This has been a wild year! COVID pushed us all outside our comfort zones. It is incredible how our teachers and community have supported one another in creating an outdoor classroom environment that has protected the social-emotional well-being AND development of our students. If they weren’t doing this so well, we wouldn’t be able to work through the regular challenges that come with a normal classroom environment. One of those challenges can be: as elementary school-aged students are creating, classifying, organizing, and re-organizing their relationships through these early years, they will show us their exploration of power differentials.
Our atmosphere is flexible, interactive and autonomous, with a strong sense of community. TKG’s environment is built around student beliefs that:
They belong in this learning community.
They can succeed at this.
Their ability and competence grows with their effort.
The academic and social-emotional work has value for community and self wellness.
TKG’s framework supports social-emotional growth and safety through emergent learning themes:
- Cooperative Learning/Social Justice – We are always learning from each other. Teaching others, in mixed age settings, helps us understand more deeply and practice flexibility and empathy. As we gain personal confidence, we feel more comfortable to share our success, knowing that all people can achieve personal success.
- Brain Research – By understanding how our brain works, we can give ourselves the best chance at learning and we can experience the full range of normal and healthy feelings and emotions. We know that when people experience stress, from bullying for example, it alters the chemical structure of the brain.
- The Triangle – For deep learning to really flourish, student, teacher, and parent are fully committed to learning and problem solving, together. If a child is experiencing intense feelings that are disruptive to the larger group, for an extended amount of time, we will reach out to parents for support and collaboration.
- Conflict Resolution – We encourage children to solve problems on their own, with guidance from parents and teachers – effectively providing a safe environment to practice negotiation, take responsibility, become self-aware of desired outcomes, and be involved in resolving conflict. Sometimes, we add more scaffolding and limits as we move in closer to understanding individual and community needs.
Challenges and changes can be healthy experiences when supported by a process of:
- Confronting the issues
- Naming the challenges
- Empowering the participants with vulnerability, self-love and empathy
- Asking the participants to offer and participate in solutions
- Creating a culture of respect for the agreements/solutions