Prairie Becomes Award-Winning

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Kindergarten Class, 1964

The class size maintained by the Prairie District was considered excellent by national standards. In the fall of 1961, Prairie had 828 students, with an average classroom load of 24 pupils per homeroom teacher.

In 1957, Mrs. Margaret Knott’s music classes wrote, “Prairie, Prairie, Prairie.” The school was the filming site of a national safety movie used to orient safety patrol groups. A book festival was also held during this year, at which two prominent authors attended – Marguerite Henry and Phoebe Erickson, winners of the William Allen White Award. The first Prairie yearbook, Prairie Panther Prints, was published in 1961.

From 1962-1969, new scholastic programs were started. These programs included “new math,” the Greater Cleveland Social Studies Program, a new science curriculum based on the discovery approach to learning; the Initial Teaching Alphabet (ITA) reading program for Kindergarten through 2nd grade; and new curriculum in social studies and spelling. The foreign language program expanded to include French. New teaching innovations included inter-class grouping and team teaching. A school psychologist, media specialist, instructional secretaries, teachers’ aides and playground supervisors were added to the staff. In 1962, Robert W. Lee took over as principal at Prairie, followed by James Owens in 1964.

Great changes came to the Prairie library. In 1964, the library moved into its new quarters, which was carpeted, air-conditioned and restocked with 11,400 volumes of transparencies, records, resource material, etc. This new library center was designed by Mrs. Jean Moore, school librarian since 1950. Prairie School was in part responsible for two District Encyclopedia Britannica Awards: one for 3rd Place in 1964 and the other a Special Commendation Award in 1966.

The Prairie School District was the first district in the United States to receive top recognition twice by the Encyclopedia Britannica and the American Association of School Librarians, co-sponsors of the awards.

Prairie was one of the first two elementary school libraries in Kansas developed as a demonstration library. It was selected because it had an extremely high level materials collection, professional competency of library staff, evidence of outstanding community cooperation  and support and evidence of involvement in planning by the entire staff.

In 1969, Prairie was one of nine libraries surveyed by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and determined to have a “superior media program.” Over 5,000 educators from the United States and several foreign countries visited the library. In June 1968, over 450 members of the American Library Association toured the library and observed 50 students and staff members demonstrate the use of media in the curriculum.

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