For 150 years, Atlanta Public Schools has taught, nurtured, employed and cultivated generations of citizens who contribute to society, both locally and globally.
Throughout this school year, we will highlight students, faculty, alumni, and many others through our I am APS campaign to celebrate the rich and diverse experiences, backgrounds and contributions of the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) family. Together, we stand in solidarity of our shared admiration of APS and the mission which guides us as a family.
By leading with C.A.R.E., APS is creating a culture of compassion, accountability, respect and empathy. This culture weaves its way into every life we touch, and we believe storytelling lies at the heart of preserving our legacy as a district that prepares its students for college, career and life.
Our journey to identifying our first I am APS feature led us down the halls of Springdale Park Elementary School (SPARK), a flourishing and energetic COGNIA STEM certified school with over 400 students, nestled within the Virginia-Highland, Inman Park, and neighboring communities.
APS had the pleasure of sitting down with two of SPARK’s vibrant scholars, Rya Van Voorhis and Malcolm Guise, to learn how their favorite lessons have prepared them to be fully engaged learners who are resourceful and driven.
RYA VAN VOORHIS SPARK’s charismatic 9-year-old, fourth grader and future celebrity baker
Do you have a favorite subject?
No, but I love to read. I’ll do that for fun. And I love writing. I could write all day if you make me.
I also like science. I just love it. I especially like chemistry where I made rainbow snow one time. I would take food coloring, put red dye into the snow, and then pour it in a jar, and then layer it. All of a sudden, it’s like rainbow snow! You could roll it into balls and it would look like snowballs. It was really fun.
How do you think your family experience has translated into your school experience?
I think that I’m good at partnership. I want to work and present with [others] and research together. For example— [me, Marina and Fred]. Me and Fred would come up with ideas, combine them, and then Marina would translate them into a fourth-grade word because she knows a lot of vocabulary.
What is something you wish you could incorporate into learning?
Have you ever heard of hands-on learning? That’s what I wish social studies was. There’s some computers where you can touch it and say, ‘Oh, that’s what happened!’ And connect the dots and actually see it and pretend you’re in the actual world. I wish that there was a program where you could [create] yourself and then pretend that you’re in these places. So you feel what they’re talking about.
In my summer school class, we used VRs. That’s what I wish social studies was.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be a baker, and I really want to go to America’s Test Kitchen. When I was four, my dad showed me this episode of the old America’s Test Kitchen. It’s new now, and I absolutely loved it. They tested how to make lemon bars. They made the recipe and ever since then, I’ve been trying to bake stuff. And honestly, I like cakes. People always say the best part about baking is eating. And I say, the best part about baking is baking.
Do you think you have learned anything at school that will help you become a baker one day?
Yes, reading. You need to read recipes. Writing. If I’m going to be a baker, I need to write recipes. Science. I need to know the science behind it because [in the past] people would just have apprentices and they would just learn it not knowing how it worked and why it tastes delicious. I want to know [how it all works together].
MALCOLM GUISE SPARK’s multi-talented 10-year-old, fifth grader and future herpetologist
What is your favorite subject and is there a specific lesson you really liked?
Science is my favorite subject. I love learning useless random animal facts and facts about anything. In GATE in third grade we did a project at the beginning of the year where we talked about if we could be a scientist, what type we would want to be. By then, I hadn’t really thought about it too much, so I just put zoologist in general, and I wrote about a few different animals. [Now] I’m [deciding] between a herpetologist, which studies reptiles, and an anthropologist, which studies insects and many other creatures.
What do you find fascinating about reptiles?
They’re so much different than us, and even though it seems like we know a lot about them, they’re still some of the most mysterious creatures. We still aren’t sure exactly where they could have evolved from. And some of their skeletal structures work in a way that are much different [from ours].
Another thing that’s very interesting about them is some people have considered that some types of snake venom can be used as medicine. So I want to know how that works and different antidotes for things.
What are you doing to further along your interests?
Well, I’m trying to focus on reading more advanced books, learning more information. I’ve been trying to read for two hours every day. I’m currently reading Hamlet, the original version. And also, I want to improve both my long-term and short-term memory. Because if I learn a lot of information, I don’t want to just forget it.
Are your teachers helping you to be more involved in your interests?
Some of my teachers have recommended different fields and ways of learning, like certain clubs, certain teams that I could go to. Also, sometimes they give me special projects to work on, so I think they do understand [and are] helping me.
Students from Springdale Park Elementary School celebrate their success.
By: Alicia Sands Lurry
Springdale Park Elementary and Inman Middle School’s Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl (HRRB) teams are headed to the Division 1 playoffs on Saturday, Feb. 27, in Jasper, Georgia. This past weekend, both teams placed second after competing in the Metro Atlanta Regional HRRB Competition at Clayton State University. Both schools won all six rounds in the Atlanta Public Schools division.
Congratulations are in order, as this marks the first time two APS schools have made it to the divisional round.
First- and second-place winners from the divisional rounds will advance to the state finals on March 19 in Athens.
Inman Middle School HRRB Team
Saturday, Jan.30, marked Atlanta Public Schools’ 11th year participating in the Georgia HRRB. The event is a statewide competition with a quick-action game format that tests knowledge on selected, award-winning books. Named in honor of former Dekalb County Public Schools media specialist Helen Ruffin, the HRRB was started in 2000 by DeKalb County Schools to encourage students to read.
