Itty-Bitty Kids with a Super Duper Future
When I walked into Ms. Cannady’s kindergarten class this week, the 5 year olds were engaged in a lesson about living and non-living things. “This is how we GROW” Ms. Cannady said, as she and the group stretched their arms to the ceiling. The kids were stretching, they were answering questions, they were EXCITED to be learning.
Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary, located in Mechanicsville, is a school of 384 students. The learning complex is unique, in that it houses not only an elementary school, but also an early learning center for students as young as six weeks old. They were itty-bitty and so adorable!!! I spent time in several classrooms and had a chance to look in on the youngest learners as they napped. The three-story indoor courtyard filled with light serves as the play area for the younger children. It is a warm and inviting space that encourages development.
Principal Brown-Collier spoke about the number of students who begin the school year at the school but leave or transition to another neighborhood school during the year. The goal at the complex is to increase the number of students choosing to remain at the school from birth through 5th grade.
I turned again to Michael Nettles, our Executive Researcher in Residency, for his thoughts after visiting Dunbar.
“Fifty percent of all children and around 75 percent of African American children are born into single parent families. This condition often presents an obstacle to educational attainment and too often contributes to low expectations and achievement. Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary and its partnerships with neighboring Women’s Wellness Center and the Center for Working families is making sure that this is not the fate of the children of the Mechanicsville area of Atlanta,” said Nettles. “ Dunbar is a model for facilitating family engagement in meeting the school and educational needs of young children. Now the challenge is to ensure that we have appropriate content, coordinated delivery systems and assessments to ensure student achievement.”
We need to continue to work with the district architect to think about the available space currently in the building and how it can best be utilized for the current students. An expanded cafeteria may be one of the first agenda items.
Principal Brown-Collier agrees and says that she and her staff are intentionally working on developing the whole child at Dunbar, attempting to address their academic, social, emotional and physical development each and every day.