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We have opened blocks!

January 22, 2021 | Nathan Johnson

The children have worked with the tiny “toy” blocks that we keep in a basket and BIG drama blocks that are oh so much fun … 

But returning from our first two weeks of the term at home,  they were greeted with a whole shelf (formally a stable for our Bethlehem sheep) full of building blocks!

Blockwork enhances every part of our curriculum in a beautiful and exciting way, and whatever the project, the children are always using mathematical thinking to manipulate the blocks. 

For work with blocks to be rich, meaningful, and independent later in the year, the introductions are slow and intentional.

The children meet the blocks one by one, learning the name of each one and the relationship they have to one another  — A square block is half of a rectangle block, a “double” is the size of two rectangles, and so on. We’ve been at it for two days …

On our first day, we met the Unit —  the rectangle block upon which our understanding of and language for all the other blocks is based 

On our second day, we met the Little Board — the literal foundation for all our future block structures so that structures can be safe, strong, and beautiful.

Safe, Strong, and Beautiful

This is our Block mantra.


It guides how we move, handle, and build:  One in each hand…

Building slowly and carefully with a plan …



The “wiggle test” to see if the structure is sound …


Stacking, “sailing” and “docking” the blocks to clean them up in an orderly fashion.

This is all part of “un-building” (never knocking over!) 

The fewer bumps, crashes, and mess we have, the more independent, meaningful, and beautiful the children’s work in blocks will be.

We experimented with four Units and a Little Board, exploring their relationship to each other …


… and our relationships with each other!

Our work in blocks is one of the richest ways the children will be challenged in the task of working together.


Just like blocks,

we are safe…


and beautiful

Stay tuned to see how our structures and our students grow!

I can’t wait to see what we build next!


Nathan Johnson

Early Childhood & Lower School Visual Art Teacher

Nathan Johnson graduated in 2004 from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts (focusing on Illustration, Art History, and Puppetry), Theatre, and Elementary Education, followed by further time in Europe studying Art, and in Nova Scotia working with adults with developmental differences.

Happily back at his Alma mater (MSS class of 1995) Nathan has passionately committed his career to preserving the dignity and wonder of childhood. As children are more and more burdened with technology and privilege, he believes that in order for children to learn and grow, they must be given freedom within structure, choices with guidance, allowed to play, struggle, get dirty, and above all, to be taught that they are a beloved child of God.

When not in the classroom, Nathan can be found kayaking, camping, hosting a game night, wandering around New York City, making friends with strangers, and spending time with his 11 nieces and nephews.

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