First introduction to Jenny Kraft’s 5th grade classroom at Whittier International Elementary School - 45 mins

First full morning Jenny Kraft’s 5th grade classroom at Whittier International Elementary School - 2 hours

This week at Whittier I met the students and observed what a typical lesson during their "inquiry hour" entails. Their current units are identity and the Revolutionary War. Their assignment this morning was to complete a worksheet that guided them through mapping what constitutes one's identity and the effect of life events and environment on that identity. After completing their worksheets, students discussed as a class and Ms. Kraft compiled a collaborative list of what makes up an identity. Though on this day I was only able to briefly observe the class, I can tell that their learning is structured to reinforce not only their retainment of facts but to build the social skills needed to understand the cultural and personal impact of past events. All in all, the students were very welcoming to me and worked diligently on their assignments.

Later this week I came in for a longer period of time in the morning. Ms Kraft introduced me to the class and allowed them to ask me some questions. She asked them to please “Not ask questions like ‘what’s your favorite color?’ or ‘what size shoe do you wear?’ or ‘what are your roommates like?’” So, of course, those were the first three questions students asked. They were also interested in learning about what I do as an Illustration major and what life is like in college. They weren’t actually sure what MCAD was until I described the pizza statue in the sculpture garden, then they were enthused by the prospect of me going to school near this object. Ms. Kraft suggested that one day the class could take a field trip to MCAD, and the students let out a chorus of cheers. I hope I can make this trip work for them when the weather is nicer for walking.

I was able to go to a meeting of the 4th and 5th grade Art Ambassadors, one of four student groups that focus on bettering the Whittier community. They had already outlined some of their main goals, and are currently deciding which to pursue. Many of their ideas revolve around beautifying the school, making inspirational poster art for the hallways, and leading art workshops for other students. One of the ambassadors is one of Ms. Kraft’s students, but unfortunately, she was absent today. I will hopefully be working with the art ambassadors as much as with Ms. Kraft’s classroom. Students learning how to strengthen a community using art is a unique and worthwhile initiative I would love to participate in.

My last activity of the day was helping a group of students complete part if an assignment in which they are trying to dissect the identity of a group active in the Revolutionary War. The group I worked with was tasked with understanding the perspective of the Loyalists. Teaching students how to understand the way someone who thinks in a way that’s completely different from them is tricky, but I can tell Ms. Kraft is trying to prepare them to be able to think critically about the identities of others. I did my part by teaching them the word “elitist,” though I may have misspelled it on their worksheet. Oops!