School plan emphasizes learning outside the classroom

Illustrated plan will be distributed in 4 languages

Illustrated copies of Cordova School District’s new strategic plan will be distributed in four different languages. Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Cordova School District’s new strategic plan places an emphasis on activities and partnerships outside the four walls of the school.

Printed copies of the plan, which is presented in the form of an illustrated poster, will be distributed to students’ families. A total of roughly 2,000 copies of the plan have been printed in English, Spanish, Tagalog and Sugcestun language. Copies of the plan will be accompanied by a letter explaining the plan’s two-year development process. The plan can also be found online at

The plan’s illustrations include images of the Prince William Sound Science Center building, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, emergency response personnel, and workers doing welding. Absent are images traditionally associated with school such as blackboards, exam papers and stacks of textbooks. Via the strategic plan, the district hopes to promote the idea that learning can take place outside of school walls, Superintendent Alex Russin said.

“People know that — intuitively, they know that, because parents are kids’ first teachers, and they’re teaching kids lots of things outside of the school building before they even come through the doors,” Russin said. “So, how can we continue to build on that and get a broader understanding of the ways that the school system can be effective?… Hopefully the imagery represents unlimited ideas and possibilities for ways in which the community can engage with us and, likewise, we can engage with the community.”

The district intends to survey the community to identify people with particular areas of interest and expertise who would be willing to share their knowledge with students, and to include them in a database, Russin said.

The strategic plan also emphasizes soft skills that Russin describes as desirable to employers: collaboration, communication, curiosity, creativity and critical thinking, or the “five C’s.” While parents often schedule vacations to coincide with school breaks, Russin hopes that parents will be able to work with schools to find learning opportunities even during recreational trips, he said. For instance, during a vacation, a student might be responsible for writing a narrative account of the trip, or for budgeting and keeping a ledger of expenses.

“Rather than math worksheets, you’ve got a kid engaging in a real-life activity that is applicable to the current situation and will help carry them forward in future years,” Russin said. “It doesn’t matter what career path you choose: those elements, those five C’s, are applicable, they’re relevant, and those are what are going to help students be successful after they leave our school system… When you’re learning something new, you want to see the relevance, because that will help you be a little bit more engaged — not just, ‘You need to learn this because I said so.’”

The recently released plan differs from previous plans in that it has no end date, and is instead intended to be updated and adjusted over time.