Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cos Cob Elementary School

Here's a simple way to determine the quality of an elementary school: pay attention to what's on the walls in the halls.

I usually don't blog about topics not directly related to my work, but I must make an exception to praise the school that shepherded my daughter through kindergarten. (Well, I do speak in schools, and this one was one of them, so in that sense it is related.)

This school, in Cos Cob, Connecticut, impressed me in numerous and perpetual ways:

  • getting kindergartners to go up on stage and speak before an the third week of school (they had to share one thing they wanted to learn during the school year; my daughter said "how a spider spins its web")
  • keeping a journal to track their own development in words and art month by month throughout the school year
  • emphasizing character by asking parents to give their children a "drop" when they acted kindly, but not just by saying "please"—the acts had to go beyond the expected; the drops filled a bucket (in the form of a wall hanging) that was half the size of a car; that's a lot of kindness
  • running an in-depth lesson on the post office, including a field trip to one and the designing of their own postage stamps; plus they both wrote and asked to receive letters
  • encouraging students to both eat healthily and bring their lunches in reusable containers
Among many other facets.

Credit goes to the progressive and challenging teacher our daughter had as well as the wonderfully attuned principal and other visionaries on staff, including the art teacher and the librarians.

But again, we knew the school was top-notch even before all this happened.

We saw the hall walls.

They're brimming with dynamic creations, the kind of projects that let children freely express rather than fill in predetermined lines. And it's more than the art itself
—it's that the school takes the time to exhibit it.

It's a museum with a gymnasium.

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