The American Educational Research Association has studied the advantages of “whole brain” learning over the past 20 years and endorses its proven instructional models which are successfully employed at schools like Southwest Detroit’s Clippert Academy, where learning is fun. -Editor
At their teacher’s urging, every student in Ms. Emma Howland- Bolton’s 5th grade class, eagerly grabbed two markers from their pencil boxes. But the Clippert Academy students had no intention to write with them.
On cue, a table of three smiling students in the back corner of their colorful classroom kicked off what appeared to be a familiar ritual with the plastic casings of the markers by tapping them rhythmically on their table in a steady beat, twirling the markers in the air, clapping their hands across the tables, and then launching into the first stanza of a rap song that would be handed off — in a similar fashion — table to table throughout the room.
Rapping is just one of the many methods Howland-Bolton uses to engage her students in learning throughout the class day. Whereas a lesson on ecosystems could otherwise be a boring textbook study of the food chain, her room is a constant buzz of chatter, hand motions, clapping, experiments, discussion and interaction. “I use a couple of different strategies,” Howland-Bolton said. “One is whole brain teaching, which is a cognitive instructional approach where I’m trying to reach all parts of the students’ brains during class. I did some research and found out that 5th graders on average have about a six-minute attention span – and that’s on the upper end — so they need to have constant interaction.”
Howland-Bowlton’s interactive classroom is only one example of how Clippert’s teachers and their award-winning school use creative teaching methods and differentiated instruction all day long in every classroom with the goal of reaching students on multiple levels of their brains. “I’m very fortunate to have a wonderful staff that is always looking for opportunities to do new things with the children that will increase their achievement,” said Principal Kim Gonzalez, who has led Clippert Academy for the past eight years.
“I leave my door open so that they come in and approach me with those ideas, and then we work together to make those things happen.” Their strategy clearly is working. Defying some of the barriers that might limit achievement,
COMMUNITY CLASSROOM EXHIBITS: Through the Living Arts El Arte program, local Artist Lisa Luevanos, and 5th grade Teacher Emma Howland- Bolton, Mexicantown’s popular Café Con Leche coffee shop on Vernor Rd. hosted Clippert’s ‘Cool Nerds’ photo exhibit; Teacher Emma Howland- Bolton plans to continue to collaborate with local artists annually. Today, Artist Luevanos’ studio contains a window gallery of Clippert’s inspiring photo work.
BLOGGING BUILDS SKILLS The Bearded Dragon in Kathryn Meloche’s class has her “own” blog, which the students take turns writing. And the dragon, named Sepharia, has even dabbled in art in teacher Ruth Goldfaden’s class, creating some colorful “claw prints” that adorn the wall in Meloche’s classroom. To learn more visit: http://kathrynmeloche.wordpress. com/
Clippert Academy in Southwest Detroit is recognized as one of the top 5 percent high-achieving schools by the Michigan Department of Education. Innovative teaching methods spur student growth at Clippert Academy including a high poverty rate and a heavy population of Latino students who speak English as their second language, Clippert Academy in Southwest Detroit is recognized as one of the top 5 percent high-achieving schools by the Michigan Department of Education.
Clippert, which houses grades 5-8, also has been honored as one of the top 20 elementary- middle schools by Excellent Schools Detroit; has been named among the state’s top-performing schools by the Mackinac Policy Center; and has been recognized by the Skillman Foundation. The school also has an abundance of partnerships to support the school, including with Strategic Staffing Solutions, Southwest Solutions, Inside Out Literary Arts, Living Arts El Arte, Cranbrook Horizons Upward- Bound Program, Mercy Education Project, Wayne State University, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University, and the Skillman Foundation.
“I can’t say enough about my staff,” said Gonzalez, adding that their open, collaborative relationship allows their team to bring tons of creativity to their teaching. Science teacher Kathryn Meloche, math instructor Zachery Taylor, social studies teacher Brendan Mullane and Art Teacher Ruth Goldfaden all employ the method in their classrooms, which seem to be constantly abuzz with excitement. And that’s what makes Clippert Academy a standout among Detroit’s Public Schools.
Editor’s Note: Clippert Academy is located at 1981 McKinstry Street, Detroit. To learn more call: 313.849.5009 chooseHAP.org Before