Upper East students have been working with a simple but powerful material recently, the Human Interdependency cards. Upper East guide Terrence explained what it is and how it works:
“This is about the fourth or fifth lesson with this material,” said Terrence of the image above. “It starts off with three of the character cards and it’s like we’re in medieval times. The first one asks ‘How do we get our bread?’ and we talk about the baker, then ‘Where does the baker get his materials to bake the bread? He has to go to the miller.’ Then, ‘Well where does the miller go to get the wheat?’ He has to go to the farmer. For the first few lessons everything seems to lead to the farmer”
“It branches off,” Terrence continued. “It not only shows human interdependencies but also the interdependencies between the different areas we study in the class, so we can do a language study about proper nouns — how does somebody get the last name Baker? Or Miller? Or Gardener? We have each of those last names in our school. Way back, we may have had two Johns and we have to determine them as either being the baker or something else. Eventually, once you see all these characters emerge in a village, we have 16 cards, we can see how many different relationships there can be in a community of 16 people. Then we imagine our own community and the people we see every day and the stores we go to every week and who we have connections with.”
Terrence also described the cards that make up the material:
“All of the cards are exactly the same except for the little box in the corner — it has a picture of what that person might do. If it’s a farmer it might have a picture of a sheep if it’s a sheep farmer, or a picture of wheat if it’s a wheat farmer. ‘How do we get our clothing?’ is another one in the series, so it might be a a fabric salesperson or a weaver.”
“I would call it a blending of geography and history,” said Terrence about what curriculum areas the material covers, but like many Montessori materials, “it’s also language, it’s also math — we ended up building some geometric shapes to represent the communities; we had a sixteen sided figure, a hexadecagon, using a lot of geometry. It really does pull together all aspects of human culture including numeracy and literacy.”
Students in both Upper Elementary environments also began a novel study unit this week.
“We provide enough time for it to happen in class,” said Terrence of the timeframe for reading expectations. Students who may have already read the novels they are studying have the opportunity to learn how to think about and understand the books “more deeply,” said Terrence. “The point of doing a novel study is to get them thinking more critically; to get them understanding how literature is made; and how themes and ideas can be brought across through storytelling.”
Once the novels are read, the students will be getting their hands dirty with some creative work.
“A lot of the things we will be doing will be creating things: models, maps — trying to take he words on the page and make them into something visual so they can show some understanding and comprehension of what the author has described.”
Students will be engaged with their novels for about six to eight weeks.
Terrence also spoke this week about the shift at the Elementary level to more abstract forms of work from work with concrete materials.
“The materials are aids in many ways, and one of the most important ways is to bring clarity to thinking. When they’re moving to the abstract it’s because their brain can think clearly, in a logical way. And not just in one way but in many different ways; they can keep track of things without the materials. So, in this case, moving to the abstract work, some of them might be working from a plan that they created, so they could plot out a story, for example, and others might just have that in mind and be creating a story from there. It’s the clarity of thinking that comes to Upper Elementary students because they’ve had their hands on materials for years.”
Also this week, be sure to take a look at DVMS Upper Elementary student Ella Oster’s article about the recent DVMS hockey tournament in support of the Manticores sports teams they are developing.
On Friday October 31, and on three Fridays in November (14, 21, and 28), both Upper Elementary classes will travel by bus to Gravity Climbing Gym in Hamilton. Children need to be picked up at Gravity at 3:00. Please ensure children are wearing, or bring, comfortable, active-wear clothing and clean athletic shoes (their indoor/gym shoes will suffice) on those dates.