“It’s all about the relationships,” said Head of Lower School Erin Leonard, as she watched spontaneous pairings of students collaborating on posters displaying key words to remember in challenging times: “Happy,” “Cooperative,” “Patient,” “Loving,” and perhaps most relevant of all, “Thankful.”
The poster-painting was part of Lower School Wellness/Experiential Day, a cleverly-configured day of multi-tasking, with fun and thoughtful activities for JK-3rd grades overseen by co-curricular teachers while homeroom teachers participated in a Teaching Technology Day.
The purpose of the teacher training was the ongoing process of professional development needed to ensure continuity and excellence should the school have to move to distance learning at some point this year. The purpose of the students’ day of activity was more easily stated: to have fun engaging with fellow students in relaxing and socially-safe projects whose results would bring a smile to others as they move about the campus.
Within the Lower School, JK-3rd grades are divided into two cohort groupings of JK through 1st grades, and 2nd and 3rd grades. Each cohort group got a half-day of activity and fun, beginning with individuals painting small stones to beautify some bare spots on campus. Poster-decorating pairs came next, followed by exciting relay races, an outdoor recess period, and then a wind-down time, resting on socially-distanced yoga mats in the gym while either enjoying a movie or taking a cat-nap.
As students moved about within their cohort groups from individual work, to self-selected pairings, to randomly-chosen relay teams, to group free play, and then back to individual yoga mats, they experienced not only a wide variety of relationship-building, but also a variety of the new structures that our new times ask of us in building relationships. And all of this is completely in line with Ms. Leonard’s goals for her division.
“The academics? They’ll get that,” she says, as the year goes on--whether the school is on campus or remote. “But this, this time to build relationships and social confidence--they can only get that while we’re here, doing things like this with their classmates.”
And, she adds, “Every day we’re here is a blessing! Each day leaves them stronger.” And just like the posters showed, for each of those days, we are both “Happy,” and “Thankful.”