Preserve helps school boost FCAT scores

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  • | 10:21 p.m. June 19, 2014
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Winning team

In 2012, only 59 percent of Oakland Avenue Charter School (OACS) students scored 3 or higher on Florida’s Science FCAT. In 2013, 88 percent of students scored 3 or higher — a 29 percent academic gain in one year. 

This year, OACS achieved the second-highest Orange County Public Schools FCAT Science scores. Principal Pam Wolfcale and lead science teacher Heidi Beck attribute this impressive rise in academic achievement to the partnership between OACS and the Oakland Nature Preserve.

For the past two years, OACS students have spent one school day per week at ONP participating in lessons collaboratively created by OACS and ONP education staff. Lessons were designed to meet Florida’s education standards, as well as connect children to Florida’s natural environment. 

“Florida’s entire life science unit is out there” at ONP, Beck said. 

“More importantly,” Wolfcale said, “is the professional development provided to teachers. They learn that using the environment to teach science is not as difficult as it looks. Oakland Nature Preserve staff show teachers how practical it is and inspire them to bring it back to the classroom. It is about accessibility, understanding and relating science to real life.” 

Beck is so convinced of the value of the OACS/ONP partnership that she helps to teach the ONP After-School Science Club and Summer Environmental Day Camps in her off hours. The weekly trips to ONP not only improve student learning, but also spark interest in the environment. Beck said the same children who attend weekly school trips to ONP also opt to participate in the ONP After-School Science Club year after year, and repeatedly sign up for ONP’s Environmental Summer Day Camps. 

Wolfcale and ONP Managing Director Barb Gugliotti are excited about the results of this partnership — both academic achievement and environmental stewardship — and have begun investigating ways to expand it and increase FCAT scores in other subject areas. 

For more information about the partnership, contact Wolfcale at [email protected] or Gugliotti at [email protected].


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