Greetings! Powerful teaching and learning continues at the St. Johnsbury School as spring tries to arrive. We recently celebrated Read Across America and honored the birthday of Dr. Seuss.
Students in the younger grades had the opportunity to meet author Sy Montgomery and learn how she travels around the world, researching the animals she writes about. Some of the fifth and sixth graders worked with author Beth Kanell in a writing workshop. Second graders created a Read Across America Map, coloring in a state for every day they read. Preschoolers started taking turns bringing an Overnight Story Bag home for an overnight visit. Each bag contains a book, activity, and journal for drawing or writing so parents and children can read and have fun together. Kindergartners read "Where the Wild Things Are" and added "rumpus" and "commotion" to their Wonderful Word Wall.
In math, kindergarten students have begun a unit on geometry by brainstorming the characteristics of basic shapes and using them to create pictures. One student started with a rhombus, then added a string and some bows to make a kite. Another student started with a circle, then added a triangle cone and some sprinkles to make an ice cream cone. Our preschool students are gaining foundational skills in geometry by drawing blueprints of their ideas for "building" and talking about the shapes they see in buildings. They have also painted some beautiful wind socks to decorate their classrooms.
Moving math ahead a few grades, we find middle schoolers engaged in engineering challenges. In one of the science classes, students are using Kinnect kits to design and build different mechanical objects, following certain guidelines. Their teacher says, "The point of this lab is to let students discover on their own, to come up with their own logical solutions." In another science class, students have been given the task to make a race car out of a limited list of supplies with the goal of traveling the greatest distance. However, the amount spent on materials is subtracted from the final distance so cost effectiveness is an important variable.
Some eighth graders participated in a bridge building competition on March 17 at Lyndon Institute. Students were challenged to make a bridge that had to meet certain requirements while only using Popsicle sticks, tooth picks, dental floss, and Elmer's glue. One of the students had this to say about the experience. "This was challenging because it was hard to find the right pieces to make it neat and legal. I found the whole thing frustrating at first but not so much now. I think that all the preparations paid off because we're doing all the hard work ourselves and it's open ended as far as the design goes." Hats off to our eighth graders for persevering and thinking like scientists.
Students in grades 5-8 just finished an outstanding performance in "Once Upon This Island." What an amazing showcase of musical and dramatic talent! Earlier in March the kindergarten performed two songs from "Sound of Music." Fifth graders are quite excited about their "recorder karate" classes. The fourth-grade class is preparing "Words We Live By" for a May performance.
Student musicians from our band and chorus attended the Newport Music Festival on March 9. One of the chorus members reflected, "It was really fun, and I wish I could go again. If you're questioning about doing it, do it. It is a life experience." Another student celebrated this opportunity as she said, "It is a great chance to show the state our talent and to have our voices be heard. Many students are talented and need to get out there to be shown." Music is alive and well, for sure, at the St. Johnsbury School.
Technology, too, is alive and well. Fourth graders have begun using an online learning platform called My Big Campus to structure and enhance student learning during reading group time. Students have been participating in online discussions, uploading and downloading materials and submitting assignments online. There is a lot of excitement with this digital learning.
Farm to School continues to thrive. Seventy-seven second graders came together to shred, measure, mix and serve Brilliant Beet-afull Salad. They were challenged to work cooperatively, follow directions, observe the process of preparing food for 700 people, gather and record information, and learn the importance of supporting local farmers. Second graders were very proud to serve their salad, and many students throughout the school gave it a "thumbs up" for taste.
Third graders are working on an astronomy unit. Students are discovering interesting facts and characteristics about each of the planets. Students have the opportunity to choose a project idea from a menu including: making a travel brochure to your favorite planet; writing a song or poem; acting out a brief play; creating a 3-D model; writing a diary from the point of view of a planet creature; creating an edible planet or sun; developing a jigsaw puzzle or wordsearch.
In the spirit of spring, a recent Saturday School theme has been gardening. Each Saturday morning, two teachers provided different activities for the students. Students made garden beds, fashioned homemade pots for vegetable and herb seedlings, cooked with veggies and herbs, and created a sign for our school garden. The Saturday school students attended the Boston Flower Show as a culminating activity.
We recently held parent conferences, and one teacher started her weekly newsletter with this comment, "I want to begin this week's newsletter with a big thank you to all parents for coming in for conferences. It was so great to be able to share all the progress your child has made!" Another teacher had this beginning to her newsletter, "I just wanted to take this time to say thank you for having such great kids who are making me so proud of all their progress this year." Excitement, challenge, growth, pride: it is such a privilege to celebrate the students, staff, parents, grandparents, and community supporters who create the rich teaching and learning experiences at the St. Johnsbury School!