Thursday, June 3, 2010

It Takes a Village... and a School

In a warm corner of Kindergarten, safely ensconced in a climate-controlled incubator, tiny beaks are poking their way out of shells. The children have been counting the days, waiting eagerly for this moment. And now, finally, the chicks are hatching. On the floor in front of the incubator is a masking tape line, marking a safe spot for watching and admiring the fluffy new inhabitants of the classroom. The Kindergarten chicks have been a tradition for many years, and it is remarkable how the news travels through the hallways. Older students, parents, and faculty members find their way into the room just to take a peek, and to marvel at the tiny creatures.

On the other side of the room, a row of plastic cups filled with soil stands along the sunny windowsill facing the new play structure. Small green sprouts are emerging from a few of the cups. Just as they have waited for the chicks to hatch, the children inspect their cups closely each day, hoping to see new growth. Although each of the seeds has received the same light, water, and attention from the children, Ms. Chu says, “it’s an experiment. Some seeds will sprout, and some won’t.”

At first glance, the chicks and the seedlings are a delightful demonstration of life science instruction in primary school. For visitors with the good fortune to spend a bit of time in the classroom with the children, chicks, and plants, however, it soon becomes evident that all of these living things are a testament to our social curriculum and an embodiment of our school values.

The sense of responsibility and the caring that the children demonstrate for “their” chicks and plants extend to their stewardship for the shared space they have occupied all year. The respect that they show for the newly hatched chicks is matched by their appreciation for other members of their community. Their diligence in tending to their seedlings, and their expectations for “the tallest plant of all,” in the words of one child, are echoes of their drive for excellence. Their recognition that not everyone can have the tallest plant, and their ability to accept this reality, while still maintaining that “it’s not fair” point to the challenges of embracing honesty.

But finally, it is the celebration of life--pure, simple, joy-- that powers us through this last week of the academic year. It takes a whole school to live these values, to create a shared purpose, and to make a community.

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