Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sticks and Stones and...Support Beams?

What do SVS kids do all day?  Well, yesterday I was shown around a small village of "homes."  Created by sticks, rocks, and leaves; woven together strategically according to one young boy (about 9 years old maybe?). The three buildings of various shapes were almost four feet in height.  They extended several feet back, the longest may have been five feet long.  Inside the kids had created seats made from rocks, and they were collecting "valuable slate."

Alli was intrigued.  Clubs are her new favorite thing, like many children her age.  "Can I join?" she asked one of the boys who was continuing to improve his structure. "Sure," he said, "just come to a council meeting tomorrow."  With a smile Alli asked, "what time?"  "10:00am," the boy answered.

Meetings?  These boys created their own village and were conducting meetings.  Not for the purpose of being exclusive.  He welcomed her willingly to come learn more about what they were creating in the woods on campus.

Any teacher in a public school understands the coordination and effort it seems to take in order to get children to get along and to construct something meaningful.  Here they were, these elementary aged children, creating their own village and their own community of participants in their village.

What did they learn from this experience?

These kids learned about construction.  They learned about base support and angles.  They wove the branches together to improve the strength of their structures.  They explored density.  Most importantly, they learned how to negotiate with each other around their ideas, to collaborate in order to create something together that alone would have seemed impossible.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"I'm Seven, Mom."

Alli's first day of her third year at SVS began yesterday.  She could not wait to get there.  This child who prefers to stay up all night and sleep until noon, rose at the crack of dawn, rushed into my bedroom, and with a grin on her face asked, "Is it time to go yet?"

Backpack in hand filled with her favorite stuffed animals, a gift she had made for her friend, and her very own dollar bill, she told me she was ready to go.  Unlike previous years, she was strikingly independent in her preparation for school.  Her father met us in the parking lot to see her off on her first day back, but she was impatient with us as we snapped our photos.  I turned off the car and started walking with her down the long road to the main building.

"Where are you going?" she asked me.

"I'm walking you into school," I replied assuming she would be overjoyed by this unusual act of hospitality on my part.  She shook her head.

"I'm seven, Mom." She lisped from her new wiggly teeth.

I stood frozen in my tracks.  Just the year before she would have begged me to walk her into the building  claiming she wasn't able to sign herself in, a task which required she locate her name on a list of all students and record the time of her arrival to school.

My heart jumped at this new pang of loss.  We discussed how she would be sure to sign herself into school on this morning, by herself for the very first time.  I went back to my car, watching her lug her bags down the road to the school.  Her confidence astounded me.  The campus seemed to be buzzing around her with possibilities.  Her stride picked up as she saw someone she recognized, and off she went.

Arriving home in the evening she reported to me how she found her name and recorded the time upon her arrival inside the building.  Then she said, "tomorrow I want to wake up at 8:30 so I can get to school earlier, don't forget Mom."  It's going to be a very different school year.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Telling Time

I have two daughters.  Casi is fifteen years old and has attended public school since kindergarten. Alli, well she is an SVS kid...

Today I had to pick up my highschooler early from school.  I arrived at 1:40 pm.  The very pleasant woman behind the counter, the same one who has been greeting me for the past three years sweetly asked me to sign out my daughter in a notebook before I left.  

"These kids don't know how to tell time," she lamented to me as she pointed to the book.  "I watch them as they sign in and out, they look up at the clock then at me, waiting for me to tell them what time it is," she sighs.  

I'm immediately struck by a flurry of images of Alli...telling time.  

"Really?" I ask her.

"Of yah," she goes on, "I guess we are showing our age by knowing how to tell time because they sure can't."

I wonder for a moment.  Why does Alli know how to tell time?  How did she learn to do this?  She wasn't taught how to read a clock.  She never completed any worksheets to practice telling time.  No.  She just learned.  On her own.  

Alli wanted to know how to tell time so she knew when school was starting...and ending.  She wanted to be able to read a clock so she knew how many minutes until her favorite television show came on.  She asked what I meant when I said "quarter after," because she cared to know.  She is fascinated by the difference between "am" and "pm."  She inquires about it all the time...almost every day she says something about the difference between the two, and what the clock says...often many times a day.  Time is meaningful to her at seven years old.

How is it that these teenagers cannot tell time?  They have jobs.  They too go to school, they live by a bell...they live by bells and adults telling them what to do and when to do it.  Alli does not.

Alli makes her own time.  She decides what she wants to do and when she wants to do it, and as such, time is critical.  Days, weeks, hours, and minutes...they all matter to her.  Time is relevant.

Thank you SVS.