October 28, 2019

Dear Campus School Families,

Ever wonder what happens on Wednesday afternoons during our Professional Development time as a faculty? Your children are busy at After School, Chorus, with you, or at an afternoon activity. Meanwhile, teachers here are working hard to examine, research, and further our curriculum work under the apt guidance of Graeham Dodd, our Curriculum Design and Innovation Director. This year we are taking a deep dive into the teaching of reading: examining the latest research, taking note of what works and does not work in our classrooms, and solidifying an already strong approach. In addition, we are continuing to share our expertise in a variety of areas. Our Wednesday meeting this week was an example of that type of collaboration.

For the first half of the afternoon, fourth grade teachers Tiphareth Ananda and Lisa Echevarria led the faculty in a workshop on using our newly outfitted maker space, housed in our downstairs science/After School classroom. The two teachers had visited other maker spaces at other schools and libraries, done quite a bit of research, and were ready to share their findings. They brought us up to speed on the current thoughts on maker spaces, showed us how our materials and tools can be used effectively, and then led us through a design challenge. We were asked to create a pencil/glue/stick/scissor holder for the center of a student table that could withstand a week of first grade classroom life. The caveat: we could only use cardboard and some connectors. The groups were off and running! After about thirty minutes of designing, failing, and redesigning, we shared our creations with the group. We left the workshop feeling ready to use the maker space with our classes and already thinking of curricular challenges for our respective age groups.

After a quick break, replete with snacks that you - oh generous parents! - provided, we went to a fifth grade classroom to set up individual displays, each highlighting a particular skill or lesson that we had tried with our students. Half the group “toured” the room, while the other half presented, and then we switched roles. During my time of touring, I was treated to a demonstration of how a “Name of Quotes” challenge is used to promote both creativity and humor in the sixth grade independent reading curriculum, how spelling skills are individually taught in a second grade classroom, and how fifth graders are using a post-it note activity to become better responders when book groups discuss books.  All that in just twenty minutes! The groups then switched, and each teacher had an opportunity to both teach and learn.

The Campus School is committed to developing and fine-tuning our curriculum, and our Wednesday afternoons give us an opportunity to do just that. Throughout the afternoon, I knew I was sitting in a roomful of experts. Our students are the beneficiaries of this thoughtful collaboration. Sure thing - the very next day I saw the techniques I had heard about in action in the classrooms. Passionate, excited teachers = passionate, excited students = a Wednesday afternoon well-spent!