School of the Week: Emerson Elementary-Middle School

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.“ ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

A strong academic program with just the right mixture of technology and art are the perfect ingredients to produce an award-winning curriculum, according to Emerson Elementary-Middle School Principal Brenda Carethers.

Emerson Elementary-Middle School, a two-building facility housing grades Pre-K-8, was named after Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American essayist, philosopher, poet and supporter of abolitionism. When Carethers took the role as principal in 2009, she put the school into a reconstruction phase with more than 75 percent new staff members. As part of the reconstruction period, Carethers implemented a three-year academic plan with a new focus on integrated learning in areas including science, technology and art.

Known for its unique, in-school Butterfly Greenhouse, Emerson students are offered STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) opportunities beginning at the Pre-K level. Both school buildings are fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology in every room. Emerson has a media center, iPads, laptops, Promethean/SMART interactive whiteboards, multimedia projectors, document cameras, laser printers and scanners in order to maximize student engagement and achievement.

“Our students are exposed to blended learning which utilizes traditional learning with technology. This component is important and acts as a visual piece, which I find is most impactful to our students,” Carethers said.

Because of Emerson’s heavy focus on technology and science – and involvement in programs including Robotics, A World in Motion and Think Green – many Emerson students have set high standards to pursue the most unique careers.

“I want to be a statistician,” 10-year-old Terry Turner said. “I like dealing with numbers and working with addition, subtraction, multiplication and everything about math.”

Turner is one of many students at Emerson who have a passion for learning and already seem to be career-focused.

Eighth-grader William Ivory also shared that his favorite subject is math, but wants to be a technical engineer.

“I love math and being a part of the robotics team,” said Ivory. “I also like to draw. I think that art signifies a person’s creativity which, is just as important as any other subject.”

It’s no surprise these students are so career-focused. Carethers shared that she and her staff constantly promote careers in science, engineering and technology and take every chance to incorporate real-life practices into the curriculum.

Emerson is also an award-winning Go Green school and boasts having Science Teacher Kunjan Vyas, who oversees the Butterfly Greenhouse attached to her classroom.

Students receive hands-on learning when working in the Butterfly Greenhouse, which Vyas said during the spring is filled with dozens of Monarch Butterflies that students are able to study and observe. The Butterfly Greenhouse also leads outside to the school’s garden beds which are shaped as the “Michigan Mitten.”

“We completed 16 Go Green projects last year during the Go Green Challenge thanks to our outstanding science teacher Ms. Vyas,” Carethers said. “She is a wonderful asset to our science program and helps the school receive grants from organizations including DTE, GM and Bosch Engineering. These grants help sponsor many of the science and technology equipment you see throughout the school.”

Emerson also has an award-winning art gallery that houses art pieces by students of all grade levels. This year, Emerson had 11 submissions at the 77th Annual Detroit Public Schools Student Exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts with two first-place winners.

According to Art Teacher Bonita Wells “art mediums” are art materials or artist supplies used to create a work of art. Wells challenges her students by working with many types of mediums including recycled jeans, juice cups, old telephone wires, paint, pottery and more.

“I have a lot of talent that I am able to work with here. So I try to channel busy students by utilizing art, and they really go places and create things they never realized they could,” Wells said.

Carethers has a passion for the arts. When she became principal of Emerson, she knew art was another aspect that needed to be incorporated into the school’s curriculum.

“I want my students to have the same experiences as students who attend schools such as Cranbrook. Many schools in our district are doing outstanding things in their art departments and my school is one of them,” Carethers said.

The 23-year DPS veteran prides her school on being a professional learning community with highly qualified staff. Emerson students continue to achieve academic excellence by taking advantage of the integrated curriculum focused on cooperation, collaboration and holding high expectations for all stakeholders.

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