Our Wildwood, Winter 2017, Volume 40

e l e m e n t a r y s c h o o l f e a t u r e

by Kerri O’Neill and Dawn Urbont, WILDWOOD PARENTS


Our Wildwood /Winter 2017 8/9

their peers and get crucial face time in organized meetings and free-flow collaborative sessions. At the beginning of the school year, teachers and specialists meet to design the curriculum and look for ways to intersect. This intersecting continues throughout the year, often organically. “We are a collaborative school,” Kendra says. “It’s in the culture to connect.” HAPPY ACCIDENTS The Lascaux Caves aha moment got Kendra and Melanie thinking about a collaborative project for the 3rd grade intensive involving the Tongva dwelling on Big Yard. While usually covered with tule reeds, this year it is decorated with small canvases painted with acrylics. On each is a student’s answer to the question, “What is Los Angeles to you?” The canvases riveted together over the dwelling create a cave. Kendra imagined a mini-unit in which the 3rd graders could go inside the dwelling to make cave drawings—a deeper expression and historical connection to their social studies lesson. Events like these are a hallmark of progressive education—students make interdisciplinary connections

In a 3rd grade social studies class, during a unit on the Native Americans who once inhabited Los Angeles, teacher Melanie Benefiel shows her students photos of cave paintings by the Tongva people. One of her students recognizes them. In visual arts class earlier in the day, he’d learned about the paintings in France’s Lascaux Cave. The student grows excited. “We just did that!” he exclaims with enthusiasm. This is the “aha!” moment of a Wildwood education—when a student understands that a subject is not just confined to a single classroom, but is learnable through a spectrum of lenses. Moments like these are not uncommon at Wildwood, particularly in the Visual Arts program, which aims to promote mastery over materials and artistic fundamentals while incorporating elements of other disciplines into its rich curriculum. Connections across disciplines are vital to Wildwood teachers. Kendra Elstad ’95, one of the Visual Arts teachers on the elementary school campus, notes that professional development is at the heart of it all. Teachers have opportunities to overlap with

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