Project-based learning. In-depth investigations. Student-centered curriculum. Terms like these describe the kind of learning that happens in the kindergarten through fourth grade Shorecrest Lower School, but what does that look like in action? Read on for a snapshot of all that goes on in just one week at Shorecrest.
At the beginning of the year I shared with you that Shorecrest started off as an outdoor school located on the water downtown. Students explored, conducted hands-on learning activities and had plenty of time to play, wonder and discover the world around them. Well that work continues in the Lower School today. Over the past several years the Lower School has reclaimed and embraced its history and progressive pedagogical practices.
This year’s kindergarten teachers have put a great deal of work into creating an outdoor classroom. Yes indeed, right outside the double glass doors facing Pratt is a world of play and exploration with water tables, easels, wood-working benches, tables, musical instruments, a dramatic play area and so much more. It is a place for children to imagine, to collaborate and to follow their individual interests. Take a look when it’s in action and let me know what you think.
Our first grade students are studying the weather. As part of their investigation they are going to the Glazer Children’s Museum. What a way to launch our investigation! An early outing like this helps to provoke children’s thinking about a topic of study. When they return to school their minds are full of questions -- and that is just what we want!
SECOND GRADE & THIRD GRADE
Second grade students and third grade students are deep into phase three of project work. Second grade students are creating their own landmarks after months of researching. Third grade students are concluding their study of motion and design. Together they are conducting group research projects using all they learned about motion and design to investigate a topic they haven’t uncovered. Our project work always culminates in an exhibition through which students can share their knowledge with parents, peers, and friends across the preschool-12th grade program at Shorecrest.
Third grade students are also rehearsing their play “The American Dream.” This patriotic third grade show has been a favorite of students and parents for many years (but this may be its last year as we develop new topics of interest -- we’ll see). It is an entertaining tribute to the early years of our country’s history. I’ve been listening to the children rehearse and it is obvious that they like to sing the songs - and of course they love the Shorecrest tradition of the America cake!
Fourth grade students have been studying immigration. They look at the early history of Florida as well as their family’s history. As part of this topic of study, teachers use Cuban immigration as a case study. Students spent weeks researching using primary and secondary sources. Last week students interviewed and filmed four people who had experienced the exodus in the sixties. Each told a story of having to leave everyone and everything behind in order to come to the United States. They were really moving stories. As part of the children’s study, the fourth grade collaboratively builds a website reflecting the students’ collective learning.
Fourth grade has also been doing a study of historical fiction with the children. The design of the study allows students to spend a week in each fourth grade classroom learning the skills and strategies of reading historical fiction. The texts we are using are around themes of Human Rights. Jane Boarman teaches about the Underground Railroad, Sarah Finnemore, World War II, Christine Oman, Civil Rights and Colette Husenitza, the Depression. Students rotate from class to class for four weeks. Following this work, students will begin to read historical fiction books of their choice and on their level in small groups.
In the Shorecrest Lower School each day is filled with exploration, excitement, and deep engagement in student learning. Students aren't just passive absorbers of knowledge, but rather are active participants in driving their own learning, with the support of talented, credentialed, and loving teachers. We invite parents, friends, and any interested visitors to come join us to see the Lower School in action - it's a special place to be!
Dr. Lisa Bianco is the Head of Lower School at Shorecrest. To learn more about project-based learning and field experiences in the preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school programs at Shorecrest, please join us for a personal tour of our campus.