Selected readings on US charter schools
Chula Vista school marks its first six months with projects that highlight its approach
CHULA VISTA — Stephen W. Hawking Math and Science Charter School celebrated its six-month anniversary recently by hosting a demonstration of how its elementary school students pick up STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. The grade-appropriate activities ranged from making geometric shapes with toothpicks and mini marshmallows to building a space shuttle … out of cardboard.
“It’s a much freer, creative environment,” said Carmen Diaz, the school’s executive director. “It’s more project based, more student centered, less teacher centered.”
Housed in an old Boys & Girls Club at 465 L St., the Hawking charter school is designed to serve students age 4½ through college. It opened last July with seven teachers and 150 prekindergarten through third grade students.
Nine-year-old Joaquin Angulo loves all the science-based projects it offers. Constructing a space shuttle with two classmates during the demonstration, he said he wanted to be an astronaut when he grows up.
“I built a space ship like this at home,” he said as he tucked a loose flap into a slot on the cardboard craft. “I want to go to the moon to get rocks and study them, and then I want to sell them.”
Iman Yusef, 9, is more partial to the art instruction she gets and likes to read inside the maze students built out of plastic milk jugs. Happily for her, Hawking Charter blends both of her loves.
In class, Iman is currently reading “Freckle Juice” by Judy Blume. Instead of a book report, she collaborated with classmates on a project that married art with English.
“We had to make clay figures to show a scene in the book,” Iman said. “It was really cool.”
Daniel Lim, 9, was asked to make a robot to illustrate what he’s learned in science. So inspired, he made 11 “H-bots” of cereal, butter and large boxes, favoring one that was taller than himself.
“I like it because it’s big,” Daniel said. “I want them to be like humans.”
To get it up and running, Stephen W. Hawking Math and Science Charter School borrowed $468,459 from the Sweetwater Union High School District, although it is not part of the district. The charter school will reimburse the district over the next two years, as well as pay for some additional services, such as rent and administrative overhead.
The school will add one grade level each school year, starting with expanding to the fourth grade in the 2013-2014 school year. It will also work on establishing partnerships with universities so all students graduate from college.
For its avant-garde approach, Hawking Charter’s mettle is tested exactly the same as more traditional public elementary schools in the state. At the end of this school year, it will receive its first API (Academic Performance Index) score.
“I’m not worried about that,” Diaz said.
Source: Union-Tribune San Diego – by Caroline Dipping