By Jacklyn White, Founding Faculty member and Summer Program co-leader
The American philosopher and educator John Dewey once said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
At Whittle School & Studios, there is a fundamental belief that learning happens everywhere and at anytime. It is deeply rewarding to be part of an effort that will dissolve the traditional walls of the four-roomed classroom by immersing students in a passionate engagement of authentic, meaningful, and real experiences that are the essence of the statement “education is life itself.”
As an educator of 24 years, I hold firmly to the philosophy that each child possesses unique and inherent talents and abilities. Through a deep respect for each child’s heart and mind, I trust that students have an innate desire to use their talents and abilities to explore, learn, and grow by connecting with their inner curiosities and making critical connections. This becomes a child’s catalyst for establishing a love of lifelong learning, and it should be at the center of every academic mission.
Our Whittle curriculum includes a weekly Expedition Day that will immerse students in experiential learning activities. Our students will be primed to make connections between classroom content and real-life experiences. The cultures, businesses, and resources of our host cities provide a deep and enriching platform for our students to experience.
It was a pleasure to host our founding families in a Summer Expedition program last month, in which families of our Early Learning Center and Lower School programs participated in a week’s worth of immersive activities in Washington D.C.
In exploring our city’s treasures, we enjoyed a wonderful week of learning, adventuring, laughing, connecting, and sharing as we came together as a Whittle community.
Our week was grounded in the “Visible Thinking” research developed by the Harvard School of Education. From this framework, we asked students to “see, think, and wonder” as they dove into activities throughout the week.
By encouraging students to explore curious objects, works of art, and interesting images, artifacts, or topics, this “see, think, and wonder” routine prompted them to make critical, creative observations and thoughtful interpretations of all that they observed. This thinking strategy stimulates curiosity and sets the stage for inquiry, intentional investigation, and collaborative thinking practices by asking children three core questions:
- What do you see?
- What do you think about what you are seeing?
- What does that make you wonder?
Equipped with our three core goals of seeing, thinking, and wondering, we set off on a series of adventures with our learning community of families.
National Postal Museum
On our first adventure, we asked students to see, think, and wonder while exploring one of D.C.’s hidden gems. The National Postal Museum provides a multi-sensory approach to exploring how our mail system works. Our families created postcards to our friends in Shenzhen who were kind enough to agree to write a return postcard to our families. The children are so excited and eager to receive a postcard all the way from China!
Kenilworth Aquatic Park
The next day, educators from the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Bridging the Watershed program joined us the at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Our students pondered the health of the aquatic habitat by exploring the living organisms contained within the environment. Through pelt examination, ecosystem hikes, and the collection and examination of macro-invertebrate samples from the ponds, students delighted in the discovery of known and new life-forms, including a leech that was extracted from our pond sample.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
During this exciting exploration, students looked at the zoo animals through a different lens. Families observed and evaluated the small mammal house habitats looking for evidence of games, toys, feeding practices, and animal groupings that contributed to animal health. Students then created an enrichment object or habitat that would support and promote mental and emotional wellness for animals in captivity.
Meiwah Chinese Dumpling and Chinese Cultural Event
For the culminating event of our Summer Adventure Program, we invited families to a celebratory feast. Chef Zheng, from local Chinese restaurant Meiwah, joined us at our Whittle School & Studios Information Center to guide us in the making (and eating!) of delicious dumplings.
After the assembling and feasting concluded, families engaged in Chinese dance, calligraphy, lantern making, and research about the Chinese Zodiac in a wonderful and joyful celebration of culture and community.
By implementing visible thinking routines during our expeditions, we encouraged our students to engage in investigations that are intentional, meaningful, and connected to our learning community. These experiential opportunities, steeped in meaningful inquiry and collaborative investigation, support our belief that learning is purposeful, social, representational, emotional, and empowering.
Join us at one of our upcoming informational events to discover how we re-imagine education both inside and outside of the classroom, and within our local and global communities at the Whittle School.