Deep in the Busy

The past two months here at Parker have been busy ones! Students returned from winter break energized and ready to tuck into some hefty work. This midwinter period is always a thoughtful and deliberate time in all of our classrooms. The sharp novelty of winter has tempered, and students are ready to settle into deep investigations that will busy their minds and bodies until spring. This work can take many forms, from sweeping, long term projects like the 8th grade theses to more organic, but nonetheless intense investigations like PreK 4 studies of friendship. Here is just a small sampling of what has been happening in our classrooms:
Our industrious PreK students have spent the last month immersed in studies guided by classroom interests. Sarah noticed her PreK 3 class expressing a consistent interest in visiting our Trout in the Classroom tank that is maintained by our 7th graders. Inspired by this, the PreK 3 class decided to welcome a pet betta fish into their classroom and study how it survives in the wild. During this exploration, they researched and learned about habitats from our science teacher Leiana. The class then spent last week creating the best habitat for their beta fish in their classroom.
PreK 4, meanwhile, is leaning into an age-appropriate focus on all things social by learning about friendship. Together, they have had many conversations about similarities and differences, acceptance, and being a good friend. They held a parade for our school to show the importance of how much kind words matter, have taken many buddy hikes, and created cooperative artwork inspired by the book Friendshape.
In our lower school, Kindergarten students have been engrossed in a study of hospitals, patients, and the body, and using this interest to incorporate other disciplines like math (graphing), writing (“Bandaid Stories”), and learning from experts (a real doctor, receptionist, and technology specialist). Our 1-2 class is finishing up their first original student poetry anthology and preparing to host a reading. 3-4 mathematicians, meanwhile, integrated their study of the Capital District to research and create 3D models of iconic buildings in our area.
At the middle school level, 8th graders are deeply entrenched in their thesis work, gathering research and formulating arguments on a wide range of self-selected topics such as Stand Your Ground Laws, Veganism, Conspiracy Theories, and Independence for Northern Ireland. 6th and 7th grade ELA students just finished reading Number the Stars and will return from break ready to dive into self-selected projects that will demonstrate their learning from this novel. In science, the 6th and 7th graders have been working on making models of animal and plant cells. Musical middle schoolers of all ages are immersed in their work on our 8th grade musical Beauty and the Beast. Fifth through 7th graders and helping to create the set and props while 8th graders are learning their lines, songs, and choreography.
In the midst of all this learning, our school also continues our commitment to foster ethical awareness and social responsibility among our students. This week, we wrapped up our Afghanistan Resettlement Drive by delivering our collected items to the Al-Hidaya Donation Center. Families from grades PreK up through 8th grade participated in this drive over the past month, and our students were so eager to help load the vehicles and send along their well wishes with our faculty coordinators for the drive, Jennifer Baker and Katie Thornton, who made the delivery. Volunteer Uzma Popal received our donations at the center and later wrote to us saying, “A HUGE thank you for so many much needed items you donated. I have no words to even start how much this means to MSKP and the incoming Afghan Refugees.”
This is what school is like for Parker kids. It’s not what most would envision when a child says “I went to school today.” The learning is multi-dimensional, enlivening, challenging, and most of all engaging and fun. Self-efficiency is required and nurtured. Confidence in one’s own ability to solve problems is the ultimate result. Is there any better preparation for whatever comes next in life?
Hop-Up Days
This week and last, Parker students enjoyed participating in our annual tradition of “hopping-up” to their next grade level in school. For students in grades K, 2nd, and 4th, this means a big change, as they get to experience what it will be like to be in a new classroom, with a different teacher, and in a different grouping of peers. This experience is always overwhelmingly positive and energizing for both our students and teachers, and it encourages everyone to begin looking forward with anticipation for what’s to come.