Hello! Mr. Dunning here!
The Kindergartners are being introduced to a lot of new concepts this year. Their first few months of school were spent learning to navigate a new environment (the classroom) and all the expectations that come with it. At this point they have become confident and curious students who are learning to take on new challenges.
This past week, they were able to explore concepts of math, science, language, creative arts and social skills by engaging their problem-solving skills. In “Numbers Class” we are learning to decompose larger numbers into smaller units. Through the experimentation of breaking apart sets of 10 objects into two number groups (5&5, 7&3, etc.), they discovered the physical representation of basic math (addition, subtraction, division). At this stage, they have now learned that counting is more than just a catchy vocal pattern, but that each number represents things worth sorting, grouping, and maneuvering.
Also, in “Sculpt This! Class” Kindergarteners discovered ways to make new colors with modeling clay by combining 2-3 primary colored pieces into one new exciting color. These activities allow kids to explore new ideas and think through issues of cause and effect. Who knew that combining equal parts red and yellow, with a small piece of white, would result in a peculiar pink, rather than orange, which so happened to be abnormally sticky and, unfortunately, hard to wash off ?
However, we know Kindergartners learn valuable habits and lessons from guided exploration. Even when their experimental efforts don’t produce the desired outcome, we facilitate the time to stop, reflect, and try again. We witnessed this exercise in our most recent “Exploratory Hour Class”. After watching clips of meticulously constructed marble runs (downhill marble race tracks) in action, the students were challenged to work in groups to construct their own marble runs using legos and other classroom supplies.
On their first attempt, the students had fun making elaborate mazes and ramps. Yet, their designs did not take into account the need for the gravitational force necessary to get their marbles to go. So, we stopped to think through the problem and explored solutions. Ultimately, they were introduced to the need for a diagonal ramp to sustain speed. Along the way, they were able to think through issues of cause/effect and engage their observational skills in order improve their next design. This habit of action, reflection, and modified action allows their developing minds to make connections and forge new neural-pathways--- This is the brain’s Neuroplasticity at work.
Further, the ability to reflect on their actions and explore scenarios of cause/effect aids in young students’ social and ethical development. In our “Beginnings Class”, we have been discussing how recent weekly themes of ‘Don’t Hit Anyone’, ‘Don’t Be Mean to Your Family’ , and ‘Don’t Take Things from People’ are God’s laws that help us not Cause hurt to others in ways that Affect everyone. The students explored how Jacob’s actions toward his brother Esau greatly affected their relationship (Genesis 25-27) during “Chapel and Bible Stories Class”. Our weekly themes and bible stories give the Kindergartners an ethical framework to work through issues of their personal behavior and interpersonal conflicts, especially when we help them apply what they are learning in real-time.
Essentially, every part of their school experience is an exciting exploration of new things. They are being introduced so many new concepts and it requires them to develop new skills. Everything from mastering the climbing wall during recess, listening to others in group projects, public speaking (share time), learning to read, eating vegetables at lunch, basic math principles, improving their marble run, to showing self-control (along with love, joy, peace, etc.), when you just want to go home and be with your mom. In Kindergarten, every day is a new day and a chance to try new things.