Magnet School is Full of Bright Ideas
Lee Elementary School of Technology and World Studies aims to nurture future leaders.
Inside a charming red brick building built in 1906, the students of Lee Elementary School of Technology and World Studies are hard at work becoming the leaders of tomorrow. The innovative magnet school -- and the first magnet program to be offered in Hillsborough County -- offers youngsters in kindergarten through fifth grade the opportunity to learn about the world around them with a curriculum based on "The Seven Wonders of Lee": communication, culture, economics, environment, innovation, wellness and leadership.
While exploring the continents of the world, students are immersed in these wonders in creative ways, such as service learning projects, foreign language studies and communication with their peers in other countries. Past students have had pen pals in Italy; this year, schools in Asia and Africa also will participate.
Students are allowed to choose between five languages to study: Spanish, French, German, Mandarin and Italian. After a brief trial period in which they can explore their options, students then commit to studying that language for the duration of the school term.
Twice weekly music classes also embrace a global theme; from African drums to strings, the rhythms and sounds of various cultures are explored throughout the school year.
"By the time they leave here, they are going to be more globally aware, " Lead magnet teacher Lara Barone said.
The school recently partnered with Monroe Middle School to create a model delegate program for fourth and fifth graders that allows students to step into the shoes of ambassadors from around the world.
As participants in the Model UN program, an outreach of the UN Foundation, students are required to research the countries they represent and find solutions to various problems globally, then participate in conferences to share their ideas. Lee is the first elementary school in Florida to participate in the Model UN program, and one of only two elementary schools thus far in the U.S.
Lee magnet students also can take part in the worldwide Odyssey of the Mind program this year, which is open to students from kindergarten through college. After choosing an issue, participants work in teams as creative problem solvers, to come up with a solution, and present those solutions in a variety of creative ways at local, state and even international competitions.
By participating in these programs and integrating the seven wonders into their global studies, "we really encourage students to think outside the box," Principal Robin Johnson said.
Creative thinking and global awareness is emphasized for students beginning in kindergarten, with the goal of sending them to middle school and beyond with a rich understanding of other cultures and the confidence to lead in a variety of settings.
"When they leave we want them to be leaders not only in school, but in our community, and to understand where they are in relation to the world around them," Johnson said.
Johnson welcomes prospective students and parents to tour the school and submit applications to the Hillsborough County magnet school office.