By Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach.
On one of this week’s rainy days I spend some time visiting a selection of the specialist classes at our elementary campus. Through the visual arts, technology, and PE, I get a peak into how our specialist teachers enhance our students’ daily experiences that are part of The Wildwood Way—even if it means getting a little wet.
Visual Arts: Natural Beauty
Teachers Kusum Nairi and Kendra Elstad didn’t let the rain deter the day’s plan this morning with a group of 3rd graders—heading out to the garden to sketch. The light drizzle provides students ample opportunity to see nature in a different way: “How do you draw the rain?” Kendra asks, as students interpret the ways that clouds and drizzle affect this natural environment.
Later in the day I stop in to see Kusum and Kendra working with 2nd graders as they draw their self-portraits. Students have been studying the mathematical dimensions of the human face and use this new knowledge to draw themselves—using mirrors to frame their visages. I empathize with Breeze W. when she laments how she can never seem to get the eyes “just right.” Not deterred, I watch as she tells me how she’s going to do her best to draw them better this time.
Technology: Playful Problem-solving
Mid-morning I stop in to Wildwood’s Tec D.E.C. (Discover, Explore, Create) where teacher Doug Meyer assists a group of 3rd graders as they program robots. These students are learning coding skills using Ozobots—adorable little, round robots that operate using visual sensors. The Ozobots and the software students use to program them are the result of recent, generous gifts by Wildwood families. Olivia D., Bryce C., and Quinn K. eagerly show me how they’ve programmed their Ozobots—the robots can read both color-coded lines on paper or take in a visual code on a laptop screen in order to perform a sequence of linear movements, spins, and color changes.
Afternoon finds me back in the Tec D.E.C. watching a new group of students—2nd graders—working with Doug and librarian Jennifer DuBois. Their learning is how to use the Tec D.E.C.’s green screen, creating their own imaginative photos by superimposing pictures of themselves into a variety of backgrounds. Next week, the students will work more closely with Jennifer as she helps them to embed videos of themselves into backdrops they’ll choose from various non-fiction books. Imagine a 2nd grader sharing her learning about the animals in the rain forest—while she virtually ‘walks’ through a vibrant picture from a book on the subject. Pretty cool, fun stuff!
PE: Keep on Moving
My final visit of the day takes me to PE in the Commons—warm and dry on this cold and rainy day. The sound system blasts workout music as teachers Darren Pasco, Hasan Muhammad, and Tyler Williams keep a group of 2nd graders active and jumping (literally) to the beat. It’s a welcome respite and release of energy on a day that these kids will mostly spend indoors.
All of our specialist teachers (which also includes experts in the performing arts, science, and Spanish) are uniquely skilled in enriching students’ experiences and helping them build the skills that are essential to The Wildwood Way—rain or shine.