2-3 Groundbreakers Show of Work!

The Groundbreaking Work of Our 2-3s
The month of May at Parker is typically filled with a palpable energy as student’s culminating projects move centerstage for our annual Shows of Work. Although we are not physically together, students in all grades have continued to be deeply engaged in productive work that deserves celebrating. In the following weeks, we will endeavor to showcase as much as possible here in our Snapshot, beginning with our 2-3’s recent Groundbreakers presentation.
The 2-3’s Groundbreakers Project grew out of a civil rights study the class began this past winter. The children learned about the March on Washington and listened to Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. They then turned to a study of school segregation in our country, and examined how children like Ruby Bridges were involved in helping to upend those laws.
With this foundation, the 2-3s launched into their Groundbreakers solo research projects. Lynn challenged her students to move beyond the civil rights movement and examine the diverse contributions made to our society by people of color. Each student chose a Groundbreaker who pushed boundaries, changed our culture, and helped open our world up more to include everyone.
The 2-3 class worked with their middle school buddies, who are now research “experts” by this point in the year here at Parker, to synthesize their knowledge into writing, focusing specifically on the struggle for change each Groundbreaker pursued. Following that work, Lynn and her class discussed and decided what form their presentations could take. Students were given choice in their expression, bolstering that sense of autonomy that propels intrinsic motivation. Slideshows, recordings, dioramas, and interviews were all prepared, each presentation reflecting the beautiful individuality of each child’s mind.The 2-3 students presented their final works last week to an audience of peers, families, faculty, and administration. You can also read on to hear more about Lynn’s reflections, interspersed with her own students’ reflections, about this process. At a time when current events are giving us pause, our students’ thoughts and thoughtfulness give us great hope for the future. How lucky we are!
Why do you feel it is important to dive into topics like this with 2nd and 3rd graders?“Developmentally, 2nd and 3rd graders are very focused on issues of fairness. Studying civil rights elicits great passion and provokes important conversations about justice, activism, and speaking up. In my work, I am also very focused on the idea that our children are future citizens, and a democracy depends on people who know our history, are informed, and involved in the matters of the day. By learning hard history and being inspired by activists and groundbreakers, my hope is that the children see they are capable of taking action on behalf of themselves and others. “ ~Lynn“Me and my groundbreaker have some similar life experiences around racism, so when I was researching her I got some tips. The most important thing I learned was never give up until you feel what is right.” ~Rubin (3rd grade)
Why did you decide to continue your Groundbreakers unit when Parker moved online?“We were just finishing our unit about school desegregation when Parker went online. My goal had been to expand their understanding of this history beyond the struggles of the civil rights movement and the icons behind it. I was determined that we not abandon the next phase of this study. I also thought learning about the inspiring lives of Groundbreakers would be an uplifting focus for us all as we deal with current challenges. The children had free rein in choosing a groundbreaker to study, and I knew that autonomy would lend itself to more personal investment at a time when that was desperately needed. I was confident my students would be driven to take this on.” ~Lynn
Why was it important to you that kids still had a “Show of Work”?
“When a classroom shares a big project and feels the importance of their work all around them, it’s a very special energy. I personally live for that energy. Projects that end with a Show of Work are motivating and elevate the importance of the work.Students, parents, extended family, colleagues, and administrators gathered together for our virtual Show of Work. This created a sense of excitement and nervous energy. In the end, the children were left with a sense of having accomplished something very important. Having the online audience erupt in applause after each child presented so beautifully lifted everyone’s spirits.There is no denying that this time out of school is impacting people’s spirits. Kids are adjusting to a totally different way of learning and living away from their friends. Taking on this study helped stitch us together, creating a sense of community while we all miss each other so intensely. It was just what we needed.” ~Lynn 
“The moment when I felt most powerful is when everyone enjoyed my speech. It just made me feel so accomplished, proud and happy that everyone enjoyed my work and that just made me feel so proud of myself and that they learned something.” ~Russell (3rd grade)
What challenges has working online posed to this project? 
“I had to figure out how to present information to young children whose attention spans and thirst for interaction are challenged by online learning. I researched and utilized online platforms to videotape lessons so that I could preserve my precious and more individualized time online to conference with children. Typically, when my students pick research topics, I gather books and other resources tailored to their reading levels from every library in the capitol region. Instead, with the help of our librarian, Laura Salisbury, I had to curate a collection of videos and other online resources. Truthfully, though, my biggest challenge was worry: Worry that I was overburdening my kids’ incredible parents with a big project while balancing their own work from home; Worry that I would not be able to actively assist the way I can in the classroom. However, what I saw across the board was parents joining in and expanding the experience their children had with this study.” ~Lynn “ The hardest part for me was when it was starting off. I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to get it all done in time. When I got started I was really nervous I wasn’t ever going to be able to catch up to the people who started off but then it turned out I could do really good and I did the whole thing.” ~Russell (3rd grade)
Have there been any unexpected joys in continuing this project online?“When I work with kids in my classroom, I have a beat on how everyone is doing. Working from home, I did not think we could experience the same energy of focused research huddles, or the lively camaraderie that occurs when everyone is working towards a shared goal. However, despite being online, we managed to meet in small groups and share, or I would assist during one-on-one meetings, and that buzz happened. I walked around my house during those first days of research coaching and announced, “I feel like myself again!”My biggest joy was watching my students and their parents pull this off together. They gathered materials and assisted in creating dioramas for Claire’s art project and collaborated on video presentations and slideshows. I conferenced together with students and parents a lot of the time, and that was such a fun and powerful experience for me as an educator. I can’t thank my families enough!” ~Lynn“ My learning was most powerful when I learned how to do stop motion animation. It was fun! I had a vision and made it happen and it includes my favorite things like acting and doll houses.” ~Caona (2nd grade)
How has moving through this process with your students impacted you? “The world has turned upside down for us. As a progressive teacher, my work is devoted to putting children at the center of my work. That means tapping into their interests, being hands-on, taking cues from the students, and tailoring my approach based on the individual children I am working with. Because I am no longer with my students all day, I have to discern how they are doing based on what they tell me and also have separate conversations with their amazing parents. This is the only way I can really determine how things are going, what I need to do to support them, and how to tweak my approach. What used to be so tangible and clear for me is now remote and at times, opaque. We had been online for only two weeks when I decided to dive back into this project. In my class, we have a social-emotional curriculum called the Power of Flexibility that gives children tools and strategies to be flexible socially, emotionally and intellectually. My personal Power of Flexibility has been practiced (and stretched) every single moment throughout this. I have expressed my vulnerability to the kids about learning new things and being willing to try, knowing things may not roll out smoothly each time. Ultimately, this has been very invigorating for me as an educator and human.” ~Lynn
What are you most proud of?“I was adamant that I find a way for my students and I to do something big and meaningful together during our separation, and we did it! The presentations are all unique representations of the individuals I am lucky enough to teach, and I love that they reflect their passions. I am so proud of my students, and I am moved by the love and care their parents poured into this effort. Every single one of us experienced new things, learned about our resilience, and grew our confidence through this process. We deserve to celebrate that.” ~Lynn“The most important thing I learned is that you can follow your dreams, even at an early age.” ~Eli (3rd grade)