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“Where is Sophie?”: Connecting with Middle School Students

April 26, 2023 | Kristen Jordan

You may have heard the names Tori, Sam, Nestor, Kalina, Baxter, Owen, Sophie and Victoria from your preschooler. For many of the Trees children a highlight of their classroom experience is when they spend time with older students.  At Mustard Seed we intentionally provide many opportunities for cross–grade relationships to develop and we see that both the young children and the older students benefit from these experiences.  This year, middle school students have helped with our special Christmas and Easter worships, and they have helped to carry donations to In Jesus’ Name with the preschoolers as part of their Service Team duties.

Early in the school year, middle school students were given the opportunity to apply to “intern” in the preschool. Students filled out applications, expressing why they would be interested in such a placement, and from those applications, several students were selected to serve with us.  Every Wednesday morning since then, we have had 2 middle school students join the Trees Class for part of our morning.  The pairs of interns have each stayed with our class for a few weeks at a time. They play, talk, help and read with the preschool students, and many children have become very connected to them and look forward to their arrival each Wednesday, often asking, “Where is Sophie?” (or whichever friend they are thinking about) early in the morning.  The joy runs in both directions!

Both the younger children and the older children learn from these experiences.  The students work on developing compassion, connection, kindness, patience and responsibility.  Sometimes, children also learn information from one another.  In the fall, when we were doing our senses study and Braille came up, some middle schoolers who had created Braille signs around the school came and taught the children about how and why they did this project.   This week, we welcomed a 6th grade visitor,Victoria.  She came to talk about an initiative that she is undertaking: introducing composting school-wide.

Victoria shared information about the process of composting and taught the children about some of the types of things that can and cannot go into compost.   Many of the preschoolers have been composting daily for almost two years at school, so they shared some of the information and processes that they know with Victoria and even came up with the idea to present a gift to her: A compost container like the one the Trees children use to take their food scraps to the compost bins at the park, to help the middle school get started with their composting.  The preschoolers were as delighted to give it to Victoria as she was to receive it!

So much comes out of the relationships between older and younger students.  You might ask your child to tell you about what they enjoyed about their time with their middle school friends today!

Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Rivers Class

Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in the preschool. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.

Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.

Ms Jordan’s background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.

Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!

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