A Small School with Big Ideas

Nobody is quite sure how it got its name because National Park, New Jersey is not a national park, nor is there one nearby. But the town of 3,200 people located on the Delaware River across from Philadelphia has an excellent elementary school with ambitions large enough to be contained in a national park.

With just 275 students in Pre-Kindergarten through sixth grade, National Park Elementary is unusual in not just its name, but in its structure, too. The school is the only one in its district. For middle and high school, National Park students must travel to the nearby Gateway Regional High School.

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At National Park Elementary School, the commitment to innovation includes providing students with non-traditional seating options like the AlertSeat in every classroom.

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AlertSeats give students who need to move the ability to do so, said Carla Bittner, principal.

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AlertDesks are located in three classrooms at National Park Elementary School to accommodate students who will benefit from the opportunity to stand rather than sit while learning.

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A teacher who has three AlertSeats in her classroom says they are “perfect for giving students a break.”

While it enjoys the intimacy of a small town, National Park Elementary shares some of the same problems as its neighbor across the river. Many families struggle financially; 50 percent of students are on free or reduced cost lunch; at any given time there are children from five to six homeless families attending the school; and 13 percent of its students have special needs.

Yet despite its diminutive size and its many challenges, National Park Elementary has innovative ways to serve its students.

“I believe that the staff at National Park School is incredibly capable of creating a learning environment that exceeds expectations,” said Carla Bittner, principal.

To support her claim she can point to a strong curriculum anchored by an English Language Arts Program that places an emphasis on reading, writing, speaking and listening; and the New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS)’s Progressive Math Initiative that stresses real-world applications. Comprehensive science and social studies programs and a World Language experience round out the basic offerings.

That curriculum is enriched by a robust visual and performing arts program, and a physical education program that makes life-long healthy living the priority.

Part of its commitment to innovation includes providing students with furniture that will help them learn and that includes providing non-traditional seating options in every classroom. AlertSeats from Newman Adaptive are among the choices offered. In addition, AlertDesks are located in three classrooms to accommodate students who would rather stand than sit.

“The AlertSeats give students who need to move the ability to do so,” Ms. Bittner said. “Accepting the notion that children need to move has shifted the culture a little bit. Anything that allows kids to have movement is a good thing.”

Caleigh Heenan has three AlertSeats in her third grade classroom and she pronounces them “perfect for giving students a break.”

“The kids know that they can use them when they need them,” she said.

Mrs. Heenan also uses AlertSeats as a reward that students earn through the school’s “Character Counts” program, a behavior plan that teaches the importance of being “ready to learn, respect, responsibility, fairness, citizenship, caring and trustworthiness.”

The school’s mission statement says that “National Park students are 21st century learners, able to problem-solve and apply technology skills to process their own ideas…National Park students will be prepared for an ever-changing, global society.” Despite its small size, the principal, staff and students at National Park Elementary work every day to make that a reality.

To learn how schools like National Park Elementary and others throughout the country are using the AlertSeat™ and AlertDesk™ in regular and special education classrooms, visit our website at www.alertseat.com and select Product Reviews and Articles.

Want to see the AlertSeat™ in person? Visit our booth at these upcoming professional conferences:

March 30 – April 2
AOTA (American Occupational Therapy Association). Visit Booth #13 at the Philadelphia Convention Center.

April 19 – April 21
CEC (Council for Exceptional Children). Visit Booth #1020 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

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