Classroom Enrichment Programs
Summer, 2011

Arts, Science and History were some of the subjects explored by a group of inner city children during my 2011 summer enrichment classes, at the 21st Century Program, by The Community Group of Lawrence, MA.

For the month of July, the focus was on Oceans and Tide Pools. Students entered to learn in a classroom environment which reflected the seacoast, with large scale visuals throughout. Each class began with a gathering on a “sandy beach” where a guessing game reveal, for the topic of the day, which was hidden under the “Magic Blanket”, lead to a group discussion of pertinent scientific facts. The group then proceeded to a related art project, where an emphasis was placed on understanding tools and materials, recycling, repurposing, maintaining a proper work space, and developing techniques for color mixing, counting, arranging, measuring, and preparing paper mache’. Children were encouraged to work together and assist each other with their projects. 48 sq.ft. paper mache’ tide pool was created as a team project and presented as a celebration of learning exhibit, complete with ocean sound effects! Children were encouraged to reflect on all that they were learning throughout the program as they encountered and experienced related material in other classrooms and on field trips. Students were also provided a group of live hermit land crabs as classroom mascots, and were given the opportunity to care for their pets, while learning the importance of providing the appropriate environment, nourishment, bathing, exercise, and kindness they require.

During August, the classroom had suddenly evolved into an environment that reflected a Native American northeast woodland campsite. Teaching techniques and philosophies, similar to July’s unit, were applied as students gathered around a realistic looking “lit” campfire, on grass mats and genuine furs and rawhide. Authentic Native American artifacts, tools and regalia were displayed throughout as we connected our “oceans” unit to the Wampanoag Nation. Discussions included the daily life and activities of these coastal dwellers as well as their importance to American History. We then moved on to rivers, streams, fields and woodlands to explore related wildlife, as well as Native American beliefs and practices.

A variety of tribes throughout North America were showcased throughout this unit. Related art projects included authentic feather tying, sand painting, bead work, symbol painting, symbol story writing and weaving. Students learned how tools were created and how foods and skins were dried. The technique of stripping Birch bark was demonstrated, as this was crucial to the North East way of life. Students used custom templates to create their own small Birch bark canoes, which they fastened by lacing. A variety of Native American music was played and a bit of dance was shown with a discussion on “gentle foot placement” and respect for Mother Earth. Farming and “Three Sisters planting” was also explored. In keeping with wildlife appreciation, a collection of Audibon song bird plush toys aided in a lesson on song bird identification, as children took turns learning to use binoculars, and reference field guides. Finally, children learned about, and chose, their own personal “animal guide” for which they painted and embellished river rock fetishes, as keepsakes, to reflect on.