A Day in the Life of a K-3rd Grader

     As the sun rises above the evergreen trees, signaling a new day at the Oak, our lower elementary Oakers meet on the large field for a pre-bell game of gaga ball or a chance to warm themselves and say their goodbyes to their parents by the campfire on frosty mornings. They then gather under the juniper tree signaling the beginning of a new day of learning. After singing some well loved Painted Oak favorites bringing forth their love for jumping and dirt with ‘Happy Mud’ or reviewing the specials classes for the day with a made up song, they head into the wondrous and open aired outdoor classroom. The log circle beckons for the morning routines to begin with the choosing of the daily helper, checking the class mailbox and reviewing the daily schedule . Our minds are settled and focused through some deep breathing techniques, led by the helper of the day, representing the sun, fire or even a pretzel! As we settle, conversation begins through answering the Question of the Day. There is no one right answer to the QOD as it is meant to encourage connection, support multiple intelligences, and provoke conversation at Morning Gathering.  

     As the children munch on their snacks they become aware of the multiple provocations set out on the picnic tables and log stumps with the purpose to provoke further thought or predictions  into the topic of study for the day. They serve as an introduction to, or a continuation of, a unit of study that has arisen from the student’s interests.  Since stewardship is central to our school mission, many projects have a driving question or questions that strive to fulfill a community need. These studies take advantage of the people, the resources, the seasons and the landscape around us. Throughout the course of the year, these place-based units of study touch upon three essential questions; How do animals work? How do plants work? How does the world work? 

     After a group socratic discussion, meant to encourage the students to find answers for themselves, a book or a minilesson, the children set forth to work individually or in teams depending on their interests within the central group topic at hand. Unbeknownst to them, the children are given the opportunity to include age appropriate skills in a hands-on manner as they develop their ideas and culminating projects. Literacy in the form of writing, comprehension and reading along with math topics such as measurement amongst others are used to create a cohesive outcome that displays all their acquired knowledge. These culminating projects are used as documentation to display the children's story of learning from the beginning driving questions of the project to the end product.

     With the sound of the chime, students wrap up their project work for the day and gear up for brain-break- a time for a bit of unstructured outdoor play, climbing, balancing, free exploration and their all time favorite, gaga ball. This time plays a crucial part in enhancing social awareness and communication skills.

     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.

It has already been a packed morning of learning, conversation, trial-and-error, fresh air, and inquiry. For the remainder of the morning, students look forward to indoor lunch and Closing Meeting - a time for a break from the outdoor elements and to look back on the learning of the day. The helper of the day completes the ‘days in school’ chart as they anxiously count down to the 100th day of school and gets the opportunity to wrap up the day with his/her ‘Rose, Bud and Thorn’. Here they express their favorite moment, their least favorite (which elicits food for thought of what we can improve as a class family) and hopes for the next day. Morning students are given a fist bump goodbye before full day students get their second brain break of the day on the sports court. Chalk drawing, ‘4 Square’ and worm searching are the choice of the day before heading to afternoon skills lessons. Wild Math or Literacy Labs are on the agenda for the afternoon. Depending on the day, the children attend enrichment classes such as art, science, tinkering or world languages to round out a very busy day at Nature School.

a progressive 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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