CSD thrives on taking a novel approach to teaching the next generation. In fact, adults walking down its halls will note the conspicuous absence of those old-fashioned, spin-dial locks on the metal lockers. CSD upholds a strict honor code, teaching its students from middle school on the importance of respecting other people's privacy and private property.
Opening its doors in 2001 as Children's Community School, the charter school adopted its current name in 2009. Built upon the ideas and philosophy of The Basic School, a comprehensive plan created by the late Ernest Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching at Princeton, CSD "believes that every student can and will succeed in ways that reflect his or her own aptitudes and interests" as part of its mission statement.
It is this commitment coupled with the school's notion that students should be motivated to learn throughout their lifetime via hands-on teaching, an integrated curriculum and instruction as to the practical application of their skills that will attract numerous private and public school teachers, administrators, professors and others to campus on Aug. 8 and 9 for the conference.
"The thing I'm most excited about regarding this conference is the chance to learn with and from people who really care about kids," says CSD Executive Director Joy Warner. "We need, from the national level to the community level, a better collaborative and collective effort to improve education for all kids."
Since North Carolina's Department of Public Instruction recently lifted its cap on the number of charter schools that can open, the state is becoming part of a national political conversation about the benefits of charter schools and their unique characteristics. Warner encourages anybody interested in education, from policy makers to home schooling parents, to attend the conference and find out more about the running of CSD. Cost to attend the conference is $50 per person for both days, but for an additional $25, participants can return to the school at a later date and spend time observing a classroom to see what makes it tick.
"Something special about our school is that it emphasizes the whole child, not just his or her intellect, but each child's social, emotional and physical health as well," Warner says. "We really believe that children survive when their intellectual needs are met but thrive when all their other needs are also met."
CSD serves students in grades K-10. The school has added one grade level per year since its inception and will graduate its first senior class in 2014. Students are admitted through a lottery system, but as Warner notes, waiting lists for those eager to attend public charters in North Carolina keep increasing. Her school itself has a waiting list of more than 3,000.
Because of that fact, she encourages others to open charter schools of their own, and next weekend's conference serves as a vehicle to start that conversation.
"We found sponsors for this conference to make it very affordable," says Warner. "It's the quality of a national conference without the cost because we believe in doing right by the teachers that will in turn do right by their students. In my opinion, the most notable person who will attend this year is Dr. Mary Ellen Bafumo, my professional mentor and close friend."
Boyer's philosophies are interwoven into the fabric of daily life at CSD, which boasts a variety of techniques not found at many public schools. Among them is looping, a system in which a teacher stays with his or her class for more than one year to develop a deeper relationship with students and better facilitate their learning and growth. Students at CSD also benefit from an array of elective courses including art 3D, woodwork and industrial and mechanical arts, drama and showtime chorus.
Moreover, the school fosters a concern for the ethical and moral dimensions of a student's life and focuses on imparting the virtues of honesty, respect, responsibility, compassion, self-discipline, perseverance and giving through everyday classroom experiences. Students are in turn encouraged to apply these lessons to the larger world.
"By middle school, kids want to know the real-life implications of what they're learning in the classroom," Warner says. "We've noticed that middle schoolers may begin to think school is less fun as they lose what the point of book learning is. That's why we have a huge emphasis on service, character building and real-life experiences. We have kids in China right now working with high-poverty Chinese teenagers and special needs orphans. We also have students in Costa Rican villages building compost centers and greenhouses and learning about sustainability."
It is exactly this sort of innovation that will draw conference members into town next week to learn whatever CSD deems relevant to teach. Workshop offerings will include Humor in Teaching, Integrating the Arts Across the Curriculum, Six Ideas that Changed How We Teach STEM, Bullying: A Fresh take on an Old Problem, and Digital Literacy: Researching Our Worlds, among others.
Want some schooling?
To sign up for the Fresh Take conference or for more information, visit www.csdnc.org and follow the Fresh Take links. Walk-ups will be admitted as well.