The HRRB is now open to students in grades 4-12 across the state with over 600 schools participating.
Warren Goetzel, APS Media Services Coordinator, introduced APS schools to the HRRB in 2006 with only two schools competing district wide.
Goetzel said he’s proud of all the students who participated in the competition.
“The dedication to reading and literacy put forth by the student HRRB competitors is truly astounding and commendable,” he said. “I am eternally grateful to the media specialists and teachers who devote their time, energy, and resources to coach their HRRB team.”
As part of the competition, elementary and middle school teams read the Georgia Children’s Book Award nominees, while the high schools read the Georgia Peach Book Award nominees. The HRRB is played with a lockout buzzer system between two teams, usually consisting of five players each. Players are read questions and try to score points for their team by buzzing first and responding with the correct answer.
This year, approximately 350 students from 42 schools competed in the APS HRRB at Charles R. Drew Senior Academy. At the elementary school level, Springdale Park won first place and E. Rivers won second, marking the first time either school had placed at the APS HRRB.
At the middle school level, Inman won first place in its inaugural HRRB appearance and Wesley International placed second for the second year in a row. Drew Senior Academy placed first in the high school division, while Carver High School came in second for the second year in a row.
Springdale Park students and staff were recently recognized at the State Capitol by the GA. Lt. Governor for their environmental innovations.
Earlier this year, Springdale Park, in collaboration with the Atlanta Public Schools Facilities Department, submitted an application to the Georgia Green Ribbon Schools Awards Program. On Friday, March 9, 2012, Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle sent official notification that Springdale Park has been named a Georgia Green Ribbon School. The Georgia Green Ribbon Award is a result of a partnership between the Georgia Department of Education, the Office of the Lt. Governor, the U.S. Green Building Council of Georgia, the Georgia EPD, the Clean Air Campaign, and the Turner Foundation.
This recognition is given to high performing, healthy green schools where the staff, students, officials, parents and communities have worked collaboratively to make progress in the three pillars of the green school activity. The three pillars are as follows:
Optimal efficiency in energy, water, and waste management
Healthy students and school environment
The Georgia Department of Education has nominated Springdale Park to the U.S. Department of Education to compete for the coveted national distinction of being a National Green Ribbon School. The U.S. Department of Education is expected to determine the final award winning schools in April and will host a national recognition awards ceremony in Washington D.C.
In Georgia, the Turner Foundation has generously pledged $10,000 for the school or schools who are recognized with a National Green Ribbon. When multiple Georgia schools are selected for the National Green Ribbon Program, they will split the prize.
This year, four schools were selected to represent Georgia in the national contest: Arabia Mountain High School (DeKalb County Public Schools), Crabapple Elementary School (Fulton County Public Schools), Savannah Country Day School (Savannah private school), and Springdale Park Elementary School (Atlanta Public Schools).
“In these challenging times, school systems across the state are embracing innovative ideas to reduce costs and focus resources on the classrooms where students learn,” said Lt. Governor Cagle. “I’m proud to launch the National Green Ribbon Schools contest to recognize Georgia schools that are implementing groundbreaking tools to reduce their energy costs. This will allow us to redirect precious financial resources towards direct instruction, create a healthier learning environment for our children, and give our students career-relevant, first-hand experience in one of our state’s emerging industries.”
“I am very pleased we have schools in Georgia that are striving to be more efficient, especially in this very difficult economic environment,” said State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge. “Congratulations to our first group of Georgia Green Ribbon Schools. We’re confident that at least one of these schools will bring home a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Award.”
SPRINGDALE PARK ELEMENTARY Springdale Park Elementary School, an Atlanta public school, was certified LEED Gold. It reduced its energy costs by more than 18% by installing an onsite geothermal ground source heat pump, which both heats and cools the school. It also saves energy by using a passive solar design with daylighting, sensors, and efficient lighting fixtures. The school has implemented water-efficient practices to reduce indoor and outdoor water use; has a green procurement process for cleaning supplies, paper and furniture; and is a Clean Air School. Springdale Park has two gardens and 39% of the school’s food is grown within a 200-mile radius. The environmental science standards in the Georgia Performance Standards are taught in every grade, applying the scientific method also known as the Characteristics of Science.
Springdale Park parents Dominique and Arturo Cruz-Tucker show their son Triston his kindergarten class.
Springdale Park Elementary (SPARK) students and parents got a chance to visit their classrooms and tour the school today at the second annual “SPARK Sneak Peek” back-to-school event. Students had the opportunity to spend time in their classrooms and interact with their teacher and classmates, while parents learned about after-school enrichment programs, signed up for PTO volunteer events, and chat with Principal Yolonda Brown.
“Our annual ‘Sneak Peek’ is our most exciting back-to-school event because it gives our parents and students an opportunity to meet the entire staff before school starts and for our children to spend two hours with their teacher,” said Brown. “This gives them a sneak peek of the great instruction and enrichment that they will experience daily at SPARK throughout the school year.”
“The first year was really exciting,” said David Rein, SPARK PTO president. “To be able to go into the second year with everything so organized is so great. It’s a unique experience to have the combination of the physical space, the community, and the leadership and staff come together in such a perfect way.”
“We are really impressed with all the options children have at SPARK. The hands-on approach to learning, the talented teachers and principal, and the LEED certification,” said Dominique Cruz-Tucker, mother of entering kindergartner Triston. “They are very organized and have it together.”