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Guest Column: Little Shasta Primary School - Agricultural Magnet School

Many people may think, "what makes a magnet school than any normal school? "First of all, let me begin to give an overview of our programs:
Our primary objective is to improve student achievement using science as a vehicle. We also hope to be recognized as a school of distinction in the area of agriculture and environmental sciences. The supporting research behind the benefits of a magnet school cannot be overstated. Closing the achievement gap using the environment as an Integrating Context for Learning (EIC) is the primary goal. We have spent time looking at studies that have examined 40 different schools that have adopted programs using EIC and all share these fundamental educational strategies:
Strategy One is for teachers to break down traditional boundaries between disciplines. This means that instead of teaching math, reading, writing, etc. in isolation and independent of one another, teachers blend the different disciplines across the curriculum. For example, one lesson on the honeybee could include reading, a math problem and then a culminating writing assignment.
Strategy Two is to provide hands-on learning experiences, often through problem solving and project-based activities. Everyone has heard a lot about the new adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the way teachers are adapting their teaching to be more student-driven, in-depth learning and in this way, a science magnet school is the perfect fit with the Common Core.
Strategy Three encourages teachers to rely on team teaching. Common Core teaching should not be done in isolation but rather done using collaboration across all grade levels. At Little Shasta, our school is K-6 and many of our lessons are taught school-wide but modified for each grade level.
Strategy Four requires teachers to adapt to individual students and their unique skills and abilities. Students are given the opportunity to have control of their own learning by choosing projects of most interest to them and their particular strengths and learning styles. Children learn differently and at different rates and this program empowers all students.
Strategy Five encourages all students to develop knowledge, understanding and appreciation for the environment, community and natural surroundings. One of Little Shasta’s biggest strengths is our natural environment right outside our doors. By getting our kids out of the classroom more and out into the fresh air, this provides more enjoyment in the discovery of learning.
The idea behind a magnet school is not just a fly-by-night idea. Some of the research findings behind the success of magnet schools are pretty extensive and as follows. Research has shown better performance by students on standardized measures of academic achievement in reading, writing, math, science and social studies.
Research has also shown students show increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning. As a result of happy kids, teachers working in magnet schools also reported reduced discipline and classroom management problems. And finally, as a natural by-product of better test scores, happy, engaged kids and fewer behavior issues in the classroom, students are showing greater pride and ownership in their

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