“Yorkshire Academy is leading the nation in Ocean Education” stated NOAA’s Advisory Council Coordinator, (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Leslie Clift, in a recent virtual presentation given to NOAA by Yorkshire Academy’s 4th graders explaining their recent CO2 reducing prototypes.
Why would elementary students be presenting to NOAA and why would such young students be focusing on reducing carbon emissions? Yorkshire Academy has been the first and only Ocean Guardian School in Houston for the last 4 years. Since 1984, Yorkshire Academy has been focusing on how best to serve students from Early Childhood to 5th grade in an engaging and creative way. Thanks to Jacqui Stanley, Yorkshire Academy 5th grade teacher, seeking the Ocean Guardian distinction was another meaningful way to make Yorkshire unique. Yorkshire Academy’s smaller nurturing campus was a perfect environment to adopt this new focus.
What is an Ocean Guardian School
An Ocean Guardian School must meet various criteria each year to maintain this designation. Yorkshire Academy achieved this by making a commitment to work toward the protection and conservation of local watersheds, the world’s ocean, and special ocean areas, like national marine sanctuaries. Ocean Guardian schools must propose and implement a school- or community-based conservation project each year. With this award, comes a yearly grant to help purchase materials, cover field trip transportation costs, and any additional needs that may enhance the experience.
The initial goal of the first year’s Ocean Guardian project asked students to research and engineer methods to prevent observable marine debris from entering the water shed. In the second year, students compiled and collected water samples sourced from their local watershed and counted microplastic debris. They designed prototypes of density separators to measure and extract microplastics in beach sand. This year, students focus on the importance of plants, specifically algae, in the manufacture and importance of biofuels. Students will create prototypes of devices to measure air quality, specifically carbon dioxide.
What are SEED Students
Yorkshire Academy’s, Ocean Guardian students in grades 1st – 5th are known as SEEDS–Students Engaging the Environment through Discovery and Science. Mrs. Stanley has held the Education seat on the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council for over a decade, and she is devoted to sharing her knowledge about this special place, as well as her love for everything to do with taking care of oceans and marine life. Not many people know that the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary exists just 100 miles from the Texas coast, and is such a healthy ecosystem, it is considered a sentinel site. What better way to spread the word about our own underwater national park and all our marine sanctuaries than by children telling children! Yorkshire Academy continues the culture of supporting all aspects of education, and it is a perfect environment to “plant” SEEDS.
An important goal of the SEEDS students is to share their knowledge with others, so they have presented at various venues such as Rice University’s Bioscience Lab, a Lone Star College Biology class, and Nottingham Country Elementary gifted and talented class as well as virtually to NOAA, to the employees of Tidewater, a company that operates a large fleet of
Offshore Support Vessels worldwide a detailed explanation and analysis of microplastics. The zoom audience ranged from one Tidewater family in Norway to workers from Africa and England. The SEEDS certainly achieved educational outreach and enjoyed great international exposure! In each case, the audiences were impressed with the students’ confident, relevant, interesting and accomplished presentations, and all this from elementary students!
Academic & Enrichment Excellence
Yorkshire Academy is very proud of its Ocean Guardian designation, as well as its very strong academic program, but there are also many other special aspects of this school such as its music program which produces Broadway musicals each year like Aladdin, Fiddler on the Roof, or The Sound of Music that dazzle its audiences to their core. The art program allows for students to take such risks and create pieces of art that one would think could not be done by students so young. For example, each year Yorkshire students earn impressive medals at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Art Competition, often earning gold and Best – in -Show ribbons.
The overall enrichment program exceeds what is expected at an elementary level in a variety of classes, i.e. computer, library, Spanish, daily Physical fitness, but recently Yorkshire Academy has put an enhanced emphasis on Social Emotional classes. The world has become more challenging to manage for adults, so it’s vital that schools provide tools and specific lessons to help children navigate emotionally as they mature.
Additionally, 1st – 5th grade students can compete in PSIA (Private School Interscholastic Association), a statewide academic competition which hosts both district and state meets in subjects such as Math, Art Memory, Creative Writing, Prose Interpretation and many more. Yorkshire students diligently prepare for both the district and state meets and compete impressively each year.
While the schoolwide academics are always challenging such as in preparing for literature circle discussions, role playing Texas history, or tackling advanced math problems to name a few, all are taught in an environment where students feel comfortable taking a risk. There is a feeling of joyful learning found in every corner of Yorkshire’s campus daily.
Yorkshire’s Early Childhood program educates its ‘little ones’ with the same focus, respect, and intent as the elementary students. Watching an adorable 18-month-old students as they build their vocabulary and tackle their 1st puzzles as they weave through Yorkshire’s preschool, Pre-K, and each elementary grade, and then eventually marvel at these students as they confidently give their 5th grade graduation speech is truly a joy and privilege to behold.
Moving on to Middle School
As Yorkshire Academy’s students move on to area middle schools and all around the world, they become leaders. Yorkshire Academy students are sought out at local middle schools not just for their academic accomplishments, but for their confidence and kindness.
The staff and faculty are gratified to see so many alumni students come back to Yorkshire every year to see their favorite teachers and to remember this community that meant so much to them and helped mold them into the caring teenagers and impressive young adults they have become.
Generations of Students
One of the greatest joys for Shirley Swinbank, Yorkshire’s Founder and Executive Director is to have Yorkshire alumni enroll their own children into Yorkshire Academy. “What better compliment can we receive than having former students trust us to educate their own children?” Mrs. Swinbank shared.
39 Years and Going Strong
There have been many changes in Yorkshire Academy’s 39th year history such as growing the campus, keeping pace technologically, adding an afterschool enrichment program, developing a comprehensive summer program, but the core tenet of Yorkshire Academy remains, nurturing and challenging young children in an environment where they are known and valued. Yorkshire Academy’s tag line, “A Little School Making a Big Impact” holds true.
If you would like to learn more information about Yorkshire Academy or to come by for a personal tour, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, call 281.531.6088 or visit yorkshireacademy.com. You will see what generations have come to see. Yorkshire Academy is an amazing environment for your child to become all that they can be.
For more information on getting involved with ocean conservation, education and more, visit NOAA.gov. There is also some great information on National Geographic’s website, https://www.nationalgeographic.org/education/programs/oceans-education/.