Tales from Lower School

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How to Talk to Kids About Tragedies

A message from Lower School Director Alison Rothschild

In the Lower School, teachers have begun to discuss disaster relief projects with students.  As an institution committed to developing empathy and social consciousness in all of our students, conversations about collection efforts provide a developmentally appropriate avenue for this area of our work.

The focus of our conversations has been around loss and damage to material things, and our desire to help children replace those lost and damaged things.  Age appropriate conversations begin and end with reassurance that children are safe. As kids get older (7-, 8-, 9-years-old) they are able to extrapolate that there was also loss of life, but that has not been the focus of our conversations in school.

The responses to the conversations have varied tremendously, with some children enthusiastically offering to give away their toys and books while our youngest students, who are not yet able to understand another perspective, listen to the discussions and follow up with their own experiences with rain, water, toys or electricity.

I trust our teachers implicitly to provide safe and comfortable dialogue around these topics, but wanted to provide parents with some guidelines and some helpful resources to help navigate these and (sadly) future tragic events.

First and foremost, it is best to limit exposure to these events. Graphic images on the news or in photographs can be traumatic for young children. Children should have varying degrees of information, depending on age and maturity. 

It's been my experience that in times of trouble, young children seem to hold it together during the school day and then process fears, sadness and other emotions at home with their family, often at bedtime.  It's important to give children the opportunity to express their fears, ask questions, and then provide them with the reassurance that they are safe.

Here are two resources that may be of interest. 

As I think about all of the events transpiring around the world, I am increasingly appreciative of our Calhoun family.  We are all so fortunate to be part of such a kind and compassionate community. And I'm encouraged and thankful that our children are learning, right from the start, that they have the ability to help others in need.

Posted by Anonymous in kindergarten, 3's, 1st grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, 2nd grade, community on Thursday October 26 at 02:01PM
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Math Comes to Life Through 5th Grade Classroom Economy

It was payday at Calhoun, and people were busy depositing their checks, paying rent and reconciling their bank accounts. But these weren’t your typical employees: the scene was being played out in Molly Cohen’s fifth grade math class, where students have been engaged in a classroom simulation as part of an ongoing project in financial literacy.

For this fifth grade economic construct, students earn pretend money through such jobs in the classroom as homework monitor, administrative assistant, banker and even loan officer. Students receive bi-monthly paychecks for their work (printed to look like real paychecks with tax deductions), and are responsible for paying for basic needs--rent for their seats. Once they’ve paid their rent, fifth graders can decide to save their remaining money or purchase coupons for certain privileges, such as having lunch with Molly or watching a video in class.

Fifth grade math topics come to life through the lens of the classroom economy: students practice working with decimals while balancing the withdrawal and deposit columns of their bank sheets; they work on percentages when calculating the interest of a loan; and through the simulated banker-client relationship, they learn to articulate these numerical concepts and work together to solve a problem.

The classroom economy also instills a key non-math skill: responsibility. “When [my students] get a check, they work harder to hold on to it than they would a homework assignment, since no replacements are given out for lost checks,” says Molly, who adds that they also learn the importance of preparing for unexpected life events. Early on, the class made a series of “Life Happens Cards.” When one is drawn, a student is faced with either a financial emergency (ex: “you tripped on your way to school and owe $75 in insurance fees”) or surprise (ex: “your grandma sent you $100 for your birthday”).

By bringing real-world situations into the classroom, Calhoun fifth graders are learning first-hand about the impact of their own financial decisions. But the ultimate aim of the classroom economy project goes beyond creating smarter spenders. “When math is hands-on, it resonates more with students,” says Molly. “They’re much quicker to do the math when it’s put in a real-world context.”

Posted by Anonymous in math, multiplication, experiential learning, 5th grade on Friday March 10 at 12:05PM
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Lower School 74
Lower School 81

Main Building 3rd - 12th Grades 433 West End Avenue New York, NY 10024 212.497.6500

Robert L. Beir Lower School Building 2.8 Years - 2nd Grade 160 West 74th Street New York, NY 10023 212.497.6550

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