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This happens all the time: Nueva teachers, committed to creating authentic experiences for their students, see opportunities, collaborate with one another, and make learning not only impactful, but magical!

With our beautiful Hillsborough campus as their backdrop, second and fourth graders recently joined together to study measurement. This curriculum is simple, yet elegant in how it illustrates learning at Nueva, and some background on how it came together provides enormous insight.

Lower school faculty have recently joined small working groups intended to deepen curriculum, structures, and teaching strategies. These groups, generally chosen by teachers based upon their own personal interests, are opportunities for faculty with similar curricular interests to explore together, across grades, during time that is distinct from classroom or student meetings. With Lori Mustile, fourth grade teacher, and Stephanie Englehaupt, math specialist, both invested in the “Environment as the Third Teacher” working group, the stage was set for pondering new possibilities on many levels.

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Embarking on their work, the “Environment” group members noticed that Nueva’s current outdoor classroom, while a lovely natural space, has not been used very much this school year. How could they reinvigorate it? What design would be desired by students and teachers? How big is it and what is needed? A design thinking effort was born!

During regular meeting time, Lori and Stephanie planned classes on measurement for second and fourth graders. They joined the grades together, turning the investigation of the outdoor classroom into a buddy lesson. Not only was this authentic math study at work, it was something everyone, especially the students, felt so passionate about. Who doesn’t want to learn outside?

In their recent classes, the teachers shared the intentions of the “Environment” working group with the math students — and they were ready to go. They held class in the outdoor space to experience it again, and then the second and fourth graders brainstormed ideas of what the space could be if they could design or build anything they wanted.

Buddy pairs got to work, taking measurements and beginning to draft their ideas on graph paper. Fourth graders shared their knowledge of the metric system with the second-grade students, including why this system is helpful for scale modeling. They also coached their buddies in making the calculations. Second graders got essential practice at measuring, so important for their mastery, while doing something both necessary and fun.

CN Math24Embed2 300pxFrom the design thinking perspective, students got to work quickly and worked their way through the design thinking stage of observation. They began the ask, listen, and research stages, which they plan to continue in future classes. (Please see our website for more details on design thinking at Nueva.)

This class experience was just the start. There are so many possibilities for more collaboration and design — and math! For example, the students also felt strongly about preserving the Ohlone Home, a structure that was built by a class of Stephanie’s many years ago, and they started to calculate the materials needed to rebuild and sketched the space. These second- and fourth-grade buddies want to keep brainstorming new, flexible seating options. They want to inspire other classes to come back and use the space and share their ideas for revitalizing it so the whole community will again enjoy its beauty. Clearly there’s more to come!



 By Dianne Willoughby, Editorial Manager

May 23, 2018




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