The Pauline Agassiz Shaw is a new school in an old building, reopened just this year with six K0-K2 classes. This seems very appropriate since the school is named after a woman responsible for funding the first kindergarten classes in Boston! Located just off Morton Street in Dorchester, the Shaw will become a K-5 school over the next several years.

I was invited to visit by K2 teacher, Alicia Carroll. whose students work on interdisciplinary science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) units throughout the year. They created tree house designs that were displayed at City Hall this spring – check out to learn more about their latest Biomimicry project. For those of you (like me) who are new to this term, biomimicry is a science that studies nature’s models and then uses them to help solve human problems. In their classroom “Lab” center students don white lab coats and goggles to investigate ocean life, and a big tray of seashells invites exploration: one student held a conch shell to her ear and told me she could hear the ocean!

In Lily Fontas‘s K2 class, students were singing and acting out a “take-away” song to understand the process of subtraction: students were “muffins” at a bakeshop and other students took turns buying one at a time. Tom Carco‘s K0/K1 children were learning about and making different shapes on geoboards – even a rhombus!

In several classes children were working on literacy activities: listening to stories on tape, looking at books, playing teacher-made games, and practicing forming letters. Onieida Casado‘s K2 students worked in pairs and small groups at a variety of stations, while Amanda Sweeney was writing down stories to go with the pictures her K1 students had drawn.

In art with Liana Farmer, another class of K1 children was using blue, green and white colors to make the planet earth as seen from space – first as a painting and then with clay. More artwork covered the hallway walls, including “high quality” construction vehicles made from cut-out paper shapes.

The school’s principles were also prominently displayed: “Respect, Excellence, Perseverance – Every Student, Every Classroom, Everyday.” It was great to see all of this evident in the hands-on activities with which these young children were so enthusiastically engaged; I sincerely hope this school-wide focus on active, inquiry-based, interdisciplinary learning can remain strong as they move up the grades.

Here’s wishing you a summer of relaxation and whatever else your heart desires; please be in touch if you’d like me to visit your school next year!


Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.