Kindergarten at The Creative School

It was one of those mornings. By 9AM, the Kindergarteners were struggling to be kind and respectful to one another. They were forgetting the class rules that they had established the first week of school. They had a hard time with redirection and engaging in meaningful experiences. But at 9AM, it was time to transition to our Outdoor Classroom. Everything completely flipped. It was sunny and 75. They had the entire park to explore for the next 2+ hours. Each individual was visibly more relaxed, less on edge and now ready to learn.

“I found a worm!”

“I found a worm!”

After a mile long adventure around the trail, they quite literally dove right into day 2 of "pond" discoveries. Because our curriculum is child-led, the students are constantly learning about topics they find relevant and interesting (meaning students retain the content better). Discussion of ecosystems and habitats began a couple of weeks ago (prompted by one child's proposal for a class pet). Through conversations of what types of pets could survive in our classroom environment (the wildest suggestion was a baby alligator), an ongoing project was dreamt up. This week students have been working on creating their own representations of habitats specific to a creature of their choosing. When this portion of the project is complete, the Kindergarteners are looking forward to presenting the finished product to our Preschool students with an explanation of how and why these creations were developed. We wish we could map out where this will evolve, but to plan the path of this project would limit the potential.

These images capture the joyfulness of childhood. But, what they are learning goes beyond how to simply have fun through muddy water play (although this is an important life skill we would argue). Initially, the students carefully assessed the risk involved in the pool of water they had noticed in the back corner of the park. They tested theories for how deep the water was. They worked as a team to investigate the surroundings. A couple of children asked for permission to get in the water. Others rationalized that because they were wearing rain boots and had a change of clothes, it was fine to get wet and muddy. They made observations of the depth and temperature of the water. When reaching conclusions, the children taught one another. Alex said, "The water is cold over here because it's not in the sun." Several students worked to create a theory as to why the "pond" was located here rather than anywhere else at the park; what caused the water to stay after a rainstorm? The answer agreed upon was, "The ground is probably just lower here" (Landry). Micah explained that this was the perfect habitat for "snapping turtles." Charlie added that "frogs and ducks and snakes could live here too." Markus described the bottom of the "pond" as surprisingly "grassy instead of muddy." Charlie corrected his friends and explained that, "This is not actually a pond but rather a pool of fresh rain water." Together, we have discovered that this habitat not only supports frogs, turtles and snakes but also maintains balance within other ecosystems. Friends shared ideas for what types of mammals may visit the pool of rain water to drink and to "sustain all of life - even humans" (Charlie, 5 years old). Our "pond" adventures are always more meaningful than we could have hoped.

Meanwhile, not every child is interested in getting wet and messy. Our Outdoor Classrooms allows the time, space and respect for friends to make different choices. Sometimes they choose to climb a tree instead or to read or draw quietly on a park bench. Requiring every student to participate in the same experiences does not best meet individual (and often sensory-related) needs. This realization has opened the door to finding creative ways to connect with each child... because "No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship."

Granting Preschool Partnerships

Kentucky's investment in our practice, our vision, and this mission has propelled change. Many people are passionate about creating better outcomes. But, it often requires an opportunity to make ideas come to fruition and create a greater impact. 

Receiving the Preschool Partnership Grant through the Kentucky Department of Education has been a catalyst for innovation. Change is challenging. It is difficult to acknowledge systems, processes and even habits that need to be broken and completely reconstructed within the field of Early Childhood Education. Embracing new ideas, new practices and different approaches is a tough transition. It is not just about creating a new system; it is about exploring entirely new territories. 

The opportunity for innovation has required unconventional thinking. The concept itself, of a public-private partnership, is a dichotomy. From it's conception, it has blurred lines and pushed for a conversation surrounding how systems should operate, how teachers should teach and how students should learn. It has beckoned a conversation of defining roles and determining how and what data should be measured.

Now is the time. Kentucky has been incentivized to rethink preschool. We have been granted the opportunity to reconsider how we are operating, what we are prioritizing and how we can lean into revolutionary changes. Previous models are no longer serving our future.

But, the most creative solutions develop from people of diverse backgrounds merging together to form unexpected partnerships. The very idea of this concept is a conflict of interest that does not easily mesh. The process requires us to look beyond ourselves and commit to actually improving practices. Enhancing early childhood experiences is how we best counterbalance the worst parts of this world. We, as a community, have to work together to make this longterm investment. The problems we struggle with as adults have solutions rooted in early childhood experiences.

The Preschool Partnership Grant has incentivized opposing sectors to examine strengths and weaknesses and to find a balanced common ground to stand upon. This was created to allow for growth in unexpected spaces. There is a compelling need to push forward. There is a compelling need to work together to turn shortcomings into opportunities for our community. It is that sense of urgency that must motivate us to overcome fear... the fear of change, fear of transparency, fear of vocalizing our areas of weakness. We. Are. Better. Together.

It is time our actions speak louder than our words. Saying the right thing is easy. Being politically correct is expected. But, for our educational system to evolve, we have to leave comfort zones and determine what actions need adjusting to finally match our words. So many of us are passionate about finding solutions and better serving our community. The challenge is to decide to start now, right where you are, and in the midst of the mess. If there is not a clear path to a better way of practicing, you work together to create it.

Competition within education surrounds a scarcity mindset. But, in 2019, we are working within abundance. Both public and private organizations desire to work toward the common goal of providing more students with better opportunities that better meet a specific family's needs. What we have before us is simply an opportunity. This is an avenue to better serve the youngest members of our community. By working together, we are able to leverage one another and advance bigger ideas, bigger missions and more impactful experiences.

Mud Day

INTERNATIONAL MUD DAY AT CMA taught us to find our own rhythm, rely on our senses, assess risks and test boundaries. We encouraged their active exploration and use of outdoor voices. They asked questions, made hypotheses, collaborated and made new discoveries. Muddy, messy play allowed us to self-regulate and feel at peace. Today, we were wild and free.

“The future belongs to the curious.The ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke at it, question it, and turn it inside out.”


Mommy & Me Date Night

Monday, May 22nd, 2017 is a Mommy & Me date night at the Lexington Legends game! The festivities begin at 5:30PM and are centered around a fun Super Hero theme. Families are encouraged to dress up as their favorite super heroes and have fun spending time with CMA friends! For more information on tickets, contact Emily at 502-859-8100.