Most students get one teacher each grade level, but students in the Julien Elementary School Pod program learn from a group of teachers starting in kindergarten and going through third grade.
“Instead of one teacher, I have four teachers,” said Natalee Smith, first grader in the Pod program at Julien Elementary School.
The program was started in 1973 by teachers who found research that multi-graded classes show a lot of promise, said Linda Murphy-Lopes, principal at Julien Elementary.
Over 35 years later, the program is still going strong with waiting lists every year for students to be a part of the Pod.
The biggest advantage of this program? The family atmosphere, said Jill Kline, kindergarten teacher in the Pod program.
“The whole philosophy is like a family,” Kline said.
The Pod teachers and students all work together and build those family-like relationships in the classroom.
“The multi-graded classroom builds a stronger family tie,” Murphy-Lopes said. “Younger kids and older kids take care of each other.”
The Julien Pod is set up in a huge room divided into four classrooms for kindergartners, first graders, second graders and third graders with a mutual Pod Center in the middle. The no walls set-up in between the classrooms develops an environment of working together.
“It is cool to learn with the older kids,” Smith said. “I like being around the other grades. It is good because I have all my friends with me.”
“No walls, no boundaries” in the Pod classrooms gives an endless learning experience for the students, Kline said.
“It brings down some of those barriers of learning when building relationships with other classes,” she said.
Also, with the classrooms set up for kindergartners up to the third grade, access to materials for four grades is easier for the Pod students.
As a first grader, Smith is reading books a grade level above and some books are even two grade levels above because her teachers have easier access to the materials that they are able to give to students who are excelling in their grade.
“Progression is easier because materials are more accessible for K-3 students in the Pod,” Murphy-Lopes said.
And at the end of the week, all students participate in the Pod Assembly where the family-like atmosphere is reinforced. Students meet in the Pod Center and they sing songs, share crafts and present their assignments to their peers.
“The language built is more sophisticated because all students talk together and build confidence as younger students talking to older students,” Kline said.
For those interested in the Julien Pod program, contact Julien Elementary School at 667-0891 for more information or to be put on the waiting list.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.