This is the time of year when my Lower School counterpart, Jen Griffith, and I take a few weeks to observe each and every faculty member teach a classroom lesson. We do this for several reasons: to provide teachers with feedback on their teaching techniques; to see what is going on and be present in the classrooms; and to keep abreast with curriculum. As I always say to our wonderful teachers, I inevitably wind up feeling like I get more out of it than they do! And it is a visual, sonic, and experiential reminder of all the wonderful things happening in our building every single day. In the last two weeks alone I’ve witnessed:
- Students doing a group work simulation on how pollutants get into waterways in Debbie Adkins’ class.
- 7th graders learning how to play and sing “Hey Jude” on ukuleles in Bob Bertke’s music room.
- Students learning about the Han Dynasty in ancient China through visiting multiple classroom stations (art, calligraphy, inventions, etc.) in Brandon Doble’s room.
- Colorful Mexican sun masks coming to life via clay and kiln-firing in Alex Taylor’s art room.
- A wonderful parallel between the difficulties associated with excessive immigration in the Reconstruction Period in post Civil War America and what is going on politically today in our country (through poetry no less!) in Patrick Donovan’s 8th grade language arts class.
- Another simulation that demonstrated the vast differences in wealth and power among social classes during the Middle Ages in Julie Mushkin’s class. (Skittles are great motivators!).
- And finally, an impressive experiment that culminated with DNA being extracted from strawberries for all to see in a lab in Jason Chlopek’s science class.
And from Jennifer Griffith:
- Andrew Frechette, Heather McGraw, and Annette Rudd’s junior kindergarten and kindergarten classes preparing for the Chinese New Year celebration by reading books about Chinese customs and culture, and creating a dragon head from cardboard for the parade.
- 2nd and 3rd grade Spanish classes starting rehearsals for “The Three Little Pigs” play with Salema Jenkins, which they will perform for the Lower School at the end of April.
- 1st graders in Julie Dayton’s class preparing for the 100th day of school by writing what they think they will and won’t do when they’re 100 years old.
- 4th graders making toys, crafts, and foods (johnnycakes) to experience what life was like for children in Colonial America with Sarah Dewberry, Joanne Brock, and Christine Brinkmann.
- 4th graders in Michelle Hall’s science class making and experimenting with pulleys.
- 3rd and 4th grade “Acts of Kindness” Project holding a bake sale to benefit Go Ministries. They made $300!
What you will notice in all these scenarios is that few of these activities involve worksheets or rote memorization. Almost all are interactive, interesting, fun, involve group work, and generally allow for differentiation. And I have to say in an ironic way, this is “routine” for St. Francis. We sometimes focus so much on all the other good things we’re doing around here that we forget that some of the most magical things are happening right under our students’ noses every day! I can’t wait to continue on in this journey over the next few weeks!