Extraordinary for others, normal for us: A first-hand account of a “normal” day at CVIS.
I spent parts of a few days at CVIS recently, poking my nose into various classrooms, catching glimpses of what transpired. It was fascinating, to say the least, with numerous offerings that would captivate any wonderful young mind.
Each day begins with a Morning Meeting that all of the students K through 5 attend. One day was a bit different I was told, though perhaps not uncharacteristic of what can take place during that time. Some of the middle school students joined us toting pig hearts they had recently dissected as part of a study unit on the human body. The younger students gathered around three tables, each displaying a heart splayed open and showing the assorted anatomical features therein. The older students then took the opportunity to impress the rest gathered with what they had learned, pointing and prodding as they unveiled their knowledge to the awestruck youngsters. In that fifteen minutes I saw both older students developing leadership skills as they related what they had learned and younger students getting exposure to some fascinating science and the arena to entertain their curiosity.
Later that same day, I smelled something wonderful wafting from the school’s kitchen. I was told that as part of the lower elementary’s reward for good behavior in the classroom they were making stone soup. This involved every student bringing something from home – vegetables, beans, broth – plopping it into the pot and waiting for the magic to begin. They were really into it and later they loved partaking of their concoction. They had also made sugar cookies, decorating them when they came out of the oven. This came on a Wednesday, when students are typically dismissed at 12:30 and eat at home. These students chose to make their own hot lunch with cookies and eat at school.
During my visits to CVIS I have been exposed to lots of engaged students enthusiastically participating in their learning. I’ve seen the pre-K students learn all about plants as one of their weekly study themes and then take a field trip to Sunshine Farm where they got to see what real farmers do. I have encountered math groupings exploring all sorts of concepts while middle school students rehearse for their annual drama in the “commons.” In All School Science I’ve watched the younger students catalogue their observations of their ecocolumns they had assembled – terrariums situated on top of aquariums, both made of plastic soda bottles, filled with an assortment of living things from grasses to aquatic plants, crickets and roly-polies to snails and mosquito fish. And there is evidence of writing everywhere – personal narratives, essays, Weekend News, reports on Japan in process. When the day is nearly over, there is a sense of accomplishment in the air.
The day ends with the students lining up and shaking hands with the teachers. It was an earlier practice that has been resurrected this past year as the teachers see value in it. It is one way of acknowledging everyone’s hard work and thanking students and teachers alike for their efforts. It also puts a period on a day filled with unique learning situations, a time for individual reminders and encouragement for what lies in store for tomorrow.