Elementary School Principal's Blog

Snapshot: How Learning Happens

Posted on October 1, 2022

by Dr. Edna Hussey on October 1, 2022

Every Wednesday, we begin the day with chapel service for all preschool and elementary students.There are actually 3 chapels that day--at 8:00am with kindergarten and multiage 1-2 in the dining room, followed by grades 3-5 at 8:20am, then preschool chapel at 9:00am. It was the recent chapel that inspired todayʻs blog.

Kahu Davis often uses storytelling to illustrate his main idea, and at the recent chapel, he shared a story of a little lost child who tries to find his way back home and is celebrated and welcomed by his family once home. This archetypical narrative of wayfinding, journeying to find meaning and self-identity are underlying themes, but for our youngest children the intended message is simple--when we are lost, we can be courageous and find our way back to safety.

With the help of the preschool team, four balancing beams often used in p.e. were set up close to the ground at slight angles. The children queued up and one by one as they watched each other traverse the beams. Not a sound could be heard as they watched one another place one foot in front of the other. Two of the four beams were narrower making the crossing more challenging. At the receiving end of the path, Kahu stood with hands beckoning forward and coaching "One foot in front of the other" or "You can do it!" The teachers stood several feet away, not needing to coax or remind students to be quiet. If a child misstepped and needed to place a foot on the ground to rebalance, they did not rush to hold the childʻs hand because they believed each child was resolved to take on the challenge and knew what to do without adult intervention. Even the very few whimpering children were gently calmed down by nearby classmates.

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A tremendous amount of peer learning transpired. Children silently took note of how to place each foot on the beam, how to make sure each foot placement was squarely on the beam before taking the next step. We could observe the slight shifting of feet to achieve balance. On the narrower beam, one student decided to turn his body perpendicular to the beam so that he could shift his feet left then right sideways along the beam. A few students followed his strategy successfully. The last child to cross was the most daunted, but took the first step off the ground with her right foot, then continued a few steps while classmates on the other side began to chant her name in an effort to encourage her. She shook her head quickly left and right and told the teacher she didnʻt want any noise, so her classmates quickly quieted down. I think the teachers and I held our breath as she placed one foot in front of the other. You can imagine the exhilaration from all of us when she finished the path and took the last step off the beam. Cheering and applause certainly, but for each child, the deep satisfaction of not just accomplishing the challenge, but succeeding together.

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While independent learning is a goal, the social construct of learning is even more powerful, and deeper learning resides in this construct. The teachers could have first taught the preschoolers how to cross the beams or rushed over to assist those less confident. But see how the children were empowered to demonstrate their understanding, quietly encouraged to take each step, and took their cues from one another. These are the signs of a learning community not only attuned to the strengths of one another and a shared respect among peers and adults, but also who have figured out how learning happens. At Mid-Pacific, we recognize that this one scenario, when analyzed carefully, is another example of how the faculty looks deeply into learning at the preschool and elementary and why we are always striving to provide quality learning experiences daily.

E Kūlia Kākou! Letʻs strive and aspire together!

For our childen,

Edna L. Hussey, Ed.D.

Principal