Monthly Newsletter from Lincoln's Lower School
Maureen Devlin, Head of Lower School, and Suzanne Fogarty, Head of School, share their monthly perspective on all the exciting and innovative initiatives taking place in Nursery–Grade 5. With a combined 54 years of experience in education, from New Mexico to New York City, from Brookline to Brooklyn, we’ll highlight independent school teaching and learning at its best.
As you may have read in Suzanne’s March letter to the community, girls as young as six years old in co-educational settings “are less likely than boys to think that female students are ‘really, really smart.’” But that’s not the case in Lincoln’s Lower School. Here we celebrate the way students learn—their successes, their mistakes, their humor, their creativity, and their genius.
One way Lincoln is ahead of the curve is the prescient work we are doing in computational thinking. Recently, the New York Times published Learning to Think Like a Computer, which highlights the logical thinking that happens before you even open your laptop.
The article features Dr. Marina Umaschi Bers, a child development and computer science professor at Tufts University, who visited with us at Lincoln last spring. Dr. Bers, the creator of the Kibo Robot (a favorite with Gingko and Kindergarten students), believes:
Learning the language of machines, [Dr. Bers] said, is as basic as writing is to being proficient in a foreign language. “You are able to write a love poem, you are able to write a birthday card, you are able to use language in many expressive ways,” she said. “You are not just reading; you are producing.”
It’s not often we get to say we scooped the New York Times, but Lincoln has been utilizing computational thinking across grade levels for a number of years, a testament to starting early and empowering students to participate in STEAM disciplines.
As a part of learning the language of machines through coding and computational thinking, Lincoln girls break down problems into manageable parts, recognize patterns, learn abstract general principles, and design step-by-step instructions for solving real world problems.
We believe, like Dr. Bers, that learning the language of computers makes young minds more nimble. Here’s just a peek into how we do this at Lincoln:
- To cultivate a “maker mindset,” Ginkgo students learn about birds’ nests and then, using the same materials that birds do, create their own. To poke holes in their designs, they test the strength of their nests in a storm with a hair dryer to simulate the wind.
- In Ginkgo and Kindergarten, the students experiment with the Kibo Robot.
- Grade 3 students gather recyclable materials to build Rube Goldberg machines: a contraption, invention, device, or apparatus that is deliberately over-engineered to perform a simple task in a complicated fashion.
- In the Design Thinking class Grades 3–5 create presentations on different aspects of environmental stewardship featuring original songs and student-constructed sets and props.
- In Grade 5, science students design cars that must operate within a set of parameters, such as being able to travel a specific distance and stop at a specific marker.
These skills, when built on a foundation of mechanical and scientific savvy, position our students to use the power of data to be able to deal confidently with the complex problems of the future.
In this world where technology drives us, even though these young students are years away from graduation, with this foundation of computational thinking, they will also be years ahead of their peers.
Maureen & Suzanne