Jenks to bolster ‘hands-on’ kindergarten and media learning

     Students using computers at J.S. Jenks in Chestnut Hill. (Courtesy of the Friends of Jenks)

    Students using computers at J.S. Jenks in Chestnut Hill. (Courtesy of the Friends of Jenks)

    John Story Jenks, a K-8 elementary school in Chestnut Hill, is currently fundraising to rework their physical space and create three new centers: one for kindergarten, one for library/media purposes, and one computer lab. The campaign is aptly called, “Upgrading Inspiring Educational Spaces.”

    The school’s current library/media center and computer lab is a large open space with bookcase dividers, and the two kindergarten classrooms are each self-contained.

    The plan is to swap those spaces, allowing the two kindergarten classrooms to function in the large open space that now houses the library/media center and computer lab. The library/media center would then move to one of the former kindergarten classrooms, and the computer lab would be created in the other.

    Why all the changes?

    Primarily, Principal Mary Lynskey is committed to creating more opportunity for active learning at Jenks. Haviva Goldman, president of the Friends of Jenks shared that, “Ms. Lynskey envisions kindergarten being the gateway to the elementary school, where children learn and grow in a fun, hands on, but structured environment.”

    The creation of the new kindergarten center would allow teachers to plan for team-teaching, create interest areas and centers throughout the classroom, and would extend to the outdoor space and children’s garden, located right outside the new kindergarten doors.

    The current kindergarten space makes it difficult for teachers to create active learning centers. The new space would allow teachers to enhance STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) by creating a Lego building area and a train layout for the school’s pint-sized engineers.

    It would also be home to terrariums and aquariums for budding biologists. These additions not only allow children to experience hands-on science, they allow Jenks to add more opportunities for play in the kindergarten program.

    Teachers at Jenks have already seen the benefits of larger, open classrooms. The first and second grade classes have been implementing the more open classroom/team-teaching model over the last two years. The addition of kindergarten will create a cohesive K-2 design with learning centers, team teaching, and active student experiences across all three grades.

    In addition to the benefits for kindergartners, all Jenks students will benefit from more distinct spaces for the library/media center and computer lab. Because the computer lab is a busy learning space, having it separated from the typically quieter library/media center will be a better fit for both uses.

    The ‘Upgrading Inspiring Educational Spaces Campaign’ is an Indiegogo campaign, with the goal of raising $22,000. Donations are accepted in any amount.

    The level of recognition varies based on the amount given. Donors who contribute $5 to the campaign will have their names listed on the website. $10,000 or more puts the donor’s name on one of the three new centers.

    The group hopes to raise the funds quickly and have the electricity work done at the very end of the school year, then focusing in late June on the physical move of the spaces to prepare for a renovated September opening.

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