Sunday, February 26, 2012

What about enrichment?

Enrichment...ah a thought from the past...remember the days when we could enrich our students with multiple experiences that would engage and excite them everyday?  Long before state standardized testing ruled the day, we used to believe in educating the whole child.  One of my fondest memories was the year we had a summer enrichment program for at risk students where the theme was flight.  We used this theme for math and reading activities, as well as exposing them to a hot-air balloon launch, sky divers at the school and a field trip to Dulles Airport to watch the planes take off.  You know what was so exciting for them was going up and down the escalator (which we do not have in the small town of Fredericksburg, Va.). 

Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do about ItStill, when you look at the research with children in poverty (especially Eric Jensen's book) you will note that one of the best models is exactly what we did 20 years ago...Enrichment. I happen to teach at a school like most of America that has about 30% low socio economic students mixed with 60% middle class and about 10% upper middle class.  What we have found is that ALL students benefit from an Enrichment model. 

Let me share with you a sneak peek into last week's Multicultural Day.  When testing became such a demanding thorn in our side we used to have a Multicultural Night - where students could come and learn about cultures around the world.  Guess who came? Mostly it was full of our middle/upper class students with a few from our lower economic population.  So we were enriching the enriched.  Does that make sense? Last year we decided to do it during the day in school.  So that ALL kids could participate. 

What was the plan?

  • Each grade level chose a continent to focus on (we choose North America). Then each class picked an activity to expose the children too.  We asked for food donations and artifacts too.  My class did New Orleans' Mardi Gras and we had King cake, mardi grass beads and made mardi gras masks.  It was fun! 
  • Each fourth grade class then rotated into my room for a thirty minute rotation while my students got to experience the culture of Canada (complete with curling), Guatemala (worry dolls craft) and America (basketball fun!). 
  • At the end of the day all classes met for a group gathering in the gym where we sang a song or did a dance or shared a chant that related to our cultural experience.  My class sang "When the Saints Go Marching in".  Each class made a mini flag or banner that they carried in to showcase our area!
  • Although it was exhausting, it was so rewarding!
A Scottish Flag
This year we focused on the cultural influences that shaped Virginia....Scottish, English, African, German and Irish. We made a PowerPoint that showed the countryside and showcased the cultures.  We have an amazing substitute teacher who is Scottish and she brought in some wonderful artifacts to explore.  Here are some pictures of the day...
A spot of tea and biscuits...

 Students rotated through
stations where they could taste some tea and biscuits, view a Scottish Flag, learn words from Scotland, look at books from Beatrix Potter a famous Scottish author....

We learned Scottish words like Crabbit
She had kilts they could try on and a real fiddle they could play.  The boys loved to wear the kilt and try to practice the Scottish dances we had seen on You Tube.  We even talked about the Scottish Highland games - such fun!

So next time you are bogged down in test prep think about this model and how you could fit one day of Enrichment into your month.  It may be just the break you and your students brains need...
We played a real "fiddle".... 

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