Education column: School entering new year with big project

We’re about to begin a new year and somehow the prospect of a clean slate, a new beginning, fills us with hope and anticipation.

One of our own new beginnings in the Clovis school district is the completion of a new addition at La Casita Elementary. A new beginning for our La Casita staff and students, they recently moved into the brand new section that was completed just before the holidays. Although the construction was much-needed and welcomed by La Casita staff, this elementary school has nevertheless been somewhat turned upside down for awhile now, as staff and students have had to function, inside and outside, while the construction was going on since last February.

The beautiful new addition is ready however, and the move was made into the new addition not long before the holiday break. The older wing has now been sealed off, and the next phase of remodeling and further construction can begin.

Dropping by to take a peek at the brand new addition right before the Christmas holiday, I was welcomed by enthusiastic staff members, eager to provide a tour of their new facility. Although during the mini-tour, staff members recounted the hardship and some of the inconveniences they’d had to undergo, there was no negativity attached, but rather stories were relayed in the spirit of utter gratefulness as they excitedly showed off the classrooms and features of beautiful, new addition.

As the tour culminated in the gorgeous new multi-purpose room/gym, we came upon teachers who were setting up and assembling some very interesting and elaborate displays. Wondering what could possibly be happening on the heels of the overwhelming move into the new addition, I learned that in our district we have more of those teachers who are once more going above and beyond.

Bethanie Baker, 6th grade teacher at La Casita, spearheaded “The Living Museum” project, an extension of an “Imagine It” lesson (the district elementary reading program). To learn about ancient civilizations, Baker decided to step it up a notch, and, working in pairs, students chose the civilization they would present from the Mayans, Aztecs, Ancient Japan, Romans, Greece, Mesopotamia, and the Incas. Then, deciding upon a method of presenting from a choice of modalities: Visual, auditory, written, and/or kinesthetic, students produced these remarkable displays in the form of their “Living Museum.”

Students conducted their research using reference books, primarily, supported by Internet resources, and some of the projects included giant pyramids; travel brochures; poetry; some did a news broadcast that they recorded and presented using an Apple iPad; and other very creative projects. I noticed all sorts of interesting materials using in constructing the projects, including recycled computer boxes.

These formidable projects, particularly in the midst of working within the challenges presented by a school under construction, were quite remarkable. Assisting Baker were the other 6th grade teachers, Cynthia Lopez and Dana Sassman.

Great new beginnings for the New Year.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at