by Mary Yorke Oates, Director of Admissions, Charlotte Latin School
February and January are usually a time of snow days, ice storms, and “late starts.” Instead, I have seen boys and girls in shorts and windbreakers, skipping in and out of the school yard. Outdoor play has been delightful, and the children are engaged in an even more meaningful way with these balmy days of winter. With Chinese New Year, Martin Luther King day, the Inauguration, and our Global Studies focus on Egypt, this time of year is full of great learning opportunities. Our youngest students cement skills and acquire impressive tools for the academic journey ahead. In grades TK through 1, while students read, write and actively engage in math thinking; they also weave current events into historical moments. Lower School halls are filled with art projects such as Robert Indiana’s LOVE design so familiar to us this Valentine time of year, Paul Klee’s famous cats, and impressive face jugs help children understand the connection between self-portraiture, expression and pottery. The face jug collection alone celebrates the influence of Chinese and English cultures on society linking our own American roots to the tradition from our backdoor neighbors in Catawba County.
It is a little startling when you see the expressive work of these very young children, and I can’t help but recognize the connection between cognitive growth with physical, social and emotional growth. As we have been able to squeeze just a little more time out of playground and free play, it seems the dividends in the classroom are significant. In a society where instant is the new normal, and search engines give us quick answers, success in beginning school emerges from the day-in and day-out connection between mind and body. When touring candidates for admission, I am often asked: “How do you teach a child who can read already?” That is a very fair question as reading is the foundation of all learning. I sometimes worry I disappoint my visitors, though, when I say, “There is always more to learn.” I will take the answer deeper, as I believe that all young readers benefit from phonics. My true bias comes into play though when I add, “Young children hit different milestones at different times, and while I know our teachers navigate that beautifully every single day, I also know a child absorbs learning best when body and mind are syncing in a balanced way.” We scaffold curriculum. We have deep discussions and link important historical events together. Last month the halls were filled with our MLK “I have a dream” assignments where children dreamed all should have a home and all would be included and our world would be free of mean people. We communicate, tell stories and listen to stories. One first grade class created “How to” books and I learned “How to feed a lizard.” It was very helpful and noted, in order to feed a lizard, one needs to have a lizard.
When touring, parents love the How to Books, the 100-day projects, and the art. Schools are beautiful places because bright-eyed children give schools life. And, bright-eyed children that get to run outside and be children when it is a little bit warmer than usual, or there is a little more time than usual, preserve our future.