Teaching the Next “Lost” Generation

Dear Erin,

Um … have fun with that …

This morning has been an interesting one for Charles and me. A friend of our works at Katherine R Smith School, a local elementary school that has within the last couple of years gone through a refocusing of mission and structure. Their curriculum is now organized by what they call “Project-Based Learning,” in which different subjects are tied together by a single project for a period of time.

So, for example, a couple of the grades have been working on a project about exploration by sea. Not only have they been studying the history of certain explorers, they have been reading books about exploration (which I guess counts as literature), learning about ship design and about the physics of flotation. There are probably other aspects I missed as well. The final project for some of the students was building a cardboard boat, getting in, and testing it out; I heard only four of the thirty or so teams sank.

Today was an open house for the school, and it looks like invited guests included business people and school representatives from the area. Our friend had asked Charles to come by as a kind of computer expert because some of the sixth graders had been working on learning computer programming and had designed video games. So he enjoyed seeing what the students had come up with, which reminded him of his own similar early forays into programming. Apparently those had to do with getting a picture to land on a graphic of the moon.

My own area of greatest interest, no surprise, lay in a different classroom where they were starting to learn about poetry. I could have stayed in there for a couple of hours, easily, especially if they had let me teach. They watched “Lost Generation” by Jonathan Reed, and while it’s a bit gimmicky in my opinion, several of them seemed quite taken by the gimmick, which is an exciting first step toward loving poetry. (And if I’m being honest, Herbert’s “Easter Wings” is rather gimmicky, too, and that’s never stopped me from loving it – at least partly for its gimmick. It’s awfully clever, though, as well.)

The visit to Katherine R Smith was a break in the midst of the stress of the last few days. Not that I’ve been especially stressed though I have been busy, but Charles has had work crisis after crisis. And when he gets home, he moves furniture and paints, or works some more, and the long and short of it is that he might sleep half the day away tomorrow, and I’ll be happy if he can.


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