One of the amazing benefits of attending the Children’s School at Stephens College is that we have opportunities to share the arts all over campus. At the beginning of the school year our class composed a Classroom Pledge. This pledge is something that we sing every morning as a reminder of what our classroom expectations are. This week our students were able to perform their pledge at an event called Bach’s Lunch. This is an occasion where college students sing songs they have been working on in their private lessons and in groups, so in addition to our performance, our students were also able to see some wonderful vocal pieces. We were fortunate to start off the show with Our Classroom Pledge, and the audience loved it. Check out the students’ acapella performance below.
Genealogist Elaine Powell brought photography to our Civil War study. She shared with us photographs of Abraham Lincoln, General Robert E. Lee and soldiers at rest. We learned about different types of photographs and that most battle photos were actually pictures of paintings. Ms. Elaine also read a letter to us from someone in her family that lived during the Civil War.
Captain Reed, Ms. Vonder Haar’s dad, showed us beautiful photos of his experience with boats. Captain Reed drives a towboat that is four stories high, 200 feet long, 40 feet wide, and 8,000 horsepower. We learned about materials that boats can carry like oil and grain. Students were able to explore with different artifacts that Captain Reed brought in to share with us. We are so lucky to have so many experts come in and share their knowledge with us.
This morning, several preschool students planted their own pumpkin seeds. During morning circle, we discussed what a pumpkin needs to grow. Students walked to the flower beds to check on their flowers and vegetables they had planted with Ms. Jessie. After observing what these plants needed to grow, we went inside to read It’s Pumpkin Time! Next, students shared that pumpkins need dirt, water, and sun to grow. Students were able to “plant” their own pumpkin seeds by spraying a paper towel with water and placing their seeds inside a plastic bag. We taped the bags to the window so our seeds could get plenty of sunlight! Students are eager to observe a pumpkin growing in action!
In preschool, to culminate the pumpkin and fall season exploration, the students worked on creating their very own pumpkin costumes with Ms. Jessie. They painted masks, and after painting and adding beadwork, threaded together fabric costumes, working on their fine motor skills. At the end of the week, we then marched our way to the elementary classroom, where Dianne Lynch, President of Stephens College met up with us. Preschoolers presented “The 5 Little Pumpkins” song complete with movements, and were able to show off their costumes to everyone, while sharing some delicious pumpkin shaped cookies. The elementary students then did read aloud with the preschoolers. It’s always important and always a fun learning experience when preschool and elementary come together. Excellent work, preschool!
Studying different genres in the Elementary classroom is one way we teach the importance of purpose, format and voice in writing. The author’s in our class have been exploring autobiographies and memoirs. As they develop their craft, they become confident, organized, expressive and reflective. This week some students brought in items from their home that represent who they are to create a self portrait collage. Other groups made life-size mosaics of themselves out of torn pieces of paper. The artists in our classroom will use these for inspiration for writing their own memoirs.
Magnifying glasses, microscopes, beakers, and microcapillary tubes are just some of the tools we used Monday morning with our guest chemist. Ms. Jessica, Ellie’s mom, shared with us a technique called chromatography. Chromatography is the art of color separation. Ms. Jessica blended different colored leaves in a blender with water and students took samples of those leaves and placed them into a beaker of rubbing alcohol. During the experiment, students were able to see different colors separate from their original leaf color.
Students have enjoyed exploring pumpkins this week in our preschool classroom. Using a scientific journal, students recorded the number of lines on their pumpkin and used connecting cubes to measure the height of their pumpkins. When it was time to explore the inside of our pumpkins, some students were hesitant to touch the gooey guts inside. After conquering their fear of getting dirty, students were able to pull out the seeds of their pumpkin and count how many were inside. We soon found out there were too many to count so we decided to take a handful of seeds and count how many seeds fit in our hands. Students also predicted if their pumpkin would sink or float when placed inside our water table. We are looking forward to another week full of pumpkin fun as we discover what a pumpkin needs to grow, the different parts of a pumpkin, and predicting how far a pumpkin can roll!
Students enjoyed sharing experiences about corn mazes today at our afternoon circle. After discussing what mazes look like, we decided to construct our own mazes. First, students brainstormed what materials we would need to create a maze. They decided we should use blocks, sticks, leaves and tables. The children were assigned tasks to work as a team in gathering the supplies. After we gathered our blocks, tables and sticks, we worked together to make paths, dead ends, and tricky turns. Students took turns walking through the maze when we were finished building it. We also asked Ms. Angie and Mr. Sean to explore our maze as well!
Ms. Jessie introduced the methodology of “process drama” to our classroom this week, and what an experience it was! Process drama is a dynamic teaching technique in which the teachers and the students work together to create an imaginary dramatic world and work within that world to explore a particular problem, situation, theme, or series of related themes, not for a separate audience, but for the benefit of the participants themselves.
In a process drama, students play a range of roles and afterwards engage in a variety of reflective out-of-role activities, requiring them to think beyond their own points of view and consider the topic from multiple perspectives. They emerge with an expanded self-awareness, and a greater sense of the challenges and the possibilities facing the society in which they live.
Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine follows the true story of Henry “Box” Brown and his journey to freedom from slavery during the Civil War. After reading the story, Mrs. Clifton lead a guided discussion about the characters and their contribution to Henry’s life, and his eventual freedom.
With support from the elementary teachers, Ms. Jessie developed a process drama for our students to demonstrate ways in which discrimination can occur, both related to the time of slavery, as well as everyday. Later in the week, Ms. Jessie lead the process drama. To start, students were given a black leather wristband while teachers were given brown. Some students had one wrist tied and others had their wrists tied together, handicapping them in some way. In role as a stern taskmaster, Ms. Jessie lead students into the studio and placed them in groups. In those groups, students were told to fold fabric and stand the entire time, while they watched as teachers were allowed to lounge on bean bag chairs and eat cookies.
After observing the unfairness of the situation, Ms. James in role, suggested that perhaps the teachers were not being fair, serving as an advocate for the students and the unjust manner in which they were being treated. Ms. Jessie, in role allowed students to justify why they should be integrated with the teachers and have their hands untied. Students compiled a list of “For” and teachers compiled a list of “Against” integration.
During the group session, students found language necessary to communicate why their situation was unjust and how they had no choice in which color wrist band they received. Their lists demonstrated an array of reasoning, which touched on much of the Civil War and slavery lessons they’ve been taught thus far. After reading the pros and cons, students successfully convinced the teachers that they should be free. The students then had their wrists untied and were allowed to enjoy cookies and bean bag chairs with the teachers.
This activity was emotionally charged and powerful for both students and teachers. After the drama ended, the classroom community discussed their feelings and how the lesson related to both Henry and slavery during the Civil War, as well as discrimination that happens in our everyday life. Teachers were in awe of the communication skills the students used to connect the lesson to both the discrimination of the past, as well as the present, and the empathy they demonstrated. Their voices were strong and their critical thinking shone through in a way that made everyone proud. What a powerful experience!