In an effort to keep "at risk" children in school, an innovative elementary school program encourages students to think creatively about science, the president of the American Educational Research Association told an audience of more than 100 at Longfellow Hall Tuesday.
Using graphs, charts and examples of children's artwork, Ann Brown, who is also a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, set out to show that the Oakland, Calif.-based "Foster a Community of Learning Project" effectively develops students' reading and research skills.
"Children come to school with different interests and abilities," she said. "The community depends on a distribution of expertise."
To that end, students are encouraged to specialize in specific areas. "[That is] against the traditional school agenda, which seeks to destroy diversity," Brown said.
In this program, she said, "Every-one takes responsibility for the whole. No one is an island." Students don't just listen to teachers, they also teach one another, Brown said.
The project uses a unified curriculum from kindergarten through sixth grade--everyone studies the same subjects but at a deeper level of understanding each year, Brown said.
Although it stresses diversity, the project does "aim for conformity at the basic reading-writing level," Brown said. But even students who cannot read well can take part in discussions, she said.
"For the non-readers, the kids who survive are kids who are verbally aggressive and will jump into discussions even though they can't read," Brown said.