Thursday, October 22, 2015

Leave 'em smiling

A walk down to Pre K on any school day leaves me grinning from ear to ear.  Here is a glimpse of Parker Pre K at 10:15 this morning.  (For interpretation, see previous blog post...!)

How can you not smile when visiting
costumed friends hard at work in Pre K?!

How do you say popcorn in Spanish?

This is a pirate ship!

We always remember to wash our hands

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What you learned in preschool...

Baking apple muffins for a snack in Pre K
What should we be teaching kids to assure their future success?  

Claire Cain Miller in Why What You Learned in Preschool is Crucial at Work in the Sunday New York Times, cites recent long-term studies that support the basics of the preschool curriculum - for everyone.  It turns out that flexibility, empathy, sharing, negotiating and playing well with others, combined with intellectual acuity, are absolutely key.  Jobs and wages for those who possess all these skills have far outpaced those where just one or the other domain, either social or cognitive, is required.  

Of course, that's no secret for us here at Parker.  Part of our mission after all, is "nurturing confidence and community."  On the ground level in the classroom that means giving children daily challenges to work in cooperative groups - for example during middle school STEM week when small teams of "engineers" design and build a bridge, and then produce a documentary video to go along with it.

This year in the 2-3's teachers are piloting a "Flexibility" curriculum, specifically teaching children how to give up rigidity and embrace cooperation.  Teacher Lynn Schuster writes, 

This week's Power of Flexibility work involved the kids running through an obstacle course with a rigid body and then with a flexible one. The average speed for completing the course with a flexible body was twice as quick as with a rigid one.

Other skills that build emotional control and response inhibition - some of the basics for what is called executive function, are incorporated in practices like Responsive Classroom and time for sustained make-believe play.  In this way, children learn to think before acting, take turns, recover from disappointment, or deal with perceived unfairness.  

It is always nice to have our basic values and teaching philosophy supported by research. With graduates in their early 30's who are Emmy winning film-makers, mechanical and mathematical engineers, successful social and business entrepreneurs, doctors, artists, lawyers, and not-for-profit founders, we see it in action!
Middle School kids cooperate on the "Up and Over",
an element on our Low Ropes Course

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Magical learning

Finding living treasures in the woods.

Testing for air and water temperature in a study of
human and weather impact on water systems.

Observational drawing at the pond.
At a school where being outside is the cornerstone of learning and a daily expectation, where kids eat lunch at picnic tables, have 2 daily recesses, go to the pond or a stream for science class, wander the meadows or gardens for observation, inspiration and contemplation - the passion for learning is palpable.  We are so lucky!

It's just no big thing, that during Friday Muddy Boots Club kids will get dirty and wet while building dams.  Or that climbing around on a ropes course in the woods is a gym class activity.  Or that iPads will be used for documenting pond life in preparation for video nature-news presentations.

We take it for granted that schooling at Parker will bring transformative connections with nature, push students into zones of challenge, and bring them insights and purpose.  It's not a big secret, what we are doing.  It is completely intentional. The practice of getting outside all the time makes it seem commonplace to us.  It has become ingrained in the way we function.  That is actually kind of magical, given the conversations around the purpose and practice of education in today's world.
Testing what colors honey bees are attracted to.