Showing What We Know

It is an integral part of Parker’s philosophy that children learn best when they create meaningful work for an authentic audience. Whether it is a 4-year-old, eager to share their year-long development of self-portrait skills, or an 8th grader defending their carefully researched and formulated position on a social issue of consequence for their thesis – true leadership emerges when deep learning is paired with the sense that it matters.
This week, we were treated to exuberant examples of this learning on display as our PreK and Lower School classes presented Shows of Work for their families. Students in PreK enthusiastically shared samples of creative writing (at these young ages this often takes the form of narration, which is then transcribed by a teacher), artwork, and projects that resulted from their various emergent curriculums.
Our Kindergarten and Debbie’s 1-2 class showcased their months-long pond study, sharing interdisciplinary work from art and Spanish that enhanced and extended the research and observations they undertook in the classroom. The release of the tadpoles they hatched and raised in their classroom into our pond, where they will continue to grow as part of our animal community, was a highlight for both students and families alike.
Student’s in Suzi’s 1-2 class gave a beautiful demonstration of the convergence of academic skills and identity work that is woven into our social-emotional at every grade level. This spring, Suzi’s students worked industriously to write their own autobiographies, bringing the stories of their young lives to light with pictures, personal memories, and anecdotes shared by their parents. This examination of self led to a wider exploration of our universe and finally coalesced into a curiosity about the origin of all things. Today, students exemplified this learning with their performance of “Stealing the Sun”, a Cherokee legend about the origin of light.
Projects like those on display this week are the building blocks to leveraging student interests and passions, all the while scaffolding their skills towards a final, signature 8th grade experience – the 8th Grade Thesis. The thesis project builds upon our students’ years of experience cultivating curiosity-inspired hypotheses, interest-based research, and evidence-based critical thinking skills. Last Thursday, our 8th graders bravely shared their voices advocating for research-based changes to social issues that hold personal interest for them. Topics included the importance of carbon-neutral vehicles, increasing the federal minimum wage, transgender healthcare for children, and social media and body image. Our 8th graders presented with pride and confidence, gaining skills they will undoubtedly take with them into their lives beyond Parker. 
Whether it is showing your parents the tadpoles you helped raise or educating a wider audience of community members about your position on a cause, the true value of sharing knowledge is always evident on the radiantly proud faces of our students. Shows of Work build confidence in speaking and self-worth. Sharing their knowledge and work gives students the opportunity to realize how much they know and have accomplished. Doing so in the presence of other families and administrators builds an intimate sense of community and support. The whole experience is a testament to a school culture that values belonging, independence, and growth. It is beautiful to experience.