ALGONQUIN – Math has always been fun for 9-year-old Olivia Reynolds, a fourth grader in District 300.
"I don't know why, but I just like it," Reynolds said Wednesday, minutes before the first day of class began at Westfield Community School.
District 300 students were among the first in the area to return to school, and Principal Bill Doran said the year as a whole will largely concentrate on further implementation of the Common Core State Standards – especially in regard to Reynolds' favorite subject.
"Common Core has been unfolding the last couple of years," he said. "The district has spent a great deal of time this past year developing a curriculum for Common Core in the area of math."
That means the math curriculum will incorporate more hands-on work and more cooperative learning in groups, said fourth-grade teacher Donna Sarich.
"The other idea is to reduce the amount of concepts and learn them more in-depth, which is fantastic because then you can do more creative things and really build that understanding," Sarich said loudly, talking over the buzz of students showing one another shiny new school supplies.
As a new year begins, first-year instructors such as Hanah Dillon step into their own classrooms for the first time.
Having learned about Common Core throughout college, Dillon said she was well-prepared for this year's curriculum developments, some of which may be modified as a teacher of special-needs kindergartners.
"We do still follow Common core," Dillon said. "Our kids might just need some accommodations and modifications made so they can succeed."
For veteran kindergarten teacher Jill Kooken, the general philosophies of the standards are not necessarily new to education, but aspects such as more hands-on work are helpful in keeping class interactive and interesting – an ever-important component of teaching, she added.
"My goal when [students] leave school is for them to say, 'I loved it. I want to come back,'" Kooken said. "I can teach them as long as they want to be at school and they're excited."