Imagine being able to visit your fellow SEC alumni’s classrooms with the click of a button. Can you envision the collective wisdom existing within these hundreds of classroom walls? The inspiration to be discovered? The strength to be gained through sharing similar triumphs and tribulations?
As a classroom teacher, I always felt that visiting other classrooms was an incredibly powerful learning experience. It was also one of the most difficult things to carve out time for. Creating curriculum, reflecting on children’s learning, preparing materials for the next day, communicating with families, MEETINGS, and of course instructional time were indispensable components of the day – observing other teachers and their classrooms seemed to be too much of a luxury to arrange for on a regular basis.
In the coming months, we aim to help make it possible for you to get a glimpse into the amazing work your fellow SEC alumni are doing in their classrooms without having to arrange for subs and time off. A new feature on our blog called “In My Classroom” will be highlighting the SEC-related curriculum alumni have developed, the ways in which alumni have made use of local resources, and document the innovative approaches teachers have conceived to put SEC concepts into action.
If you have found success in implementing curriculum, ideas, projects, approaches, or methods related to Seedlings, please consider contacting Judy Cuthbertson (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Katy Botta (KBseedlingseducator@gmail.com) to share your experience.
Today we kick off this feature with a brief introduction to a project occurring at Cold Spring School (CSS) in the classrooms of 4th and 5th grade teachers Joshua Sloat (SEC alum and facilitator) and Karen Zwick (science facilitator), as facilitated by the school’s Integrated Program Coordinator and SEC alumna Laura Sheinkopf.
One of the many highlights of the week at Seedlings is the “integration day” when community mentors visit with focus groups to consider meaningful ways to integrate various subject areas. This past year the two 4/5’s groups were lucky enough to meet with Alan Organschi of Gray Organschi Architecture firm and Yale School of Architecture student Caitlin Baiada. At this meeting, Alan and Caitlin not only offered to serve as a resource for questions post-Seedlings, but also expressed an interest in developing a collaborative architecture project with a school.
Early in the school year, Joshua and Karen decided to take Caitlin up on this offer. With a curriculum centered around Native Americans, storytelling, and habitats, it became a natural extension to consider Native American architecture as storytelling. Storytelling of place, of materials, of biomimicry, of environmental conditions, and cultural conditions. Together, Joshua, Karen, Laura, Caitlin, and ten fellow architecture students worked together to develop a design challenge that would engage the Cold Spring students in deepening and applying their learning for an authentic purpose and audience.
During five 1.5 hour sessions over the course of six weeks, rotating teams of Yale School of Architecture (YSoA) students taught and coached Cold Spring’s 4th and 5th graders through the process of thinking and working like an architect. After two sessions of exploratory design exercises and group conversations about the intersection of environment, culture and landscape in architecture, CSS students were challenged to design a fort or treehouse for their school’s outdoor play yard. Working individually and then in teams, the fourth and fifth graders considered Cold Spring’s particular constraints and needs, as they made models and drawings to articulate their ideas. In their last session with their YSoA coaches, CSS students presented their group concepts in a final “review,” before “critics” including local professional architects, CSS board members, and members of the school’s administration.
Sound daunting? We will be breaking this project down over the course of the next several weeks to further detail how the process unfolded and how teachers collaborated with this rich local resource to develop lessons. In subsequent blog posts, we will share reflections from CSS students, and a set of “take-aways” to consider as you craft learning experiences for your students.