Fickett Elementary School: Making a Difference through Innovation and Collaboration
Have you ever thought about what you would do if you oversaw your very own elementary school? For Benita Grant, her dream came true six years ago when she became the Principal of Fickett Elementary School, a K-5 elementary school in the Atlanta Public School District located in Southwest Atlanta.
According to USNews.com, Fickett Elementary School features a staff/student ratio of 12:1 and is ranked #25 in Atlanta Public Schools.
While attending the Microsoft Education Exchange in October of 2022, a group of Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts had the opportunity to tour the school and work hand in hand with the staff of Fickett Elementary.
During our building tour, I had the opportunity to speak with Principal Grant about the programs that are offered, and my mind was absolutely blown.
Since taking the helm at Fickett, the school has earned a reputation of academic excellence through the hard work of its students, teachers, staff, and community. When looking at the way the school is set up and the number of programs that focus on Fickett is a gold standard in the Atlanta Public School District.
The Welcoming Student-Friendly Environment
Throughout the day, no matter where in the school we walked, it was clear that this was I was walking not into a school, but into a positive culture of learning where everyone from staff to students and even its outstanding PTA had a hand in envisioning and building.
The walls were painted with positive images featuring student motivating murals.
The physical education space features a large gymnasium with a digital projector screen that supplies students with the opportunity to focus not only on their physical skills but their core subject areas as well.
In the photo below, we see students tossing a ball at a virtual gamepad which required them to not only access their physical thinking skills but also their analytical skills. In another photo below, we see students trying to solve a math problem and answering it by tossing the ball at the correct answer.
Throughout the tour, Principal Grant shared with me that her school was specifically designed for all students and for all members of her community.
Inclusion and Community around Every Corner
One of the pieces of technology that was shown was called Active Floor. This is a projector-based system hung from the ceiling that looks like something you might find at Dave and Busters where students can interact with a variety of games by stepping on projected images on the floor.
According to Principal Grant, students can use the Active Floor as what she called “Brain Breaks.”
Brain Breaks are when students need to take a quick break from the day and recharge themselves. “Students need to be active, and this gives them the opportunity to do so,” she said.
Game-based learning aside, the Active Floor activity is not only used for when students are looking to get away from class for a few minutes. The software is designed for students not only to play games but to create games that they can then share with their peers to also interact with.
Fickett school features not just one, but three Active Floors, one specifically designed with activities for Special Education (primarily students with Autism) that offer a slightly different graphic package as well as an Active Floor designed for Social and Emotional Learning activities.
In addition to the technology found in the school, there is another special place found within the walls of Fickett that is designed to help the students learn from, tend to, and give back to their community.
The Community Garden
Located in an inner courtyard lies a vegetable garden that is truly a community experience. In the garden, students learn about planting seeds, and growing their own food, and then they share that food with those who need it in the community.
The Game Room.
One of the most impressive learning spaces at Fickett Elementary School was the Game Room. The Game Room is used as an incentive space for students who earn points throughout the week. (Think Hogwarts)
In the Game Room, students are immersed in a number of exciting activities including cooperative basketball, air hockey, a LEGO wall, GIANT Connect 4, Virtual Reality and so much more.
Connecting with Students in the Classroom.
Where it was extremely fun to interact with the school building itself and have the opportunity to test out basketball, video games, and digital projection technology, the best part of the day without a doubt was when the Microsoft Innovative Educators were given the opportunity to assist teachers in the classroom by reading a book to students in their classrooms.
I had the opportunity to join a second-grade class and read them the book Carmela Full of Wishes. The book is about a little girl who goes on a trip with her brother on her birthday.
After the students and I finished the book, the magic in the classroom happened. With the help of the student's homeroom teacher and their Special Education teacher, students opened their Chromebooks and launched Nearpod where they were asked to recall their knowledge of what they remembered about the book by drawing an image from the beginning, middle, and end with a very informational conversation about how they each recalled the story.
Fickett Elementary School is a Wonderful Place to Learn
From the moment that I walked into Fickett Elementary School to the moment that the bus pulled away, I could not help but become a part of the culture and positive energy that was pouring out of every student, every staff member, and every hallway.
Thanks to the demanding work and dedication from Principal Grant, her staff, and the PTA, the students at Fickett Elementary School have a beautiful and engaging learning environment.
Thank You, Fickett!
After the session was over and all the Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts jumped on the bus, each of us was beaming with excitement from our experiences. It was a fantastic opportunity to have the opportunity to meet with amazing students supported by outstanding teachers, led by a dynamic and incomparable principal in Benita Grant.
Thank you, Fickett, for allowing us to come into your school, and Thank You Microsoft Education for setting up this amazing learning experience.