April 4, 2013

What do South Africa, Alaska, cooking school, and Friends' School have in common?

2nd graders at Cure Farms learning where their food
comes from - part of Andrew Banks' curriculum
unit on food and cooking
Friends’ classrooms are home to Teacher Candidates, all of whom are training with our mentor teachers through the school’s Teacher Preparation Program.  At this point in the year, the TCs are all well on their way to becoming fully qualified, licensed teachers.  While Friends’ School has seven TCs in our classrooms, there are thirty overall training in our partner schools throughout Boulder County.

As a requirement for their coursework, TCs had to design an integrated thematic unit of study (of at least ten lessons) that centered on a main topic. While teaching the unit, TCs were asked to incorporate literacy, science, math, social studies, art, music, and physical education, tying each lesson to Colorado Academic Standards, as well as going on a field trip or bringing in a guest speaker. Just before spring break, I joined crowds of parents in each of our elementary classrooms as we celebrated grand finales to our TCs’ integrated curriculum units.

The results, as you may imagine, were fabulous. 

In this two-part article, I asked each Teacher Candidate to share with us several highlights from their thematic unit.  Amazing learning was happening and I would hate to think you might have missed it!

First up, Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades. Enjoy!

Kindergarten: South Africa, Lu Walters  We learned something of the amazing music from South Africa, exploring African drumming, the marimba and learning one or two traditional Zulu and Khosa songs. The children created their own Ndebele dolls and each week enjoyed a traditional San story with authentic Ndebele dolls sent from South Africa. They made their own"rondavels" (African round houses) and decorated them with symmetrical patterns in a style similar to the Ndebele people, who paint their rondavels with wonderful and colorful designs. In math, we measured how big an elephant might be, though sadly a paper one and not a real one! 

First Grade: Southeast Alaska, Natalie Sattler  Through several hands-on activities and lessons, students developed a greater understanding of Southeast Alaska, the temperate rainforest, and the cultural history and influences of the region.  As part of the unit, students performed a Tlingit Legend as a Reader’s Theatre, learned the lifecycle of a pacific salmon, created their own totem poles, learned a Native Alaskan song, and held a potlatch celebration at the end of the unit where students performed their new skills for friends and family. A classroom presentation by Alaskan Fisherwomen and a visit to the Denver Art Museum rounded out the unit.

Second Grade: Food and Cooking, Andrew Banks  My thematic unit was an incredible opportunity to combine two of my greatest passions: cooking and teaching.  Together, my second graders and I wrote food odes, created mosaics with beans, sang songs about nutrition, planted herb gardens, toured a farm, wrote a recipe book, and - of course - cooked!  I believe this unit helped students gain a deeper connection with and appreciation for the food they eat, learn some practical cooking and kitchen safety skills, and interact with food in creative ways, from baking to art to literacy to science.  These inquisitive and enthusiastic scholars "ate it up," surpassing my expectations!

As I circulated throughout the classrooms, joining the students, teachers, and parents in great displays of student knowledge and work, I felt great pride at both the way our teachers educate children, as well as the long–term impact that these up-and-coming teachers will have on our community and our world.

Next week, I’ll let you know about the integrated curriculum units in grades 3, 4 & 5.

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