FIVEPOINT'S COMMITMENT TO TECHNOLOGY AND LEARNING
21st century students thrive in high-tech schools
Portola High School and Beacon Park School in Irvine’s Great Park Neigborhoods are designed for innovative learning
By Kedric Francis | April 10, 2016
In a newspaper story about Irvine public schools published in 1994, August Lobato, then a Vista Verde fourth-grade teacher, presciently predicted that “by the time this generation of kids enters the business world, they’ll be carrying their handheld computers.”
Fast-forward to 2016, and many K-12 students in Irvine are digital natives fluently using smartphones, iPads and Chromebooks. They were weaned on Web 2.0, and may already engage in online learning at home. As author Milton Chen puts it in his book Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools: “Today’s students… are marching through our schools, carrying a transformational change in their pockets in the form of powerful multimedia handheld devices.”
The two newest schools in the Irvine Unified School District, Portola High School and Beacon Park School, have been designed to meet the needs and inspire the minds of digitally savvy 21st century students. The all-new, state-of-the-art schools opening in the Great Park Neighborhoods in late August will feature flexible classrooms and workspaces, fostering teamwork and collaboration. The schools incorporate the latest thought leadership and educational learning trends that include transforming classrooms and libraries into innovation labs, makerspaces, and learning commons. Both schools will be environmentally sustainable, energy efficient and aligned with modern teaching methods, meeting criteria developed by the Collaborative for High Performance Schools.
Teachers lecturing students as they sit passively listening is not part of the plan. Rather, IUSD teachers will seek to engage students in activities that require creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and problem solving.
Portola High School will include a full performing arts center, a “Maker’s Lab,” complete with laser cutter, sewing machines, film equipment; and an elective building that will house video production, 2D and 3D art, music rooms and more. The grounds of Beacon Park School will include flexible spaces to inspire student collaboration across all grade levels, as well as an Innovation Lab, a Design Lab, dedicated music classrooms, and dedicated science classrooms for grades 6-8. The K-8 school will also feature a separate kindergarten area with play structures, as well as outdoor learning areas between classroom buildings, student gardens, grass fields and grade-level play equipment.
You won’t find computer labs at the new schools, because technology will be integrated throughout, according to Kris Linville, IUSD’s Director of Education Technology. “Students should be able to open up a laptop wherever they are,” he says. Students will eventually be able to “BYOD” (bring your own device) with highspeed WiFi throughout the schools. The technology will be device agnostic so students and teachers aren’t limited to a brand or technology company, with only cloud-based software and apps used, so kids can access them at home or wherever they are.
The Innovation Lab at Beacon Park School will be an open space with furniture that teachers and students can move around. There will be four projectors and screens, so that students don’t have to sit in desks in straight lines.
“Kids learn better when they’re comfortable,” Linville says. “Some kids learn better by standing, so there will be stand-up work stations.” For those worried that kids will be distracted by easy access to the Internet at school, Linville says “If teachers are engaging kids with higher levels of thinking, they’re not going to go play games.”
“The worst thing a teacher can say is ‘I’m not good at technology,’” Linville explains. “If you want to be a teacher in Irvine, you have to understand that technology, innovation and creativity are part of the job.”
FROM THE PRINCIPALS' OFFICES
Two new state-of-the-art schools under construction right in Great Park Neighborhoods: Beacon Park School, for children in kindergarten through 8th grade, and Portola High School, the newest high school in Irvine. Both schools are scheduled to open in August 2016.
Portola High School Principal John Pehrson
Pehrson comes to Portola High School after 10 years as principal of University High School. “Our goal is to develop well-rounded students, and prepare them for a changing world,” Pehrson says. “I can’t wait to see the looks on kids’ faces when they come here. I want to hear them say how awesome it is.” Pehrson is excited about choosing teachers. “Every teacher hired here loves kids. Students will go home saying that every teacher is their favorite teacher,” says Pehrson.
Beacon Park School Principal Bob Curley
Principal Bob Curley has been with Irvine Unified School District for 26 years, and he’s excited to be the Beacon Park School principal from opening day. He’s looking forward to “being able to provide an academic program where every student truly feels like they have a place, and where parents walk away with the trust that their kids are in a great spot,” Curley says. “Flexible workspaces, the latest in technology, an integrated curriculum, personalized instruction, involved teachers…they all help kids want to come to school.”