Throughout the school year teachers at Lake and Park work together to organize our classroom schedules around the pace and engagement of the children. We plan to minimize transitions, knowing that they can cause anxiety and frustration for many children. We allow for a flow from intense academic work to reflective periods of conversation, to time outdoors for movement and nourishment, and time for artistic creativity and problem solving and investigation.
At the end of the school year we begin to prepare for the transition to summer by taking time to reflect on the work accomplished throughout the year, sharing highlights, compiling collections of class writing, and signing each other’s yearbooks. We ask children to help with preparing the classrooms for the summer, sorting and cleaning, taking artwork off the walls, and taking extra care to make sure all of the blocks are on the shelves. As facilitators, teachers make space for children to take the lead, conveying the message that the space belongs to them. Children leave in June with a sense of accomplishment and belonging. They can feel confident in their abilities to learn, to make friendships and to care for the school environment.
Even when we take this time to reflect and prepare ourselves and we are making a transition to something that will hopefully be pleasurable, it will still take some time to adjust, to unwind, and to find our place and pace in a different schedule.
The Lake and Park School has a long tradition of offering a week of camp following the end of the school year to “transition to summer”. As the school year draws to a close we often hear adults asking children, “aren’t you excited for the summer?” or “I bet you can’t wait until summer vacation starts.” These comments are often met with confused looks from children who love to come to school.
This year more than one third of the children came to camp to ease their way into summer. It felt joyous to come together -children ages five-twelve - playing games, making art, cooking, exploring and working at the garden, writing and sharing poetry, digging at the beach, playing outdoor games, hiking through forests, and reading and discussing books together.
We chose books to help us think about summer as a time for reading and a time for exploration and wonder, a time for reflection and imagination, creativity and curiosity. We read: Margaret Wise Brown’s Summer Noisy Book, Ed Young’s beautiful version of Aesop’s The Lion and the Mouse, Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, the classic story of diversity and following your own heart with the help of an understanding parent, The Pea-Patch Jig by Thacher Hurd and ended the week with The Story of Jumping Mouse, a Native American legend retold by John Steptoe. We also listened to a short chapter book by Janwillem van de Wetering, Hugh Pine. Such a fine way to end a busy day, in the shade of a tree, with a popsicle and a good story.
At camp, children were reminded to sign up for the library summer reading programs offered by both the Seattle Public Library and the King County Library System. Children as young as five can get their own library card. Setting aside some time to read can be enjoyable for the whole family. Be sure, as adults you are reading your own book for enjoyment too. Who doesn’t want to improve empathy? By reading alongside your child you will be both modeling the behavior and showing that you have confidence in your child’s ability.
The school garden is looking better than ever these days. At camp, children painted signs to help us all identify the different plants growing in our part of the p-patch. Children weeded and watered and planted and improved the paths. Children love real work, and the garden is a place where we all work together doing different things. When someone needed a break they might paint, or look for bugs, or challenge their sense of smell, or write a poem. This outdoor classroom is available all summer as a place to visit, have a picnic, meet some of our garden neighbors, and harvest fruits and vegetables. Radishes and strawberries will be ready next week.
Please sign up for a week of garden care. It takes the whole community to keep our garden
going over the summer. Adding a week or two of watering the school garden might provide some welcome structure or focus to your summer schedule. (link to the sign up was sent as an email)
Children began summer journals at camp. Many wrote about upcoming summer plans and also wishes or ideas of other things they might do over the next few months.
The slower pace of summer can allow for practice in any skill you want to improve. A couple of life skills that came up this past week include: how to tie your shoes, how to tell time using an analog clock, and how to count money and make change, along with learning to jump rope better.
Maybe over dinner one night this week, your family might discuss and share some personal goals or wishes for the summer. Facilitating a Reflective Transition from School to Summer is a resource for anyone who is feeling like you might benefit from some ideas. However your family decides to spend the rest of this summer, may you find peace, beauty, and a bit of adventure.