School puts in Smart Stations to decrease students' idle time

Dandridge Elementary puts in Smart Stations to decrease students' idle time

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Dandridge Elementary students can often be found filling the hallways as they talk, play games and even write on the walls, as part of a new program called Smart Stations. Dandridge Elementary students can often be found filling the hallways as they talk, play games and even write on the walls, as part of a new program called Smart Stations.

By ERICA ESTEP
6 News Education Reporter

DANDRIDGE (WATE) - With higher state standards, every school in Tennessee is scrambling for ways to boost student achievement and raise test scores.

A small change at Dandridge Elementary School is taking advantage of down time with big rewards in and out of the classroom.

Dandridge Elementary students can often be found filling the hallways as they talk, play games and even write on the walls, with their teachers' blessings. That's because it's part of a new program called Smart Stations.

We found a group of fourth grade students working out answers to social studies questions, helping each other brainstorm the best answers for fun. 

"I've been shocked at how much fun they've had with it," said Assistant Principal Kristi Waltke. 

Smart Stations are the brain child of Waltke. The stations, with different topics, are scattered up and down the hallways. Some have white boards with questions for students to answer. Others have games or puzzles for them to complete.

"Each week, I put an open-ended type question up so that there's lots of different answers so that lots of students have a chance to add something," Waltke explained. "The biggest complaint we've gotten so far is that they fill up too quickly."

Fifth grade student Ben Bolinsky said, "I think they help us learn more about sometimes it's social studies and science too, and sometimes it's even math." The 11-year-old says he likes a challenge and the competition it sparks with friends.

Before Smart Stations, the students weren't allowed to socialize in the hallways. "It's changed our school a lot," Bolinsky said.

"It's changed because now we're taking that time and giving them something productive, something that's engaging, taking advantage of what would have been wasted time or an opportunity to get in trouble," Waltke explained.

Even the teachers are getting in on the fun and educational Smart Stations. Teachers' pockets, filled with flash cards, are stationed throughout the school.

Teachers can grab a set of questions and quiz the kids in the hall, for instance when they're waiting in line outside the restrooms.

First grader Aryanna Page said, "We get to write the digital time on the clock, and we get to do our upper and lower case letters."

Each grade level is working on skills they're learning in class. This week's topics come from the state standardized tests they'll take the following week.

Smart Stations are also prompting kids' self motivation to learn. "We've had questions about presidents," said Waltke. "I had some researching presidents just so that they could add information."

Third grader Logan Christensen admits it's tough to follow all the rules like, "listening, sitting still, staying in your chair, no running in the hallways, no talking."

But the eight-year-old says it's easier now that he's filling up his time at Smart Stations. "My favorite part is the game Meow, Meow Practice Coordinates because it's like math," he said. "I love it. My favorite subject is math."

Since it's the first year for Smart Stations at Dandridge Elementary, school officials don't yet know if they'll boost test scores. However, teachers say students are more engaged, and they're seeing fewer behavior problems.

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