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September 06,2017 - Babcock Ranch makes learning fun
Florida Weekly

Solar-powered town seeks to attract families with high-quality education

 Months before the first residents of Babcock Ranch start settling, the nation’s first solar-powered town is delivering on the promise of putting education first. Babcock Neighborhood School (BNS) opened August 10th at full capacity in Kindergarten through grade six. For developer Syd Kitson, it is the realization of a dream, and the fulfillment of a promise made when plans for the innovative, environmentally-friendly new town were first unveiled more than a decade ago.

“I think the school is very important for several reasons. Number one – we want to be multi-generational – and to get young families, you have to have a school. When people come to Babcock Ranch they don’t have to hope that great schools are something that will happen sometime in the future – the school is here right now, today,” Kitson said. “Even more important than that, is to give these young students an opportunity to thrive, have a great education, and hopefully prepare them for high school and ultimately for what they want to do later on in life.”

Enrollment at BNS is open to all students who qualify to attend Charlotte County public schools – including outof county students who can be admitted on a space-available basis. As a public charter, BNS must comply with all testing and accountability measures of any other public school – but with greater flexibility to implement innovative teaching approaches and curriculum.

“Our school is very engaged in project based learning – not the old ‘you do a project, and then it ends up in the dumpster’ – these are very real projects with real world applications,” principal Shannon Treece explained. “What works for first grade does not work for 5th grade – but at every age the experience of working together, hearing all voices, then working together to take a project from concept to completion – this is the type of education everyone wants for their children. It’s not driven by textbooks but what’s happening in the community and what’s happening around them.”

Just a week into the school year, students and faculty were enthusiastically settling into the hands-on, project-based learning approach that sets BNS apart. Kindergartners gathered to read in circle time and dance to Go Noodle videos during their “brain break.” Multiple grade levels mixed together for nature walks. Third graders were building towers with spaghetti and marshmallows – thinking critically and collaborating to improve structures, celebrating what worked, and circling back to redesign when it didn’t. In 4th grade, students discussed the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and wrote their reflections on the topic. And in 5th and 6th grade, students held a rap singoff on the theme of geography.

“This is the best adventure I have ever had, and it is an amazing privilege to witness the energy and passion of these students and teachers,” Treece said.

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