Inspiring Children – Head, Heart and Hands
In addition to the main lesson academic work, we offer a wide variety of other subjects. Each one has been chosen to draw out specific capacities within the students.
Throughout the grades the students learn a foreign language. Our foreign language classes are taught by native speakers who immerse the children in their language in a warm and fun atmosphere. The early grades are taught through imitation, repetition and movement. Most of the work is done through songs, games, and stories. The content follows the developmental stages of the child. Once they reach grade four the students write and illustrate the poems, songs and stories that they learned orally in previous years. Once in their teens, students develop their vocabulary through conversation and reading assignments. While learning these languages, the students also hone their listening skills, cognitive flexibility, and appreciation for other cultures.
Music is an integral part of our curriculum. Teachers nurture the students’ musicality by infusing each school day with music. Throughout the day, children sing songs from a variety of traditions and cultures. Teachers endeavor to find songs for each subject presented to the children. Students begin playing the Choroi flute in first grade and violin in third grade. Music invigorates the spirit and increases a child’s capacity for learning. Through the study of music, the students’ hearing is sharpen which allows them to better listen to the sounds of the world and to each other.
In handwork class, the students use natural fibers to create objects that are both attractive and useful. The level of complexity increases each year as they work on more challenging projects, as well as learn new skills. In the first grade children learn to knit, in second they crochet. In third grade the students learn to spin and weave, and in fourth grade they learn complex cross stitch and embroidery. At the same time, fourth graders also begin to use many woodworking tools to sculpt and build with wood.
The benefits of this kind of work include hand-eye coordination, basic math skills such as counting, the four math processes, and basic geometry. They also learn the ability to understand and follow a process from concept to completion, as well as focus on a project for an extended period of time. The concentration and persistence that this work demands is rewarded by the pride in making something completely by hand. Children learn to correct their mistakes and value quality, utility, and hard work.
Recent brain research has found that the interrelationship of the hand and eye allows more neurological pathways to function. This type of handwork is helping to train the brain for the abstract thinking that begins around age twelve.
Our movement program fosters confidence and presence in one’s own body, spatial awareness, coordination, endurance, strength, grace, and sportsmanship. Traditional circle and line games are themes of the early grades. The children learn how to play with each other rather than compete against each other. In fifth grade students spend the year training for the Greek Pentathalon, in connection with their studies of ancient cultures. In sixth grade traditional sports are introduced.
Students begin drawing in a more formal way beginning in first grade, as they illustrate what they have written in their main lesson books. Each year they become more observant and skillful as they learn new techniques, and experiment with different materials. Watercolor painting is also practiced frequently. Through water color, students develop a strong sense of color and learn to create form through the color. Students also learn to sculpt, first in beeswax and then in clay. By eighth grade students have a firm foundation in pencil, charcoal and pastel drawing, watercolor painting, and clay modeling, and they have come to perceive their surroundings in a more conscious way.
Eurythmy is a dance-like art form in which music or speech are expressed in bodily movement; specific movements correspond to particular notes or sounds. Eurythmy enhances coordination, concentration, spatial orientation and dexterity, and strengthens the ability to listen. When children experience themselves like an orchestra and have to keep a clear relationship in space with each other, a social strengthening also results.
Each grades class performs at least one play per year for the community. Older students will perform several related to the academic curriculum they are studying throughout the year. Our students are involved in the entire creative process, including writing their own lines, set and costume design. These creative collaborations among each class help develop cooperation,confidence, communication skills, attention to others, and social-emotional intelligence.
American Sign Language (ASL) is the language of the Deaf community in the United States and is the fourth most commonly used language here. It is the central vehicle for communication among Deaf people, and is therefore also a binding force in their culture. Practicing this visual-spatial medium also expands ones’ visual-perceptual skills: spatial awareness, mental rotation skill, and visual sensitivity. Fingerspelling also helps with spelling words letter by letter.
Hands in the Earth and Forest Friday
These programs nurture a lifelong reverence for nature, allowing the students to reconnect with the natural world as well as gain a deeper understanding of the close connection between geography, climate, seasons, plants and soil. Our Forest Friday program is a weekly nature immersion day, during which our students are able to run and play freely, exploring local natural preserves, including forests, rivers, and bays. Our Hands in the Earth Gardening program is a chance for the students to do meaningful work, get healthful exercise, and grow extremely fresh and nutritious food. Both of these activities promote health and happiness, as well as providing an optimal environment for the mind to learn, even after the activity is over.
I am often amazed at the extraordinary wonder and interest for nature that the children in my class demonstrate on our walks along the shores of Siesta Key Beach. The shrieks of joy at discovering a sea urchin or jellyfish in the sand are often a counterpoint to the still quiet moments found in examining the fascinating design of a sea shell or empty crab claw. I am also impressed when my 1st and 2nd grade class and the kindergarten children join for nature walks around the campus. Their astute observations and perceptions of plant and animal life are always enlivened by their imaginative capacities. Their empathetic dialogue with scrub jays and squirrels are conversations nurtured by an enriching exposure to the nature stories and native legends that permeate our classroom presentations. ~Class teacher 2011