Wednesday, May 19, 2010

John Muir Elementary

Before we knew it, they were gone! Last week was a whirlwind of students, teachers, chaperones, and instructors. John Muir arrived in three busses ready to take on the great outdoors at Islandwood. The school community at John Muir Elementary is unlike many other public schools, and was absolutely beautiful for me to witness. As they were leaving on Thursday a teacher who stayed with my group for the entirety of the week referring to her students as “baby”, “sweetie”, and “precious”, hugged me and shouted, “I feel like we bonded”. It was so nice to hear because we had bonded in the same way that she has bonded with each and every one of her students, she cares if they succeed and that is what makes all the difference!

I was granted the privilege to spend the week with nine 5th graders, six girls and three boys from John Muir Elementary. On day one we completed the human knot, (a team building activity where you get them into a circle and they hold hands with people across from them knotting themselves up. The key is to become unknotted without ever letting go) with flying colors. During our debrief, without any prompt from me one of the girls in my group stated, “You know, this game is like my life because if I just jump into things without thinking, I may have regrets. But if I take my time and think things through before I do them, I can’t have regrets”. I was dumbfounded, it was such an insightful outlook from such a young little girl and I was so proud to be standing with her in that moment.

The Human Knot set the tone for our entire week. I had already planned to have a theme of perspectives that week. We talked quite a bit about looking at things or people through their eyes or by “walking a mile in their shoes” so to speak. The students took to the assignment immediately and we began right away by writing stories from the perspective of something in nature. On Tuesday we visited the cemetery and the students settled down next to a gravestone that “spoke to them”. They wrote beautifully detailed stories about that person’s life from their perspective, even citing historical events like The Great Depression and World War Two. On Wednesday we continued the theme by writing perspective stories while in the lab, focusing on the macro-invertebrates sitting in our petri-dishes.

On Thursday we completed our week of perspectives in the garden, looking as closely as we could at flowers, stems, vegetables, and caterpillars with small magnifying glasses. The students drew and colored amazing pictures of their object and added analogy poetry on the backside. The activity was quiet as they were each studying their own object but there was a hum of excitement as they each discovered new idiosyncrasies about things they see on a regular basis.

It's as tiny as a bug, as smooth as a rock, as soft as a newborn kitten, and it is as strong as metal. It may be small but it is the best of the bunch!

As a final plug, there is a new documentary being unveiled concerning the state of our education system and I urge everyone to attend a showing in his or her city. If after you are enraged, please visit your next school board meeting. The movie is titled Waiting for Superman and it is showing at the Seattle Film Festival on June 4 and June 5.

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