Before embarking on a trip to the other side of St. Margaret’s campus, Middle School math teacher Veronica Johns-Richardson posed a question to her grade 6 Pre-Algebra and algebra 1A students.
“In what ways can grade 6 students build relationships with Early Childhood and Lower School students, using observations and conversations centered around math?”
That question led to a fun class that doubled as a joyful cross-divisional, community-building activity made possible by St. Margaret’s unique early childhood-grade 12 campus. Through observation, interaction and playing with the younger Tartans, grade 6 students not only built connections with their younger peers, but also enhanced their own understanding of how young students learn the basic concepts of math, and how their work in the Middle School builds upon it.
Each of Ms. Johns-Richardson’s grade 6 pre-algebra and algebra 1A classes had the opportunity to visit the Early Childhood or the Lower School during the Middle School class block. In the Early Childhood School, the Middle School students used clipboards and a sheet of paper to record observations of how the youngest Tartans used math during the course of their play. One child tallied the number of pine cones in a bin, another pointed out the different shapes, colors and sizes of a pile of buttons, and another compared the fullness of two beakers at the water table.
In the Lower School, students explored counters, Unifix cubes, shapes as manipulatives as well as completed and colored Halloween and Fall math worksheets. The older students were encouraged to ask questions that led to the young students practicing these concepts, which ranged from counting, number sense, number fluency, geometry and patterns.
“It was fun,” said Lara, a kindergarten student. “I was looking at nature and finding out how many leaves there were.”
Added Natalie, another kindergarten student: “They taught us about patterns like AABAAB. We also made patterns with frogs.”
Ms. Johns-Richardson worked with Early Childhood School Pedagogista Diane Fletcher, Lower School Director of Community Life Tupper Spring, Middle School Director of Community Life Kylie Middlebrook and kindergarten teacher Mara Balak to set up the activity.
Cross-divisional connections are a valuable part of the Tartan experience that leans on St. Margaret’s unique early childhood-grade 12 program. Yet such connections have been challenging to pull off recently due to health and safety protocols. The grade 6 students had several guidelines they had to follow to keep the interactions safe, including staying outside in the outdoor classrooms, and wearing masks at all times.
The magic of such connections was never more clear, though, as the younger Tartans eagerly engaged with the Middle School students, who in turn balanced their own academic work with the joy of interacting with the younger Tartans in a play-based environment.
“This unique experience is a chance for the grade 6 students to do math with younger students and reflect and draw parallels to what they have learned and are currently learning,” Ms. Johns-Richardson said.
“Our youngest Tartans look forward to the older students coming to visit,” Early Childhood School Director Cris Lozon said. “They love sharing their newfound knowledge with their older peers, which helps them to practice and strengthen cognitive skills. And the older peers also model character and community, which helps our Early School students develop socially. These connections are valuable and beneficial to everyone.”