Our multi-grade classrooms create a cycle of leadership. When students move to a new classroom, they make new friends and renew friendships with former classmates. Students remain in the same classroom for two years.
Students at this level are keenly aware of issues of justice; they are beginning to think beyond themselves and to appreciate the power of words. At NGFS, students develop their own classroom guidelines. When third and fourth graders begin this process, it is quickly apparent that they are quite adept at knowing what is needed for their classroom to function so that each student is respected and able to learn. The process of developing specific guidelines for their own community engages them in critical collaboration about how they will live and work together. Disagreements occur and students have the opportunity to defend their choices about what rules needs to be included, or even the particular wording of a rule. As they work through the Quaker process of coming to consensus, they are learning to listen and to consider how to honor the individual while being mindful of the group.
Developing guidelines takes time, but with support, students at this age have the ability to work through the process. They take their task seriously and accept responsibility for their classroom community. There is nothing that matches the grins on their faces when these guidelines are complete!
At NGFS, thematic units integrate subjects and content areas. Our hands-on, experiential course of study provides the opportunity for students to apply their knowledge in meaningful ways. The ability to see beyond oneself makes third and fourth graders capable of working successfully in small learning groups that are project or games based. Group projects allow students to assume many roles including collaborator, leader, and negotiator. To keep learning personalized and motivating, third and fourth grade students frequently have the opportunity to choose an area of interest within the topic assignment.
When our third and fourth grade students study Native Americans, small groups of students gradually create an environmental landscape that showcases the tribal dwellings, clothing, and geographic features of the land they are studying. These kinds of group endeavors provide opportunities for students to develop new skills as they experience different roles and responsibilities. At this level, students are assigned their first home projects. Building on what has been learned in class, these projects require students to compare and contrast new concepts with what has been previously discussed. Students have a timeline of due dates to help them learn time management for their work outside of the classroom. Opportunities for enrichment and optional projects begin at this level.
Twice a week students have opportunities for enrichment in the areas of Music, Spanish, PE, and Art. Students may continue with Suzuki violin or choose a traditional Music class.
Service Learning Students in first through fourth grades team up in multi-grade groupings and perform service projects both on and off campus. Some share their singing talents with residents at Friends Homes and at our preschool, others decorate tote bags and fill them with books and goodies for new mothers at Women’s Hospital. Other students are part of the Odd Job Squad, which does tasks to help teachers and other staff members at NGFS.
Beginning in third grade, students have the opportunity to participate in the drama production. For one semester each year, some of the rehearsals occur during service learning time. These students serve their community by sharing their talents and entertaining both the school and greater community.
Our spring trip to the mountains or the coast brings the excitement of the outdoors to classroom content.