School Spotlight: Basswood Elementary
Students at Basswood Elementary in Maple Grove can take a tour of Washington, D.C., without ever leaving their hometown. The day CCX News visited, the Lincoln Memorial was the focus with students using special goggles that gave a 360-degree view.

In the library, it's not unusual to find young students learning to code on a computer.

"It teaches them how to problem solve," said Leslie Skarpol, the school's library media specialist. "It teaches them that logical thinking process, and grit, which is what we want to see our student do -- persevere through problems."

Basswood isn't branded as a science and technology school, but here they blend technology with learning whenever possible.

"We're trying to prepare them for jobs that don't exist," said Basswood Principal Patrick Smith. "You know they're 5 years old now, and in 15, 20 years they're going to be getting jobs that may not be here right now."

Smith says technology helps improve critical thinking. But getting the money for technology upgrades creates a challenge. The goggles came through donations from parents, and the computer coding funding came from the PTO.

"We're utilizing as many grants as we can find, parent partnerships, business partnerships to bring in a variety of different programming that can support our kids as early as age 4, all the way up to our fifth graders," said Smith.

Rewards for good behavior even come through technology. Teachers scan a student's name tag to give out reward points that can be redeemed for fun things, like sitting in the principal's comfortable chair in class. Students can track their points online.

"We have seen a huge motivation this year for students to want to accumulate those points," said instructional assistant Deb Amelse. "Therefore we're seeing more positive behavior from students able to meet those expectations."

A seating change in a kindergarten class may help kids get down to work faster. They call it flexible seating, which means kids can choose to sit on a large ball, a wobble stool, a bean bag or even the floor.

"Before, they would get there and would roam about," said kindergarten teacher Breanna Blad. "Now they literally get there and get to their spot and get working. And I don't know if its that ownership piece and being able to choose that really has them focusing on their learning, but as a teacher I love it."

There's an emphasis here on student leadership and service. Basswood ambassadors give tours to new families and serve as greeters at special events. There's also the "Basswood Gives Back" team that works on service projects.

Principal Smith says these kind of projects do more than just collect food.
"It builds confidence, it works on collaborating with other students to work towards worthy causes. Puts that mentality in their head that says, 'We're here to help. We can make a change. We can make a difference in the world."'

Mike Johnson, reporting

January 2, 2018


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