Posted on August 18, 2013
Borrowing from the metaphor of a voyaging canoe as we begin the school year (referenced in last weekʻs blog entry), itʻs been smooth sailing the first three days of school. Quick walk-throughs have all been a principalʻs delight -- students in discussion groups, safe play during recess, teachers posing open-ended questions, excited and cordial dining room conversation, good transitions between the specialists and the classroom. Morning and afternoon autolines also flowed well. As seasoned teachers know, their focus the very first few days of school is to observe how students interact as a community, so all teachers scheduled time for getting-to-know-you activities. My task over the next week or so is to commit to memory the names of each new student in the preschool and elementary so that I can call each child by name! Parents, you will be receiving email notifications every time my parent blog is posted. However, for this week only, please go directly to your childʻs classroom teacher blog for information on the first week of school.
I stopped by the fifth grade class at the end of the week. Teachers Pam Jenkins and Sarah Field had just introduced students to the capstone inquiry project to be undertaken by fifth graders. They asked students to speculate on the meaning of ʻcapstoneʻ as it relates to an inquiry project. I was absolutely pleased by studentsʻ responses, which they inferred from the literal definition and the fact that this would be a very important fifth grade project. One student thoughtfully responded that the capstone might be the culminating project based on everything they had learned about the inquiry process. Another student added that the capstone would be the tip, as in the tip of an pyramid, and everything forming the base of the pyramid -- past experiences from kindergarten through fourth grade -- as necessary and leading to the top.
From there the teachers asked students to write down either the topic or the essential questions they remembered most from all their inquiry experiences. The board was filled with post-it notes! The children dug deep into their previous experiences and chattered excitedly, not only about what they remembered, but also which inquiries made the strongest impressions. The Great Garbage Patch. Volcanoes. Wetlands. Medieval times. The timeline of life. The connections the fifth graders are making to previous inquiry experiences will enable them to begin thinking of personal inquiries that will develop over the semester into their own capstone projects.
All of this in just a few days of school! Imagine what will happen during an entire school
year with every student and every classroom community!
For our children,
Edna L. Hussey