by Stephanie Wiegert, 1st Grade Teacher
It’s no secret that children learn best when they feel respected and valued by a teacher who sees the child as an individual and recognizes the depth of the child’s potential, not only as a student, not only as one capable of high test scores and significant academic success, but also as a person responsible for her family, her community, and society at large. These children—children who feel supported, children who test themselves academically and socially under the guidance of a nurturing instructor—these children thrive.
At The Wilson School, we foster just this type of environment by utilizing several unique advantages we have as a small institution. For one, everyone—teachers, students, administrators alike—knows each other from the time a student enters Pre-K, our earliest grade. The Buddy Program begins for these children when they are matched with a 4th grade buddy who remains with the younger child until the buddy graduates. Together, the two share unique experiences such as weekly buddy reading, shared assembly performances, community service projects, active play, and a Thanksgiving feast.
The Wilson School is a family.
The focus on students at the center of everything we do is something that makes Wilson unique. Our youngest learners look to those in the upper grades for guidance, support, and encouragement. They feel that they are part of a welcoming community, and have a glimpse of themselves down the road. The older students, too, reap benefits. They learn to be compassionate, patient, and experience a leadership role.
Students in grades 1 through 3 participate in another special program. In its first year, 1-2-3 Magic has already proven to be a favorite of the students. This monthly small-group gathering of the mixed grade-level students focuses on one area of curriculum, and rotates each session. During one month you and your group might be learning to code in the technology lab, and during the next you might use yarn to make a Native American inspired weaving and learn about the frontier.
Another instance when Wilson has multi-age groupings is for Student Council. Beginning in the 1st grade, elected representatives attend meetings on behalf of their class. These bi-weekly meetings put representatives and class officers together in a respectful forum to discuss topics ranging from the Fall Festival to hurricane relief efforts to school spirit days. All voices are heard equally, and the younger officers learn much about poise, public speaking, and responsibility from the older representatives and STUCO officers.
The upper grades provide even more opportunities for multi-age activities. In 5th and 6th grade, students gather regularly and research what has been in the news that week. After choosing what to focus on, they find websites and fact-check information, and turn their findings into a newspaper article. This article is then posted to a global studies board to celebrate their hard work and for others to admire.
Kevin McGinnis, fifth grade homeroom teacher and Social Studies Specialist, has noticed even more of an impact during the Recess Games Project. Fifth and sixth graders are creating seven unique recess games, such as building an oversized version of the classic game “Guess Who?”. Students collaborate in groups to come up with a list of materials, take a trip to a local hardware store, and construct the game. The games, after constructed, are brought to the recess field for use by students in all grade levels.
“They’re working through teamwork challenges, learning to support their own ideas in a conversation while listening to the ideas of others, to make the best product. It has been beneficial having cross-grade help, because the sixth graders have been taking the lead, but also helping the fifth graders. In every group a leader has emerged,” says McGinnis.
These many opportunities for multi-age grouping, touching each grade level, are just some of the benefits to a Wilson education. Students are seen, heard, and recognized for who they are and the contributions they make to our school. Our buddies, teammates, and peers are there to build each other up, not only exposing each child to different viewpoints, but celebrating their successes along with them.
Wilson in the News