Early Elementary News: April 2012

In Early Elementary we are wrapping up our integrated thematic unit, “How My Community Works”. In this unit, the children continued to explore the concept of systems. They worked toward understanding that their community is a system, they are part of many interconnected systems, including the food system and the economic system, that when something happens in one part of the community system it affects other parts of the community system, and that improving one part of the community system can improve the dynamics of the whole community system.

We began this theme with a Fairness unit, in which the children learned about different kinds of discrimination (based on ability, gender, age, and race) and how people work together to overcome discrimination to make communities fair for all community members.  We read biographies about people who fought for civil rights in the US, and ended the unit with an art project in which students shared their dreams for the world after learning about Martin Luther King Junior’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

The next part of “How My Community Works” was a unit on Food Systems. In this unit, the children investigated where the food in our community comes from. Using bread as an example, they learned about the natural and human resources needed to get food from producer to consumer.

They learned about food production (relating it back to the field trip to Tantré Farm and their experiences planting the school garden) and worked in groups to follow bread through the food system from farm to factory to store and then home. They baked bread in the classroom, conducted experiments with yeast and with bread mold, and visited Great Harvest Bakery to experience baking on a commercial scale.

At the end of the unit, the children will learn about where the food for our hot lunch program comes from and use maps to discuss the environmental impact of food being shipped from far away. They will use graphic data to analyze the nutritional value of hot lunch foods and learn how that information can help them to make healthier choices at lunch. The unit will culminate in the children coming up with ideas for a related Academic Service-Learning project that will be carried out by the end of the school year.

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