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ECO: Answers for many questions!

What is ECO?

ECO is a middle school learning opportunity offered by the Marcus Whitman Central School District for sixth-grade students.  ECO offers an experiential curriculum with an environmental focus.  An experiential curriculum means that students are often involved in projects and activities that help them to explore and study various concepts across the curriculum.  Often the term “hands-on” learning is used to describe experiential learning.  Environmental focus means that an emphasis is also placed on students learning in relationship to the natural world around them.

Why does ECO exist?

ECO exists to offer an alternate curricular choice for students and their parents.  ECO teachers believe having a choice in a student’s school experience helps to create a stronger engagement for learning participation through personal responsibility and commitment by the student and family.  ECO teachers also have chosen to meet additional expectations and responsibilities in performing their roles as teachers in this unique educational setting.   ECO emphasizes a spirit of choice, commitment, and community around the learning curriculum.

Where is ECO?

ECO is located in the Marcus Whitman Middle School in Rushville, N.Y.  ECO learning activities also take place in “the field” at various locations across the local region.  These activities may include hiking, kayaking, fishing, camping, cross-country skiing, water testing, sketching, writing, greenhouse growing, gardening, maple sugaring, environmental studies, cultural studies, and community service projects.  ECO’s ability to use the local environment for field-based learning allows it to create a learning community with a unique learning culture. 

How long has ECO existed?

ECO has been serving district students for twenty-five years; since before the current students were born!  More than 734 students have attended ECO throughout its history.

Who attends ECO?

Children are selected by a lottery after they have asked to participate.  The children represent all types of students with varying academic and socioeconomic backgrounds.  The unifying student characteristic is an interest in the natural world and “hands-on” learning.  Parents must make a special commitment to participate in various school events, known as “Whole School Meetings,” throughout the year.

How is ECO different?

ECO is different in many ways.  An emphasis is placed on an experiential curriculum.  ECO students spend an extended time each day and each year working and learning closely within a small community of students and teachers.  A special importance is placed on home and school contact for all students through frequent progress reports, parent-student-teacher conferences, and “easy access” to teachers at school and at home.  Class scheduling is flexible due to the smaller number of students and teachers able to use “blocks” of time as needed for instructional activities.  Teachers regularly plan and work together as an instructional team and have a greater degree of decision-making regarding the learning program.  Students and teachers work together to develop a greater opportunity for close relationships that help to foster learning.


How may I obtain more information about ECO?

Please contact Malcolm MacKenzie.  He may be reached at: ECO 585-554-6442; home 585-374-6162;; ECO Program, Marcus Whitman Middle School, 4100 Baldwin Rd., Rushville, NY 14544