By Eva Kibby Since the Seedlings summer workshop, Carol Barker has been making an effort to incorporate her preschool children’s early and natural wonder in nature into the daily life of her team’s curriculum and work. Her students are so invested in bringing “nature” into their class that Carol and her team have been
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.
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.
From all of us at Seedlings, we hope your school year if off to a great start. The first weeks are so full with preparing materials, practicing routines, setting expectations, and building community; often times those exciting new plans for curriculum and projects that we developed over the course of the summer can seem discouragingly out of reach. Take a deep breath, think back to the end of your last school year, remember the growth your students made as they gained trust in you and their environment, and — importantly — don’t forget that Seedlings is here to continue supporting you through the year.
As you delve into the year, here are a few take-aways from Seedlings summer workshop participants that we hope can help you hold onto those big picture goals:
Community connections run deep at Seedlings Educators Collaborative, and not just for the students with Seedlings Workshop alums for teachers! Since many of the Seedlings facilitators and directors live and work in the New Haven area, there are always chances of running into someone, as was the case this spring when St. Thomas Day School fourth grade teacher Maria Freda ran into SEC director Judy Cuthbertson. That chance encounter yielded the following piece, which we wanted to share with you.
Brooksvale Park is teeming with life! We saw thousands of tadpoles, lots of salamanders, a few frogs, turtles, water snakes, and tens of varieties of birds. The pond was truly singing with the sounds of spring. If you were in the water habitats focus group last summer and integrated SEC work into your curriculum, consider the possibility of
Call it project based-learning, 21st century skills, or progressive education – these Cold Spring School students’ reflections on their learning from the fort project illustrate what good teaching looks like. Watch three students share about their experiences and note that they highlight, in their own words, the process of collaborating with peers, problem-solving, learning how to be flexible within their team, acting as entrepreneurs, and using their imaginations – all critical skills in any of these pedagogical frameworks – as essential components of their learning:
In the summer of 2015, Conte West Hills School first grade teacher Diane Huot attended Seedlings for the first time. On the first day of every SEC summer workshop week, participants learn to see New Haven with fresh eyes through a tour of the city. One of the stops is to Grannis Island, the summer home of the Quinnipiac people, who used the salt marsh as a home base for oystering. Diane was inspired. Here was a rich resource just down the street from her school that was previously unknown to her. She could imagine building her whole curriculum around it, as SEC science facilitator Karen Zwick has done with her 4th and 5th grade class at Cold Spring School – and she did.
We’ve all been there. You invite an outside expert into the classroom, eager for her to inspire your students and share her expertise, only to find that your students have suddenly forgotten all the expectations you have worked so hard to establish. Or they are more interested in the fluff stuck in the carpet than what this authority has to say. Or the expert misses the mark on the values you’ve cultivated in your group, perhaps suggesting that some things are only of interest to girls and others to boys. Maybe you wondered why you ever thought it was a good idea in the first place.
In this post, we will reflect on why it is indeed a worthwhile venture to invite local experts into your classroom, by examining the collaboration between Cold Spring School (CSS) and the Yale School of Architecture (YSoA).
The fort project that Cold Spring School (CSS) teachers and SEC facilitators/alumni Joshua Sloat, Karen Zwick, and Laura Sheinkopf crafted for their 4th and 5th grade students is a prime example of project-based learning and integration in action, facilitated by the involvement of an amazing local resource, The Yale School of Architecture.
So how did this process unfold? What were the structures and supports in place that drew children into this project and made it a success? Choose your own adventure by selecting which anchoring theme(s) you would like to explore further: purpose, continuity, and the sequencing of lessons.