How many ways can you learn from a pumpkin?
Educating through exploration
In the raised beds behind the Treehouse, our kindergarten and first grade classroom, students have planted pumpkins. As they watch them grow, swell and ripen, they document the life cycle of the plant in drawings, writings, and collages. They take a fieldtrip to a local farm where farmers can answer their questions. Why are there lines running up and down the outside of a pumpkin? Those mark where the seeds are connected to the flesh.
Back at school, the class cuts the pumpkin open. They count the seeds—by ones, fives, tens and hundreds. They discover the different shapes numbers can create. And finally, they roast the seeds to share at snack. Science, writing, social studies, math—all inside a pumpkin shell.
Flexible learning for growing minds
Learning in the Treehouse emerges from hands-on experiences. Students take apart toys, sort sea creatures, write their own books. By combining kindergarten and first grade, students are freed to move at their own pace through the curriculum. In language arts and math classes, students are grouped by ability, not age, allowing the teacher to differentiate instruction. Our small classes provide unique flexibility.
Kindergarten and first grade students love coming to school at RMDS. They find joy in learning, in their friends, and in their community. As one kindergartener told his parents, “I love school and I love coming to school here.”
Language Arts in the kindergarten and first grade classroom develops the skills and strategies to build lifelong readers and writers. The multi-grade classroom makes it easy for students to progress at their own pace so that they are always challenged and moving forward. Even in the youngest grades, students are engaged with critical reading questions, comparing the characters of Goldilocks and the Big Bad Wolf in a unit on fairy tales, or considering the many forms of kindness in the Frog and Toad books. Writing begins with personal narratives, encouraging students to think about the essential components of stories while mastering spelling conventions.
Hands-on multisensory math builds the foundations for long-term success with mathematical thinking. Students explore essential concepts such as patterns, data, measurement and money through manipulatives, story problems and play. Arithmetic practice is differentiated, with our earliest students comparing and ordering numbers, while others investigate place value or fractions. Multi-disciplinary projects allow students to apply mathematical thinking in novel situations, culminating in a major unit such as the penguin project, which combines math, science and reading to explore penguin colonies around the world.
To inspire our young makers, the class spends time building and creating in Science. Makes are curious, playful, persistent, resourceful and responsible. Through hands-on projects and inquiry, we foster these important abilities and attributes in each of our students. In a study of the science of toys, students construct catapults and tops to explore force and motion. To understand energy and electricity, students build solar-powered machines and conductivity testers.
Social studies begins with our most intimate communities: our classroom and our families. As students get to know each other, they encounter a rich diversity of experiences and backgrounds. The class explores holidays and cultural traditions from around the world. As the scope widens, social studies expands to the community around us, considering how far “local” can reach. From a post office study that gathers mail from around the globe to a unit on farming and agriculture, students learn that they are connected to a wide and complex world.
True learning comes when children feel a sense of belonging and significance in their classroom. Social and emotional learning in kindergarten and first grade ensures that all students feel known, understood and valued as contributing members. Weekly mindfulness practice gives students the tools they need to build empathy, patience, and gratitude. Individually, they learn to be aware of their own emotions and articulate their feelings. Together, they work to resolve conflicts peacefully and independently.