The name Apprentices reflects the intensity of focus our 4th and 5th graders put towards building a solid foundation of knowledge, as well as agency for their own learning and growth. At this stage, students are ready to focus on being independent, self-reliant, and ready to work through complex challenges. We help the Apprentices do this as they explore areas of interest through large, multi-faceted, and long-term projects.
We focus heavily on research in the Apprentice Room, where students solidify their skills in finding, verifying, organizing, and communicating support for their own personal opinions.
Being given the opportunity to present their research, as well as a variety of creative projects, on a regular basis provides growth in areas such as public speaking, organization, and confidence.
The level of creativity the students bring to our classroom keeps the learning fresh, alive, and evolving each and every day.
The Learning Center students have explored the theme of “Home” in many diverse ways, from the migration of humans throughout world history to the study of our native wildlife in western Pennsylvania. One such exploration of “Home” landed us on a key feature of our nation’s history, Ellis Island. The students began our research into the immigrant experience through a study of literature. There are so many wonderful books highlighting the challenges faced by many when forced to leave their home countries. We also collected information about the history, significance, and purpose of this landmark through a visit to the official website and virtual tour. We knew, however, that to really absorb the significance of Ellis Island, we needed to step into the shoes of the many immigrants who made that long journey and lined up to await entry into America.
To simulate the immigrant experience, each of us created a character who had travelled here to begin a new life. Personal stories included a country of origin, age, name, skill set, health record, reason for immigrating, and a general backstory. Many of us even chose to dress the part! The teachers played immigration officers, asking tough questions of the students, who had to convince the officers to allow them entry into the United States. Our role play was based on a lot of solid research, and the creativity of this fully immersive, dramatic experience allowed us to understand the true meaning of “home” in a deeper way. Our students still talk about this experience as a highlight!