As I begin this year with these little ones, I have been on the lookout for the “red thread” that will tie our year together. I’ve been searching for something that we could explore as a group that would give us a rich experience of discovery, and I believe I have found it in conjunction with our 8th grade science teacher, Sean Casey.
Sean’s 8th graders are our Science Buddies, a partnership that grows richer with each hour that we spend together. This Science Buddy partnership has been a part of our K-8 group for the past several years, and the children develop a strong bond with their buddy, who remains the same throughout the school year. Kindergarteners light up when they see their buddy around the school, and the 8th graders delight in the joy they bring to these little ones.
In the past, the 8th grade project with the kindergarteners has been to weigh and measure them once a month as well as to chart how many teeth have been lost. We teachers began to feel that while the connection was being made between children, this experience could provide much more as a learning experience. As we continued to ponder this, we looked out as the courtyard outside our doors, and realized that the courtyard could provide our “red thread” for this school year.
Together the 8th graders and the kindergarten buddies could become the experts on Jamie’s Courtyard, for there are a wealth of ideas to be explored. The children can measure the courtyard using standard and non-standard units of measurement and they can chart the changing temperatures as the seasons change each Monday at Greet the Week. They can report on all the activities that use the courtyard, from Greet the Week to lunches to the annual Oyster Roast. The children can study the wildlife that make the courtyard their home, including the bugs and insects that live in the raised beds. They can make a calendar showing when the leaves begin to fall, and when they begin to emerge in the spring. Together they can plant bulbs, learn about the plants in the raised beds. Couldn’t we record the sounds of the courtyard, from footsteps to the sounds of birds at the bird feeder? We can chart all the varieties of birds that visit the feeders outside our window, making a book of “Bird Visitors” that could be a kick-off to the 8th grade science project in May.
Suddenly we would have a K/8 Reggio inspired partnership that would enrich both groups in a dynamic way. We could provide documentation with photos, videos, and recordings as well as the work of the pairs of children. It may be that the 8th graders would start us off on each exploration, such as birds at the feeders, and that kindergarten would spend time before the next session of Science Buddies to find out those “wonderings” that they could report back to their buddies. The 8th graders may provide some of the technical expertise for recording/graphing of our discoveries.
I think this may be the thread that we can explore together, looking for the trail that leads to the next red thread. I’m sure these children will have paths in the courtyard to lead us toward that we haven’t even thought of. The adventure begins!