Last week, Chicago was a buzz of creativity and collaboration, with Chicago Ideas Week events taking place at various locations around the city. In our little school on the SW side, a group of strangers came together for a unique experience: the opportunity to go back to Kindergarten. After introductions, coffee, and a brief history of the school, we asked participants to “put on their five-year-old glasses” and step into the role of a new student at our innovative school.
The condensed 1.5 hour school day began with classroom yoga, a few poses to focus our brains and transition into a space of learning. Following yoga, the “class” held a morning meeting, where they discussed upcoming events and shared highlights from their week, and played a team-building game. Maestra Fyffe then led a lesson using the classroom’s smart board, asking how we can each contribute to our learning community at AGC, an early lesson in our Kindergarteners’ first unit of inquiry. The central idea for this unit is that students shape their learning environment, both cognitively and socially.
Following the Dual Language model, all of Maestra Fyffe’s activities were all led in Spanish. Through a call and response method which included rhythmic tapping to break the words down into syllables, participants learned vocabulary in Spanish in parallel with the lesson content. While none of our lab participants were fluent in Spanish, all were able to follow the teacher’s instructions and lesson content. Dual Language is a highly effective two-way immersion model, where approximately 50% of students are native English speakers, 50% are native Spanish speakers, and the instruction begins at 90% in Spanish. While the instructor speaks very little English throughout the day, students are encouraged to use whatever language they choose. After a year or less of immersion, it is difficult to tell which students in the class are native English or Spanish speakers, as all students switch fluidly between the languages.
The day concluded with a Wellness lesson, led by AGC’s School Garden Coordinator, Corenna Roozeboom. In a truncated version of a 90 minute lesson, Corenna gave participants of the “wellness wheel,” a visual model for understanding the important balance of physical, environmental, intellectual, social and emotional wellness, among others. To help develop an understanding of and skills to support their own wellness participants made Zen Gardens using salt, dried flowers, and shallow bowls. We ended our day with a reflective 5 minutes of silence with our Zen Gardens.