Community-Building. That has been the main focus at Genevieve Melody STEM Elementary this school year. Located in the West Garfield Park neighborhood, Melody aims to provide safe, stable, and supportive learning environments for students. To achieve this goal, Melody has made an effort to increase the breadth of its educational partnerships with local Chicago organizations. This, in turn, has led to alternative ways of teaching and learning. When walking the halls at Melody, one is greeted by rhythmic sounds of drum circles led by local college students, sing-alongs to popular music to identify parts of speech, and number-counting taught through hop-scotch. These are just a few of the alternative ways Melody is reinventing what it means to teach and learn as they continue to advance their community-building.
WITS has contributed greatly to this reinvention over the past two years. This year, Melody is hosting four WITS Programs, including the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award, Early Childhood with community volunteers, and Mid-Day Mentoring with PepsiCo and City Hall. This increase in WITS programming is a welcome addition toward increasing and supplementing learning opportunities. Over the past two years, Ms. Nelson’s class has been served by the same group of volunteers from City Hall through the Mid-Day Mentoring program, creating a community bound by the invaluable continuity of a stable learning environment.
“My students have grown from their involvement in WITS in many different ways. Our mid-day mentors allow them the one-on-one attention they so desperately want and need. This individualized attention helps foster their love of reading and boost confidence which in turn, helps me as the classroom teacher. We spend so much time on fluency and comprehension as a whole group, but when they are with their mentors they get the added bonus of working on inflection and it is always fun to hear them learn to put emotion into what they are reading” – Molly Nelson, 3rd grade teacher and recipient of the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award
This continuity in WITS’ relationships not only serve our students, but also contributes to the sense of community for our partner teachers. WITS’ inclusive approach in program implementation ensures these co-beneficial relationships by involving school leadership in planning programs. WITS meets with principals and teachers before the start of classes in early fall to plan programs, so they supplement the work going on in the classrooms and fit the schools’ schedules. This practice has worked very well at Melody. Teachers and students view WITS as part of the weekly schedule, a fun extension to learning.
As we near the end of the school year, WITS at Melody will close with Field Trips to PepsiCo and City Hall. These trips strengthen Melody’s community and embody WITS’ commitment to building communities and empowering readers.
By John Gitta, Program Coordinator