During this past week, I visited Westtown Lower School for a day. I truly felt the great energy from the children in Lower School and I first want to thank the teachers and students for being so welcoming. The kids were really innocent and they were extremely approachable in comparison to teenagers like me. I am now going to provide my observations on Lower School on Thursday, November 14, 2013.
Starting in the morning, kids arrived in Lower School between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. They would play in the playground with one teacher monitoring their safety. Similar to Upper and Middle School, kids had Meeting for Worship in the morning for 25 minutes. The children were not afraid to stand up and talk. One message came after another. Some talked about how they were feeling and some expressed their thoughts on an idea or a current event. I felt great energy and observed great thoughts from them.
After Meeting for Worship, I started to sit in classes and observe. I went to various classes in Lower School and their classes are combined in the same building. The daily schedule may differ according to different grades, but the general courses are “Reading workshop”, “Spanish”, Writing workshop”, “Music”, “Math”, “Technology workshop” and followed by “Goodbye Circle” in the end of the day. Kids go from class to class in lines and there is also a recess after the first period of the day.
In Reading Workshop, teachers assigned each student to read a certain level of books in the classroom independently. The level of books are divided from A to Z; A as being the easiest to read to Z which contains a larger content and vocabulary base. Most kids in the higher grades can read on their own according to their levels, whereas some kindergarten and first grade students need special assistance from individual teachers. In higher grades, sometimes students are required to give a summary for the story that they have read. Similarly in writing workshop, kids learn how to write short passages and compose a well rounded paragraph. I found this type of classe really helpful for kids to learn how to read and write at such an early age.
A broad range of art courses are offered; for example: painting, clay, mask making etc. More interestingly, the art projects by different grades are often shown in the welcoming gallery or the walls along the hall ways. In the classes, I noticed that the students were often asked to collaborate with each other to finish a piece. After they finish different projects, teacher and students would gather and discuss what went well and what didn’t throughout the process. The students can consequently learn how to cooperate with others and also being leaders in groups.