The opening weeks of school are always one of my favorite times of the year. Reconnecting with old friends and welcoming new faces, pulling at the threads of inquiries just beginning to unspool, the simple pleasure of a brand new box of craypas: these first weeks pop with a special energy that propels us together into the year, and I always love that ride.
Across CLC, children spend early September working hard to settle into a new or changing environment, and the work we do in the first weeks always extends long into the next seasons. Over the years, we’ve built an approach to starting our school year that hinges on a basic philosophy: that curriculum and care are inextricable.
When we plan our first weeks of school, we work to create an inspiring second home for our new groups, one in which children will feel comfortable, connected, and enlivened. Part of that means preparing a physical space that is cozy, sensorily clean, and laid out in a way that encourages children to navigate independently. Part of that means singing songs that feel good, reading books about separation like Martin Waddell’s Owl Babies and Audrey Penn’s The Kissing Hand, and having group conversations about emotions and the basics of school. And part of that means layering the classroom with materials and experiences that ensnare the senses and spark creative engagement.
In designing start of year curricula, our goal is to invite exploration which makes school a place of marvel and joy – a place full of weird, beautiful things that children want to know more about. Very simply, for school to be a place where children want to be, it needs to be full of things children want to do, more and more, ever deeper. Here’s a taste of this year’s offerings:
“Ice flowers” have been a hallmark of CLC for almost a decade: a seductive mix of the familiar – flowers – and the unexpected – a casing of ice that melts and changes, bleeding color. The very concept of flowers trapped in ice pushes at the boundaries of what children know to be possible just as their expectations of the world are forming, and a sensory table full of them invites small hands to explore and make sense of the beauty before them.
A child’s first experiences with paint are full of raw wonder, and the Yellow room chases that feeling. To place a hand in a glob of color, press that hand down onto a blank space, and see a handprint — that is a miraculous thing, a moment of true creative power. With a palette of rich color and space to dive messily in, our Yellow Roomers play with beauty. Here, two Yellow Roomers begin to learn what they can do with paint.
Children in the Red Room mixed up a batch of playdough, transforming ingredients into pink and purple dough perfect for rolling and poking. Here, a Red Roomer tries her hand at adding flour to the playdough mix, and another friend works to build a tall tower out of tree blocks!
The Purple Room studio space invited large scale mural work at the easel — the same materials yield such a variety of work across classrooms! Purple Room children also worked with sheets of colorful beeswax, warming the wax in their hands before transorming it.
Looking ahead, each of our classrooms is already hot on the trail of a curriculum they’re interested in delving into with the children. In the Yellow Room, teachers are wondering how the youngest children interact with earth, soil, and sand, in all its forms. In the Red Room, the children will be examining the work of different artsists, drinking in classic works, and using palettes and materials inspired by those artists themselves. Purple Room children will be embarking on a study of cities, their structures, their inhabitants, in real life and in literature. They will also be engaging in a classic Deweyan social studies curriculum relating to cities, beginning with a study of self and gradually moving outwards to the people and communities beyond. All of our classrooms will continue work on our schoolwide Compassion and Power curriculum that we launched last year. Stay tuned – we can’t wait to see where the children lead the year!