Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

WILD START TO SCHOOL YEAR; New Learning Themes Hope to Refocus Kids

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

WILD START TO SCHOOL YEAR; New Learning Themes Hope to Refocus Kids

Article excerpt


Enterprise Learning Academy Principal Cynthia Thompson wanted to set the right tone for a new school year.

Most important, she wanted to breathe new life into the Westside Jacksonville school.

She turned to an old faithful to encourage nearly 80 teachers, and motivate roughly 1,200 students: Rainbow's Landing, a children's book she has cherished for years.

The book contains a strong inspirational message about having the courage to follow dreams and deal with unexpected twists in life.

In the book, Captain Rainbow has a famous saying: "Choose your path, ride the tide and dig in deep." That will be the theme for the year at Enterprise, Thompson decided.

She gave each teacher a copy of Rainbow's Landing, and the whole school will read it together this month.

Reinforcing the theme, the school has been decorated with ocean scenes. Teachers created underwater scenes in their classrooms, and students' names are written on paper fish.

It also helps that the school's manatee mascot is an easy tie-in. A local artist's mural featuring underwater and marsh scenes now greets anyone who enters the school's front doors.

As high-stakes testing puts increased pressure on students and teachers, many schools are creating motivational themes to help start off the year on a positive and energetic note.

Animals are a common theme, especially zoo or safari motifs. "Wild about Learning" or a variation, is the theme at several schools around the region, including Clay Hill, Cunningham Creek, Callahan, Sadie Tillis and San Jose elementaries.

Although the trend of selecting school themes generally lends itself to elaborate decorations among elementary schools, middle and high schools have also taken to catch phrases to motivate students and faculty.

First Coast High School is playing on its Buccaneers mascot with the term "Buc Up." Bulletin boards around the school contain the phrase, and it was plastered over all the pre-planning materials given to teachers. …

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