Back to School: Fresh Start to Make Significant Change
by Danielle DiPretoro
Much like the beginning of any new chapter in life, with the start of every new academic year, students must trade swimsuits for backpacks, sunscreen for school supplies, and unstructured free time for a rewarding educational experience. While many children are reluctant to transition to a structured environment in the classroom with the alluring thoughts of summer’s endless sunny days still afresh in their minds, the importance of education in achieving future success outside the classroom is well known and continuously stressed by educators. According to freedom activist Nelson Mandela, “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” With this statement in mind, it is necessary to evaluate the implementation of school procedures and how effective these elements are in educating students. With the undeniable differences between urban, suburban, and rural schools and the environment to which these factors influence children, it is important to realize that school systems must implement differentiated procedures that are specific to each school and classroom depending on the environment to produce notable success in the classroom.
As the individuality of the student is encouraged within the American school system, so should a teacher’s lesson plans. With the new school year underway, both school systems and teachers must keep in mind that their lessons should be relevant to the specific student body they are addressing and transition away from standardized methods which tend not to keep students engaged. Similar to most adults, students are readily able to connect with ideas of which they can personally relate. As educators, we should keep the emphasis away from simply memorization and grades, as true knowledge involves notions that transcend the constraints of the classroom.
Creative Minds Publications, a global company focusing and promoting educational literacy for children based in Richmond, VA, does just that. Kathryn Starke, the creator/CEO of Creative Minds Publications, aids educators in providing the best educational instruction for their students and develops new techniques that spark children’s interests in reading, particularly regarding the difficulty educators face with high-poverty urban school districts. Creative Minds Publications uses one-to-one, grade level, and school wide coaching models to help educators in differentiated literacy instruction. Previously being an elementary teacher in an inner city elementary school, Starke found challenges in inspiring her students to learn to read. Starke decided to tackle this problem by individually connecting with her students and teaching them using stories they themselves could relate to. She encouraged creativity within children, previously allowing her students to have a “Free Choice Friday”, which was comprised of a set time where students could chose to write or draw about any topic of their choosing. Naturally, students were enamored with the idea. Starke believes in celebrating the idea of creativity in and out of the classroom, although it is unfortunately not often seen in lesson plans.
In addition to supporting educators to create new techniques within the classroom to promote literacy, Creative Minds Publications also publishes children’s books. Kathryn Starke is also the author of the popular children’s book Amy’s Travels, the first picture book to highlight the difference of cultures between the seven continents in a way that is relatable to children and continues to keep them engaged. This multi-cultural book teaches children the diversity of our world from a young Latina girl’s perspective and is currently available on five continents taught in over 20 countries and in 8 different languages. Starke’s second book, Turtle Without a Home, is another popular favorite among classrooms as it stresses the importance of environmental awareness and responsibility in the twenty-first century.
Now that the school year is here, I hope that educators and educational leaders keep the ideals of Creative Minds Publications in mind in implementing differentiated literacy procedures that inspire students to learn to read and promote the creativity of each child. To learn more about the mission and impact of Creative Minds Publications in schools as well as its founder, Kathryn Starke, please visit the website http://www.creativemindspublications.com/index.php.