The second graders are divided into two groups; some are deer and some are environmental resources. Outside on a beautiful Texas fall day, science teacher Cathleen Garcia is directing the lively activity. As the deer population grows, their environmental resources shrink. Children dash from side to side seeking shelter or food or water from their classmates. And what about the involvement of man? When the farmer sprays pesticide on his corn, the mama deer can give birth to babies with problems. Will those babies have equal access to food and water? What will happen to them? Will they become prey to one of the natural predators in the environment?
The second graders grapple with these questions as they shift roles and run to secure their basic necessities. After each round, Cathleen stops and de-briefs with the children. What just happened? Why isn’t there enough water to go around? Look how many deer we have now. That day, our students learned basic environmental concepts – balance in nature, factors that affect populations, and the element of change in ecosystems.
In my walks around campus, I spot lots of movement. Eighth graders transform into salsa dancers in Spanish class. They respond to directions in Spanish and reflect the cultural joy of moving to a Latin beat. In Atlantic Experience I, students stand and move to a spot on a continuum that reflects their positions on controversial issues. Once there, they defend their position to their classmates. Literature students debate “Did George do the right thing?” and move to the corner of the room where others of like beliefs join them. Together they decide the determining factors in their decision.
In Christel McGuigan’s Spanish II class, the Race of the Burros is the eagerly anticipated way to review material, synthesize concepts, and see translated material in context. Students work in teams on review material. They run to the teacher to check their work, return to group to re-work, and keep running from group to teacher to board to advance their burro. They can see a practical use for accuracy when the winning team has its responses displayed on the Smart Board and rest of the class reviews the material in a calmer, more reflective way.
Never discount the element of fun that comes with movement, and with that fun can come real learning.
Upper School English teacher Linda Woolley recently divided her students into four countries with individual codes of conduct. All countries maintain set greetings, conversational topics, and acceptable body language. Emissaries are then sent to other countries to interact with those who share different cultural norms of communication. The object of the lesson: to allow participants to authentically feel what it is like to step into whole new culture. Qualities of empathy, respect, and appreciation are the outcomes of this lesson.
The mind-body connection is well-documented, but it becomes especially evident when I see the understanding that results from the incorporation of movement into the learning day. Final verdict: you have to hustle to keep up with all the learning at Greenhill.