We go to Daystar every other Thursday to visit with the seniors and then to hang out at Castle Park. Every other Thursday we have previously (last year and two trips this year) gone on other types of field trips such as taking the bus to Lincoln Park or going to the library. Last year they couldn’t wait to bust out of the doors and find adventure. But this year is different (in more ways than one!)

When I asked them where they wanted to go for their field trip last week, they told me they wanted to stay at school and have open classroom ALL DAY LONG! So that’s what we did.

When I announced to the parents and the rest of the school, the choice the kids made, I got many reactions. Some people were shocked because who doesn’t want to travel and explore and some people asked me questions like; “What does open classroom mean? Are they just going to play all day?”

It’s kind of funny or not-so-funny or a bit shocking to think that just a year ago the openness that is our preschool that involves choices at every turn is then narrowed down to breaks of time that increasingly diminish choices. While I am the one who created the schedule and find focus times such as math and language arts to be an important stepping stone in the developmental stage that is primary education, I do believe that our open classroom afternoons are just as significant in the learning process of five to seven year-olds as when I am instructing them in a lesson.

Don’t get me wrong focus time is fun too. We are learning skills that are empowering and magical such as telling time on an analog clock, figuring out all the words in the {at} word family and listening to Asher yell to a friend; “I know ALL the words in the {at} word family and then turning to me and saying; “Hey, look at the clock, it’s noon, I just learned how to tell time!” How wonderful. Not all students will come to this information by choice and if presented in a fun environment makes focus time worth every minute.

I just want to state in black and white that choosing what you learn and how you learn it is just as important and that play is how five to seven year-olds still learn the best.

So we got to work making our choices, which included sewing (which involves many of the mathematics skills learned during math time,) building with Legos, (again dimension, math, architecture,) studying the salamander, typing on the typewriter, making crafts such as our bats, which brought out the super-craftiness in our typical rough and tumble folks. These are all meaningful, self-guided, significant learning adventures. Making choices, following through and creating something from just an idea takes something more than when I give a lesson. It takes unique minds that are driven to learn on their very own. We were also able to complete large projects that some kids spent the entire day working on, projects that otherwise would have taken them a week to finish only having an hour or so of open classroom a day.

BUILDING


Starting to build a house

CHEMICAL REACTION


Making Gak “Hey, we’re gakking” ~Justin

SEWING


Ella’s tiger pattern


Isabel’s dog pattern


Cutting out their patterns


Isabel’s finished dog with a bone


Ella’s finished tiger (now with four legs)


Amalie’s Cat


Justin sewing a pillow, Harriette waiting to finish Ginger and Brigit sewing another pillow by hand


The only picture I can find of Harriette’s “Ginger” doll

THE BAT MAKING STATION


Cutting out the wings


Figuring out the pattern


All about the glue guns


And we have bats


Our new bouncy balls make the big yard giddy

They want to go on this very same adventure next Thursday. And I only encourage this amazing synergy to draw every bit of knowledge and independence out of this incredible classroom that is Mystery Bay.

I say hooray for these kids knowing exactly what they want and going after it, even if it means giving up a few field trips along the way.

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