Jen Wilson, kindergarten teacher at Cook Hill School in Wallingford and SEC alumna from 2017, embodies this ethos. This year, she and the school librarian, Anna O’Brien, were awarded a grant from the Wallingford Education Foundation to develop a program they are calling KinderTinker. Modeled after a program started by teachers at Moses Y Beach Elementary School called KinderWoods, Jen and Anna are bringing the learning outside. Each month, Jen’s class of kindergarteners are playing and learning in different natural spaces around Wallingford or on their own school grounds. In these outings, the children have time for extended free play and exploration, as well as structured STEAM based activities that tie into the kindergarten science units.
In a meeting with teachers from a variety of schools and grade levels in October, it came up that across the board, it was taking longer for their students to settle into the rhythm of the classroom. Teachers often plan for the first six weeks of school to be focused on developing community and adjusting to new expectations and routines. However, in some years, for a variety of reasons, it just takes longer. It could be related to the personalities of the group. It could be related to changes in your school or program. It could be related to things occurring in the home lives of your students. As much as we as teachers feel we are accountable for all that occurs in our classrooms, the truth is that there are many factors impacting your students’ daily experiences that are beyond our control.
With all the beautiful weather we’ve been experiencing in Connecticut this September, the extreme weather occurring in other regions of our country may be especially distant in the minds of our students. Additionally, the extent to which students are developmentally prepared to grapple with these calamities will depend on their ages and stages. Regardless, there are developmentally appropriate ways for children across all grade levels to practice becoming engaged, active citizens – especially when experiences are anchored in an authentic, meaningful context that connects content and skills with children’s interests.
In these times, we can be sure our students are hearing about refugees frequently on the news, at home, or from their peers. Or perhaps your students are themselves refugees.
What’s happening at Standing Rock has so many connections with our Seedlings focus groups: Water Habitats, Our Changing Landscape, and Our Mechanical World. The ways in which different age groups would meaningfully connect with this event would of course vary greatly. Has anyone discussed Standing Rock with their students?