Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Day in Kelvin's Team

A small team of children come running toward their instructor as a response to his coyote call, and once they all reach him, they lift their heads to the sky to deliver a group howl. 

Kelvin is leading a team of seven elementary school students to the Creaky Tree Meadow this cloudy October morning.  The team is smiling and responsive to his varied forms of attention grabbers, and as Kelvin puts his finger on the tip of his nose, they copy him and wait for the rules of the game.

“Where’s my baby?” Kelvin introduces the activity.  The team can only move when his back is towards them, and they must freeze once he turns to face them.  The task is for every person on the team to have touched the “baby” before returning to the starting position without being caught holding the stuffed animal.  

The team was unsuccessful in accomplishing the task the first time since only one person touched the stuffed animal.  Under the mediation of their instructor, the team circled up without Kelvin to discuss a strategy for success, and they had as much time as they needed to construct a solution.  The students were acquiring valuable skills for strategizing, compromising, communicating, and learning to figure out the answer for themselves.  After the third attempt, there were cheers of excitement from the team as they gathered their gear to move to the next location.  Kelvin ran off ahead of them, “Last one’s a rotten egg!”

The team hiked through their classroom, along a trail covered in big leaf maple tree leaves that crunched under their boots.  Their class was full of abundant sword ferns, lichen covered red alders, moss covered nurse logs, fruitless evergreen huckleberries, umbrella-like redcedars, drooping western hemlocks, short stinging nettles, and so much more.

This was the classroom Kelvin had transitioned to during graduate school.  He kept the students, but traded the desks for trees, the ESL books for field guides, the predictable schedule for adventure, the boxed classroom for 255 acres of forest, the direct instruction for mediation, and the passing period for hikes along trails full of teachable moments.  He was helping students reach their potential on their own terms and in their own time while in a setting they could truly engage in.
Kelvin has a strong conviction that educators can have the most impact when they see the world through the student’s eyes, and one of the most effective ways to meet them on the same level is to build a community around them.  He strongly believes that a community is the ideal environment to cultivate leadership skills, preserve culture, and foster valuable relationships.  This is what we do at Islandwood, we are a community of educators seeking to improve the lives of the children who visit us rather than simply impart knowledge unto them.


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