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December 2018 Highlights  

In some ways, independence in upper elementary is similar to that of younger children; for example, though the 9-12 year olds are capable dressers, they continue to work on self care in other ways, like hair combing and face washing, especially as their bodies start to mature. In the classroom, we support this physical independence in many ways, for example, by providing more complex kinds of practical life experience, like baking or cooking projects or designing your own experiments.  

A typical elementary type of independence is intellectual. I see this show up strongly in Marsh in the children’s sense of justice and quest for understanding. Upper elementary children are curious about the world and open to learning lots of new things. When a nine-year old passionately defends the right of everyone to have a fair amount of snack, plans a going-out (a self-directed, interest-driven, small-group field trip!), or get passionate about hurricane research, these are examples of intellectual independence. I often note how popular persuasive essays are in upper elementary; this type of writing so perfectly exemplifies their reasoning minds! They love to explain and defend their points, then try to anticipate what others might think and build a counter argument. It’s so exciting to watch their intellect grow as they develop their own opinions and reasoning. 


November 2018 Highlights  

In Upper Elementary at Cornerstone, as at other levels, community is key. Children are working on more complex relationships with each other and are able to think about community and responsibility in a more abstract way than earlier. In Marsh, this means we have many conversations about words we use, about tone of voice, about what it means to have things be fair (which is not always equal). Developmentally, elementary children are in the age of the reasoning mind and want to make sure they know why we all do what we do. They work together to develop fair systems for the community, from how to make sure everyone has the computer time they need to how to distribute extra snack to how to best take care of our class pets. One of the main ways we develop these group agreements is through class discussion during Class Congress, a weekly meeting with the agenda determined by the children. The pictures show examples of the issues children bring to the group. 

These skills of communicating, advocating for the community good, and taking responsibility for actions are things that everyone needs to do their whole life. As the year progresses, the children will have many more chances to do practical things that develop real life skills. For example, we will start doing more baking and cooking and planning more going-outs. Children will take more independent responsibility for caring for the environment and for contributing to the larger community, as when they support toddler recess. 

Of course, this work can only happen when children are connected, with some level of trust and empathy. We work to develop that not just through meetings, but also through games and celebrations, sharing and appreciating both our similarities and our many differences.  The work of building and maintaining community is vital and it’s lovely to see our children developing their skills in these areas. 


October 2018 Highlights  

Despite the grey weather, things are active in Marsh! The equinox in September brings great opportunities to learn about the Sun and the Earth and how daylight changes around the globe. Many children were excited to learn that almost everywhere on the globe, people had 12 hours of daylight and 12 of darkness on September 21 (whereas today we’re down to 11 hours, 21 minutes). 

Children are also exploring acorns and learning about how native people processed them for food (see pictures). They will tell you it’s hard work - shelling, smashing, soaking out tannins. We aren’t sure we will ever get something edible, but it sure is exciting to try to figure it out. 

As we transition to less day light (but hopefully some sun, right?), it is more important than ever that children have the clothing they need to support their active learning. Please check to see if your child has extra clothing and has what they need to go outside every day. 

It is an honor to work with your amazing children. Thank you for sharing them with us. 


September 2018 Highlights  

Greetings from Marsh! We have been busy getting settled into our new school year. As we work on getting to know each other, we have had many collectives establishing routines and agreements about how our community will work. Mentor groups have met several times a week to take on construction challenges – testing the strongest columns, making the longest paper chains, designing a stand built of newspaper that can hold a basketball (see pictures). It’s been a great way to practice communicating and working with other people. Work in all areas is humming along. Already one of our favorite times of day is read-aloud, where we are enjoying Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. Thank you for sharing your amazing children with us. It’s an honor to work with them.