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.
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:
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.
Imagine being able to visit your fellow SEC alumni’s classrooms with the click of a button. Can you envision the collective wisdom existing within these hundreds of classroom walls? The inspiration to be discovered? The strength to be gained through sharing similar triumphs and tribulations?