Jay Marley, Superintendent of Schools in Tripoli, is proud of what the small school system offers its students.
“I think we can do a lot of great programs in a small community and in our small school district,” he said.
The school lists its PK-12 enrollment for this year at 386 students.
“We can provide as many opportunities and offerings as the larger districts,” said Marley, who is also the principal of the combined high school/middle school. “It’s one of our strengths, that we’re able to provide these opportunities for children, because they all have different passions.”
As examples of miscellaneous offerings, Marley listed a competitive bodybuilding program, computer science, and robotics.
Considering other strengths of the school, he noted that Tripoli was the first high school in the state to found a chapter of the National English Honor Society; that students in the district receive Windows 10 computers rather than typical school-sponsored Chromebooks; that more than 90% of high school students participate in an extracurricular activity; and that students consistently perform well in the classroom, in the arts, and in the field.
Two aspects of education in Tripoli that Marley particularly enjoys are the partnerships the school forms with other entities and the emphasis on project-based learning, as well as the frequent intersection of these two priorities.
Classes incorporate project-based learning wherever possible, he said. For example, “Engineer Your World is a science program that we have that is a cutting-edge program,” he said.
Marley noted that the Tripoli location and the resources available there have been a boon to the school district.
The Bremer County Iowa State Extension Office and the Bremer County Conservation Office are both in Tripoli, and Sweet Marsh is only a few miles out of town.
“We had a partnership with the Iowa State Extension office,” he said. “We planted trees on our school grounds. A group of students volunteered their time on a Saturday and planted trees around the community. »
Additionally, the school benefits from the fact that the town is an official Iowa bird-friendly community.
“Our science department takes this to another level,” Marley said. “We have a grassland area outside the school, where we have nesting boxes, and our children are studying the ecosystem.”
The school also partners with the office of conservation, such as when students test the water at Sweet Marsh.
“The swamp is in our backyard,” he said, “so it’s a great science learning environment for our kids to do project-based learning, test the water, and do that. kind of stuff.”
Marley sees these collaborations as a unique strength of the school system.
“We use our community as much as possible to do these field trips, to stay local, and to have these hands-on projects for kids,” he said.
One of the school’s partnerships is with the city of Tripoli.
“We’re setting up a Frisbee golf course on school and city park grounds,” Marley said. “We share our space so that families can play Frisbee golf around our campus.
The industrial technology program at the school has also partnered with the city and Sweet Marsh, Marley noted.
For the city, the students rebuilt planters to hold flowers around town and also built a gazebo for a downtown park. For the marsh, they built shelters for the wood ducks and placed them in the wildlife sanctuary.
All partnerships reinforce the strong core of a small school in a small community. Marley sees the modest height as an advantage.
“Our teachers have some of these kids from middle school through their senior year,” he said, “so they’re able to create that special bond not just with them, but also with their families.
“It’s such a close and connected community, where everyone knows everyone else,” he continued. “We’re here to help support the kids, not only academically, but also socially and emotionally, so it’s like an extended family.”