It is a special year at Spire School! The 2017-2018 school year marks the first time that our school has three distinct age group classes [Our Younger Group (2-3yrs), Older Group (3-4 yrs), and Transitional Kindergarten(4-6 yrs)]. While we are thrilled at this development in our school community, we still deeply value the impacts of playing between the age groups, and strive for whole school connection.
Now that our Spire School friends have been with us for almost 6 months, their connections to classmates and our forest space have grown deep and strong. With that growing comfort and sense of belonging in individual classes, play across our age groups has blossomed! The work that friends have been doing to build community culture in their school groups has now begun to spread outwards. We are so happy to have the opportunity to connect our classes and build relationships within our larger school culture.
During our inter-group play, all friends have the chance to learn from children who are in varying stages of development. Our older friends have the beautiful opportunity to become leaders by modeling the social, physical and emotional skills that they have been working so hard on. For those younger students, observing different kinds of play can allow them to take risks and experiment with their imaginations and abilities to connect with peers.
During a recent group play date, I got to witness the inspiring nature of inter-age-group play. By watching a friend who is an expert at blackberry harvesting, a child who had been pricked by a blackberry thorn earlier that week gained the confidence to try out some new careful strategies and enter the blackberry bush after a week of avoiding it. After successfully navigating the bush with their newly learned skills, the child was able to create a positive connection with a once scary plant.
For all groups, friends have the special opportunity to experience sharing their outdoor classrooms with another group and act as the experts of that space. Like adults, children also seem to congregate in the kitchen… in our case, a mud kitchen! The “Mud Kitchen” was created by our TK class, and has now been shared with all Spire School groups… one special day there were even three classes of mud cooks in the kitchen! All playing, sharing, and connecting while making mud pies and paint.
At Spire School, we are so privileged to be in a space where there are no walls separating our classrooms. While each class has a spot that acts as their “home base” that stays the same and is set up with all of our natural classroom essentials (tarp, hand-washing line, nature potty, etc…), there is no true separation between the classes. Our boundaries are easily expanded to allow for exploration and it is always possible to see students in different groups and varying stages of development. With the forest as our school, our community gets to grow together.