Irvine kindergartners are coding computers.
Fourth graders are programming robots. And eighth graders are building model rocket ships with 3D printers.
“They don’t see it as technology,” says Beth Bowman, a second grade teacher at Canyon View Elementary, in Northwood Village. “To them, it’s just their everyday life. It’s a much more engaging way for these kids to access learning.”
Irvine high school students, meanwhile, launched two satellites into space last year – something no high school had ever done.
If all of this sounds amazing, it is. And it is due to the vision of the Irvine Unified School District Board of Education and Superintendent Terry Walker.
“I want our schools to prepare kids not just for something,” he says. “I want them to be prepared for anything because we don’t know what they might face in a world where 70 percent of jobs have not been created yet.”
Flex classrooms and innovation labs
IUSD is preparing students to be innovators, game changers and leaders. How? By fostering collaboration among students and teachers – a critical skill in the 21st century.
Flex classrooms provide movable chairs, desks and whiteboards for students to work in small groups. Innovation labs give them hands-on experience in STEM subjects, while dedicated music rooms hone artistic talents. These are provided at all grade levels.
“We can truly create a personalized course of instruction for every student where phenomenal teachers act as connectors to make sure that each child is successful and passionate about a lifetime of learning,” IUSD Chief Technology Officer Brianne Ford says.
As a result, IUSD ranks as the No. 3 school district in America, according to WalletHub – with SAT score averages that regularly outperform both the state and nation.
Founded on education
Irvine’s commitment to education is enshrined in its Master Plan, which 60 years ago created a city of villages, each built around IUSD schools.
Walker says this unique approach established schools as the heart of the community, creating a shared bond with residents who support education and share high academic expectations.
“Irvine has always been a community deeply committed to education,” he says. “Our reputation for excellence continues to draw families to us and further enhance our momentum.”
Partners with UCI
The district also draws on the talents of a world-class research university: UC Irvine.
“Our students and staff have significantly benefited from our partnership with UC Irvine,” Walker says. “Our collaboration with a variety of UCI departments directly support student-learning experiences in key areas, including science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.”
This STEM knowledge helped Irvine students make history last year with the launch of two satellites – with more planned in conjunction with NASA.
The program is a shining example of IUSD’s partnerships throughout the city – with parents, PTAs, businesses, non-profits and UC Irvine.
“We hope that all students will see this example and know it’s possible to build and launch a satellite into space as an IUSD student,” Walker says. “And they will be inspired to shoot for the stars themselves.”