In our final week, we continued to connect and collaborate across the distance—sharing our creations and ideas. Children built and demonstrated their obstacle courses via video and in live sessions. They told and illustrated stories based--both fiction and memoir. We had a lot of laughs during two collaborative story writing sessions. We talked about summer plans and what the children are looking forward to about Kindergarten next year. We asked lots of questions about Rachael’s move to New York. We marveled that our Tucker Room days were coming to an end.
And we continued to reflect on our time together. Some children shared their stories on Seesaw:
“Field trips. I liked them because we went all together. I especially liked the field trip when we went to the mailbox to deliver a package to Will. Some of our teachers who took care of the school like Jessica and Molly went with us. Then we went to the mailbox but we found ourselves in a place we had never been before. We got lost which direction we were going. And finally we got back to school.” - Joslin
Others found memories hard to access, but our discussions helped to awaken them. Kian posted that his favorite memory of school was playing with his friends Austin and Jack. In a Zoom call, he had difficulty remembering specifics. School seemed very far away. Then a sudden memory made him giggle mischeviously, “We were on the pirate ship. Then we went out of the pirate ship and then we chased the girls around, when I was four-and-a-half or five. One time we were trying to get little Shelly and big Shelly. Charlie helped me got there. I followed Charlie, and he leaded me to the girl’s base. Charlie is sneaky, but I am sneakier, because I can just run then just hide. We hided the little Shelly and big Shelly under the ship. The girls tied to find it but we didn’t let them get it because we made the walls. Charlie and me were the walls and one other person. Maybe Rowan? But remember the time we played noodle fight? We were just slamming people around. But because we were doing battle on that day, I think, the girls got little Shelly and big Shelly back, because we were not watching. I think they got past our walls.”
Sometimes memories come back to us through unexpected associations. Lou Lou initially had trouble thinking of a favorite memory from school. She began to tell stories about her family and Gibson Island, then said, “I remember one, a really good memory.” She next told a story of her own baptism, how when she got cold, her mom put her in a onesie to help her get warm.
Some memories are of iconic symbols of St. Johns. These memories not only include powerful images and experiences, but also capture how the children have grown and how they share many of these experiences with generations of St. John’s children before them.
“One is when we went up to the top of the school. The bell. It was a little scary. I’m not scared now. It’s just because the ladder was a little steep. It was dark.” - Margaret
“My favorite is chapel. There’s the cross, and the candles. Elizabeth and some of her friends made the cross.” - Austin
It’s true that over the past two months many memories of our time together physically have already begun to fade. But as we head into our final days, it’s important not only to revisit our time together at school, but also to celebrate how resilient the children have been during these past two-and-a-half months. We have stayed connected. We have continued to wonder, to explore, to create, to support each other, and to share many moments of joy. We have done all of these things because of the incredible bond this group developed over the past three years. Watching their interactions this year, it was clear that they’d already mastered the important lessons of this phase of life: how to listen, how to be kind, how to work together and play together, how to express your feelings and consider the feelings of others. Many memories will fade, but the children will carry these skills through the rest of their lives.
We continued our work with portraiture and asked the children to draw themselves this time. Children worked from photos, memory, mirrors and their Zoom feed to notice and recall details about themselves. The freedom of the assignment, let each child showcase what matters to them be it family, games, or attention to detail.
Sally: I'm thinking of making a portrait of my whole family.
Charlie: I just noticed something, I need to add hair!
Elle: I'm doing a picture of yesterday when I went to Karate.
Charlie: I'm making tic-tac-toe on my belly.
I go here...this would be where Willa goes...let see who wins...I win!
Creative uses of: dominoes, race cars, putters, baskets, books, legos, marbles, tracks, cups, blocks, lovies, foam blocks, rope, tape and more.
The rube goldberg work has been phenomenal and we’re thrilled so many children participated in the challenge! These machines are easy to get lost in, because at first, they usually fail. Faliure can be frustrating, even when you prepare yourself for the likelihood of your plans not panning out. These failures help us refine our patience, problem solving skills, engineering capabilities and spatial awareness. We also appreciate familes who shared the struggles along with the successes on SeeSaw to help us all witness that greatness may take a few, or many, attempts.
We know that distance learning, especially over Zoom, is not well suited to young learners who need to be active. Having calls where children are able to run around, gather materials, and be active learners helps engage more children. This week we were able to talk through thinking processes as children constructed their machines, and many children continued the building after calls ended, sharing final results on SeeSaw. Not all learning takes place on class calls, and we are thrilled that platforms like SeeSaw allow us to meaningful connections with children who are exploring outside of our scheduled sessions.
Shane gave us other good advice. For instance, holding your work up to a mirror can give a different perspective and help you to see thing you hadn’t before. Finding a place to draw where there is simple light, coming from one direction, helps youth see the shapes. Don’t think of your subject as the face of someone you now. Start by thinking about the shapes, and try to draw them correctly. He also gave us some really valuable and inspiring words:
“The secret to becoming stronger artist and learning is to draw, draw, draw as much as you can from life. Draw things around you. Draw your bedroom or your stuffies, or your kitchen. Or if you’re traveling, draw things that you see. Fill sketchbooks and make those little notes to yourself about what you’re seeing, and the whole time you’re doing that, what you’re doing is learning to see. You’re learning to observe, and you’ll see the world differently…Drawing things around you makes you see things differently, and it makes you appreciate all the differences of every unique thing in life, so keep drawing as much as you can.”
Several children took their puppet work to a new level this week, creating sets and developing interesting characters and plots for their puppet shows. The Tucker Room children are great storytellers, and these puppet shows have given them a way to combine oral storytelling with a visual element. It’s also a whole-body activity and deeply engaging. The variety of puppets and stuffed inspired lots of adventures. Using Zoom and Seesaw, we were able to see the puppet shows in various stages of development and enjoy the finished productions together. Watching Leigh's show together on Zoom wasn't exactly the same as being in the classroom, but it was a wonderful experience.
