Local charter school grows, adds more interactive classrooms: ‘this is our camping-themed room’

Local News

A charter school in Buffalo is growing, and leaders partially thank their interactive classrooms for their success. REACH Academy Charter has an added grade and more classrooms in its second school year. Seven interactive rooms were added this school year. 

At first glance, one of the classrooms looks like a real, working grocery store. There are snacks, a cash register, an array of real-looking fruits and vegetables, and even mini grocery carts.

“It’s all really about rich language experiences,” Head of School Linda Marszalek said. “Children need background knowledge in vocabulary in order to help learning to become easier, so if you have something to hook it to, or something to connect it to.”

There are 100 vocabulary words scattered throughout each classroom. Marszalek said it’s about making learning more interesting for the students, and helping them connect with what’s real. 

“The Buffalo Fire Department was here, and the fireman got out his hose, and he was putting on the nozzle and all of a sudden the light bulb went on and (one student) said, ‘oh my gosh, nozzle! That’s one of our vocabulary words!’ So she’s making the connection.”

The students rotate rooms every five weeks, with their teachers. 

“This is our camping-themed room,” said Amie Caster, the director of operations. “We have a tent, we have a cabin, and we have a camper… so the three different modes that you can camp in.”

The camping room is one new room this year. 

Each classroom has a silent reading space, that’s what the cabin in the camping room is used for. A castle in another room is used for silent reading. 

There are tech tubs, SMART boards and touchscreen listening centers throughout the school as well. 

School leaders tell News 4, the technology is all to prepare students for their future and to help them be job-ready. 

As the students get older, school leaders say the rooms will get more sophisticated for the age group. 

“In a room with white walls you wouldn’t see anything on the walls, so you wouldn’t get ideas for stuff,” one student said. “But you have stuff on the walls, so you get lots of ideas for writing and stuff.”

School leaders said, more than 90 percent of students come from low-income households. Last year, about 44 percent of the kindergartners were above-grade level in reading, and a majority of the students were level with New York State standards. 

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