The Ellison-Parks Early Education School, just one block from busy Mattapan Square, sits on a quiet tree-lined street with plenty of room to park! A compact brick building dedicated in 1998, it houses just twelve classrooms – one SEI and one Inclusion class at each grade level, K0-3.
A daily message greets all who enter, letting visitors know that Peter Reynolds, author of “The Dot,” will be visiting the school soon. Like many early learning centers, the Ellison-Parks has morning and afternoon paraprofessionals who provide extended day as well as classroom support. K1 Inclusion teacher Carolyn Russo does a great job of communicating with families and visitors: posted on the walls near her classroom door were a weekly schedule, a monthly newsletter, and a recent letter to parents about a special outdoor “Letter Hunt” activity.
STEAM* (STEM+Arts) teacher Tina Greene was working with second grade students when I arrived. Engaged in a small group “turn and talk” activity, they were comparing the functions of machines with how we use parts of our bodies. In a K2 class, music teacher Aytul Farquharson helped students learn about tempo by comparing turtles and racecars! Trinh Tu’s K0 students were studying insects and spiders, meeting as a class under a giant yarn web hanging above their rug area.
Literacy was the morning focus in many classrooms – with children enjoying books in cozy nooks, on colorful rugs, at their desks, and in guided reading groups. In Julia Centeio’s K1 SEI class, signs around the room labeled pictures of classroom objects with words in English, Spanish, French, and a language I couldn’t identify... Vietnamese, perhaps?
It was a joy to watch Ellison-Parks kindergarteners engaged in active play: children building cars and houses with Legos, two boys gleefully exploring the properties of what looked like shaving cream, a blue-smocked girl standing at an easel selecting just the right paint to use. Learning takes many forms, but sometimes I think Robert Fulghum may have said it best in his famous “All I need to know I learned in Kindergarten” poem!
I wish you all a well-deserved summer vacation with plenty of of time to relax and rejuvenate – to play! Please invite me to visit your school next year.
Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.
* Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, & Mathematics