Pamela Bylsma, principal of RB, has clarified that the number of students necessary under school policy to reinstate the SEE Team program is 60 not the 78 students referenced in this article (“RB plans to offer SEE program again next year.” Nov. 16, 2011 issue.). Seventy-eight students is the maximum number of students who could be accommodated. Bylsma also said that if the program attracts something less than 60 students, that the school board could allow the program to move ahead.
The administration at Riverside-Brookfield High School has decided to again offer the interdisciplinary School of Environmental Education (SEE) Team to freshmen next year after a one-year hiatus.
Last spring, administrators decided not to run the SEE Team this year after only 46 incoming freshmen signed up for the program.
“We are going to offer that again,” RB Principal Pamela Bylsma told the school board last month at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Oct. 25. Bylsma said at least 78 incoming freshman must sign up for the SEE Team in order for the program to be offered during the 2012-2013 school year.
The SEE team takes an interdisciplinary approach to environmental education in four required freshman classes: Biology, Algebra, English and physical education (known at RB as Wellness).
The program uses the resources of Brookfield Zoo in its program and this year the zoo will waive its past fee for its involvement in the program, Bylsma told the school board.
At last week’s District 208 school board meeting the faculty that make up the SEE Team put on a presentation. SEE Team supporters turned out in force, filling the Alumni Lounge with a standing-room-only crowd of more than 50 supporters.
“We feel like we provided students with a number of opportunities for real-world learning,” said Biology teacher Jame Holt who has been part of the SEE team since the program began in 2005.
Tim Scanlon, assistant principal for Curriculum and Instruction, a passionate supporter of the SEE Team, led off the presentation.
“You don’t know what you really have until you lose it,” Scanlon said. “It’s a very dynamic force. An interdisciplinary teaching partnership with a world-class institution, using experiential education to teach responsibility and citizenship.”
Scanlon said some tweaks have been made to the program to save money and increase student interest. “The team has evolved [so] some of the expenses are no longer necessary,” Scanlon said.
A SEE Team period of environmental enrichment will be eliminated, meaning that students will only have to devote four periods of their day to the SEE Team. Conflicts with popular electives was cited as a reason that more students did not sign up for the program.
A representative from the Brookfield Zoo and a researcher from UIC also spoke to the value of the program.
Some parents of former SEE Team members used the public comment portion of the meeting to praise the program.
“I think it’s an incredible way to get people engaged,” said Chris Blackburn whose son was on the SEE Team two years ago. “It’s a great way to transition from middle school to high school. This is a feather in the cap of District 208 and RB High School and makes us look good.”
Ruta Kulbis said she thinks the SEE Team should be compulsory or at least the default option for incoming freshmen.
“It’s not a want program, it’s a need program,” said Kulbis whose son was part of the SEE Team last year. “It’s not a program; it’s an essential part of the way we live.”
Tom Powers, another parent of a former SEE Team student and a former District 95 school board member who narrowly missed being elected to the D208 school board in April, also praised the program.
“The SEE Team is a builder of character,” Powers said. “I think there is no one more self-absorbed than a teenager.” He added that the SEE Team inspires students to look beyond themselves and develop a concern for the environment and the community.
Administrators and the board did not seem to need any convincing as the decision had already been made by the administration to bring the SEE Team back.
“This is obviously a great program,” said D208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis. “Hopefully enough students sign up for it.”
D208 board member Dan Moon agreed. “This gives RB awesome uniqueness,” he said.
SEE Team members are visiting all of RB’s feeder schools to sell eighth-graders on the value of the program.
“They need to be able to market to the eighth-graders coming in,” said D208 school board President Matt Sinde, who was asked about the large turnout at the meeting to show support.
“It just shows that there are some people who are very passionate about the program,” Sinde said.