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Less Pencil & Paper, More Creative Learning At New Mansfield ISD School

MANSFIELD (CBSDFW.COM) - It's billed as a pre-K the likes of which have never been seen before. The Mansfield Independent School District is taking school beyond the four walls of a classroom at a new campus for four-year-old's.

Lessons are hands-on at the Academy for Early Learners. Instead of classrooms, students learn through experiences, spending two weeks immersed in one subject at a time -- rotating through topics from animals and oceans to travel and archeology.

The public school pre-K just opened this month and teachers are already hearing from parents who say the creative approach to learning has their children are waking up early, excited to go to school.

Academy for Early Learners
(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

The Sarah K. Jandrucko Academy for Early Learners serves about 60-percent of pre-K qualifying families in the Mansfield ISD.

When the district decided to open a new campus, it looked at early childhood research that shows young students learn through interaction. For example, instead of sounding out a word from writing on a piece of paper, students are acting it out.

"We're getting to stomp out the word, and run to the footprint, and break apart a word in a different way instead of just looking at it on a piece of paper," explained pre-kindergarten teacher Katie Fleck.

Transformational is how school leaders describe it and they hope the academy can be a model for school districts across the state.

"Students need to experience things in order to really master skills.," said Kristi Cobb, director of early literacy. "So, you're going to notice all of the learning in the classrooms is hands-on. Students are actively engaged in what they're working with."

Pre-K and kindergartners at other Mansfield ISD campuses will take field trips to the academy throughout the year, so students not enrolled at the campus full-time will have some of the learning experiences as well.

There's an official dedication ceremony taking place this Saturday.

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