April 22, 2016

posted Apr 22, 2016, 12:58 PM by Kurt Gergler

Dear Families,

Around the beginning of time NH schools were charged to teach state history in fourth grade.

For many decades we sat children down, we had them read about NH, we showed them pictures of purple finches, lilacs and famous NH people, and we brought them to the NH State House. Sometimes students wrote and sometimes they took tests to show their knowledge.  In recent years at BES, students completed a NH famous person project by writing a report and preparing an exhibit to present their person of study (in full costume) at our annual Ed Fair.  

But something very special happened at BES in 2016. The fourth grade performed an original NH history musical that they wrote. The play had four scenes, each depicting a different point in NH history. There was a unifying theme. There were handmade props and costumes. There was music for scene changes. There were songs with soloists, groups and total ensemble parts. The play integrated the work of this year’s Artist in Residence and was supported by the work of the BHS winner of the Christa McAuliffe scholarship.  OK, it rocked and there is no other way around it. Check it out on our website!

I share about the play because we are all so proud of the children and the collective fourth grade work to put this together. The bigger reason I share about this play is that it is a great example of a performance task. Performance task is a school-speak way of saying, “Tests are fine, but we need to look at many more ways of seeing how children can share what they have learned.” The play was a way to see what they have learned AND a way to support learning. This is awfully similar to your job, right? As we engage in whatever we engage, we learn ways of completing the task at a higher and higher level of skill and proficiency. In school, learning by doing teaches the children to persist through complicated tasks, as we know that as adults, they will need to persist and garner strength and knowledge to succeed. Along the way they learn to seek knowledge, solve problems, try new skills, collaborate, share their ideas, accept the ideas of others and take risks.

Oh, sorry, this is the Friday before vacation. Perhaps you are ready for a brain break from school. OK. So, next week allow your children to go outside, get wet, get dirty and maybe even fall down a few times. Have some parent fun and give them building, engineering, cooking, musical, acting and/or poetry challenges. Give them parameters, tools and skills, as needed. Allow them to solve the problem without adult interference. Not only will the children be occupied for a while (!), you will be helping them be successful later in life. Further, you might just get to hear a new song or trip over the automatic dog waterer that your child made out of old PVC piping from the garage.

Keep in touch.

Kurt Gergler

PS: There has been a change to the school calendar for next year. December 14th is now a full school day and no longer an Early Release day. December 23rd is now an early Early Release day and no longer a day off of school. January 2nd is now a day off of school and no longer a school day.  Please follow this link for an updated calendar.