Together with my students, we have been examining the rise of different types of fascism around the world in the interwar era. We have studied the social and political events and contexts, as well as the personal background of some of the authoritarian leaders that rose to power in those times in different countries. The new unit that we are just beginning is The Second World War. Students will try to understand what circumstances led some countries to support or oppose participation in the war, as well as how the civilians were as much a part of a war effort as soldiers/combatants.
I always strive to help my students think like historians. It means learning to ask questions, critiquing or having a critical look at sources of information, considering multiple perspectives and narratives, judging the quality of evidence, and finally, forming reasoned opinions. In our classes, we use investigations and questions to frame our own inquiry. We scaffold and develop new knowledge based on previous learning. We incorporate historical sources that are used to back up students’ own claims. We practice interpreting and bringing arguments of diverse historical narratives. This is my emphasis on helping students to communicate about concepts, historical events, and processes, as well as on big ideas.
Primary students have continued the year of animal study with a unit on reptiles. We learned that reptiles can live in water or on land. They can have short legs or no legs at all. Most reptiles lay eggs and the young reptiles can take care of themselves after hatching.
Our shelves are filled with reptile models and puzzles as well as a snake skeleton and snake skin. Students have been fascinated and creating their own reptile works, for example, drawing in the stripes on a snake after completing a rubbing of the outline. In Kindergarten Studio, Kindergarteners made booklets highlighting and naming the parts of a turtle.
This year the Upper Unit is working on art in a different way. Using a simple, self-guided photography booklet, our students are learning how to take better pictures. It’s a fun life skill that will only improve as they take more pictures. Photography affords us a way to admire the beauty in the everyday world and a way for us to preserve precious memories.
For this first section of the booklet, we worked on basic photography skills such as: Rule of Thirds, Depth of Field, Close-up, Motion, Pattern, Color, and Get Centered. We invited our students to begin this project during our remote learning period and we’d like to share their work with you.
Depth of Field
Rule of Thirds
An important (and dearly loved) part of our Peace curriculum is dedicated to learning about people who, historically and presently, have changed our world for the better. We call these people, folks like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Jane Goodall, Gandhi, Jack Greenburg, along with many others, the “Changemakers.” Our curriculum includes early childhood in the biographies of the leaders we cover, highlighting how leaders are developed in childhood, not just as adults, and how children can do amazing things too. As we talk about and dissect the lives and impact of our Changemaker of study, the awe, brilliance, compassion, and depth of conversation and understanding shown by the Lower Elementary students could stop anyone in their tracks. We believe that kids can, and do, handle and tackle hefty matters. Our current project, thought up and endeavored upon by the Lower Elementary students, is proof of that.
After learning about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his birthday, the things he fought against and what he stood for, and how he began his campaign for justice as just a young boy, students felt empowered to make their own voices heard in the fight for what they believe in. Integrated with our creative writing unit, students are naming problems they see in our world (pollution/littering, deforestation, animal rights, homelessness, gender equity, and discrimination to name a few) and have been tirelessly crafting speeches to get the word out for their cause. Students are standing up for what they believe, and are passionate about becoming Changemakers themselves, confident that they, too, can make a difference in this world. Keep an eye out for the next phase of this incredible project- spreading awareness!
“Always keep your dignity and be true to yourself,” writes Marjane Satrapi in her graphic memoir Persepolis, which is our Unit Four text in ELA. She comments that, “In life you’ll meet a lot of jerks. If they hurt you, tell yourself that it’s because they’re stupid. That will help keep you from reacting to their cruelty. Because there is nothing worse than bitterness and vengeance…”
Through the lens of this text, we are exploring the ways in which identity is shaped by events that happen around us, that are usually out of our control, and on a scale both large and small–local, regional, national, global. And we’re examining the ways in which changes outside of the main character result in changes within the main character, which has led us into some very interesting and enlightening conversations about ourselves.
Reading Persepolis has also allowed us to investigate a wide variety of new concepts–most notably, we are looking at the graphic novel as its own literary form, discussing its benefits, and learning about visual literacy. Persepolis is also our first memoir, as well as our first exposure to world literature. And since the story is set in Iran during the Iranian Revolution of 1979, our conversations have branched out in all kinds of directions and encompassed an array of topics: we’ve watched historical newsreel footage of the revolution and the storming of the US Embassy, we’ve taken a video tour of the ruins of Persepolis itself, we’ve listened to Persian pop music, and we’ve considered the challenge of coming of age as a person in the midst of total societal chaos and instability. It has been, in all, quite an engrossing and engaging study of form and history and what it means to be human and fallible amid the sometimes painful process of discovering who you are.
Lane Library just provided us with a carefully curated collection of books chosen for our Upper Unit students’ interests and ages. The books were greeted with much excitement and buzz, and then there was sudden quiet, because everyone was reading. New and awesome books were just what this cold February day needed.
The Sensorial area is one that often confuses those who have not been immersed in the Montessori Method. Dr. Maria Montessori designed sensorial exercises to help young children explore every quality that can be perceived by the senses—size, shape, composition, texture, loudness or softness, matching, weight, temperature, diameter, etc. They also support the first plane of development by utilizing the repetition of order. All of the Sensorial materials are rooted in base ten mathematics. The purpose and aim of Sensorial activities are to fortify the understanding of the science of numbers and provide the language needed to describe a student’s environment.
In the photos above, we can see children working with some of the Sensorial materials. Sorting knobbed and knobless cylinders by height and diameter. The pink tower has ten cubes that vary in length, width, and height. The brown stair is ten rectangular prisms that have a consistent length but vary in height and width. The two are combined with observing how they relate to one another. The red rods increase in length by 10 cm and are first organized by shortest to tallest then, arranged into a spiral maze using perpendicular intersections. The geometric solids bring awareness that shapes form the basis of everyday objects and present the foundations for future geometry mathematics. All of the Sensorial works inspire students to create their own patterns and, in some cases, even create a brand new work.
With the colder temperatures, there is also snow and a chance to get out and play in the winter weather. Our large playground and outdoor spaces give our students plenty of opportunities to find activities that they really enjoy.
From using the play structures, to playing organized games, to creating their own activities McGuffey students always enjoy the chance to play in the snow!
The Primary Unit is off and running with our year-long study of animals. After discussions last semester of living/non-living things, we branched out to living things with a backbone, vertebrates like us, and living things without a backbone, invertebrates. Next we studied insects, a group of invertebrates that have 6 legs and 3 main body parts. It was exciting to see pictures of many different types of insects and learn that some scientists guess there are 30 million types of insects on our planet. At any given time, scientist think there may be 10 quintillion individual insects alive on Earth!
We have had many hands on works to help explore and understand vertebrates, invertebrates, and insects. Kindergarteners explored how Octopi can squeeze through tiny spaces by experimenting with paper plates and baggies of colored water. All Primary students used photographs and corresponding x-rays to see which are vertebrates and and which are invertebrates. Photographs were used to sort invertebrates and vertebrate. With lucite cubes, students could see insects from every angle. Relief plates were available to make crayon art rubbings. Model insects were used for counting in math and we even had a tool to simulate what an insect sees through compound eyes. Puzzles and stuffed animal puppets are always a great way to explore as well.