Grown ups, when’s the last time you sat down and pondered the meaning of it all, about the origins of the Universe, and how we are all made of stardust (cue the Crosby, Stills & Nash)?
It’s challenging, for a few reasons:
- The daily grind dominates your thoughts
- You are tired and distracted
- You save the deep thinking for when you are absolutely relaxed and open to new ideas (if that opportunity ever comes)
Nevertheless, you had to learn to think about the bigger concepts in life at some point, in order to become the wise human that you have, no doubt, evolved to be. When and where did you experience such concepts? Probably during your career as a student, thanks to a teacher who cared enough to teach you about member of the human race. At the Lower school, we have a team of teachers who are in constant discussion and collaborative research in just this way. You see, each week we foster multi-age learning experience the likes of which are rarely seen in other schools, based on essential questions the get to the heart of what it means to be a “good human”.
For the 2018-2019 school year, our annual theme has been “Connections”, a topic that was chosen for its depth and complexity. Each year we teachers select our theme in June and by the time late August rolls around, each of us has percolated topics and activities that will help to illuminate our theme to the K-5 group. We began this year with very broad essential questions, such was “What is (or is not) connecting?” and “How are things connected?”, and we spiral off from there. Since the fall, most Wednesday afternoons you can find us gathering in the Emerson building, Farm house or out on the grounds of the school, delving into an activity that focuses on specific aspects of our theme in a cooperative learning experience.
It is hard work, but there really is nothing else like it during the week. By stepping out of our usual teacher-student groupings, our community embraces this shared meeting time as an opportunity to be together and learn, as well as to take away information that can then be further explored in individual classrooms. For that 90 minute period at the end of each Wednesday, the big kids learn alongside the littler people, and the different homeroom classes are shaken up into their “families” in order to embark on a journey through time and space.
There really are waaaaaaaay too many theme-based activities to discuss in this small article, but if you are looking to learn more, try asking your kid. Here’s some talking points to start with:
- What “constellation” are you in?
- What’s a new/cool/different/fun/challenging thing you learned during community time this year?
- Did you participate in the Sparhawk Jeopardy review gamer?
- Do you have a favorite friend in your community time constellation?
- Which teacher is enjoyable to work with during this time?
If you do open up this conversation with your student, I hope there is much to share and discuss. You might be reminded of your own time in elementary school, when nothing seemed to be impossible and learning was full of new and exciting things. And who knows, maybe you will start finding yourself asking your own questions about the world and seeking out the answers to ideas that are as wide and deep as the Milky Way itself...after all, life is for learning...enjoy every minute of it!