Gulf Shores City Schools push education outside the box

By Melanie LeCroy /
Posted 12/22/21

From day one, Gulf Shores City Schools Board of Education has asked district members to think outside of the box to provide an engaging learning environment for students.The newest innovation has …

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Gulf Shores City Schools push education outside the box


From day one, Gulf Shores City Schools Board of Education has asked district members to think outside of the box to provide an engaging learning environment for students.

The newest innovation has students rolling outside of that box.

Gulf Shores Elementary School held a ribbon cutting ceremony Dec. 14 for the Science by the Shores Bike Barn. With funding provided by Rep. Steve McMillian, The Dolphin Foundation for Education and Arts and the city of Gulf Shores, students and teachers have a fleet of bikes to expand the footprint of their classroom.

"Today is an exciting day because it is providing you with great insight into our vision for what school should look like and what it is going to look like in Gulf Shores. From day one our goal has been to empower our teachers. We use the analogy we are going to build the highway, but they decide what lane they drive in, how fast or how slow. We want to give them the flexibility to innovate, the power to do things differently and ultimately let them teach and decide what is the best way kids can learn. Today is a result of that empowerment," said Gulf Shores City Schools Superintendent Dr. Matt Akin. The Science by the Shore curriculum is the direct result of this empowerment, he said.

Administrators went to the science teachers and asked, 'How can we best teach our students about science'? Their answer was to stop bringing science into the classroom and to take the students out of the classroom to learn about the unique environment all around them.

One of the Gulf Shores City Schools five core values emphasizes the health and well-being of the whole child. Science and math teacher Kerry Dey and Assistant Superintendent Stephanie Harrison worked together and produced the idea that bicycles could be used to promote fitness and health while focusing on learning.

"I don't know if any other schools are doing this but if they are not, they will be soon. This is such an exciting initiative. We are getting our students out into the environment at the same time they are biking and focusing on health and fitness. It's the best of both worlds," Akin said.

The Alabama State Superintendent, Dr. Eric Mackey, State School Board vice president Jackie Zeigler and McMillan were in attendance for the ribbon cutting ceremony. Mackey took a moment to speak before the event moved onto the trails of Gulf State Park.

"It is good to be here and it's always good to be a part of being on the cutting edge of the future. That is where we want to be," Mackey said. "From the beginning Kevin and Mayor Craft when you were separating away and forming your own school district that is what I heard you say. That you want to take charge of the education of this community. You were going to push things forward into the future and I think you have done that. I challenge you to keep thinking about what the next vision is and the next vision because these students here, that is what they deserve."

After the ribbon was cut on the Bike Barn, Dey's fifth grade students fetched the bikes and helmets and prepared for their first bike field trip. Several adults at the ceremony brought bikes to join in. Mackey and Harrison rode bikes from the fleet.

The field trip included a five-mile round-trip ride into Gulf State Park where students met up with Gulf State Park naturalists for a STEAM lesson. The students identified leaves using an application on their iPads and were granted permission to collect leaves to take back to the classroom. Once back in the classroom, the students used the leaves for math class to calculate surface area and angles.

Dey said his students go for bike rides once a week when weather permits for 45 minutes of their 90-minute class. He is also the adviser for the Bike Club which rides on club days and has over 15 students.