WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Coleman Environmental Magnet is the newest magnet school in the Wichita district.

Principal Karen Waterman-Overgaard says it’s been in the works for three years now.

She says enrollment is up considerably, with over 600 students compared to 400 last year. They opened 100 spots per grade level, and some grades have waiting lists.

USD 259 Superintendent Kelly Bielefeld says this gives students the opportunity to apply the skills they learn in the classroom.

“Kids aren’t just doing worksheets all the time,” Bielefeld said. “They’re actually, you know, growing plants, you know, taking care of animals.”

USD 259 has an environmental theme at the elementary level at Earhart Environmental Magnet and now the middle school level, but not at the high school level. Bielefeld says the potential for other magnets could be a possibility.

“We may need to adjust our programming and adjust our options at the high school level to align with what parents are wanting for the elementary or middle school students.”

Waterman-Overgaard says she is looking forward to all the things they’ll be able to do this year as a magnet.

“Being able to be in nature and learning about the environment is something that is just absolutely something that kids really want to be at because a lot of our kids don’t get that opportunity,” Waterman-Overgaard said.

Students get the opportunity to take care of animals, plants and land.

“We have different themes for each grade level,” Waterman-Overgaard said. “And they’re going to be learning about different environmental like recycling. We have kids that are going to be learning about the water cycle, and there’s just so much.”

Environmental skills will be mixed in with other curriculum.

“Not only you’re going to learn the traditional standards, and your ELA and your math and your science and social studies, but it’s going to be a big connection with environmental, and so they’re going to be learning more about the environmental process,” Waterman-Overgaard said.

Anne Lewis has two sons at Coleman Environmental Magnet and says she’s excited for what her kids will learn and the opportunities they will get.

“I’m really proud, I mean, we have a garden and things at home, but to be able to do it at school,” Lewis said. “And I think it helps them feel confident. They recognize things, you know, if you’re out on a walk or something like that, they’ll see things, and I mean, my kids are already interested in those things. So for them, it’s just like more encouragement and more of a boost.”

She says regardless of what career path they choose, the environment will always be a part of their life.