Welcome to the Rock Island Center for Math and Science, a K-6 magnet school located in Rock Island, Illinois! We have been in operation since September 2009 when we opened to 450 students in grades K-6.This past year we had 525 students and we hope to grow to our 535 student capacity.
The question we are bombarded with is, how is Rock Island Center for Math and Science different from our other educational options? The answer is simple: we have a three tiered focus on place-based, inquiry-based, and project-based instruction. Let’s break those points down a bit:
Place-based: That means that our students use the environment as a context for learning. They are outside for classroom instruction. They learn geography by working on surveying our campus elevations. They learn shapes by looking for them in nature and in shadows. They learn about trees by surveying trees on campus and watching them change over time. What birds and animals live in our woods? Students bird watch and look for tracks to determine those answers. During fall, spring and summer, our students are outside several times a week, often daily, as part of the curriculum.
Inquiry-based: We are a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) school. We place focus on the integration of science, technology, engineering and math. Students in our school are encouraged (and taught) to ask good questions and to be able to investigate them to find the answers. Whether that be to design a chair that could hold Goldilocks, or to look at the flow of students through the lunchroom to determine a system that works better…we look at the world through questions and empower our students to learn how to answer them
Project-based: Our instruction is intentionally blended. Our school day does not have the 55 minute blocks for reading, math, social studies and science. A typical project like bridge building incorporates multiple subjects (What are the societal needs for bridges? Who builds bridges? How do you design a bridge that holds the most weight? What geometric shapes have the greatest strength? How is the Hoover Dam bypass bridge being built? How would we find out information on types of bridges?) Even a simple activity of learning about birds in Kindergarten involves learning about birds shapes and functions, exploring our campus to discover where birds are, and designing a bird feeding station to attract the birds. This year our students are developing a bird sanctuary. They are working with high school students to build bird houses
Although we are a STEM school, we realize that strong reading, writing, and comprehension skills are the gateway to other disciplines. RICMS staff dedicate a significant portion of each day to build each child’s literacy through differentiated instruction. Literacy centers, games, guided reading, reading and writing workshops, conferencing, and a variety of other strategies are part of the curriculum. With our commitment to student-centered, integrated learning, students engage in a variety of literacy activities in the context of other subjects. This experience provides students with meaningful opportunities to build connections and utilize their emerging and developing skills.
Our school systems and community also look different. We use research as a basis for our decisions: recess precedes lunch because data shows students eat better if they play first; students in K-6 have very little homework because data shows that homework does not actually increase academic growth and more often detracts from the down time students need to play and formalize in their heads what happened that day; the first six weeks of school focus on community building because data shows that school connectedness is a prime determinant in academic achievement. We operate as a learning community with weekly all-school gatherings where we celebrate our week’s accomplishments.
I welcome you to our school, or encourage you to take a tour if you are a visitor. We’d love to talk with you and see if our school fits with your priorities.