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July 17, 2018

More than math and science: Local students learning life skills at school

At Hillsborough County Public Schools, school doesn’t always feel like “school,” and that’s a good thing.

Education is changing in Hillsborough County. Yes, students are still learning the basics; in fact, recent math and reading tests ranked our public schools at the top of 27 large school districts in the U.S. But our children are being exposed to much more than those lessons and in new ways.

The work is guided by the vision for Hillsborough County Public Schools: Preparing Students for Life.

Davidsen Middle School culinary program
Students in the Davidsen Middle School culinary program prepare fresh pasta in culinary class. In addition to culinary, students at the Westchase school’s Center for the Arts can study programs including dance, music, Spanish and more.

Preparing Students for Life means teaching kindergarten students in both English and Spanish at special Dual Language academies, reinforced with a scavenger hunt field trip to a Fresco y Mas grocery store. Dual Language, now at Bellamy and Crestwood elementary schools, expands to Reddick and Westchase next year.

Preparing Students for Life means pairing third-graders at Woodbridge Elementary with volunteers from one of the region’s top companies, Tech, so students at the Town ‘n’ Country school can take apart and reassemble computers. Next year, students in grades 3-5 can work closely with mentors from high-wage, high-demand technology careers.

It means watching Sgt. Smith Middle School medical academy students take each other’s pulse during a lab while broadcast academy students put finishing touches on the latest morning show down the hall.

This isn’t only about school skills — Preparing Students for Life is about bringing out the best in our children’s leadership skills and character.

Martinez Middle School
At Martinez Middle School, sixth grade agriculture student Jacob Schein leads a tour of the grounds. One of his duties is to care for the ducks.

Preparing Students for Life means students make the decisions at the Martinez Middle School agriculture program in Lutz. “They take leadership and ownership for their actions,” says teacher Elizabeth Hessel. “They take on challenges and get the other kids inspired and motivated. They learn real world skills, communication, time management, budgeting… It empowers them.”

It means encouraging Lee Elementary students to contribute their ideas at a workshop to discuss future plans for the Tampa Heights school. At Davidsen Middle School, Preparing Students for Life means Chef Kimberly Toner teaches students to make pasta from scratch instead of from a box.

Bellamy Elementary School Dual Language Academy
Kindergarten students from the Bellamy Elementary School Dual Language Academy practice their English and Spanish during a field trip to the Fresh y Mas grocery store. Students learn content in both languages in the program, which is expanding to including four schools in 2018-19.

At Randall Middle School in FishHawk, it means eighth-grader Camden Grant raising money to donate 150 pairs of shoes to students at Booker T. Washington Elementary through a project she created called Soles Shaping Souls. It means seeing grateful looks in the eyes of Twin Lakes Elementary students as they flip through more than 3,000 books donated by Westchase Elementary School students.

Preparing Students for Life isn’t just a slogan. From New Tampa to South Tampa, and Westchase to Lithia, it’s shaping new ways to learn. And it’s even happening in Houston, Texas.

Through Hillsborough Virtual School, all students can enroll in accelerated classes or even complete a full school year. Because of that, one new Hillsborough Virtual School graduate was able to excel at academics while also balancing a budding career with the Houston Ballet.


Hillsborough Schools are tuition-free, including magnet schools and choice options. Hillsborough County Public Schools will offer an additional School Choice selection window July 12-19. Details are at sdhc.k12.fl.us.



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