We are settling into our post-IslandWood routines and the classroom is a busy place humming with lessons, projects and collaborations. We feel lucky to have the couch and library area as well so that down time and brain breaks are within easy reach. It is always our goal to help students stay motivated and purposeful about their choices, and sometimes that means relaxing with a good book. We’ve noticed that the couch is especially popular after lessons that involve new ideas and a lot of focus. I am happy to see people learning that self-regulation involves setting an effective pace and meeting their individual needs.
Every child starts at our morning Community Gathering, making a plan and setting their priorities for the day. Then they proceed through open class time, making decisions, asking for math lessons, making progress on projects, completing follow-up assignments and pursuing independent interests. Some students need help structuring this time, others need occasional check-ins from teachers, and others move efficiently through their decision-making. In our classroom, Mr. Robin and I work hard to make sure everyone is getting just the right amount of guidance to feed their sense of autonomy while also staying organized.
History is one area in particular that gives students many opportunities to practice time- and project- management skills. In September, we were setting the stage for our exploration of North America with an intensive focus on the amazing array of independent tribal nations that have occupied the continent “since time immemorial.” We have been learning about tribal sovereignty and Native American culture areas, with stops along the way to experience story-telling, explore our own Coast Salish tribes and the idea of tribal homelands. Today we had a lesson about the importance of rivers and salmon to the Snoqualmie, Duwamish, Suquamish and the other Lushootseed tribes. We watched a series of amazing videos about the un-damming of the Elwha River in Olympic National Park. If you’d like to follow along, you can go to http://www.nps.gov/olym/learn/nature/restorationoftheelwha.htm.
Currently, students are working on their first history project of the year. I designed this project, called the “Infinity of Nations Story-Telling Project,” to help children connect more deeply and personally with the richness of North America’s original nations. It will also help them experience leadership, develop presentation skills, and integrate their imaginations into science. Each child selected a traditional story from incredibly reliable collections compiled by Michael Caduto and Joseph Bruchac. Right now, students are learning their stories so that they can tell them to a small group of Morado students. They will follow their story-telling by giving a nature-based science lesson that integrates concepts from the story with current research. In order to incorporate arts and help children summarize their story-telling experiences, each student is designing a component of a mural that reflects their story/tribe/culture area. We will all paint the mural next week. If you’d like to help with the painting, please let me know. I’m sure it’s going to fun and messy! We will celebrate the mural and the end of the project week after next with a story-telling gathering.
I really enjoyed spending time with you at Goal-Setting Conferences yesterday. Thank you for your time!
Keep your eyes open for next week’s all-school newsletter. I’ve got a couple of key articles related to IslandWood and our upcoming curriculum night in it that I’m hoping you will enjoy.
Ms. Nicole & Ms. Alyx
El Salon Turquesa Co-Lead Teachers