Editor’s Note: Jennifer Taylor, of Wescosville, is the mother of a first-grader and a second child who will be starting kindergarten at Seven Gen in fall 2012. She addressed the at the board’s March 26 meeting. What follows are Taylor's remarks to the board. The school board will vote on the in the coming months.
I am not a founding member of the school; my son entered Seven Gen though the lottery and waiting list process. A couple weeks ago I shared my son’s experiences with the social and emotional curriculum at Seven Gen. Tonight I would like to share our experiences with the academic curriculum.
Having attended Pennsylvania public schools for 11 of my 13 years I had what I thought was a good idea of what school would be like for my son. Fortunately for him a lot of things have changed since the 1970’s.
The first difference I saw was a lot of cross over between subjects. On his very first day of kindergarten at Seven Gen in late November 2010 the class walked to the Emmaus Yard Waste Center for EIC to learn about decomposition, systems and cycles (science). Then they returned to the classroom to draw pictures of each phase they saw (art). Later projects built on the same idea and they used sight words or wrote a sentence about was happening in each phase (literacy). Similar days laid ahead for my son with hikes in and around the school and Emmaus. To me this was an amazing way to bring together academics and surroundings while keeping the kids connected to their community. This was it….this was what Seven Gen had promised and they delivered.
Then came math. This year I was prepared for the basic arithmetic that first graders do and tears at the kitchen table during homework time. But along came Number Bonds among other things I had never heard of. Not having the unspoiled mind of a 6 year old, I just did not get it. My son’s math teacher pointed me to some online resources so I could re-learn how to learn and the light bulb went off. I realized my son was learning how to break down problems, how to re-use concepts….how to think. Our bedtime activities included reading stories as well as Number Bonds and Number Sentences. My son was excited to just "do math" and share that excitement with his brother. It was weird. Another score for the Seven Gen curriculum.
Then came homework. Again I was bracing for the tears. The teachers ask that we read nightly, and a homework packet is sent home once a week. As a family we can decide what night's homework fits into our schedules with work commitments, after school activities and neighborhood playtime. This not only allows our son shorter and repetitive exposure to his classwork, but it teaches him time management and the power of procrastination. An unexpected benefit of the Seven Gen curriculum.
Then came what we called "Field Trip week 2011" last December, a whole new way to see how the school community reacts to obstacles that crop up in life. The curriculum took on new life that week as parents shared creative childcare and field trip ideas during the days when school was closed, and when school was back in session the board and staff organized academic days at the Lehigh Valley Zoo, Da Vinci Science Center and Rodale Aquatic Center. Seven Gen does not just take lemons and make lemonade, we make lemon meringue pie then slice it up and talk about fractions.
My son’s teachers these first two years have done something really interesting: taken books and their own ideas to create a curriculum that teaches not only the basics but also flipped a switch inside my son to keep him coming back for more. What else could a parent in a local public school ask for?