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Lawton Chiles Middle Academy Helps Students Develop Their Potential

By S. Mathur

The Lawton Chiles Middle Academy is a magnet school in Polk County, defining itself as an "internationally minded community committed to fostering curious minds in an educational environment that produces resilient, respectful and empathetic students, empowering them to exemplify academic integrity and exhibit responsiveness to our ever-changing global community." Following the well respected and challenging International Baccalaureate (IB) program, it offers students the opportunity to develop their potential in an environment that emphasizes technology and creativity.

Principal Brian J. Andrews says that "Lawton Chiles Middle Academy is a challenging and exciting choice alternative for students and their families who place a high value on education and are willing to work hard in a self-directed, technology-rich learning environment." As an expression of the values of the school, he says, "Students at Lawton Chiles wear uniforms and adhere to high expectations in dress, performance and behavior resulting in a school that is nurturing and supportive while setting clear expectations and high standards."

The innovative curriculum gives students "unique learning opportunities that expand their horizons beyond the traditional classroom," says Andrews. The Middle Years Program (MYP), he explains, uses "community service projects, active hands-on learning experiences and the IB learner profile to help students develop as empathetic, responsible learners with a heart for service and an international mindset." Students are encouraged to make connections between subjects and to find ways to contribute to their own communities.

The IB learner profile for the MYP identifies students who are active learners, internationally minded, able to empathize with others and having the capacity and skills to pursue lives of purpose and meaning. The MYP gives students the opportunity to develop their potential by exploring their own learning preferences, taking appropriate risks and developing a strong sense of personal identity.

The innovative curriculum, projects and activities at the school give students the opportunity to develop creative and problem-solving skills. The three-classroom Maker Space gives students access to a fully functional fabrication lab with multiple 3D printers, laser-cutters, routers, 3D scanners, 3D milling machines, and programming tools. It allows them to take a innovative idea from concept through design to the development of an actual prototype.

Another recent example, says Andrews, was the "national Lexus Eco Challenge through our Environmental Symposium class. For this challenge, students researched the plight of Monarchs that live here in southwest Florida permanently. They are dying off at alarming rates due to loss of green space and their native milkweed they need to grow their young and feed on as adults.

Also, pesticides are destroying the milkweed in our yards and poisoning the monarchs." To address this problems, students devised a number of approaches: educating the community with booths at the Cardboard Boat Race on Lake Hollingsworth and the WE3 Expo; discussions with the Leadership Lakeland group and elementary school students; distributing milkweed seeds and planting their own milkweed garden on the school campus. These efforts won the students the Land and Water Lexus Eco Challenge, and their displays are now headed for the Go Green Celebration at Lake Mirror on Earth Day.

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