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June 21, 2020 | Shanna Pargellis
This year, as the Grades 2 & 3 team worked to further develop the educational program, certain efforts continued to draw excitement: Spanish language learning and the work of IDEAS (in the Shared Space).
As always, the arts provide an enriched experience for all students at Mustard Seed School. Geography, language, mathematics, engineering, and scientific investigations are all understood as domains of the arts, as well as the sciences. To understand the world as critical & creative problem-solvers, media-skilled communicators, and knowledgeable collaborators, children must learn artfully, in view of the many critical lessons that the arts have to teach us. This commitment will continue to be evident in the year to come.
Now starting in grade 1, Tania Oro-Hahn brings an exciting new emphasis on world language learning. We have known for some time that children who learn a foreign language develop unique cognitive strengths. Second language learning, even more than first language learning, is both a problem-solving activity and a linguistic activity. It is, by nature, a task that strengthens cognitive processes, as it also widens knowledge, and deepens one’s understanding of the world. Studies have repeatedly shown that foreign language learning increases critical thinking skills, creativity, and flexibility of mind in young children, as well as the depth of their relationships with others. The results are not only seen in a child’s more fully developed language acuity, but also in increased mathematical skill and social well being. Because second language instruction provides young children with better cognitive flexibility and creative thinking skills, it can offer all students unique intellectual and academic challenge. At the same time, such learning also enlarges children’s relationships with one another.
For more on the significance of second language learning, check out:
The Shared Space at Mustard Seed School has been repeatedly and publicly recognized. In 2001, a former faculty member, Dee Mingey, received a Christa McAuliffe Fellowship from the State of New Jersey in order to document the Mustard Seed Lower School Shared Space program and make its benefits accessible to other schools. At the same time, Lynn Hamill developed the leadership of parents in order to shape a team of teachers. It has been a beloved program that we are now stretching in new ways under the leadership of Zach Nordling.
Each year, all of the multi-age teachers, with the additional support of Aiko Mauldin and Tania Oro-Hahn, collaborate to lead the Meadows, Mountains, Forests, and Fountains, in the pursuit of IDEAS (Integrated Design, Engineering, Art, and Social Studies/Science). As essential questions inspire creative and innovative work, students pursue a cultural and historical study of Hoboken, investigate states of matter, and more.
SOURCE: Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale University Press. Available from NAEA Publications. NAEA grants reprint permission for this excerpt from Ten Lessons with proper acknowledgment of its source and NAEA.