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Working in unity doesn’t mean unabashed agreement and lack of strife. When we consider a broader perspective… and then train our collective creativity on smaller common goals, we can tackle mountains of problems. Boston and Medford Public Schools have built this approach into Focus on Kindergarten. Maybe higher grades–and companies and governments–could incorporate aspects of this curriculum:

Whether you’re a Kindergarten classroom or a nation, you’re bound to contain a myriad of temperaments and opinions. Differences are inevitable.

When a grander concept frames our days together, our diverse opinions become assets. We can pool resources to build strong and fair solutions. Focus on K, a Kindergarten curriculum which came to my local Medford Public Schools from Boston, encourages kids to play to their strengths in order to ultimately answer how we can be stewards of the Earth.

(Oh, and kids also learn to read, add, subtract, speak in front of their peers, and work together. Common core requirements are all built into the program. It’s just, instead of having a math and reading theme of shoes or pumpkins, there are cumulative, progressive units like community, animals, and construction.)

For example:
1) Community: kids study classroom, school, home, and city to learn how people work together.
2) Animals: kids study frogs (defined life cycle); salmon (unique life cycle and how people affect ecosystems); owls (food chain and nests); wolves (group dynamics).
3) Construction: kids collaborate, and learn basic construction concepts like stability and balance.

Wolves Hunt as a Pack. From Leap Little Frog Blog, Finding Focus from the Bottom Up

Wolves Hunt as a Pack

By pursuing one big question (how can we be stewards of the Earth), the lessons of each unit are powerful and defined. But there is flexibility along the way. Different learning styles are accommodated. If a kid is particularly drawn to drawing, s/he can develop and demonstrate understanding about wolves in the art center.

“The curriculum is designed to really shine a light on children’s voices and children’s agency in their learning.” -Melissa Tonachel, BPL Early Childhood Director

To help kids define their own strengths, they are engaged on many levels. They are given choice of “centers,” (stations with different types of activities). And they engage in group storytelling and acting out stories. Maybe rock bands, companies, and governments can try this! Learning to really build a story, to be expressive, to listen, to be open to unexpected narrative twists, to value different styles–it all teaches us how to ultimately care for the Earth and for one another (and to build great stuff along the way).

"Habitat Showcase," from Leap Little Frog Blog: Finding Focus From the Bottom Up

Habitat Showcase!

While thematic, project-based approaches are not unknown to educators, and while many educators already bring creative efforts to their classrooms, Focus is a particularly innovative UDL (Universal Design for Learning).

I am grateful that Medford Public Schools have adopted Focus on K, thanks in no small part to Kindergarten teachers Amanda Gass and Maria Skiffington, and the support of Assistant Superintendent Diane Caldwell and Roberts Elementary School Principal Kirk Johnson.

Now that the Boston Public Schools are expanding the program—Focus is now being piloted for First Grade in Boston, and the initial design was to move as high as Second Grade—I support Medford to continue to incorporate Focus elements into higher grades. (And I consider parents who might otherwise be drawn to private or charter school options to consider this incredible Public School offering.)

Building unity isn’t about meeting in the middle. Working together means identifying a big shared view, and finding different ways to approach it. It’s about valuing out-of-the-box thinkers and keen collaborators. It’s about embracing creativity and channeling it (blogging, podcasting, performing, and composing works for me).

A unified country–or classroom–embraces diversity. That’s sustainable. When we are encouraged to express ourselves, we can each work on our own corner of the same, shared globe.

And go for hikes when we are 100 years old…

"I would go for hikes," from Leap Little Frog Blog: Finding Focus From the Bottom Up

“I would go for hikes.”

Learn more about Focus with this beautifully produced 16 minute video:


Leap, Little Frog

a musician's musings on nesting, being creative, traveling, and parenting