By B.C. Manion
On a recent morning at the Early Childhood Campus of Carrollwood Day School, a group of youngsters were planting peas, carrots, lettuce, Zucchini, eggplant and other vegetable seeds in earth boxes on a patio.
When 5-year-old Abby Garavuso popped out of the classroom door onto the patio, she shrieked. The kindergartner could not believe how much a plant had shot up since she’d last seen it. She was beside herself with joy.
The plant was growing from a seed the children had planted as part of an experiment, said Betty Campbell, lead teacher at the campus.
Besides planting the vegetable seeds, the children will tend to the plants, draw pictures of the vegetables, dissect them and taste them.
The youngsters are engaged in the International Baccalaureate approach to education, which differs from the approach to learning used in traditional schools.
“I think the primary difference is that students discover information. We don’t teach facts. We want thinkers. We look for more than one right answer,” Campbell said.
“It doesn’t matter what you teach, it’s the concepts you are teaching: “What are things like? How are they connected to other things? What is your responsibility? All of those bigger concepts,” Campbell said.
“Whatever we teach here can be picked up and taken anywhere in the world,’’ Campbell said. The lessons are also developmentally appropriate, she said.
Carrollwood Day School’s Early Childhood Campus at 12606 Casey Road begins accepting children at the age of 2. The youngsters don’t become part of the IB program until age 3.
The school also has its Bearss Avenue campus at 1515 W. Bearss Ave., where it educates students in grades one through 12.
It is not unusual to have IB at the high school level, but it is not common to offer that form of education to young children.
Carrollwood Day School is the first school in Florida to be authorized by the International Baccalaureate Organization to offer all three IB programs, from preschool through grade 12. It also is the sixth school in the nation approved to do so.
On a recent day at the Bearss Avenue campus, students were engaged in all sorts of learning activities.
Two fifth-graders sat in a hallway working as a team to research the potential health risks posed by artificial sweeteners. Youngsters in a first-grade classroom sang Zippity Do Dah as they put away some poetry and got ready for another lesson. Sixth-graders researched connections between ancient Egypt and the present day.
The walls in the school’s corridor are chock full of examples of hands-on work. On one wall, there are maps the children have drawn. On another, students answer a series of open-ended questions.
One question asks what they want to be when they grow up. One child wants to be a football player. Another, an astronaut. A third, a musketeer.
Another question asks about their pets. One child writes: “I wish I had a rabbit.”
While some people may think the IB approach is meant only for highly intelligent students, Carrollwood Day School takes a more universal view.
“It’s for everybody to learn how to think,” said Ellen Nafe, principal at the Early Childhood Campus. “It’s not skill and drill, not workbook. (It’s) What would you do if? How can you find out?”
“My view of the IB is that it is really for any student that is willing to work hard and wants a good college prep education,” said Ryan Kelly, CDS’ high school principal.
Students at Carrollwood Day School said they enjoy going to school there.
“This is a great place that has a lot of activities and it’s very fun,” said 12-year-old Jakob Vidal, who has attended the school for two years.
His classmate, Sarah Katherine Massey, is in her first year at the school. She thinks the smaller classes and better technology give students better opportunities for learning. She said the teachers are helpful too.
The 12-year-old said attending CDS has changed her attitude about school. “I’m really happy, “Yeah, let’s go to school’. Before I was like, “Do I have to go to school, really?”
For more information about Carrollwood Day School go to www.carrollwooddayschool.org.
/sites" class="comment-author-link" rel="external nofollow" itemprop="url">Jimmy Bege says
I have to say the early Childhood campus is “THE BEST”. I would recommend this school to anyone as it is administrated with love and care from the Principal to the Teachers and Support Staff. As a parent myself, I could only wish I had the opportunity to send my daughter here when she was of age to attend the campus. All the Staff Communicate with each other and have the material blending in all areas of study including P.E, Art, and Music. Being a Music Teacher myself at the school, the children are accelerating at an impressive rate due to the nurturing and excellent staff at the school. HANDS DOWN, this is the best Early Childhood Experience any child could ever experience anywhere! A plus School! All The Best, Jimmy Bege