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New School Year Leads to New Model and Space For Learning

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The back to the school countdown is ticking away. When some Des Moines students head back to the classroom Wednesday, they will notice some big changes.

Before the first bell rings, teachers at Weeks Middle School are getting a lesson on the new Schools for Rigor initiative. It takes the traditional classroom model and replaces it with one more student focused.

“If we think about our own experiences in classrooms, it was almost always teacher centered. The teacher was in charge, the teacher was lecturing,” explained Tim Schott, Executive Director of Des Moines Secondary Schools.

With Schools for Rigor, teachers can better monitor learning on a daily basis instead of just at test time.

“Students are actively engaged in demonstrating their own knowledge and building upon their own knowledge,” said Schott.

Weeks is one of six Des Moines schools making the switch this year. North High School, Perkins, Lovejoy, Howe and Findley Elementary Schools are the others. The plan is for all sixty schools in the district to eventually follow suit.

As educators get schooled on a new way of teaching, students at another school are getting a new place to learn.

“We just wanted to build the space and use it as much as we possibly can,” said Hiatt Middle School Behavior Coach Jacob Burke.

He started a GoFundMe account to turn an unused green space into an outdoor classroom. The idea is to give students a fun and unique place to learn.

“We're super excited. It's going to be really neat to see the kids' expressions when they come through the doors this year,” said Burke.

The outdoor classroom cost about $4,000 to build. More than half came from community donations. A grant from the Boys and Girls Club and Hiatt covered the rest.