School Spotlight: Oxbow Creek Elementary
At Oxbow Creek Elementary, the classroom is where students learn the building blocks of education.
During story time, students get a lesson on reading comprehension, and when they’re not breaking down the art of storytelling, they’re completing assignments on iPads.
All in all, Oxbow Creek is a place where students can become ‘wild about learning.’
“We, every year, have over 50-60 families that do an open enrollment request to try to come to Oxbow because it’s got such a great reputation in the community,” said Rolf Carlsen, Oxbow Creek Principal.
Carlsen has been principal at Oxbow Creek since 2002, and even though this school has nearly 1,200 students in grades kindergarten through fifth, Carlsen says it not only has a small-school feel, but it’s a place where children can thrive.
“We have a mission statement that basically is really simple: to educate kids to proficiency and beyond,” Carlsen said. “And we take that ‘beyond’ very seriously, because for a lot of kids, just getting to that level of proficiency isn’t enough of a challenge, so we really take our talent and development seriously.”
Creativity on Display
Yet certain talents aren’t always on full display is a classroom setting. That’s why for the past 18 years, Oxbow Creek has put together an Arts & Academic Expo.
“The expo is all about students creating a project of some sort, whether it’s a drawing or a painting or a LEGO project, creating a project that’s just all about individuals showing their creativity,” said Amy Smith, the expo coordinator.
The expo is a parent-run event where students have the chance to show off their creativity and imagination in one of 14 categories associated with academics, live performances, or visual arts.
“At this grade level, they’re trying to find what their passions really are,” Smith said.
The only criteria for the Arts & Academic Expo is that the students work on the project outside of school, with limited parent involvement.
“It allows the kids to express themselves in ways that they otherwise don’t get to,” Carlsen said. “Some of the artists that we never would have known that they’re an artist — they’re playing piano, they’re singing a song, they’re performing gymnastics. We even had a kindergartner who’s a stand-up comedian. I’ll never forget that, it was just hilarious.”
It’s an environment that allows student to not only find and foster their passion, but become academically prepared for the rigors of middle and high school.
Staff Stability at Oxbow Creek
Carlsen says the staff stability at Oxbow Creek is a big part of why students develop those skills.
“They get to know the teachers. The teachers get to know the kids,” Carlsen said. “Because we all know it’s about relationships, and when that can start with the teacher and student connection, that is so valuable to their academic progress.”
The students who take part in the Arts & Academic Expo have their work critiqued by a group of judges, which include police officers, local business leaders and politicians.