From all of us at Seedlings, we hope your school year is off to a great start. The first weeks are so full with preparing materials, practicing routines, setting expectations, and building community; often times those exciting new plans for curriculum and projects that we developed over the course of the summer can seem discouragingly out of reach. Take a deep breath, think back to the end of your last school year, remember the growth your students made as they gained trust in you and their environment, and — importantly — don’t forget that Seedlings is here to continue supporting you through the year.
As you delve into the year, here are a few take-aways from Seedlings summer workshop participants that we hope can help you hold onto those big picture goals:
- We’re with you. Every year, participants share that one of the greatest gifts of Seedlings is connecting with and learning from a community of like-mined educators. The process of curriculum development and the courage it takes to experiment with new ideas is so greatly enriched and more enjoyable when you have a partner in crime with whom to collaborate.
Reconnect with your focus group members. Contact your facilitator. Reach out to community resources. If you have fellow Seedlings alumni in your school, find a simple way to collaborate on a regular basis (i.e. agree to try out and share new design challenges once a month; eat lunch together once a week; look at your science kits and together figure out how they meaningfully connect with your community and environment.) Share what you are doing in your classroom and find out what’s happening in others’. Don’t have time to visit other people’s classrooms? Stay connected through our blog.
- Think locally. “I had no idea New Haven had so many rich resources,” and “I’ve lived here my whole life and saw my city in a whole new way,” are common refrains at the end of the workshop.While so many of us gain a new appreciation for the city of New Haven, it’s important to remember that this workshop could be run in any community across the country, and our outcome would likely be the same. It’s about seeing with a new perspective: How can your local community and environment serve as a spring board for learning? What stories are held there that spark interest and curiosity? How do they connect to curriculum and your students’ lives in meaningful ways? How can you partner with local individuals, organizations, institutions, and workers to enrich learning experiences?
- Honor child development. School can be empowering to children if they are given opportunities to explore learning at a level that is appropriate to them. If the student is not up to the task, powerlessness lives in the classroom. Ask yourself whether the tasks and curriculum in which you engage students are developmentally appropriate. If not, readjust. Students should feel stretched and challenged, but not incompetent. Nobody knows your students and their stage(s) of development like you. Arm yourself with knowledge of child development so that you can defend your choices. Know the language of Common Core standards so you can demonstrate how it applies to your developmentally appropriate practices. Be confident in your expertise. Play, projects, and stories can help integrate standards in ways that are relevant to your students.
Finally, keep these resources close at hand:
- Seedlings booklist: seedlings.libib.com, our online library database for books that connect to your focus group topic
- Child Development: Nancy Close — firstname.lastname@example.org
- New Haven Tour: Colin Caplan — email@example.com
- CT River Museum: Bill Yule — firstname.lastname@example.org
- Architecture: Alan Organschi — email@example.com
- Art: Dita Carley — firstname.lastname@example.org
- Technology: Karen Zwick — email@example.com
- Peabody Museum: David Heiser — firstname.lastname@example.org
- Yale Art Gallery: Jessica Sack — email@example.com
- Movement: Leslie Prodis — firstname.lastname@example.org
- Math/Art: Beth Klingher — email@example.com
- Math: Denise Quinn — firstname.lastname@example.org
- Music: Susan Harris — email@example.com
- Common Ground High School: Suzannah Holsenbeck — firstname.lastname@example.org
- New Haven Land Trust: Justin Elicker — email@example.com
- New Haven Museum: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great Fall and please keep in touch with us!