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  • Lower School
On Our Minds October 2017: Letters From Lincoln's Lower School

Maureen Devlin, Head of Lower School, and Suzanne Fogarty, Head of School, share their perspective on all the exciting and innovative initiatives taking place in Nursery–Grade 5. With a combined 55 years of experience in education, from New Mexico to New York City, from Brookline to Brooklyn, we highlight independent school teaching and learning at its best.

At Lincoln’s Lower School, we are much more interested in asking exploratory questions than in knowing the right answers. For children in the Oak Room through Grade 5, this exploration often happens through the important process of play during which inquiry, discovery, and creative problem-solving happen organically. Too often people separate the act of play from the concept of academic learning, but we know this is a false notion.

In truth, play involves a complicated system of observation, discovery, and testing hypotheses from which a child learns to seek knowledge. Boys and girls learn hands-on how to solve problems and face challenges, thus building confidence and resilience. Play’s lessons extend across all domains of development. Cognitively, children practice language, problem solving, creativity, and self regulation. In the social-emotional realm, they build interpersonal skills like negotiating and compromising, as well as practice strategies to cope with their feelings. As they run and jump, draw and build, children form and hone their fine and gross motor skills.  

And our lessons do not start and end inside the bricks and mortar of our Lower School. As a Quaker institution, stewardship of the earth is part of our ethos and using nature as a classroom is as integral to sparking the imagination and understanding the world around us as mathematics. From harvesting carrots with Ms. Calenda in the garden to writing poetry in the Outdoor Classroom, from orienteering in Blackstone Park to examining salt marshes on the Bay, we are playing and learning in nature.

Every day in Lower School, children experience and enjoy play in many forms, but all with the underlying understanding that not only is play important in its own right, it is the foundation of future academic success. “The Power of Play,” a research summary by the Minnesota Children’s Museum, found that the lessons learned through play lead to increased reading comprehension, higher levels of executive functioning, and the development of critical skills like memory, attention, overall intelligence, and morality.

In science, to learn effectively, you need both a lesson to learn and a lab in which to experiment. For younger children, play is the lab in which they come to understand the world around them and come to know themselves as learners. Whether investigating trawls on the bay, turning an opening in the play structure into a pop-up ice cream store, or using pipe cleaners to construct a fantastic flying machine, the spontaneous spirit, creative energy, and fabulous inquisitiveness of our Lower School students are an inspiration to all of us in the Lincoln community.

Looking forward,

Maureen & Suzanne

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