School Spotlight: Plymouth Creek Elementary School
The time a person spends as a student can last more than a dozen years, and for many, their academic journey begins in kindergarten.
“There’s something special about five-year-olds,” said Ashley Paul, a kindergarten teacher at Plymouth Creek Elementary School. “Everything is magical. Everything is exciting. Everything I tell them they eat up.”
Paul is one of the teachers in charge of molding the young minds at Plymouth Creek. If you spend a few minutes in her class, it doesn’t take long to notice that there’s no shortage of enthusiasm.
Paul calls Plymouth Creek a unique place.
“Our school has so many different cultures,” Paul said. “So many different languages. You’ll notice in the hallways, all of these flags are representative of our student body and where families are coming to us from.”
Plymouth Creek not only embraces its diversity, the teachers use it as a teaching tool.
Every spring, Paul teaches her class a unit on heritage, culture and race. To get that message across, she uses a series of books with titles such as ‘I’m Not from Here’ and ‘Separate is Never Equal.’
“There’s lots of studies that show kids as early as three and four are starting to notice differences in other people. They also make opinions that stick with them long term,” Paul said. “The earlier we talk about some of these things, the better off, hopefully, some of our students are later on in life.”
It’s a topic that’s not just relegated to kindergarten. Each of the grade levels at Plymouth Creek use the same collection of books to have conversations on diversity.
“I think it helps prepare kids for the world once they leave school,” Paul said. “You know, the climate now especially, I think it’s really important to equip kids early on to have these conversations.”
Yet while diversity is certainly an important topic, make no mistake that Plymouth Creek is a normal elementary school filled with more than 700 gym-class-loving students.
“I have the best job in the world,” said Craig Hawkinson, Plymouth Creek’s physical education teacher. “And for a school focused on diversity, he uses a diverse method to teach kids new games.”
“I use Google Slides for almost everything that I do,” Hawkinson said. “I take a lesson, I put it into Google Slides. We have warm-up in there. We have a pregame. We have a real game. Sometimes two real games, and we just switch the slides and the kids are learning based off of the slide.”
During a game of kickball one morning, videos that show how to play the game were projected onto the gym wall. That way, students could take a glance at the videos during class if they need a refresher course on the rules.
“It also really helps students who struggle with English as their primary language,” Hawkinson said. “They will just see a visual of the game happening, which sometimes is a lot easier than understanding me or Miss Martin describing the game.”
Whether it’s understanding a game, or comprehending the world at large, the teachers at Plymouth Creek say that when students graduate, they come away with more than the basics of education.
“You learn a lot of skills,” Paul said. “And ‘you’re gonna need this when you grow up’ kind of information, but I also hope that they felt like they left a place where they felt like they belonged and they felt safe.”