I will often use this space to take a deep dive into a single activity or lesson here on campus, and explain how I think it embodies an aspect of our educational program that is present across student experiences. The first week of school was just too exciting to only write about one lesson though!
Highly effective teachers have always understood that a strong relationship exists between emotion and learning. Recent research, especially from the field of affective neuroscience, has improved our understanding of just how crucial emotion is in the learning process. Emotion is not just part of how we learn; it may actually be why we learn. This idea is one that USC professor (and former classroom teacher), Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, has captured with her phrase, “We feel, therefore we learn.”
What this means for us, especially during the first days of school, is that our teachers and counselors are spending a lot of time on relationship- and community-building activities. In addition to caring about our students’ emotional health, we know our students’ social and emotional experiences shape their reasoning and academic learning. Highly effective schools are always settings where students feel safe, affirmed and accepted. If we are serious about learning, we must accept that a student’s mind, body, and brain are all meaningful partners in the process.
As we take a quick look at some of the activities on campus this week, please pay attention to how many of them simultaneously incorporate mind, body, and brain.
Some Highlights From the Week
- I had the pleasure of joining different classes for their morning meeting this week. These meetings look slightly different depending on what age group we are working with, but the guiding principles are similar. These are whole-classroom meetings that teachers structure to intentionally promote healthy, inclusive communication and relationship building. They typically include four components: (1) Greeting, (2) Sharing, (3) Activity, and (4) Daily News. While joining Class 33, I was able to share about my trip to Europe this summer. I also participated in a rousing game of Musical Chairs, where I made it all the way to the final five before ultimately being eliminated. Congratulations Luke!
- Creativity was flowing on Day One as Class 52 spent part of their morning working to “invent” something. Each student was asked to construct something using the supplies they received in a ziploc bag. When I was present, I saw students helping one another and sharing their inventions with their peers. It was a fun way to start the year.
- Also on Day One, Class 74 conducted its first science experiment of the year. The lesson was to review the basics of the scientific method, data collection, and the concept of force. Students gathered out on our back play structure and dropped water balloons of different weights to see which ones would break. This experiment had a twist though, as Mrs. Lincoln agreed to be stand under the balloons! As you can imagine, this was a popular decision for students.
- Class 53 tackled the Spaghetti-Marshmallow Tower challenge, which focuses on collaboration and problem-solving. Students were in small groups and instructed to build the highest tower they could with only uncooked spaghetti noodles and marshmallows. Ms. Matsumoto and Ms. Nguepdjo added a wrinkle though. Each group had to operate within a $400 budget, with each noodle costing $10 and each marshmallow costing $5. It was fun to watch the groups work together to strategize their designs and cost allocations.
- Class 43 went outside to their Drum Tree and provided our courtyard with some lovely background music. Encircling the tree, students engaged in a multisensory lesson that focused on attention and rhythm, while reviewing counting. There was time for individual drumming but most of the lesson required us to drum and count in sequence with our circle-mates.
- Our counselors hosted lunches for new students (those that did not attend our summer school), where they facilitated a “meet and greet” so students could get to know each other and learn more about how the Assets program operates.
I would like to extend a heartfelt mahalo to all of the parents and family members who were able to take time out of their busy schedules to join us on Friday for a pancake breakfast. I enjoyed getting to chat and learn more about our families. I was especially intrigued by all the different pancake concoctions that were made. There were some covered in fruit while others went the plain syrup route. Then, there were the plates that resembled a sea of chocolate syrup and whipped cream with the slightest hint of pancake!
A special mahalo to the Assets Parents ‘Ohana (APO) for sponsoring and coordinating this fun event. I know many of our APO volunteers had to wake up at a harsh hour, with sleepy children in tow, to arrive on campus to set-up and have breakfast ready for us by 6:15am! We all thank you!
It brought me great happiness that we saved a time and space to have families, students, and faculty eat together and enjoy each other’s company. There may be no finer way to build community than to share a meal. I look forward to the next time we can get together like this.
I also want to thank the many parents who were not able to attend this breakfast, but have sent me individual, kind messages over the past month. I could not feel more welcomed. The warm responses have only confirmed what an honor it is to join such an incredible school community.