Magnet Spotlight: Millbrook Environmental Connections Magnet School
Every day at Millbrook Environmental Connections Magnet Elementary School is a day of exploration and discovery.
The school offers students the specialized Environmental Connections program built on nature-based learning. That means students get lots of hands-on learning, plus plenty of activity and fresh air. “I like Millbrook because we don't just learn the usual school stuff,” says fifth-grader Eden Lang. “We get to go outside and learn hands-on and do it, not just talk about it.”
Her mother, Tacye Hughes, has seen the benefits of Eden attending Millbrook. “She is really thriving. We feel so lucky that she is there. Eden loves learning about the natural world, and I think it is so important that all children connect to and learn about the environment.”
That is what drew Katie Bigler, mother of a Millbrook kindergartner, when she was researching school options last year. “My daughter has always loved exploring in the woods, learning about how plants grow, and about how people can help take care of the Earth,” she says. “I was really impressed by the learning opportunities at Millbrook, the well-tended gardens, outdoor learning spaces, and recycling and composting programs. And the students are involved in all of this. The Kindergarten teachers are doing an awesome job of teaching the students how to be meteorologists, helping them explore how a tree grows, how the seasons change. She's also learning about various cultures and traditions in a very diverse environment. The teachers and administration create a caring, inclusive environment for the ‘scholars’ at Millbrook to learn all about the environment around them. She's had opportunities this year that a traditional school may not have provided. I would encourage other parents to tour the school, talk to the magnet coordinator and learn about the great options we have for magnet programs here at WCPSS.”
The school has 12 outdoor learning spaces on campus for students to explore learning through nature, or to enjoy learning in nature. “Through outdoor learning, students are provided with sensory-rich experiences that allow for deep connections to the curriculum,” says Principal James Aldridge. “They interact with their environments in ways that help build authentic connections and, hopefully, a life-long sense of respect and responsibility for our world. “
Every student takes elective courses known as Expeditions that give them the chance to go in-depth on topics that interest them. Expeditions are cultivating a new generation of botanists, geologists, chemists, physicists, entomologists, marine biologists, and engineers!
Expeditions vary by grade level. For instance, Kindergarten and First Grade students have options such as Animal Action, Green Thumb, and Litter Bugs Me! Second and Third Graders can choose classes such as Reptiles, Fish & Amphibians, Take a Hike or Exploring Seeds, Leaves and Plants. Fourth and Fifth Graders have options such as Treasures from Earth, Farm to Table and Entomology for Everyone.
“One thing I love about being at this magnet school is that I get to go to Expeditions and learn about a lot of things that kids at other schools don’t get to,” says fifth-grader Eden. “I can choose classes about things that I am interested in and that is really great!”
Core classes - English/Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies - are taught through an environmental lens, which supports academic performance by helping students easily apply what they’re learning to real-world situations.
Fourth-grader Minnie Groves says: “I like Millbrook because all the teachers are nice and kind. They make learning easy and fun. Everybody here cares about the Earth and wants to help make it a more peaceful and better place to be.”
Millbrook also offers Environmental Inquiry, a unique science-based class as part of the specials rotation where students explore real-world problems and challenges to gain valuable knowledge and enhance critical thinking skills.
"We were fortunate to have come to Millbrook when our child started 3rd grade, and our experience has exceeded expectations," says parent Karen Bograd. "We choose Millbrook because of the Environmental Connections theme. The school has not disappointed. I love it when my child comes home from school talking about the rain forest, how to save water, or that frogs have teeth. She has truly blossomed into her learning at Millbrook."
Staff members at Millbrook are dedicated to making learning come alive for students through the school’s magnet theme. “The teachers and staff are very responsive to the students and their needs,” says Jennifer Kinlaw, the mother of a second- and third-grader. “They encourage parent-teacher communication and work with students to bring about optimal growth. They also genuinely care about the kids. We’ve been very pleased with Millbrook and our kids love it!”