Maps for Teachers, Too

The end of the school year feels like a fast moving train about to arrive at the station.  It seems like three weeks ago that we started our 40th year, and here we are almost finished.  Teachers are working on assessments, final projects, and bringing closure to big studies.  In the background we’re gearing up for summer art camp, which starts five days after the regular school year ends.  Classrooms are holding discussions about transitions to new classes and schools.  Toddler 2s have ventured from the protectiveness of their classroom potty to the big bathroom at the end of the hallway to be ready for next year.  It’s a time of savoring and looking ahead.

The other day I noticed two of our long-legged 4th grade girls, both taller than I am, joyfully swinging and laughing together.  I could tell they were taking in the essence of their Seed recess time, knowing their days were numbered.  They were fully present to each other and to the simple act of swinging.  The Seed is the only school the girls have attended.  As I watched them, I flashed back on each one as a toddler, preschooler, kindergartener, and now 4th grader.  They are strong, well prepared, and ready to enter into their next educational setting.  The two girls exemplify precisely the Seed’s intention for all children.

In the kindergarten a different kind of reflection happened this week.  Earlier in the year I introduced heart maps to the class.  They loved this and some of the kids continued to ask me week after week when we were going to make more heart maps.  We worked with other kinds of maps, labeling, poetry, and art.  We even made a chicken map and wrote a group poem about being chicken experts after the class hatched live chickens. Of my three writing groups (kindergarten, 1st/2nd, and 3rd/4th), these kids challenged my teaching skills the most.  I kept feeling there was something else they needed from me to more fully access the poetry I was trying to bring into their lives.  Our project on Wednesday gave me a clue about the direction for our future work.

The assignment was to create a map of their favorite place at the Seed.  We made a brief list of possibilities, gave each child a small cardboard base, and set up a table of recycled materials from which they could “shop” for what they needed to complete the project.  Each child found a work space with glue bottles and markers, returning to the “shopping” area as more supplies were needed.  They were asked to make their 3-D map, then label at least five parts of it.   In that moment kindergarten engagement was at its finest.

As Kerri and I talked about different directions this work could go and ways to expand it, the kindergarteners completed their maps, one by one.  Proudly showing us their work, it was evident how much progress these kids have made as writers, problem solvers, and creative makers.  Their maps of the school were maps for teachers, too; leading us further down roads of deeper, more relevant learning.