Cool Schools: Robert E. Lee Elementary

(Source: WPMI) Local15 Today highlighted Robert E. Lee Elementary as our Cool School of the Week!

Local15 highlighted the great things happening at Robert E. Elementary School in Satsuma as our Cool School of the Week! The littlest Gators are getting an early start on their education with a new First Class Pre-K program, and the elementary students are building cities of the future! Also, watch their live performance of “Jingle Bell Rock”!


This is the first year Robert E. Lee Elementary received a grant from the Alabama Department of Education to start up a First Class Pre-K program, with high-quality early learning as the goal.

It may look like a lot of play happening in the K4 room, but there’s actually a lot of learning happening, too.

“It’s learning through play. We have about 90 minutes of centers time, but we also have gross motor time. We have large group time. We have science time. It’s a lot going on in a day, but it’s all worth it,” explained Sunny McPhillips, the K4 teacher.

McPhillips has the tiniest gators on a structured schedule that they know and enjoy. After teaching kindergarten and first grade for six years, McPhillips has seen the demands change for kids heading to school.

“Kindergarten is more of a watered down first grade. And so they need to be ready to go to kindergarten. And through this program, they’re having the choice of what they want to do. They’re making choices from within, rather than being told what to do. So I think it’s increasing their confidence and their motivation to learn,” said McPhillips.

And that’s the ultimate goal – to get them excited about education.

Whether their learning colors through artwork or by sorting colorful bears, spelling their names on playdough or writing it with markers, they are truly learning and growing in K4.

“I’ve had several parents reach out to me and say how much they’ve grown. Not only solving problems with their big brother or sisters at home, but they know how to count their syllables, they’re writing their whole name now. Their just shocked at how much they’ve already grown and its only November.”

Next year, Robert E. Lee hopes to have two K4 classes. You can sign up online for the lottery drawing, which will happen over the summer. CLICK HERE


Robert E. Lee students are on the fast track to the future, by building for the Future City Competition.

It starts with creating a virtual city. “We have to keep up with the zoning, and keep up with our cash, and it teaches us how a mayor runs the city,” explained 7th grader Michael Bowdin.

There’s also an essay portion of the contest. But the biggest challenge is building a model of the city that is true to scale.

“You don’t want a 16-foot tree with a 2-foot building,” added 7th grader Dalton Taylor.

Fortunately for these students, real engineers from the Shell chemical plant in Saraland volunteer their expertise, guiding them through the real-world engineering design process.

“It’s a pretty strict set of steps. Start with the program, identify it, identify your constraints. And each step of the way, they’ve been doing that. And teamwork is very real in the engineering world. And sometimes you don’t always engineer it perfect the first time, so you have to go back and redo it. And I’ve seen that, too. So it is very real,” explained Katie Salzman, a maintenance engineer at Shell. “I wish when I was this age, I could have done something like this.”

Last year was Robert E. Lee’s first time competing in Future City. They were the only elementary school in the competition, and they came in fourth place!

“The excitement, the engagement, they want to learn. They don’t have to be given step by step direction. You just give them a little blurb of what they need to do, and they take it. And it’s amazing to see what their outcomes are so far,” added Suzanne Bahr, the Science Lab Facilitator.

“And I want win this year!” added Taylor.

The Future City teams will head to Huntsville in January for the regional competition.