illustration of books, brain, pens, pencils

Rigor in the Lower School

May 8, 2023

While rigor is a term used often in education, its meaning varies greatly depending on who is using it. For those of us within the college preparatory, independent school world, one frequently reads or hears about programs, teachers, and/or curricula that are either rigorous or lacking thereof. 

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teacher and 2 students in woodshop using hand drill

Katie Jackson: Design and Woodworking Teacher

May 1, 2023

Katie Jackson is in her second year of teaching at Renbrook. We interviewed her to learn more about her passion for learning and teaching. 

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Science teacher explaining tree growth to student

Scientific Thinking in the Seventh Grade

April 24, 2023

“SCIENCE: Because figuring things out is better than making stuff up.” This quotation from Neil Degrasse Tyson, is emblazoned on one of Howard Wright’s favorite T-shirts, and it sums up the core of scientific thinking. Evidence, tested and tried, is the basis of knowledge, not assumptions, hunches, or opinions. Skepticism, readiness to reconsider, and openness to new evidence are essential to scientific thinking, and our Upper School students live it every day.

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STEM teacher with student at computer

Inquiry Based Learning

April 17, 2023

Olivia Goodrich, Upper School STEAM teacher, is all about inquiry-based learning. The process goes like this: start with a question; observe; gather data; generate more questions to guide further observation; continually revisit the same phenomenon to dig deeper; test your previous conclusions.

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Developing Scientific Thinkers in Lower School: Jessica Wawzyniecki

April 6, 2023

We asked Jessica Wawzyniecki, Lower School STEAM teacher, “How does scientific thinking develop over the course of Grades One through Four?”

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kindergarten student and teacher using tools in STEM class

Scientific Thinking from the Beginning

March 31, 2023

In the Beginning School, children are naturalists. Our 75-acre campus beckons them to explore the outdoors and the creatures, plants, and rocks they find there. They are taught to stop, pause, and look more closely. Our youngest students are not bound by a curriculum; they follow their own discoveries and observations. Their teachers build on the children’s own curiosity to lead them into the process of formal inquiry.

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boy holding a daddy long legs

How Do Scientists Think?

March 21, 2023

For the next several weeks, follow us as we explore the notion of scientific thinking. What do we really mean by scientific thinking, and how does it inform our teaching and learning at Renbrook School?

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boy working with abacus

Building towards Benchmarks in a Play-Based Curriculum: Math

February 21, 2023
Building number sense allows children to think flexibly and fluently about numbers and allows them to generalize numbers across contexts. Developing strong number sense in the younger years is necessary to compute and solve more complex problems in older grades. Helping each child to believe they are a mathematician and develop a love for math begins with children building an understanding of numbers.  
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Executive Functioning – Part 2

February 14, 2023
As a follow-up to last week’s blog, let’s look at how Renbrook Lower School teachers help students further develop executive functioning skills and ideas for parents in the home.
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Executive Functioning

February 7, 2023
I came across a title of a paper from Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child that caught my attention. It read, Building the Brain’s Air Traffic Control System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function. Intrigued by the phrase “the brain’s air traffic control system,” I began reading.
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illustration of students sitting on stacks of books

Reading Comprehension

January 10, 2023

As adults, we tend to overlook the complexity of the ability to make meaning from something we read because we have been doing it for a long time and because it happens automatically and instantaneously for so many of us. For children, though, especially during the elementary school years, there is so much involved in processing print.

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What is the Point of a Makerspace sign

Making: An Iterative Process Presents Opportunities for LearningĀ 

November 22, 2022
“What was a challenge you had today, and how did you solve it?”  
This is how we end our STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) classes in kindergarten. The students circle up, and a few friends volunteer to share what problem they encountered and how they went about solving it. By helping students to see the opportunities for learning that come with mistakes or failures, we are affirming one of our guidelines for STEAM class, “Enjoy the process!” 
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Did the Pandemic Interrupt Your Childā€™s Social, Speech, and Motor Development?Ā 

November 7, 2022

We recently had the pleasure of hearing from a panel of therapists with whom we work closely to support the language and social and emotional development of our students here at Renbrook. We partner with these professionals to develop a child’s toolbox of strategies for success and to educate our teachers to incorporate these strategies into the classroom. We know that children thrive when we function as a team.

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Friend Wanted

October 17, 2022
At Lower School Assembly, third-grade students recently shared excerpts from their “Friend Wanted” ads, a beginning of the school year writing activity. I enjoyed reading through all the ads and learning more about what each student desires in a friend. Some of my favorite excerpts are:
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x-rays of children's hands

Play is the Work of Children

October 3, 2022
As parents, we often worry. Will my child ever stop crying at drop-off? Will they learn their letters? Will they write their name? Will they learn to read? The answer is yes. They will do all of these things. If we can remember this, it will allow us to take a deep breath, model calmness for our children, and allow them to enjoy where they are developmentally. 
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Academics and belonging

The Pandemic Within the Pandemic: COVID-19 and Anti-Asian Racism

May 26, 2022
During the month of May, we have celebrated Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in a variety of ways at Renbrook School. Students have read numerous books, presented at assemblies about AAPI influencers, shared personal stories, and completed projects.
Seventh grader Alana McDonough focused a recent “Key Convictions” project on hate and hate crimes directed at Asian Americans. Alana was inspired by the uptick in events due to COVID and its origins in China. Alana has written a thoughtful, important, and passionate paper, and her own Asian American heritage surely fueled that passion.

Enjoy Alana’s paper here.

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Building Number Sense

May 4, 2022
Math happens everywhere in the Early Learning Center! Students are counting, estimating, and computing in the context of authentic daily tasks and experiences. Confident mathematicians need to develop a strong number sense in order to be successful long-term. While memorization of math facts is also important at this pivotal time, students relying solely on rote memorization can hit a wall, and number sense and more creative applications play an outsized role in student success.   
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illustration of books, brain, pens, pencils


March 2, 2022

Recently I read an article from U.S. News & World Report on how students can better manage an academically rigorous course load while maintaining a strong GPA. As those connected with education, kindergarten through higher ed, rigor is a term used often. Independent schools frequently use it in their mission statements and marketing materials. Programs, teachers, and/or curricula regularly are described as either rigorous or lacking thereof. There are countless studies and research articles touting the relevance and significance of rigor in 21st Century teaching and learning.  

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child in mask working on project

Making Spaces

December 23, 2021

When a child is presented with materials and given support with how to use new tools, there is no limit to what they might create. Last week Junior Kindergarten teachers, Mrs. DeConti and Miss Blenman, offered a new making tray at one of their table centers as morning work. Mrs. DeConti presented a hole puncher and showed the students how to use it. There was no model of what their work should look like, just room and space for open-ended exploration and construction. On hand were mini clipboards and paper for those friends that wanted to sketch out their ideas before executing them!

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Facilitating Play, Assessing Learning, and Planning for Future Instruction

December 16, 2021

Renbrook’s commitment to play-based learning is based on the research that learning happens best when students are engaged in what they are doing; choice and the opportunity to direct their learning fuels this engagement.

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