Curiosity, Creativity and Project-Based Learning
Who and what makes up our community? This study begins by connecting with the individuals in the classroom and school and taking a closer look into who we are and what we collectively need to thrive at school. Daily adventures on the campus grounds lead us to broaden and deepen our sense of place and start the construction of multi-year relationships to the natural and human populations that share space with us. A mini-study into change over time on the school site leads us to uncover the stories, needs and impact of those people who walked these grounds before us. Informal and formal mapping activities lead to the construction of a scaled 3D model of the community and campus
Understanding the written world that surrounds us on the school grounds serves as the impetus for developing stronger reading and writing skills. Interpreting the signs and labels posted in our surroundings also leads children to make their own signage, communicating their perspectives, needs and expectations to others. The emergent desire to be skilled readers and writers is supported with developmentally-tailored lessons informed by frameworks such as Reading and Writing Workshops, and Fountas and Pinnell’s Benchmarks. Class read-alouds and individual reading texts reflect the theme and continue the conversation around What is community? Speaking and listening skills are honed through thematic discussions and interviews with elders and workers from the Andrus on Hudson nursing facility. Writing skills are put to work as we document the stories of the people around us.
Our physical and social surroundings serve as the context for mathematical explorations. Students go on math trails crafted around word problems that highlight number value, geometry and data and then create their own Hudson Lab School math trails. Math skills are practiced and applied in our 3D model building project where number, measurement and scale are critical. Games and materials from TERC Investigations are used to further strengthen number sense, mathematical reasoning and communication.
We fully engage our fives senses to explore and play in the diverse ecosystems and living things housed within our school campus. Skills of observation and data collection will help us to understand our community from an ecological perspective. Students participate as Citizen Scientists through projects like Habitat Network and the Lost Ladybug Project, sharing their data about life in our own backyard with a global community of scientists. These investigations will lead to student action as they design and implement improvements for a healthier environment.
After deep investigations into who and what makes up our community, students begin to build a 3D model that represents the Hudson Lab School/Andrus on Hudson community to others. In the design lab students will move through a process which integrates skills and understanding across content areas as they design, redesign, build prototypes in iteration and ultimately succeed in building a collective model that expresses the perspective of the whole group. A range of materials and tools are used, including construction and art materials, circuitry and a laser cutter. Tablets, and photo and video equipment are additional tools students use to document the design process.
Art is an integral part of the learning and design processes and is a vehicle for constructing and expressing meaning. We use creative movement to explore human relationships and dynamics, as well as to interpret our observations of life around us. Paintings and drawings of individual personalities decorate our walls and showcase the diversity at Andrus on Hudson as we gain new friends and insight to each other. Iterative drawings and watercolors are created as we get to know a variety of views, details and landscapes throughout the area. Blocks and clay are our play materials as we reconstruct, represent and capture the physical, emotional and social components of Hudson Lab School. Sensory experiences are turned into music as we write original songs about our community and share them with familiar and new friends.
As students explore community, they learn about themselves and those around them, and how individual action has immediate and rippling effects. The question, how do we care for our community, raises the challenge of taking on new behaviors, actions and innovations that help all community members to thrive. Student collaboration on the model-making, citizen science project and math trail provide fertile ground for the development of communication skills, self-awareness and compassio
As students explore the school community, they build connections to the human and natural ecosystems that they inhabit. Taking a deeper look at the relationships within these systems leads them to a nuanced understanding of the interdependencies that exist and how one person’s actions impacts the ability of others to thrive. In this study, students are asked to consider how we can make this school and place healthier, more joyful and more sustainable. Two student-generated ideas that emerged are Singing with the Elders, and building a gardening compost system.