The Baldwin Early Learning Center (ELC) is a small school in Brighton with an ethnically diverse population of students in K0 through grade 1. It is an inclusive school with 2-3 adults in every classroom, assuring attention to individual student needs. According to principal Graciela Hopkins, this has been attained through the flexibility of pilot status, which allows parents and others to be “€œclassroom assistants”€. The school is open from 7:30 AM to 4:45 PM, providing surround care to the children. Instead of the usual “€œP+D”€ periods, every teacher has one and a half hours “€œfree”€ in the middle of the day.

The sun was streaming in through large windows and students were working in a variety of learning centers in each classroom. In one room a group of students were investigating the relative speed of two different liquids (as they flowed down a clear piece of plastic) while others were making dolls, building model boats, or creating collages. During a literacy period, about half the class was practicing forming letters while others met in guided reading groups. Math activities in another room included a cash register where the number of coins matched the number of items “€œpurchased”€ and blocks for making towers of a height determined by the role of giant dice. K1 students were using eye droppers to discover what happens when different colors are mixed.

After a class meeting, one little boy was selecting the order in which his classmates got to choose their center activity. It was great to see young children having this kind of responsibility! I especially liked the “€œFamily Information Boards”€ outside many classrooms full of weekly newsletters, snack schedules, supplies needed, words of the week, birthdays, thank yous, books read, calendars, and activities to do at home.

I have to admit that I have always hated taking students in lines through school hallways, although I appreciate the need for quiet. This poem was taped to a classroom door with photo illustrations of a student showing each behavior:

My hands are to my side,
I”€™m standing very tall.
I”€™m looking quietly straight ahead,
I”€™m ready for the hall.

Having watched the antics of many older students as they change classes, I wonder what it would be like to have middle schoolers repeat this little poem while lining up! It also occurs to me that if students were given time to move and socialize during their classes, they might have less need to disturb others while moving through hallways. What do you think?

Please invite me to visit your school!


Amika Kemmler Ernst is a recently retired BPS New Teacher Developer with extensive experience as a classroom teacher, curriculum developer, and graphic artist. Her “€œWe”€™re Learning Here”€ Project features images of everyday learning in our public schools, along with the words of the students pictured.