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Our Free Union Way

An elementary school class in geometry, problem solving, and kindness?

By happenstance, I witnessed something remarkable last week as our admin team met under the pine trees. Three third graders approached the Pre-K classroom carrying a small wooden table. As they stood somewhat uncomfortably outside Pre-K deliberating about something, I popped over to ask what was up.

They had decided in Tangents class to make a small, one-person table for Pre-K since for reasons of social distance and safety we are converting to smaller independent writing surfaces versus longer tables which bring several students into too close proximity.

However, the three young couriers weren't sure how to deliver the gift without interrupting the class and breaking the protocol to keep pods (like third grade and Pre-K) separate throughout the campus. Hence their conference on the porch. After a nudge of assurance from me that all would be fine, they knocked on the door, and Stephanie greeted them warmly on the porch.

As they explained their reason for visiting, the Pre-Ks all stood in the classroom in quiet, wide-eyed marvel. From their silence, it might have been hard for the 3rd graders--or any bystander--to interpret exactly how Pre-K actually felt about the gift. Dead quiet.

I stuck around in Pre-K to witness the reaction after the third graders had departed. As soon as the door closed, the Pre-K children gravitated around the table gawking in amazement, as if E.T.'s spaceship had just landed. Excited conjectures soon began about how they could use the table: "We could color on it! We could put the candle on it for morning meeting! We could bring it outside at lunch so somebody could have their lunch at that table!" So many ways for this table to brighten their lives!

Amidst all the imaginings, one of them exclaimed, "We should make something for them!" Instantly the focus shifted to ways that the Pre-K might be able to reciprocate and bring the same joy to those third graders that the third graders had brought to them. We could make shelves! Or even bigger dioramas! Or rocket ships! What third grader doesn't want a rocket ship?

How revitalizing was this moment of student-inspired learning where, motivated to solve a problem for another grade, students built a table from scraps of wood, learned mathematical concepts by having to apply them, bridged a bit of this year’s unusual isolation gap between between grades, and left an unmistakable imprint of kindness.