Lafayette Elementary School Boosts Science Teaching

Eddie Scruggs-Smith still remembers the message her single mother drilled into her when she was young: “education means opportunity.”

Although Scruggs-Smith sometimes doubted her academic abilities, the self-proclaimed product of the Oakland schools says it was a favorite Oakland Technical high School teacher who pushed her to pursue her dreams.

Today, as principal of West Oakland’s Lafayette Elementary School, she committed to making sure that “Every adult who’s part of this building (should) give [the children] that same message: ‘I have high expectations for you, and yes, I know it’s difficult, but I know that you can do it.’”

Lafayette1Last year, she asked her staff to commit to increasing how much science is taught in classrooms each week. The teachers agreed and quickly found that the students thrived while learning in a more visual and that kinesthetic way.

Scruggs-Smith also launched Lafayette’s first annual Family Science Night, where scientists came to campus to lead interactive activities for parents and students.

By then end of the 2012-13 school year, students had boosted their scores on district-wide science tests, and Lafayette had earned a Super Star Science Award from the non-profit Community Resources for Science.

During the 2013-14 school year a fall assembly was held, led by UC Berkeley astrophysicist Gibor Basri of ScienceMakers, which gets top African American scientists to teach youth about their careers.

Fourth and fifth graders also had the chance to participate in the Bridge Project, which combines a series of engineering lessons with a field trip to the new Bay Bridge.

Community support and participation at Lafayette are enhanced by extensive afterschool offerings, coordinated by Lateshya Johnson. More than half of Lafayette’s students stay after school to take extra music and computer classes, make art, or participate in flag football club and junior cheerleading.

Families also come to Lafayette for neighborhood events, also organized by Johnson. These include a June Carnival and “Lights on After School,” where Lafayette hosts other West Oakland elementary schools for a flag football cup that draws fans from throughout the neighborhood.

Additionally, many students participate in Boost! West Oakland, an on-campus mentoring center staffed by community volunteers who provide individual tutoring until 7 p.m. B

Boost was founded in 1997 as a project of the First Unitarian Church on 18th and Castro. Interested volunteers are always welcome to apply at http://boostoakland.org/.

Lafayette Elementary School has a long history, dating back to before Oakland schools were integrated in 1872. It is located at 1700 Market St., adjacent to Marston Campbell Park.

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