A Day in the Life of a Grade Schooler

     As the sun rises above the evergreen trees, signaling a new day at the Oak, our oldest and wisest of Oakers, the Acorns, race their parents up the gravel path to enter their classroom to greet classmates and teachers eager to begin another day of self-directed learning and discovery. They handle their morning routines independently, which include hanging up their belongings, checking their mailbox, and answering the Question of the Day. There is no one right answer to the QOD as it is meant to encourage deep thinking, support multiple intelligences, and provoke conversation at Morning Gathering. 

     Everyone looks forward to Morning Gathering as a respectful time given to discuss ideas, share problem solving strategies, set intentions for the day, build community and enjoy a mindful moment together. QOD thoughts can be shared. Stories and dreams from the evening before can be shared. New questions to add to the Wondering Wall can be documented and shared. Plans for the next step of student projects can be shared. There is no set agenda and no rush. 

     With new ideas swirling in their heads, the Acorns are buzzing with enthusiasm for Independent Project Time, or IPT for short. The children continue working on learning goals that they have set for themselves. At the beginning of each new season, students have a one-on-one meeting with their teacher to discuss their interests, questions, and wonderings. Through their discussion together, but mainly driven by the student, a project will be developed. Since stewardship is central to our school mission, many projects have a driving question that strives to fulfill a community need. Projects take advantage of the people, the resources, and the landscape around us. A list of foundational skills that can be developed over the course of the project, such as persuasive writing, identifying patterns, or telling time, for example, will also be generated. This way basic skills that the children need to continue building up their knowledge base will be embedded in their self-directed project. 

     Projects will focus on a place-based problem to be solved, a solution to make something better/a new innovation, or an inquiry question to answer. Students spend this block of time each morning conducting age-appropriate research, hands-on experiments, and developing their project. The Scientific Method will be utilized, in addition to the Socratic Method of questioning to encourage the students to drive down to the answer for themselves. Projects can be conducted independently or in small groups if similar interests overlap. Projects can move between indoor and outdoor spaces, again depending on the nature of the inquiry. During IPT, the teacher meets with the students to facilitate next steps of their project, to assist in the documentation of each student's story of learning, and to develop the level of inquiry.

     Documentation of the project will also happen during this time and be creatively designed by the individual student or student group. Technology, in addition to the school library, will be utilized to support learning and documentation of the project, which may include the use of a computer, a graphics tablet, trail cams, projector, a scanner, and/or printer.

     Each project culminates in a Learning Expo at the end of the season to highlight the student's academic learning and personal achievement. Parents are cordially invited to the Expo. Students will complete a personal evaluation at the end of each project.

     With the gentle sound of the rain stick, students wrap up their project work for today and gear up for a bit of unstructured outdoor play, climbing, balancing, and free exploration.

     After their run around time, the teacher lets the children know that today is a "Wild Math" day where they get to do open-ended math games and foundational skills outside! Tomorrow will be Literacy Lab, during which time students build up their reading and writing skills, and learn about the publishing process in order to move their "real-world writing" piece through the various stages.

     It has already been a packed morning or learning, conversation, trial-and-error, fresh air, and inquiry. For the remainder of the morning, students look forward to lunch with the Nature Preschoolers and Closing Meeting - a time to review the day as a list or through storytelling and anecdotes. The intention will be set for tomorrow, and the Floor Book, which follows the Acorns' class story, will be added to with text and drawings. Morning students are hugged goodbye before full day students take off on an after lunch hike including sit spots and time for meditation. Wild Math or Literacy Labs are on the agenda for the afternoon, depending on the day, before rejoining the Nature Preschool for "R n'R w/S" (Read & Rest with Snack) to round out a very busy day at Nature School. 

a school for children who are serious about dirt and squirmy things

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© 2018 by Painted Oak Nature School

174 Lambertville Hopewell Road 

Hopewell, New Jersey  08525

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