Thursday, April 9, 2020

"A Good Poem Can Jolt Our Minds"

Painting from an upcoming book by Julie Paschkis,
The Wordy Book,with quote by Pablo Neruda

A good poem can jolt our minds….

In early March I happened to read a small article in the New York Times about how poetry is
used to start morning meetings at the National Desk.  It struck a note with me and came back
to mind when Lake and Park teachers gathered after our last Winterim trip to face the news that
schools throughout Washington were closing due to Covid-19.  We would now make plans for how
we would begin to create School Away from School. 

The arts are an integral part of all we do at Lake and Park.  The walls of the classrooms and stairwell and shared spaces are filled with student work. As children move throughout the school building, I often overhear comments about the work. It is one of the ways we get to know each other across the grades. Putting the children’s work up on the wall honors the child’s effort in the creation, it inspires others to take the risk of sharing their ideas, the risk we all take when trying to communicate. Will I be understood? Will my idea matter? Will I be able to connect with others? 

When we bring the arts into our studies, children learn to communicate their ideas and understanding through painting, poetry, drawing, music and dance.  A major part of “learning by doing” at Lake and Park involves the messy risk taking required when we attempt to communicate. 
Judah uses the form of a poem and makes it his own.

The inspiration that encourages the necessary risk taking for learning often comes from sharing a poem. The courage to take the risk often comes from the support we feel when learning in community. How can we tap into our joint efforts when learning remotely? How do we channel the bravery we see in others to create our own feeling of strength and courage?  Offering a poem each week on our School Away from School virtual bulletin board is a small reminder that we are a community, learning together.  Read the poem together as a family, jump rope to the poem, watch videos of your classmates reciting the poem, make art and share it with the whole school community. Sitting with a single poem all week allows time for the poem to blossom inside you. It may also remind you of another poem, and if it does, share that poem with your family. Share it with the school community on the bulletin board stream.  Make Sunday dinner the night everyone brings a poem to the table to share. Why not?

“Otherwise” by Aileen Fisher

There must be magic,
How could day turn into night?
And how could sailboats,
Go sailing out of sight?
And how could peanuts,
Be covered up so tight?

School Away from School is still new to all of us. Here is some of the work from the last two weeks that children are doing with poetry. Children have used the poems as a starting place for drawing and writing their own poems.
By Teague

Otherwise by Gus
There must be magic
How could birds be so graceful in flight?
And how could seagulls
be so very white?
And how could owls
Go flying in the night?

A biography of Aileen Fisher by Caroline

By Sid

We shared a favorite poem from Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, “Keep a Poem in your Pocket”

Keep a poem in your pocket
and a picture in your head
and you’ll never feel lonely
at night when you’re in bed.

The little poem will sing to you
the little picture bring to you
a dozen dreams to dance to you
at night when you’re in bed.

Keep a picture in your pocket
and a poem in your head
and you’ll never feel lonely
at night when you’re in bed.

Some children responded with poems of their own:

By Lola

Dreams are special 
you hold on to them so tight 
if you lose them they will go out of sight. 
My dream is to paint a beautiful picture 
and to get my own trampoline. 
On my trampoline I will jump super high. 
I will paint the sky and the birds passing by. 
But I really want a trampoline so I can jump super high.

The Wonderful Place
by India 

This is the wonderful place in my mind
I’m in a field of flowers 
With a caramel river 
And in that place
Ice cream grows off trees
You don’t have to worry about anything 
There’s sparkles in the wind
And glitter on my shirt
You can swing the highest swings
And slide the longest slides
And fairies fly through the air
It’s a wonderful place
The lemonade is pink
The cotton candy is rainbow color
You can lift up to the clouds
On a cotton candy unicorn
It rains sprinkles
You can wish a wish
And it does come true
When you plant a flower and water it
It will grow right up
And the bees will come buzzing over
To drink the nectar

One Night I had a Dream, poem and illustration by Rhea

One Night I had a Dream

By Rhea
One night I had a dream
And one day I had another
A magical thing.
Though sometimes a great bother.
Do not let your dreams
Be sharpened into fear.
For if fear is around
Other things may be hiding near.

A poem by Ione

What poem do you keep in your pocket?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

School Away From School at Lake and Park

Daffodils bloom at the entrance to downstairs classrooms.  
Dear Parents,

Now that we have completed five official days of School Away from School  distance learning, I want to reach out to our parent community.  Just one week ago, we met remotely as a faculty to discuss how we would proceed as we faced a lengthy period of school closure.  Thursday and Friday of last week gave us a starting point. The first three days of this week allowed us to begin to establish a workable rhythm--how much material to present each day, how to maintain basic skills while also  fostering a thematic approach, how to avoid using the computer as a main interface. (We want children working on paper with pencil more than we wish to see them writing on a screen.) Now we are getting ready to add opportunities for direct contact --Zoom or  a phone call for a reading session. We will find ways to engage our very youngest learners that do not involve the computer, as receiving letters in the mail from a teacher. 

