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First Elementary New Tech School in the Southeast Region

Bells Elementary School is now the first elementary campus in the Southeast region to become a New Tech school, offering students a group setting approach to project learning.
The news came to the Colleton County School Board during its board meeting last week. On Friday, school and district officials say the school is already physically ready to make the transition. The school will begin its new approach to curriculum and learning in August of this year. Teachers at the school will begin training as early as this Spring and Summer.
Colleton County High School is already a New Tech school. This is one of the reasons why Bells Elementary School officials say that the rural elementary school was chosen. “This is really, really, really exciting. It’s bigger than you could imagine. With Colleton County High School already having everything in place, they can easily help us transition,” said Lauren Behie, principal of the Bells Elementary School.
“Also, this is a feeder source into the high school’s program.”
Colleton County Middle School was not chosen as a New Tech school because there is already an instructional grant in place and is focusing on STEM learning.
Behie says Bells is also a new campus, that means that the school will not require a physical transformation to turn current classrooms into group settings. “Much of our new school is already built to instruct small groups,” she said. “So, no actual changes to the building is necessary.”
According to Behie, the demographics of the rural school also helped it to be chosen as the first elementary school to offer a New Tech way of learning. Bells sits in Ruffin, and caters to a more secluded and a migratory population of students, she said. “You can go to richer schools like in Richland County or in Greenville, where there is a bigger, richer tax base, but you can come here and truly give students an experience,” she said.
There are currently between 307-325 students enrolled at Bells Elementary School, depending upon the migrant population and the seasons. “It’s going to take courage to do this because it is different, but we are ready to get the students excited,” she said, saying that the teachers at Bells have already begun to tell students about the incoming instructional shift. “They are ready and excited,” she said, about the students.
As for parents, Behie says that they can expect their children to begin with problem-based learning that “makes learning more relevant” to their world and community, she said. “This means you are linking your community and its problems to the issues being taught to the students,” said Behie. “Not only are we going to focus on the soft skills, but on oral communication so they can take control of their learning.
“When we were younger, it was about teaching the whole child, and then the focus shifted to standardized testing. We lost the essence of teaching the whole child,” she added. “We want them to now experience more than what’s in their immediate culture and community.”
As for Bells teachers, Behie says they will be taught a “New Tech 101” instructional, where they are going to be “retaught” how to let students do more research on their own in finding their own answers to problems. “We want students to have a choice to present their own solution and problems,”

Heather Walters (1297 Posts)