This year’s Grade 5 class enjoyed its final days at the Junior School this week. After spending the school year as the oldest students – the leaders – they are off to the Middle School in September to start Grade 6 and an exciting new chapter in their education.
Many of our Grade 5 students have been at SMUS since Kindergarten, but the class grew over the years as new students were warmly welcomed. Before Friday’s closing ceremonies, Ms. Nancy Richards, director of the Junior School, asked a handful of Grade 5 students to reflect on their time at the school so far. More specifically, she focused on the concept of “transformation.”
As we explored the theme of change and transformation more deeply, the students explained that there had been a lot of change for them in terms of the facility and classroom spaces, the teachers’ approaches to instruction, which positively affected their learning and ultimately resulted in a personal transformation within themselves.
As the conversation expanded, they realized that although not always sought, change is inevitable, ever-present and an integral part of life and growth. Associations and connections began to be made about the educational Junior School vision through the metaphor of the garden.
How much space is needed for a garden to thrive? What seeds were actually planted by the teachers and what seeds did the students plant themselves? How were the seeds cared for? What actually grew? And what might keep growing?
As we engaged in the dialogue we found that there were many parallels between gardening, teaching and learning. The students realized that both the teachers’ and the students’ roles were to create the conditions conducive to growth. Would the soil be prepared in such a way as to enhance fertility? Would some ideas have to be trimmed and pruned? What variables might influence the health and growth of each student/flower? What if, along the way, the teacher and the class became mired in the mud? What might they need to give up to construct something new and perhaps go in a direction they hadn’t anticipated?
Below are reflections written by five Grade 5 students who are looking forward to Grade 6 and becoming Middle School students.
I believe the Junior School has done everything possible to make my experience the best it could be. Every morning I wake up excited to participate in all the activities we have that day, as well as work on all of our projects with my classmates and teachers. Project learning is much different than traditional learning in the way that you learn by asking questions and exploring. I think the simile, “The Junior School is like a garden,” is true in the way the students are the plants and the teachers are the gardeners. Every day we are watered and fertilized with information and skills for us to thrive with.
I started at Kindergarten and now I am in Grade 5 and I think that the whole class thinks that this school is like a garden. You start as a shrub, and as you go through the grades you grow – and sometimes flowers from other schools come. What I like about this school is that every gardener stops at every flower until it blooms. At the end of the day I love my school – wait, I love our school.
During my past few years at the Junior School I have seen lots of changes – from teachers and students, to learning and my favourite subjects. They have all changed for the better. I know I have changed this year because I am now able to stand up in front of the school and present my learning without being scared. The teachers have helped me achieve that goal by putting me up to it – challenging me. I feel that us Grade 5s have changed since Kindergarten because we are now stronger in many of the subjects we might have struggled with in the past. We have more leadership opportunities and more responsibility to show that we have changed. We are like a garden, because we started as a seed, just learning the ways of the school and following the lead of the older students. Now we are leading the school and being that older student and opening up to more responsibility, expanding our learning and accepting that change.
I like Mrs. Richards’ example of the Junior School being a garden. I think that the garden is very rich in nutrients of kindness. With this example of the garden in mind, I think the teachers are like the gardeners, helping the plants to grow. This example is also like learning to bike. The school helps you learn to ride without training wheels.
Transformation is about turning into a better person. For me, this was about becoming more confident because in Kindergarten I was wimpy and I cried a lot. But now I am confident and brave. This proves to me that SMUS has turned me into a better, stronger person. It’s like we all start out a seed and we sprout into a wonderful flower! Sometimes the sunshine is nice and bright, other times there is shade, but we learn to work through problems. That is transformation.
My teachers have also been great. They teach me stuff that I’ll need to know in my future. Mr. Keil, my homeroom teacher this year, is a very good teacher because he gives us personal support in school subjects and he will talk to us individually about anything we need to talk about. He also will tease and make fun of us if we speak out in class or get in trouble, which makes me stay out of trouble most of the time!
Overall, with the help of great teachers I have transformed into the confident person I have always wished to be.