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‘Voice and Choice’ at Johnston Elementary
‘Voice and Choice’ at Johnston Elementary
Posted on 12/02/2019
Two students hold up Lego projects during personalized learning time at Johnston Elementary School.By Tim Reaves
BCS Communications Department

Imagine a classroom filled with books, educational gadgets, and collaborative spaces, where individual students choose what to learn at a pace that works for them.

This personalized learning environment is becoming a reality in Johnston Elementary School’s (JES) media center. Ms. Pace’s third-graders spend part of their Fridays in “zones” of their choosing – coding, green screen, Legos, reading, robotics and makerspace. They spread out across the media center and start exploring concepts that connect curriculum and creativity.

Each zone has different levels – Explorer, Seeker, Adventurer, and Conqueror. Students “level up” by demonstrating mastery over different challenges, like building a soil layer model using Legos or creating a weather report using the school’s green screen. All the zones have rigorous content and different pathways to master the levels. By the time students reach the Conqueror level, they can even design challenges for other students.

“They’re learning to take ownership of their own learning,” said BCS Digital Learning and Media Specialist Jennifer Hand. “They have a voice and choice. They decide what they want to learn, how they want to learn it, and how they want to show us that they learned it. We facilitate their progress and check in to make sure they are on track and have the support they need to be successful. Then they follow their own goals, and even teach others.”

Many elementary-aged children aren’t used to making these kinds of decisions for themselves, said JES media center specialist and program facilitator Dr. Hughes-Barnett. But therein lies one of the greatest benefits.

“We see a lot of problem-solving and reflection,” she said. “They’re being challenged and brought out of their comfort zone, and that’s where real growth happens. They’re learning how to overcome frustration and become leaders.”

    Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin,, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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