This is the fourth article in a four-part series on Progressive education at St. Francis School.
By Jennifer Griffith, Lower School Director

One day in March, kindergartner Lily Armour brought her favorite book to school. Lily was very excited to share the book with classmates and her teacher, Annette Rudd. The book, a children’s version of a biography about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, suddenly became a social studies lesson for the day. According to Lily, “It was National Women’s Day and I wanted to share it with the class.” After reading Lily’s book to her class, Annette took this teachable moment and shared it with her fellow kindergarten teacher, Larry Elder. They led conversations with both of their classes about the Supreme Court, the racial makeup of the Court, the gender makeup of the Court, and how both have changed over time. They also discussed how this important topic relates to our school’s focus on DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging). Students made powerful connections to what they had learned during Black History Month and Women’s History Month. To hear the questions the students posed and to see how interested they were in these topics demonstrates a true love of learning, something that we all value in the St. Francis School community. 

Student voice and interest guides what happens every day in the Lower School. As a Progressive school, we believe in cultivating classrooms where discussion and questioning thrive, learning is active and experiential, and students take ownership of their education. Not only was Lily’s book a catalyst for an impromptu social studies lesson, but it sparked interest in her classmates who were curious about other strong women who have made an impact in our country. Several of Lily’s classmates then brought in related books from home that they wanted to share with others. These books continued the conversation and created a “ripple effect” across the kindergarten as a whole. One student mentioned that his parents had been watching Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings, connecting history and current events. Another student pointed out that there are more people on the Court now who “look like me.” Though some might think that these topics are too advanced for kindergartners, our youngest students were able to relate them to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, which are central values in our school culture and see how they are applicable in their daily lives.