An appreciation for nature, foreign language and personal finance await the incoming students of northwest Herndon-area Clearview Elementary School.
Teachers and school officials are welcoming the more than 400 students of Clearview Elementary School this year with a revamped natural outdoor courtyard, a regular Spanish language education program and the first full year of a local banking education partnership.
"We’ve always had this as a learning environment for our children, but this year we have a better space, thanks to one of our parents who works with the Town of Herndon," said Clearview Elementary School principal Elaine Wellner, referring to the assistance of Susan Lilly, Herndon’s town naturalist.
With an incoming Kindergarten student at the school, Lilly volunteered to add to the native Virginia plant, improve the turtle habitat and perform other improvements to the school’s central courtyard, an open space located within the school’s walls, according to Wellner. The idea was to give teachers a new opportunity to expose children to nature education, she added.
"She saw this as a teaching environment for our children, so she began to work with the teachers to improve the area," Wellner said. "She wanted to be able to work with the teachers, to come out here and teach the children about nature and plants native to Virginia."
The prospect of learning about nature up close intrigued sixth grade Clearview student Matt Culpepper, 11, who got his first glance of the improved atrium the morning of his first day of school.
"These are really good improvements, I think they made some great choices," he said. "I would like to learn about [nature], and it's more fun to get out in nature to learn about it first-hand instead of just seeing it in videos."
CHILDREN WILL also have the opportunity this year to speak with instructors about what they learned outdoors not only in English, as the school has established a regular Spanish language program this year. Starting with the school’s first- and second-grade level students working in two 30-minute language sessions each week taught exclusively in Spanish, the program looks to eventually encompass all grades of the school, Wellner said.
"We want each child to be communicative in two languages, to function better in society and to keep the brain learning in new ways," she said. "We have learned that children are more responsive to language earlier in their lives … and studies have shown that when children regularly speak other languages, it is reflected throughout their academic careers."
Spanish was chosen as a result of polling of the community’s parents and is likely to help children to communicate not just outside the school, but with many of their classmates within its walls, Wellner said. More than one-third of the school’s students are Hispanic.
"I think it will not only reinforce academic concepts, but it will help create relationships between children," she said. "With our English-speaking students, it will allow them to learn another language and at the same time be able to communicate better with some of their classmates, who are learning English from them."
"So it’s children learning from children."
STUDENTS WILL also be exposed to another program designed at developing practical, real-world skills this year when the school’s education partnership with Cardinal Bank, introduced to the school last April, enters its first full year.
Every Friday morning, children will have the opportunity to make real deposits and withdrawals from educational personal accounts as a way to offer them experiences of financial management at a young age, Wellner said. The regular exercise features students dealing with real interest accruement, deposit and withdrawal slips and account balancing.
"If we are to prepare our children for living in the real world, we want them to have real experiences," she said. "It teaches them financial responsibility in a way and makes the math that they learn in their classes more practical in an everyday sense."
With real experiences in managing a small personal account and watching it develop over the years, Clearview students will be reinforced with the concepts of sound fiscal management, according to Clearview office assistant Laura Dewey, who helped establish the partnership after hearing of similar programs in other schools.
"You need to learn how to save and you need to get them started early," Dewey said. "There are some adults don't know how to save, so by getting to them at a young age, we can encourage those good habits."
With the interactive program, children can learn about personal finance and fiscal responsibility in an engaging way, Wellner added.
"It’s interesting and fun for the kids, and they all get a chance to go out on Friday morning and do their banking," she said with a laugh. "And they’re learning about economics at a very young age in a fresh, hands-on way, and I don’t think you see that too often."