Sixth-grader Kyra Camm arrived at Rocky Heights for her first day of middle school nervous, but prepared.
“I was so scared for middle school that I bought a book about it,” she said. “It said you should have at least two groups of friends so if you get mad at one group, you have another.”
Fellow sixth-grader Natalie Aston, who attended Wildcat Mountain Elementary with Camm, shared Camm’s feelings of excitement and nervousness.
“It feels good but it’s kinda scary,” Aston said. “I’m just excited to be in a bigger school with better lunches.”
“Sometimes you got tired of the elementary school, because you just want to get older,” Camm said. “I’m most excited to meet new people and new teachers.”
Almost all DCSD schools opened for the 2013-14 academic year Aug. 12, with three elementary schools starting classes Aug. 5.
Rocky Heights teachers were excited, too.
Several of them gathered upstairs in the newly designed innovation lab. Last year, computers lined the walls. This year, they’re placed back-to-back in groups of three at pods that each allow three children to work together.
“The innovation team is new,” teacher Sharon Majetich said. “We’re trying a slightly more collaborative approach. We’re trying to push (students) to think a little more outside the box.”
Among the team’s units is a four-week study of Colorado’s wildfires. Students will travel to the site of the 2002 Hayman fire as well as the Black Forest, where wildfire destroyed more than 500 homes in June.
“We’ll talk about the science of fire, the health connection, the bigger picture of how it affects the environment, the economic impact, planning ahead for fire,” Majetich said. “It’s all connected in an inter-disciplinary unit that ends with a mock trial.”
The mock trial will depict what may happen to someone charged for starting a wildfire.
The role of attorneys, firefighters, the Red Cross, park rangers and reporters all will be included in the unit. The team plans to bring in professionals from many of all those industries to speak to the students.
“We’d also like to do something proactive,” Majetich said. “Fire can happen here in Highlands Ranch as well.”
The innovation team and its fire study is an example of the shift in education underway in the Douglas County School District. The goal is to provide students with what DCSD calls “a world-class education,” designed to make them competitive in a rapidly changing and global market.