Monday, June 14, 2010

Central Alternative High School

Central Alternative High School  was my home school as a teacher for over 18 years.  I did some of my best and most creative teaching there.  Now the building, and all the gardens we created are up for sale, the students and staff moved to the Forum (The Central Administration Building for the Dubuque Community School District).    A week ago Central held an open  house, and many past staff and students arrived for hugs, to brag of their accomplishments to their favorite teachers, and to say good bye.
 I loved the teaching of writing.  I believe that writing has a way of healing the mind and soul, and many of our students were in need of healing.  Let me start from the beginning.  The students who attended Central were called "at risk."  Many of them had personal problems, others had medical problems, and not a few had mental or socialization problems.  These students were often "school phobic" or over-whelmed by the size of the other high school in town.  Our goal at Central was to "instill responsibility for learning by offering quality alternatives which promote social, emotional, and academic development." 
  Writing is a way to learn, a way to express what you know, a way to ask questions.  So, each of my students was given a journal.  As I explained to students, a journal is not a diary.  A journal is a place to capture experiences, and for students who have few productive experiences, it was necessary to provide them.  We would often walk to the river, only a couple of blocks away.  Or we would car pool to the local arboretum.  Sometimes we would walk the several blocks to the nearest park.  But often, we would just find a place to be in our own  student created gardens.

To create a focus for all this writing, one of the experiences was to create the Central Gardens.  We worked with the art teacher to consider what art was needed, and a pathway was created.  We worked with the special education students and a gazebo was built.  We worked with the technology teacher and developed web pages for each of the flower beds.  We worked with the science teacher to understand plants, soil, and weather.  We worked with a mathematics teacher to decide which plants to plant where using the inclination of the sun.

The gardens will belong to someone else now, and there is no room at the new location for perennial gardens.  The hope is that the new location will somehow be able to give the students love and security, a sense of family and home, and quality alternatives leading to social, emotional, and academic growth.

To check out Central's web site go to:
Below, left to right:  Student built stairwell to Outdoor Classroom, Student sculpture and student built gazebo, stepping stones for garden path.

Right, student designed cement chess table.
Left cement forms to support chess table.

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.