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Our Free Union Way

Five Reasons Teachers Are Excited About At-School School

  1. Being with the kiddos
  2. Learning in the great outdoors
  3. Cultivating community
  4. Launching a new curriculum: 3-2-1 Blast off PBL
  5. Trying on my new teacher's cape

Starting on-campus school in a COVID-19 environment has been an opportunity to put in place new ways of doing things that have included changes to our campus learning places, curriculum modifications, and health protocols. Because the teachers refer to them, here are some:

  • Daily screenings of everyone on campus, steady focus on sanitation, health, and safety. COVID-19-related policies and protocols
  • Limits on class size to pods of 9 students and a teacher
  • 75% of our learning now occurring outdoors, year-round (tents, too)
  • Curriculum project-based (PBL), integrating the disciplines for all grades

Being with the Kiddos

  • Eager to be with the kids and just not “see them on TV” (referring to remote learning). To really get to know each one
  • Can’t wait for the interesting questions and ideas my students will have.
  • Looking forward to seeing how kids' learning will be different when they are getting so much more time in nature. Will there be positive effects on behavior and cognitive development?
  • We are in a “new normal” (daily screening, masks, separation, outdoor learning) and I wonder what creating school in this new world will be like, for them and for me.
  • So many books to read, worlds to discover and create.
  • Excited to watch the kids grow and develop over the days at school.
  • Check out our website for protocols for opening school on campus this fall.

Learning in the Great Outdoors

  • This year is an opportunity to connect with nature on a whole new level.
  • Sometimes the four walls of a classroom can stop discovery in its tracks before it even happens.
  • Our new “classroom” not only provides space but inspiration and learning tools.
  • I’m so excited to dive deep into our new classroom (the world?) with my students.
  • We'll get to follow the natural rhythms of the day as we participate in shared experiences such as gardening and ecology, and quieter individual activities, like drawing the details of a leaf or individually reading under each of our own special trees.
  • The world truly is our oyster.

Cultivating Community

  • School is always so much better when our class functions as a kind, supportive, and inquisitive group.
  • We'll have an opportunity to develop a strong community bond within each pod (class), and to rehearse kindness and fairness.
  • “Community,” however we chose to define it, is the first-month PBL theme.
  • When our class community functions well and each person is motivated to play their key part, I believe we are at the core of fulfilling our mission: to prepare our students intellectually, emotionally, and physically for life today and tomorrow.
  • We create our own group identity.
  • I look forward to hearing what the other groups are learning and doing, and sharing this with my students so they get a sense of our part of the larger whole.

Launching a New Curriculum: 3-2-1 Blast-off Project-Based Learning!

  • Actually, a lot more than a curriculum change—a whole new approach to engaging students.
  • Having the license to use the great outdoors more than ever is exciting.
  • Excited to learn with the children, discovering together.
  • Project-based learning (PBL) integrates the disciplines, an intuitive masterstroke.
  • So if we are studying a stream community on campus (science, ecology), we can plot the rate of water flow (math), write a story (language arts), learn about fluid dynamics (physics, engineering), model solutions to creating a cleaner, biodiverse community (problem-solving), answer questions about what the stream looked like 200 years ago (social science), and from our study grow a list of new questions (Socrates).
  • Eager to guide my kiddos through some of their own thematic experiences.
  • We’ll all experience learning and stumbling and growing together.
  • Maybe we’ll build a plant guild orchard space, or learn about Free Union's history from a tiny old cemetery on the campus.

Trying on My New Teacher’s Cape

  • Really? Teacher as consultant, learning alongside the kids in a discovery mode?
  • I'm super-excited about not having everything plotted out for us, every day/week/month of the year!
  • There's an element of discovery that I'm looking forward to experiencing for myself alongside my students.
  • This is exciting: most of the time we are the imparters of knowledge; now we’re more about asking questions and making meaning out of what’s in front of us.
  • I’ll still organize, question, and encourage, but we’ll all learn together, organically.
  • I’m eager to tune into and go with the flow of the children’s interests.