Was it anticipation of math class? It could have been either, but it was neither. The In N’ Out truck was pulling in. Whether it’s a love of learning or a love of burgers, the kindergarten experience is mostly celebratory.
There was much to celebrate about learning on Thursday evening at Open House/STEAM Night, with sandwiches (that arrived without cheers) adding to the evening’s enjoyment. The kindergarten desks were covered with ‘escape machines,’ ingenious contraptions designed by each student to help Jack escape from the Giant’s castle. With guidance from the Lower School learning specialists, the kindergartners produced the most amazing stop motion animation movies made with clay to complement their projects.
During the evening I tried to get around each room to ask students what they had learned. A conversation about learning rather than a conversation about grades lends itself to insights about Chandler’s mission and value propositions. Each student throughout the school produced a piece of work in a problem-solving project unique to them.
After looking over his third grade son’s L.A. River project that included a 3D printed trash-recycling device and a well-written letter to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, one parent said, “These kids are not following recipes. They’re not arriving at the same solution. They’re being encouraged to study up on a topic and come up with ideas themselves. It’s empowering. I wish I could have learned like this.”
Projects support the ‘Pathways’ goal from the academic section of Chandler’s Strategic Plan. The wording in the plan reads, “So that students may increasingly understand themselves as unique learners, identify passions and pursue strengths, we will provide differentiated pathways to learning.”
Many Lower School families took the opportunity to visit Middle School classrooms. Arpa Ghazarian’s eighth grade science lab was a big attraction. Students had produced versions of the game ‘Operation’ in conjunction with their electric circuit studies. One kindergarten dad said that his son could not believe that students were allowed to make games that light up. His son expressed a desire to bypass grades 1-7 and attend eighth grade next year. Arpa’s classroom also displayed copies of atom projects that the students completed and a large periodic table that students are learning about before the school year ends.
Amanda Vasquez’s eighth grade Spanish classroom was an artistic and linguistic explosion of colorful masks, books written and illustrated by the students for their second grade buddies, and comics that highlighted grammar principles. I asked one of the eighth grade students (who just tested into Spanish 3 in high school) what she thought of all the work that was on display. She looked directly at her teacher and with a smile said, “She pushes us to do this, but it’s worth it.”
Joe Spencer’s eighth grade American Studies students have spent the last quarter of the year working on projects of their own choosing. Several were on display. Students researched a topic approved by Joe that interested them and made presentations to their classmates. They included The Great Depression, the history of cardiac medicine, the Manhattan project and the Cold War. One of the eighth grade students in the room said that his work on the Middle East had engaged him like no other history project.
“We strive to have our students gain a love of learning,” reads part of Chandler’s mission statement. I hope you saw evidence of that on Thursday evening.