Calhoun City Schools Mobile Learning Lab Takes Children From “Crayons to Careers”

By Krystin Dean

The first few weeks of school are typically a time for settling in—but the opposite was true in Calhoun City Schools (CCS). When it became clear that many students were entering kindergarten without necessary basic literacy skills, they started rolling out a plan for a mobile learning lab manned by some of the county’s brightest young minds.

“We were having to provide remediation for many of our students as soon as they entered our school,” said CCS Director of School Improvement Kelli Kendrick. “Since our students were so far behind, we believed that instruction and learning needed to take place before our 4-year-old Pre-K started.”

Results from the GKIDS (Georgia Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills) and GKIDS Readiness Check assessments conducted at the start of the school year prompted CCS Superintendent Michele Taylor to gather school-system leaders to discuss how to prepare children and their caregivers for school with literacy-rich environments.

In 2017, CCS received approximately $20,000 from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement’s Early Language and Literacy Mini-Grant. In 2016, CCS received a $10,000 grant when CCS received the Charter System-of-the-Year Award.

This combined funding helped cover the construction of the Jacket Junction Mobile Learning Lab (named for the school’s yellow jacket mascot) as well as a bus wrap that features photos of students from “Crayons to Careers”—a slogan that encompasses the initiative’s primary aim.

“Many of our children do not have access to quality preschool or daycare programs,” said Taylor. “The mobile learning lab will help us bridge that gap by allowing our high-school students who plan to be future educators to work one on one with our youngest learners.”

The vision for the mobile lab became a reality as the bus rolled out into the community in September. The lab, which features age-appropriate centers created by the Early Childhood Education (ECE) teacher and students, travels into the local housing authority properties five times a week for hour-long sessions.

Language development is a priority for the ECE students, and all students enrolled in their third level of the Education Pathway receive extensive training to work with children ages 6 months to 4 years. Many of the ECE students are bilingual and help preschoolers make the connection between their native language and English.

“The bus brings a new and different learning environment to the kids,” said CHS student Olivia. “They’re excited about getting on the bus and doing fun activities.”

The ECE students operate the lab and provide language-rich, adult-child interactions under a teacher’s supervision. This real-time field experience refines the skills honed in the Education Pathway while teaching valuable skills that extend past the traditional classroom.

“The lab is a win for the entire community,” said Kendrick, “because it meets the needs of some of Calhoun’s most important stakeholders—young children who are gaining literacy skills, caregivers who are learning ways to improve and increase those skills through daily interaction, and high-school students who are literacy advocates in the community.”

According to Kendrick, CCS recognizes that language development and many vital literacy skills are developed before students enter their doors for kindergarten.

“We believe that for students to be successful, contributing members our community we must provide early learning opportunities to ensure these skills are developed for all our students,” she said. “Our efforts with crayons and early literacy development will ensure that our students are ready for careers.”