cooperative groups."

The themes combine academics with an engaging atmosphere to take kids beyond the classroom without having to leave it. Many parents are also jumping on board with the new take on education.

"You look around these classrooms and you can see how much energy and enthusiasm that the teachers and the staff brings, and that just means the world to the kids," parent Angie Sims said.

Ruckersville Elementary had an open house on Monday to show off the new rooms. The kids will get the full experience on Wednesday, when Greene County students return to school.

"The goal of having the themed classroom is to make a room that the kids get up in the morning and they want to come to," Ealey said. "Once you're in an atmosphere like this to learn, you keep wanting to come back for more. I'm hoping that is something they'll take with them the rest of their lives."

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