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CRS faculty present at PEN Conference

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This October, six faculty from Charles River School (CRS) presented at the Progressive Education Network (PEN) National Conference. Four teachers from the PreK – 2 team hosted the workshop “The Compassion Project: A multiage approach to fostering empathy and perspective-taking in PreK – 2nd grade.” CRS fourth grade teachers led a workshop entitled “Empowerment through Action and Reflection.” These workshops were an opportunity for CRS faculty to share their approaches and curriculum with other progressive educators.

The Compassion Project is a literature-based unit designed to help the youngest CRS students develop compassion, empathy, and cultural competency – all necessary in our modern world. Through this project, small groups of PreK-2 students met weekly to listen to a selected piece of literature, and then collaborated on activities that helped them understand and connect with the book in a meaningful way. Activities included imagining what it might be like to be a student in a school where you don’t speak the same language as everyone else, and talking about the “ripple effect” of kindness. Literature selected for this project included: “Peach Heaven,” about a little girl in South Korea who helps farmers who have lost their harvest; “Each Kindness,” which teaches readers that even a small act of kindness can have a profound impact; and “Fly Away Home,” about a homeless boy who lives with his father in an airport. The project was designed and presented by CRS faculty Jordy Hertzberg, Theresa Leone, Karen Pratt, and Jennifer Worthington.

Following the session, teacher Theresa Leone shared, “I came away with a sense of pride in what we’re teaching our students. People who attended our workshop were inspired by what we’re doing, and even talked about implementing it at their own schools.”

Through the workshop “Empowerment through Action and Reflection,” fourth-grade teachers Teresa Baker and Laura Mutch shared innovative classroom experiences that empower their students, and build on the belief that students have significant control over their success. Throughout the year, they draw on theories such as Multiple Intelligences, Growth Mindset, and Effective Effort to create a classroom environment of student empowerment. One project they shared was students finding their classroom set up like a construction site at the beginning of the year, with supplies strewn about. In work crews, they design and create their own classroom, building both ownership and responsibility. Teresa and Laura also work to foster self-awareness throughout the year; in their first unit of the year, students explore Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theory, through which they determine their personal strengths.

“It was inspiring to hear the stories of great teaching happening at other schools around the country,” said fourth-grade teacher Laura Mutch. “We received such positive feedback from our peers after presenting our work with fourth graders, and it was great that participants recognized the importance of teaching students HOW to learn.”

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