Friday, July 31, 2015

Minion Cookies, Upside-Down Chess, and Other Delights

Every day at camp, we have a morning message and they always end with our rallying cry: "Let's make it great!" Today being our last day, we put up a quick message and the day's schedule, and this set-up was a little different for campers to see at our morning meeting. As we were breaking up to start our first round of activities, one of our second graders said, "Hey, it doesn't say 'Let's make it great!' up there." He grabbed a marker and made things right.

No. He made them great.

The last week of the summer ELP at Robinson was beat-the-heat cool! Looking back at our attendance records, it's pretty wild to see that, in just 25 days on site, we have provided more than 1,600 hours of contact time with students this summer. That's 67 full days and a year-and-a-half of school day-length days. Now that's what we call a measurable impact!

Our week started with two new Specials teachers. We welcomed back one of our favorites, Hilary Redman, to reprise her wicked popular nature workshop and met Mike Gray, who became an instant fave by bringing along with him mountains of expertise in the fields of chess and Civil War-era baseball. Our third through sixth graders couldn't wait to hang out with Mike while the whole crew got to spend cherished time with Hilary in their special spots outside. Like all of our Specials teachers this month, these dynamos know just how to engage students. Mike instantly hooked the older students on chess and taught them a few variations on the game including chess relay, dice chess, and even upside-down chess with a magnetic board. Hilary's adventures with the group are detailed later in this post.

A string of special events added to our last week together. On Tuesday, Eugenie Doyle and Ruth Beecher came with the Bookwagon and perfumed the gym with the dulcet top notes of bunches and bunches of... GARLIC! Given how much the students have been learning about the land around them, it was so cool to visit with someone whose job it is to work that land and, in turn, provide food for neighbors. Plus, the room smelled delicious!

The last Wellness classes of the summer finished with a bang. On Monday, we tackled a cooking project that was in some ways the most ambitious yet: making broccoli delicious for skeptical elementary school students. We successfully made a broccoli slaw, also known as broccoli salad, with great results. Most kids ate and enjoyed the finished product, and many even demanded seconds! We squeezed in one more kitchen activity this week, making fresh lemonade on the hottest day of the summer. Some students added fresh-picked raspberries for an even tangier, pinker treat. Later in the week Wellness guru Isaac collaborated with Science and Math leader Nancy on an active scavenger hunt and walking trip to Lewis Creek and our Field Day activities, finishing the summer program on a really high note. Students were engaged and running around without being stifled by the heat and humidity. Now that's talented teaching!

Everyone has helped out with watering and seeding the pathway to the playground, which was damaged by erosion and heavy foot traffic. We hope the grass will have a chance to grow, sending those roots down to help hold the soil. The third and fourth graders made a barrier to help protect the newly seeded path. Another project we all worked on this week was weeding the entryway. This took patience and skill especially being careful not to get pricked by the rose thorns.

The first and second grade acting troupe continued to "link up" (ask your camper about it) every day to prepare bodies for focusing and minds for imagining. Acting this week include different jobs that people did 200 years ago and jobs people have today as well as riding our horses to town to visit with our fellow townspeople. A group scavenger hunt, in addition to the movement piece Isaac discussed, was a great ways for our youngest learners to review their summer learning and visit places like the berry patch and a DI (drain inlet, a vocabulary word we learned from Mr. Estey!).

Third and fourth graders learned about the importance of the blacksmiths in the area, and about the Bristol ore and the forges that made bar iron. We looked for evidence of iron in the rocks in the stone wall. The oldest group members, our fifth and sixth graders, continued work on their waterwheel models and some tried them out with water. They too explored the work of blacksmiths. A group challenge on Thursday was to divide the play dough into equal parts for all participants to take home.

Hilary's Nature Play workshop allowed students time to revisit the "special spots" they had picked and explored during the second week of the program. Students had the freedom to sit and reflect in their spots, choosing to write, draw, observe, wonder, explore, or relax... all by themselves. During one workshop this week, students were given a more guided task when asked to record in their journals something they saw or observed at ground level, eye level, overhead, and whole landscape from the vantage point of their special spots. It was amazing to see how similar and different their observations and perspectives were! This group has become a crowd of astute naturalists; their eyes always wide open to the natural wonders of their backyard. We ended the week by reading Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert. Students were give the choice to go out and collect some natural objects and turn them into their own creation. You'd be impressed by all of the very lovely and imaginative people, animals, and creations they assembled. We left them outside for the wind, after all, a leaf creation's got to go where the wind blows...

Below are pictures of the "living timeline" we have made throughout the course of our five weeks together. Every day, students were asked to write down something that stuck with them about the day. As you can see from the sequence of pictures below, things started out slow but as our community bonded, it got to the point where grown-ups didn't even have to ask; kids were grabbing markers and adding to our timeline on their own and the depth of their contributions grew and grew and grew. This is why we do what we do! Check it out:

Don't you just love seeing what resonates with kids in their own words? We started by telling them that spelling didn't matter, but their willingness and want to effectively communicate their ideas manifested in lots of collaboration when it came to spelling big words like "caterpillar" and "scavenger hunt." Still, we will always have a place in our hearts for creative attempts like "sowerdo," "liminad," and the myriad ways campers attempted to spell Wellness coach Isaac's name!

As always, we attempted to catch lightning in a bottle with our slideshow. However, there was so much going on that we decided to create a couple instead of just one. Take a peek...

Civil War Baseball Game

Field Day Activities

Everything Else

So ends our summer. We have had a wonderful time working with our town's learners and, though the week has been hot and we are in the wake of a blue moon which makes everyone a little more... fun, it has been an absolute privilege to spend time with the gang at Robinson Elementary School.

This last week at camp has shown just how much our learning community has gelled. No longer were the adults in charge. Older students managed lunch, serving their peers and making sure hands were washed and the table was quiet before choices were announced. At the end of meals, it was often a younger camper who was the first to grab the dustpan and begin to sweep up crumbs. Campers of all ages set up and took down our morning meeting circle without so much as a wink from a grown-up. It all became quite perfect around here. Within all of that student leadership and self-direction, there was one thing that the adults still took the lead on, though. That was our end-of-the-day ritual. At the end of every day, each student is dismissed to the bus or parent pick-up individually so they they can run a gauntlet of high fives and cheers from the staff on their way out the door. It isn't an earth-shattering idea, but...

Actually, no. It kind of is. At some point in their lives, everyone should get the chance to exit a building to the sound of raucous applause. It makes a body feel like a star.

So as we prepare to say, "See you next summer!" can we get a high five?

We would like to thank everyone who made this rockin' summer program possible: our Bookwagon volunteers, including Mary O'Brien, Pat Hartnett, Edorah Frazer, Erin Bent, Jennifer Turner, Lisa Daudon, Chris Runcie, Liz Greenberg, Don McCormick, Steve Willsey, Ruth Beecher, and Eugenie Doyle; community members and officials Cheryl Estey, Tom Estey, and Matt Witten; RES staff Doreen Bortz, Andy Young, and Matt Irish; our Specials teachers Jen Allred, Hilary Redman, Bertha Allen, Grace Freeman, and Mike Gray; bus drivers April and Katie and the folks and Bet-cha Transit; pastry fairy Roberta "Miss Berta" McKinney; and the amazing team that brought five weeks of megawatt programming to Starksboro: Shelly Cota, Nancy Hellen, Isaac Kreismann, and Christine Vaughn. Also thanks to you, Starksboro: the parents, families, and community members who support what schools can do for kids, no matter what time of year.

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