Lower School News

New Science and Environmental Center Classroom Opens Up Possibilities in Kindergarten Science
Rachel Freeman, communications/website manager

Lower school science teacher Kasey Wooten only moved into her new classroom in the Science and Environmental Center (SEC) a few weeks ago, and already this move has already brought with it new curricular possibilities. 

“My new classroom is amazing,” she said. “We have so much more space, students are more free to move around to try out ideas in open areas. We have big windows overlooking the bay, where we can observe things—both birds and planes—in motion.”

The timing of this move could not have been more perfect for Kasey and kindergarten associate teacher Azure Wheelus-Dannels, as it coincided with the start of a new three-week rotation. The new cohort dove into a unit on flight, inspired by the yearlong kindergarten of Leonardo da Vinci. 

“da Vinci was really big on this idea of biomimicry (the design and production of materials, structures, and systems that are modeled on biological entities and processes),” Kasey explained. “He was also into hands-on exploring, thinking outside the box, and tweaking already existing tools into new tools.”

Before creating their own gliding machines, students went on a campus nature walk to study the gliding animals that frequently visit the 33-acre Hillsborough campus: turkey vultures and sugar gliders. 

“Students took notes and wrote down their observations of these gliding creatures,” Kasey said. “We want students to learn the process of collecting information and then applying it to their own design engineering work.” 

Once they had collected data, kindergarteners set out to build paper airplanes which applied the four principles of flight—thrust, lift, draft, and working against gravity—they had observed. They made the Suzanne—”a pretty complex airplane design,” Kasey added—and through trial and error aimed to create a paper plane that stayed airborne. Students asked themselves, “How can I make this better?” and “What did the turkey vultures teach me that I can incorporate into my design.” 

“It brings me so much joy to see the ‘aha’ moments that students have,” Kasey said, “when suddenly, through explorations, something clicks for them they say, ‘Oh i get it!’ I really enjoy this unit because I love to see students building their empathy. For students to use observations to better understand other living things and to apply those in their designs is really inspiring to me. The students were thoughtful, engaged, curious, and clever, and I am constantly amazed at their resilience and creativity.”



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Leonardo and Lisa Visit a Class of Renaissance Kids

“Good afternoon, Lisa. I’m so glad we could take a break from painting to join this kindergarten class.”

“Hello, Leonardo.” 

So began Paul’s and Rashida’s kindergarten class just before Thanksgiving break, one that took students all the way back to 15th century Florence to meet Leonardo da Vinci (Paul) and Mona Lisa (Rashida). 

Environmental Citizenship Program Launches Ambassadorship Role

Kindergarten associate teacher Carrie Stouffer has been named Nueva’s first lower school environmental citizenship ambassador. The role of the environmental citizenship ambassador evolved from the school’s desire to build strong, responsive, and effective relationships with faculty and division heads in all three divisions.

A PreK student playing in a puddle in a sandbox

PreK students have been our pioneers of hybrid learning! Watch scenes from their life on campus and hear more from students about their experiences this year.

Lower School Mavericks Days Provide Teachers Time to Prepare for our Return to Campus

As the lower school plans to return to campus came into greater focus late last month, Lower School Head Megan Terra felt strongly that she needed to find an extended amount of time for her teachers to plan, discuss, and put in action all that is involved with welcoming students back to their in-person classrooms.

Lower school teachers were incredibly grateful for the time Megan and our Mavericks Days programs afforded them. They used the time to prepare, create, and discuss every aspect of the upcoming return to campus.

Investigation Provides Foundational Theme of Kindergarten

Questions abound in our lower school classrooms, and student inquiry is the driving force behind the yearlong theme in kindergarten. This theme of investigation provides a through line for a number of explorations that kindergarteners will engage in over the course of the year, the first of which is a focus on identity. 

Literably Literally Helps Build Student Literacy

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