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Building New Worlds

"This is the playground that everyone can walk to. These are the community gardens. The hospital is over that way, but you could still walk there." One of the children took me on a walkthrough of her utopia diorama. A different student whipped up her third batch of salt dough, entirely independently because, as she pointed out, she's kind of an expert at this point. I love these moments when everyone is so deeply engaged. They were discussing food distribution, different modes of transportation, and the relative benefits of urban versus rural living. They raided the recycling and the art shelves, looking for the material that could do what they needed. It always looks a bit chaotic, but they can still pick up the whole mess in under five minutes. It feels pretty close to my vision of utopian education.

Morgan's PK and K Class

* Started working with Houghton Mifflin's "Alphafriends" and focused in on the letter S with "Sammy Seal."

* Learned about Johnny Appleseed and wondered just how many seeds he planted.

* Learned why the leaves change colors and observed the trees around the school to see what was changing.

* Explored leaves through color, shape, and size then compared them to one another.

* Read some BIG books - a fun way to focus in on literacy skills. The children loved the size of our Big books!

* Taste tested green, red, and yellow apples then graphed what we like the best.

* Did buoyancy experiments with apples - do they sink or float?

* Tore and cut tissue paper then created designs on contact paper.

* Had a fun time exploring the museum for our first field trip of the year. The Jan Brett exhibit and the mummy were definite highlights.

Tracy's 1st - 3rd Grade Class

In math, we continued to work on collecting data, using tallies, and graphing. The third graders graphed the number of letters in the last names of everyone in the school. Everyone worked with a partner to create a double dice rolling graph (spoiler alert: 7 almost always wins). All that addition practice is always useful too. Our second graders have been counting coins, comparing numbers with greater than and less than, and finding different ways to make a given number.

Theresa's 4th - 6th Grade Class

Our fourth-grade mathematicians continue to practice place value and rounding (to the nearest hundred, ten-thousand, etc.). They are getting more comfortable using estimates to predict what sort of answer would make sense for a problem. Fifth grade math has been focusing on finding the volume of different sized boxes and knowing what sort of dimensions could make a box of a given volume. Sixth graders have been honing their understanding of mean, median, and mode as well as continuing to work on adding and subtracting fractions.

Tracy and Theresa's Classes

In writing, we are trying to get all those utopia ideas into an organized paper. The kids helped to come up with an outline of the "big ideas" that they thought should be included. We are working our way through each section, taking notes and then using those notes to write a draft.

Our Field Trip to the Albany Institute of History and Art (and Washington Park)

The staff at the museum commented on the enthusiasm of our kids, the questions they asked, and their level of engagement. They raised their hands, they looked closely, and they shared their insights. Everyone had the chance to make some art in the art room, and we learned about the Hudson River School of artists. After a morning of using inside voices and bodies, everyone was happy to play on the playground in Washington Park. At pick up time back at school, I listened to one student explain his landscape painting using the terms background, midground, and foreground. Clearly some of what we had learned was sticking.


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