This week’s Build Together session was a relaxed and fun time of sharing ideas and observations, and enjoying each other’s company while we work. The children noticed similarities and differences in their structures and materials, responded to teacher other's work. Charlie and Willa invented a game in which we had to memorize where blocks were places in a structure. Having an up-close and focused view of each other, with more time and less distraction, is one of the benefits of our virtual format. It offers a very different perspective and a new appreciation for each other.
This week we had a lot to celebrate, starting with Margaret’s birthday! Out birthday committee completed their first ever birthday interview at a distance. Children interviewed Margaret over Zoom to help inspire her gift. The children passed the birthday gift from house to house, adding bits along the way until it was decked out in sparkles and burst at the seams with love. Margaret and her family joined us on a class zoom call where Margaret read the class a story! This was the first time a child read to the class for their birthday and wow! Margaret you have so many gifts, and now you can add story telling to the list. Thank you so much for celebrating your special day with us! We love you!
We also wanted to thank you and your children for reaching out with such thoughtful flowers and messages for Teacher Appreciation Week! We are honored to form these close relationships with your children over their years at St John’s and grateful technology and the postal service can keep us connected through these times. We would also like to thank all of you for the teachers you have become over the course of our distance learning! We couldn’t do any of this without your support. Thank you for generosity, love and all the work you do in collaboration with us!
The children have been engrossed in storytelling and created many endearing puppets this week with tons of personality. We have loved seeing the children bring their puppets to life with names, adventures and different voices. In the coming weeks we will explore the structure of storytelling and discover what stories the children are interested in telling.
One way to lock in things that we want to remember--as individuals or collectively--is storytelling. In the past two weeks, our conversations have often turned into storytelling sessions. Children have explored oral storytelling and picture books—including books of their own creation. They have played with different genres, weaving fantastical tales, recounting memories of past experiences, and recalling dreams. They have used illustration, dramatic play, and puppetry to act out dramas.
As we move into the final month of school, it seems fitting that our attention is turning toward the past and memories as we revisit and celebrate our shared history. The Tucker Room children have always loved dramatic play, and we have watched their imaginative storytelling take many forms over the year, propelling their work in every area of the classroom.
In this space between our physical time together at St. John’s and the children’s transition into Kindergarten, we also happen to have more time to focus on the people and events that are important to us, who have shaped us. It’s a good time for reflecting, for celebration, and also for imagining a future that will be very different for most of us. These are our inspirations as we delve deeper into portraiture and explore storytelling in the coming weeks.
St John’s teaches children that they are empowered citizens of the world. So, it was no surprise when Joslin and Lou Lou devised their plan to solve the Corona Crisis. One solution involves medicine, the other magic. This week, we asked some other children about their ideas. While discussing these topics with young children might feel uncomfortable, it’s important to give children the space to share their ideas and feelings. It can also provide a space to clarify concepts they may have, and give them the opportunity to take some control back during a time where we are all facing new restrictions.
Charlie: Find a chalk board and write ‘No one can come into this house.’
Responsibility broken down is our ability to respond. We are all trying to understand our capabilities and responsibilities during this time and hope to rise to the occasion. But what can children do? We continue to explore the impact children can have, and what we see again and again, is their ability to spread joy. While many children have knowledge about their circumstances, they are not bogged down by it. The children are like wells of happiness and through their physical or digital presence and their art and expression, they extend an invitation to join their happiness. Louise suggested we could send messages to doctors to tell them how much we love them. Elle left a message on her sidewalk. Children have still been leaving their rocks that spread joy. What are some ways your children have brought levity or cheerfulness to your home?
This week, Rowan reminded us of our Tucker Room wall of failures, asking if we’d continue to collect and post them. Boy, if we had a virtual failure wall, we could have filled it this week just with all the Zoom stumbles. There was our attempt Wednesday to split into breakout groups, which resulted in Kian magically disappearing and reappearing, much to his amusement and delight.
In another group we tried different ways to say "I love you" using hugs, sign language, and hearts. We succeeded.
The third week of distance learning also brought many beautiful moments. As we settled into our new virtual schedule, we had frank discussions about the challenges of learning and connecting virtually. One-on-one chats gave us opportunities to talk about our feelings or just catch up in a more relaxed way.
The interactive studio sessions resulted in some wonderful hands-on experiences. In Tuesday’s session, children created visual references to help organize their days. Visual schedules give children a sense of control and empowerment, and we saw the children’s ownership and enthusiasm.
In Thursday’s studio session, children noticed lots of details while drawing each other’s portraits. As we expected, they discussed hair and eye color, clothing, and other features. What we didn’t anticipate was that they would draw from live Zoom images instead of still photographs. Is it that live video is more captivating and communicates more about a person? Is it that portraits are more meaningful in context? We’ll keep exploring.
This week we were pleasantly surprised to see so much continuity with life in the classroom. We watched on Seesaw as children carried out their satellite and portrait projects through several stages— planning, designing, building, sharing, and revising—in much the way we have in the past.
And we marveled both at the children’s creativity and at families’ collaboration and documentation.
In one small group, Josie shared a recent discussion with Lou Lou in which the two made plans about how to solve coronavirus. Jossie’s idea was to call an expert and find out if there’s any medication for the coronavirus, then go to the areas where people are sick and bring them medicine. Lou Lou’s idea was to sprinkle magic to make everyone better. Not only did this perfectly fit their strengths and personalities, it gave us ideas about new directions for our Helpers thread. Next week, we’ll explore how the children can be helpers in the home, community, and in the world.
Pieces of Tucker Room experiences.