Intentional Beginnings

The first week at Parker has flown by in a flurry of joyful reunions, warm new welcomes, and plenty of thoughtful foundation building for the year to come. Here at Parker, first days are more than just locker assignments and textbook distribution. Students spend most of their time working collaboratively with their teachers to set the groundwork for a strong community where students feel socially connected and emotionally secure — the foundation for achieving academic excellence.
What would you see if you stopped by our classrooms this week? A deliberately constructed day designed to make sure every student feels welcome. Students engaged in exploring not only the question of “Who am I?”, but also, “How can I contribute to my classroom community?” Teachers are taking great care to establish classroom rules and routines that include every student’s voice. Over the next few weeks, students will build the norms for their class communities, giving their own language to describe behavior that leads to care and respect, and a climate conducive to learning.Here is a peek at what some of that work looked liked this week:
Our Kindergarten class is beginning to establish a rhythm and routine, learning special songs to line up, practicing their calendar skills at circle time, and sharing ideas and space as they move through their day. The predictability of these routines helps our children to feel safe and settled, and learning habits together builds a sense of belonging to a community all their own. Kindergarten also spent the week helping with their class ‘jobs’ and discussing what community means to them. They’ve learned how to lift each other up, check in with others’ eyes, use their hands in kind ways, and what to do when frustrated. These skills will carry them not only through their school careers and but also out into the world.
Our middle school advisories hit the ground running with thoughtful group discussions designed to challenge our students to dig deeper in sharing their thoughts and opinions with others. 6th graders engaged in a lively conversation about age and maturity, questioning what is the right age to be trusted with certain things including the right to vote, have a job, enlist in service, and live alone. 7th graders, meanwhile, were asked to discuss whether they would rather have one job for their entire life or if they would like to regularly change jobs. Their conversation had direct implications as they moved towards negotiating how their own advisory was going to handle various responsibilities this year.
Students in Debbie’s 1-2 class worked to organize and design their classroom as they are in a brand new space this year! Part of today’s work was unpacking books for their special reading corner, which they inaugurated with a reading from their new Elephant & Piggie collection, much to everyone’s delight. Suzi’s 1-2 class, meanwhile, drew self-portraits, which they then shared with their peers. Together, the class discussed commonalities and differences, and how the unique traits of each individual come together to create a new group identity. Our very capable and competent 3-4s spent the week engaged in hands-on, STEM team-building activities, such as building a pyramid of cups using only rubber bands that were attached to individual, student-held strings. 
Our entire middle school enjoyed many team-building exercises that enabled community connections and also allowed our newest middle schoolers to get lots of movement breaks throughout the day! Here you can see our whole middle school participating in a group rock, paper, scissors challenge that involved planning, collaborating, and communicating to triumph as the team that captured the most players.
At this age, our youngest PreK 3 students are spending their first few days learning how to be in a classroom together. They practice sitting in a circle, saying hello to friends, sharing spaces and materials, and taking turns. Our PreK 3s & 4s, meanwhile, jumped right back into group play, talking about feelings, and establishing what it means to be a thoughtful community member. Today all PreKs enjoyed a muddy boots hike on our beautiful campus.
Finally, we were thrilled to welcome our new Forest Toddlers for their first week of romping in our woods and fields with Leiana! Now in its second year, these mornings filled with wonder, exploration, and connection are deeply meaningful to our community. We cannot wait to watch our toddlers’ curiosity and confidence blossom as they develop a deep bond with nature and love of learning in our beautiful 77-acre classroom.