Dear Parents and Friends of the Children’s School,
Our spring semester is in full swing with children and adults deeply engaged in living and learning. The campus is in full bloom and our outdoor classrooms are rich environments where teachers are pruning, mulching and seeding. Jennie, our outdoor classroom specialist built a cold frame where lettuce seeds are sprouting; in the “inside” classroom a study of sprouts flourished, culminating in many snack time feasts: whole wheat muffins, cream cheese and sprouts the favorite. It is amazing how little time it takes to sprout some of nature’s most nutritious foods! Sprouts are considered as wonder foods. They rank as the freshest and most nutritious of all vegetables available to the human diet.
I searched sprouts and health to find:
Sprouted foods have been part of the diet of many ancient races for thousands of years. Even to this day, the Chinese retain their fame for delicious mung bean sprouts. Sprouts provide all the essential vitamins and minerals. They should form a vital component of our diet. Sprouting requires no constant care but only an occasional sprinkling of water. All edible grains, seeds and legumes can be sprouted.
Generally the following are used for sprouting:
Grains : Wheat, maize, ragi, bajra and barley.
Seeds : Alfalfa seeds, radish seeds, fenugreek seeds, carrot seeds, coriander seeds, pumpkin seeds and muskmelon seeds.
Legumes : Mung, Bengal gram, groundnut and peas.”
Other foods we find growing in the gardens are Swiss chard, broccoli, and sorrel, the Rosebud’s favorite. Jennie’s expertise and teaching continues to be invaluable for the children and teachers as we all deepen our knowledge of what “Schooling for Sustainability in Early Childhood” means to us, including how to grow our nutritional needs.
As I was giving a tour to a prospective new family visiting, the Dad asked me, “What is your curriculum?” It’s a simple question, and one that needs some time to answer well. I said “To describe our curriculum, I’ll tell you a little bit about our philosophy of how children learn.”
At the Children’s School we believe that children are born inquisitive explorers who learn through moving and playing as “all the while” their brains are rapidly developing. They need environments that offer many opportunities to explore, manipulate, create, and that give them optimal opportunities to form neural connections. They need teachers who facilitate their play and their construction of ideas that are meaningful to them. Curriculum is everywhere and occurs all the time; our curricular framework is a “nested systems” approach with the child at the center. It is a “living systems” curriculum that teaches both independence and interdependence of all living systems.
We learn about every organism we find….in the 70’s and 80’s at the Gazebo Learning Project in Big Sur under Janet Lederman’s guidance, the approach to curriculum was described as “the re-introduction of living into the content of learning”. Children participated in all aspects of taking care of themselves, each other, and the environment.
At the Children’s School: Today snails- Jenny and three three and four year olds collecting from the garden with their perfect containers~ plastic containers with covers (formerly filled with organic lettuce from Costco), finding snails and a piece of chewed chard and placing them carefully inside them… perfect light little aquariums, easy to carry and show friends, easy to observe.
Tomorrow bugs- from the etymology student earning service learning hours – she’ll bring containers with walking sticks, black beetles and a hissing Madagascar cockroach! Children handle, be gentle, and pet~ observing and recording, empathetically connecting.
Every day we are proud of our bustling worm farms that are fed daily from our leftovers~
But now more about our curricular framework:
Remember playing with Russian nested dolls that start with a small one and have successively larger ones layering over the first? The first doll represents the child at the center of curricular consideration. We consider the child as a living and learning system, and their developing mind, heart, body, and spirit as core curriculum.
The next layer recognizes the important role of families through involvement, getting to know their structure and traditions, practicing respectful communication, together creating events, and reinforcing meaningful connections.
The third layer develops appropriate play based experiences through teachers observing children’s needs and interests, honoring seasonal changes, and noticing emergent themes and happenings. This layer surrounds the child and family and is inclusive of all the relationships of the classroom friends and teachers as the community of other living systems that influence, support and develop relationships with each unique being.
The fourth layer expands relationship consciousness to the connections within the school community- what’s going on in the other classrooms? Daily delivery of laundry, a shared duty, is folded and taken by several Rosebuds and teacher to the Dandelions; some days the Dandelions may take laundry to the Poppies. Children participate in many of the daily responsibilities from laundry to feeding the worms to cleaning up minor spills. Afternoon activities often allow for siblings to visit each other, and for late afternoon snack to be offered in the Poppies dining area for all who are here later in the day.
The fifth layer celebrates the resources that the SSU campus offers and reinforces the concept that we are part of a larger community. The campus has a wealth of environments to explore from the duck pond to the amphitheater, from the dinosaur bones in Darwin to the butterfly garden, and from the running woods to the creek. Next door to our school is the organic garden, “our” big garden, and when we are invited to volunteer workdays, the children inspire the volunteers with their questions and observations and deep enjoyment of indulging in a verdant place.
The sixth layer of curricular consideration aims to connect learning to global awareness of cultures, peoples, creatures, and environments further from us: what is an ocean, where does the celebration of Dia de Los Muertos come from, what do children wear in Africa? This week the Tibetan monks were on campus in their colorful robes…children were noticing a different style of dress.
And so it goes with the daily weave of curriculum from the self as a living system, to the self in relation to more or less complex groups of living systems that we are all connected to: plants, animals, microorganisms, humans and groups of humans. It is a curriculum approach that is rooted in systems thinking, and respect for the interrelatedness of all things. Each classroom displays documentation of their current inquiries: webs for big ideas to explore on a topic of interest, webs for related activities, and webs for assessment and reflection of how the curriculum project worked and possible new avenues of investigation.
Please look at the documentation in your child’s classroom and always please feel free to comment and ask questions. Inquiry based learning applies to us all!
Best wishes for a healthy spring,
“Many things can wait.
Today their bones are being formed,
Their blood is being made,
Their senses are being developed.
To them we cannot say ‘tomorrow.’
Their name is today.”