Wildwood School celebrated for its student-directed learning, receives new annex


As the school year approaches, Wildwood School is receiving national attention for its student-directed learning and is celebrating the opening of its new three-story annex at 6950 N. Hiawatha Ave.

Wildwood students take a lead role in how they are being taught, requiring teachers to be flexible and adaptable with their instruction, and this leadership role helps students “find the relevance” in their work, said Wildwood principal Mary Beth Cunat.

“You might wonder how lesson planning works if you’re always reconstructing on the fly. I’ve found that if the students take the lesson in a different direction than what I’ve planned for, it’s my job to light their way to where my intention and their intention meet.

“Most often, if their curiosity takes us in a completely different direction, I let them run with it. However, I also let them find the connection between what I need them to learn and what they want to learn,” Wildwood fourth grade teacher Georgia Mathis recently wrote in an article published by Edutopia, the George Lucas Educational Foundation.

Foundation officials chose Wildwood for a case study because of the innovative ways the school is implementing its inquiry-based curriculum, Cunat said. What initially caught the foundation’s attention was the fact that Wildwood students run parent-teacher conferences, she said.

The foundation, which was founded by “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, is designed to promote “good practices” in the educational field, Cunat said. Teachers from around the world could be contacting Wildwood, a neighborhood international baccalaureate school, to learn more about its teaching philosophy as a result if the foundation’s study, she said.

Also, by the end of the month the school is scheduled to take possession of a new three-story annex, which includes 10 classrooms, a library, a lunchroom and computer and art facilities. In addition, volunteers have been “painting and touching up” classrooms in the main building, and the Wildwood Parent Teacher Association recently converted the former lunchroom manager’s office into the school’s first faculty lounge, Cunat said.

The school will hold a celebration in honor of the annex’s opening from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10.

Enrollment for this fall is projected to be between 460 and 470 students, up from 430 last year, but not all of the students who were accepted through the enrollment lottery have registered, Cunat said. Wildwood is a magnet school that guarantees enrollment to those children who live within the school’s attendance boundaries, but it also accepts outside students in grades where the classrooms are not full.

The school was allocated additional funds as a result of its higher enrollment. “If I don’t get the projected enrollment, I risk losing that on the 20th day (of classes),” Cunat said.

The school’s modular units, which had four classrooms, were demolished in June in anticipation of the opening of the annex. Plans call for Wildwood to have two classes in each grade.

It also was reported that an anonymous donor provided funds to buy new laptop computers for the teachers and that the old laptops will be used in a student computer lab. The school also is looking into ways that it can provide Chrome tablets for all students in sixth through eighth grades, Cunat said.

Wildwood School to get annex