Our first virtual teacher meeting.

A school that spends as much time as Lake and Park  teaching through the “learning by doing” model must celebrate  how much amazing learning by doing has taken place in just five days for everyone in our community!   All of us are on a steep learning curve, and we are  all on that curve together. From the teacher who never created a YouTube video before, to the child used to writing sentences while sitting next to peers, looking at  the teacher working on a classroom whiteboard for letter formation help,  to the parent in the new role of crucial intermediary in all of this--we are all figuring our way into an unknown experience.   
Teachers are used to responding to the immediate feedback individual children give them moment by moment. Now they have  to remotely anticipate the progression of a lesson and the responses of children. That task requires them to generalize broadly, something best done by those who are not novices. 
  For children used  to showing finished work to a parent at the end of the week,  it is fundamentally different to have that parent near at hand while a worksheet is completed.
  Parents have been remarkably given a likely once in a lifetime opportunity to be with  their school age children in serious “prime time”. When all is said and done, and when we are back to school as normal, I think we will miss some key aspects of this time away.  I think there will be some reluctance for parents in losing that primacy. (Oh, there will be some relief, too, as they return to the role of asking, “What did you do at school today?)  But, in the long run, I think the reluctance will be the salient take-away.  
  When we get out  the clay or wood and nails, we do so knowing that the process of squeezing and hammering is the most important part of the equation.  The same is true here. Lake and Park is in the experimental (and sometimes messy) first stage of the process. If we can recognize that  it is a process, then we can collectively remember that every process takes time. Giving ourselves time also gives permission to figure and re-figure best approaches.  Each day everyone involved--each child, each parent, each teacher--is learning how to better do “School Away from School”.
Big Room block area awaits the reopening of school.
There are two goals that  we as teachers wish to achieve.  One is to provide stimulating curricula in order to offer meaningful experiences in higher level thinking while maintaining and furthering knowledge of basic skills.  The other, equally valued goal, is to allow families to take advantage of the unusual flexibility this rarity of open time (for many) allows.  We want children to continue with grade level expectations and achievements; we have a vested interest in daily participation by everyone from first through fifth grade, even if just for an hour or two.  We also think that children will develop other skills through this process as well, such as learning how to submit labeled work to a teacher,  and developing protocol for remote communication with teachers and peers. They will likely gain self reliance as they learn to manage greater periods of open time.  We see them developing singular goals and interests and will facilitate those pursuits with our upcoming project theme suggestions. Because we equally value that  previously mentioned flexibility, please communicate  with your child’s teacher in order to adjust and amend assignments as needed. 

A hidden advantage of doing school at school is that children attend in a group.  This has a direct benefit in many ways, an important one being that assigned work time allows for some autonomy.  When there are many children participating on a creative drawing assignment, they do not feel that the eyes of the adult are on each step in the process.   If the teacher is busy helping someone else figure out a math problem, others will have to work independently and try to figure out what is expected of them without immediately asking for help.  This do-it-myself habit can be harder to achieve when working at home, especially if there is just one child in the picture.   In order to allow for private time to explore in art and writing and to learn to stick with a difficult problem in math,  you may wish to put on some quiet music. We do this on occasion at school when we wish to support focus and sustain concentration.  This is an opportunity for the parent to remove one’s self for at least half an hour in order to do some work of one’s own.  Children who finish early can check over work, or add more details, or move on to a quiet reading session, all independent of the parent. This removing of one’s self temporarily on the parent part encourages risk taking as well.  

North Room student photos hanging in the windows.
As we look to the future, please know that we are officially closed through April 24th, according to Jay Inslee’s original statement regarding state school closures. However, opening  school soon after that date does not seem likely. At this juncture it is our sincere hope to be back together just as soon as we are given clearance. We will continue to provide lessons through the original spring break dates.  (Checks that held your child’s place for Spring Break Camp were never deposited, and will be voided.)

In closing, I wish to acknowledge all those among us working in the healthcare industry.  I especially want to recognize Cassie Sauer, Abe’s mom. In her role as CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association, she is at the forefront of all that is going on in the fight against the coronavirus.    In support of her, all of our workers, and the institutions behind them, thank you for modeling a willing stance of sacrifice for the greater good.  I believe that  will be the most significant learning that your child will absorb  from this entire experience.

As ever,

Camille Hayward
The Lake and Park School
Camille shares a book from home.