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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Speaking Up for Students: Innovative Practices Enhance Learning

At this school, every student's opinion matters.
By Edutopia Staff

Making decisions by consensus can be difficult, yet the staff at Peakview Elementary School in Aurora, Colorado, has found that this strategy is an essential ingredient for successful innovation. Everyone at Peakview has an opportunity to be heard -- and a responsibility to express ideas.

Among the many innovative practices adopted by consensus at Peakview are a year-round schedule and cross-grade teams. The school's teachers and 700 students are divided into four K-5 teams. This structure gives teachers the flexibility to group students by abilities and interests rather than age, and encourages activities like "reading buddies," which pairs older and younger students.

"We've had teams for five years now, and we are seeing extraordinary results," says Karen Peterson, Peakview's technology coordinator. "Everyone knows what's expected -- older students have become models for younger ones, and there is a real sense of continuity, commitment, and community."

Technology is used at Peakview to support various learning styles and extend learning experiences for students at all levels. Each classroom has four to six computers networked throughout the school, allowing students to access their work from any machine in the building.

In addition, each team has access to laser-disc and CD-ROM players, scanners, still and video cameras, and a host of software. "We view technology as a tool and a resource -- not an end in itself," Peterson says. "For instance, a teacher might come to me and ask about electronic resources for a unit on space or a project on the environment. Our technology provides opportunities to enhance the daily curriculum."

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