On June 16th we installed a “kid-space, turnkey classroom” at the Doris Cullins-Lake Pointe Elementary School, in support of the Rockwall ISD and surrounding Rockwall community damaged by a tornado that hit the area the day after Christmas on December 26, 2015. This Early Childhood classroom project not only marked our support of the district’s re-building efforts, however, it also signified a deeper commitment to the 21st century education of Rockwall’s youngest learners.
The pre-K program was launched at Cullins-Lake Pointe Elementary during the 2016 school year after the district found it necessary to create a modern and safe learning space that could serve its population of young children who come from low-income communities and generally do not have access to crucial early childhood educational resources. Not surprisingly, the introduction of the pre-K classroom at Cullins-Lake Pointe was well received and by 2017, in its second year, the school was looking to develop the space even further with additional furniture and equipment enhancements. To help with the project, the District’s Early Childhood Coordinators Patty Martinez and Sonya Carpenter, Principal Jill Baird, and Teacher Debbie Schmucker collaborated with the School Specialty (SSI)/Projects by Design (PbD) team led by Market Development Manager Don Marsters. The SSI/PbD team was honored to provide its services and donate classroom furniture from its Childcraft® and Classroom Select® lines to help the kids in need.
“Patti Martinez (our previous EC Coordinator) and I initially met with School Specialty’s Don Marsters and his team and they showed us all the furnishings and resources that would be available, and all the logistical aspects as they relate to how the space would be organized. We also had a new teacher (Debbie Schmucker) onboard for the pre-K program so it was important for her to be a part of the process from the start. We reviewed with her the resource list and the tools that were needed, and Don and the Projects by Design team came in and were very supportive and hands on. They ensured that every piece of furniture was delivered and set up correctly and the required equipment was in the kids’ hands from the get go.”
Jill Baird, Principal, Cullins-Lake Pointe Elementary School
“Looking at the furniture and layout, it all very much fits into the design that the Children’s Learning Institute (CLI) Engage platform recommends for early care and education programs in Texas. Based on their learning environment checklist – including having at least seven centers/workstations available for center-based play – the classroom at Cullins-Lake Pointe goes right along with the pre-K curriculum, and not just at the campus level but also the district level.”
Sonya Carpenter, Federal Programs & Early Childhood Coordinator, Rockwall ISD
“It has been very beneficial this year having the resources available, and not just the furnishings, but also all the other tools that were provided by School Specialty such as the manipulatives for learning, which I’ve been able to use in the respective centers – math center, small group construction station, dramatic play area, etc. With the pre-K classroom being new on this campus, in the beginning we didn’t have a lot of the equipment and supplies that typically support a pre-K setting, but what we did have, we were able to enhance. The kids love their classroom; everything is durable and hands-on; the manipulatives are very effective for teaching. It has been a wonderful first experience for our young learners! Recognizing the limited resources that most students have at home, I see how much pride the kids have in taking care of their classroom tools, even as simple as their crayons.”
Debbie Schmucker, Pre-K Teacher, Cullins-Lake Pointe Elementary School
The Rockwall Independent School District has approximately 20 pre-K teachers (including for Special Needs and Head Start programs) and having a uniformed approach to the classroom environment is a major goal for next year. The Cullins-Lake Pointe Elementary project will serve as a model classroom with all its furniture and resources. As part of the partnership with School Specialty, the classroom is open for viewing by other campuses and educational facilities.The SSI/PbD team worked closely with Teacher Schmucker, giving her the freedom to set up the classroom as she deemed most suitable for her students’ learning needs and in conjunction with the school’s and district’s standards. Recognizing that it was an older building and there wasn’t a large classroom space, a number of modifications needed to be made during the installation process and the team was very open to enabling those changes.
The school hopes that the district will be able to provide additional grants that will help with ongoing development of this modern, center-based play environment. In related news, the district has recently designated a larger classroom space that Teacher Schmucker and her students will be moving into later this year.