Down the hill from the Lower School classrooms in the Piney Village is the magical outdoor playspace called The Piney Woods. The Piney Woods one of the locations EC-5 children enjoy recess together. Beneath the towering pines and among the historical granite slabs, the children negotiate stumps, collect pine cones, arrange sticks, mix mud, grind rocks, jump and run and play. This is the kind of space where true imaginative play can happen and when play and learning is inextricably intertwined.
Last week I was invited for a meal or an overnight stay in the Piney Woods. A group of 2-3 students had arranged found-resources to create an avenue of options for restaurants and hotels along the bases of trees at the edge of the woods. They had created a shared vision for their city, engaged in collecting and sharing the resources for the building design, and created an inclusive activity of role playing that required negotiation and compromise.
“Una civilización que niega a la muerte, acaba por negar a la vida.” (A civilization that denies death, ends up denying life.)
Last week Lower School Spanish students celebrated el día de los muertos. El día de los muertos combines the ancient Aztec custom of celebrating ancestors with All Soul’s Day, a holiday that Spanish invaders brought to Mexico starting in the early 1500s. Celebrated throughout Latin America but primarily in Mexico (and in the United States by Mexican-Americans), this holiday honors and remembers loved ones who have passed away. To commemorate this day, families build candlelit “ofrendas”, decorated altars, in their homes and at gravesites, so that the spirits can find their way back to their loved ones. The “ofrendas” are filled with the favorite food, drinks, and items that were important to their ancestors when they were alive (such as a favorite instrument, game etc.) They also include the four main elements of nature – earth, wind, water and fire.
Spanish teacher Amanda Wood shared, “Our goal is not only to teach the Spanish language, but also to create a climate that appreciates and values Hispanic culture and sees it’s relevance in our community and our world.”
Over the course of three weeks students in 4-5 worked in small groups to design and build a traditional altar. Students made papel picado (paper cut-outs), crepe paper-cempasuchil (marigold) flowers, arcos de flores (floral arches), and enjoyed homemade pan de muerto (Bread of the Dead). Students watched videos and viewed images of real life altars as they learned more about the holiday and its importance to Latin American culture.
2-3 students participated in the making of papel picado which was displayed in the art center entrance. Students contributed photos, memorabilia and artifacts from loved ones for the shared altar. K-1 students colored and cut out brightly decorated calaveras (skulls) that were hung around the 2-3 altar and engaged in age appropriate conversation about the celebration. Students, faculty and families visited the altar display and enjoyed hearing from 4-5 students about their group projects.
On Sunday, a group of fifteen fifth graders worked as tour guides for Waynflete’s EC-5 Open House. Over 40 visitors were toured around the Lower School by these outstanding ambassadors. Fifth graders were responsible for following a tour schedule, talking about the program, answering questions and introducing the guests to teachers and current parents. Each group of visitors appreciated the opportunity to talk with the students and took advantage by asking many questions. There is no one better to speak honestly about our school and our program than the students. Bravo and thanks fifth graders!
Students in Tim Hebda’s 4-5 class were recently immersed in the thematic study of westward migration in the United States. Territorial and state geography is an essential part of the story, so Tim decided to employ technology—including cameras, projectors, and Skype—to connect Waynflete students with similarly aged students in “mystery locations” around the world. His hope was that these conversations would help students comprehend the scale of some of these travels.
Starting with “are you east or west of the Mississippi?”, it took seven guesses for Waynflete students to pinpoint the location of the mystery school: Georgia!
Tim has several more mystery Skypes planned in the coming weeks, including locations outside of the United States.
How many guesses would it take for you to pinpoint the location of a random Skype user?