Cultural Studies at Daycroft Montessori School of Ann Arbor Culminate in School-wide Performances and Presentations on American Experiences and World Music
Ann Arbor, MI (February 18, 2013) – Cultural studies are key to the personalized learning experience at Daycroft Montessori School of Ann Arbor.
As early as preschool, Daycroft students begin exploring the diversity of the world’s peoples and their traditions. “Cultural studies then become more formalized in kindergarten,” said Diane Mukkala, Daycroft’s head of school. “And they remain core to our school’s curriculum throughout the elementary years.”
Mukkala added, “Cultural studies are one of the main ways we help prepare our students to become true global citizens.”
As part of Daycroft's cultural curriculum, classrooms embark each year on a school-wide study, for six weeks, in a particular topic area.
This February, as in past years, Daycroft held what could be viewed as kind of a “Super Bowl Week” of cultural studies. The students’ research, discovery, assessment, and preparation tasks reached fruition in several school-wide events.
Preschoolers and kindergarteners at Daycroft’s Preprimary Campus on Oakbrook Drive took their parents, families, and friends on a global musical tour.
Meanwhile, at Daycroft’s Elementary Campus on Zeeb Road, students from kindergarten through sixth grade presented a colorful, wide-reaching survey of some of the most formative experiences in American history.
Foundations of America
The festivities kicked off with Culture Night, on Thursday, February 7, at Daycroft Zeeb. Family members moved about the school, taking in what the Upper Elementary students had learned in their focused research on aspects of American history.
Culture Day at Daycroft Zeeb followed on Tuesday, February 12. Students again shared their presentations and displays – this time with fellow Daycroft students as their primary audiences – throughout the morning and into the afternoon. After 2 pm that day, the school’s Lower Elementary students presented to their parents, families, and friends.
This year’s cultural studies at Daycroft Zeeb covered eras ranging from American Colonial times through our country’s pioneering days, Revolutionary war, fight to ban slavery, and westward expansion. The students also explored America’s ongoing history of innovation.
In the school’s gym, Daycroft fifth- and sixth-graders performed a fun, yet enlightening re-enactment – not without a few well-planned surprises and laughs – of events leading up to the American Revolution. A clever representation of a docked sailing ship, along with the spirited performances of the children, highlighted the Boston Tea Party scene.
Wagon Trails and Freedom’s “Rails”
Daycroft’s Grades 3-4B classroom learned the history and significance of the Oregon Trail. The students created a virtual tour of the trail in PowerPoint. Presentation boards told of the pioneers’ preparations for their journey, the supplies they needed, and the dangers and diseases they faced. Also covered: the trail’s impact on Native Americans.
The 3-4B class built a life-size model of a pioneer wagon, constructed from PVC hoops, a painter’s floor canvas, boards, and boxes. Students loaded the wagon with food, water, and more, representing the typical 2,500-pound load hauled over 2,000 miles.
Daycroft’s Grades 3-4A classroom studied the Underground Railroad. The students performed “Aunt Harriet’s Story,” a play in which Harriet Tubman tells how she went from growing up as a slave on a Maryland plantation to becoming a conductor on the network of secret routes and safe houses that led slaves to freedom.
In another play – “Riding to Freedom” – the students depicted the experiences of a slave on the Underground Railroad. They performed the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” Students also compiled a dictionary of code words and phrases, and stitched a quilt full of codes, believed to have been used by slaves to convey how to escape to freedom.
From the Colonial Home to Exploration of the West
The Grades 1-2B classroom explored everyday life in Colonial America. A student’s mother taught how to make quilts. Students made hornbooks and silhouettes. They also learned to make quills from feathers, and wrote their names with the quills.
Each 1-2B student researched an aspect of colonial life, and illustrated what they learned through an art project. On Culture Day, students presented their research findings in question-and-answer interviews.
In the Grades 1-2A classroom, students concentrated on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The important roles of Sacagawea, a Native American guide, and her baby – as well as Clark’s slave York – were highlighted.
Students built models of forts and other equipment used during the expedition. They also learned of the trip’s many turning points, such as when the party voted on where to build a fort – the first recorded instance of a woman and a slave voting in America.
The 1-2A students eagerly told the tale of Seaman, the dog, who helped hunt for food and protect the explorers. Seaman, as the children were delighted to learn, even saved one of the travelers from drowning. (Seaman was, as they say, a very faithful companion.)
In the kindergarten classroom at Daycroft Zeeb, students looked into, not a particular time period, but rather the innovative work of American inventors and scientists across nearly the full span of our country’s history.
Students chose the breakthroughs that interested them most. Their picks ranged from Benjamin Franklin’s many inventions, discoveries, and improvements in the mid-1700s to the development of the polio vaccine by Dr. Jonas Salk in the 1950s.
Students then paired up to build models of the selected inventions and experiments. Each pair presented their research findings, telling the facts they had found most intriguing. A particular realization was how life has improved for all of humankind over the years, thanks to the continually groundbreaking work of American innovators.
Music Around the World
Culture Night at Daycroft Oakbrook happened on Wednesday, February 13. Its theme: “Music Around the World.” And indeed, music filled the air. The preschoolers and kindergarteners performed songs from all corners of the globe.
Daycroft parents got into the act too. Several interpreted songs from their native languages. For example, Widad Elamin and Emad Diala translated “Loubaty ya Loubaty” (representing Asia) from Arabic, Barbara Ruwende translated “Kum When Jay” (representing Africa) from the Shona language spoken in Zimbabwe, and Lana Rees translated “Dva Veselyh Gusya” (representing Antarctica) from Russian.
Parents also brought desserts from their native countries, for sharing after the program.
Donations of canned goods and other food items were collected for Food Gatherers (www.foodgatherers.org), the food rescue and food bank organization dedicated to alleviating hunger among the needy in Washtenaw County.
About Daycroft Montessori School
Daycroft Montessori School blends the distinctive student-centered teaching methods of Maria Montessori with traditional and progressive education. This helps Daycroft accomplish its mission: to provide a personalized learning environment that appreciates individual differences, nurtures the whole child, and enables students to develop at their own pace and achieve to their potential.
Daycroft is one of Washtenaw County’s leading private schools. It began as a preschool program in 1968. Daycroft has since grown to include a full-day kindergarten program, an elementary school program through 6th grade, before-school and after-school care, summer camp programs, and enrichment classes.
In addition to ISACS, Daycroft is a member of the Association of Independent Michigan Schools (AIMS; www.aims-mi.org), the American Montessori Society (AMS; www.amshq.org), and the North American Montessori Teachers’ Association (NAMTA; www.montessori-namta.org).
Daycroft Preprimary School (preschool and kindergarten) is at 100 Oakbrook Dr., Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Phone: (734) 930-0333.
Daycroft Elementary School (grades K through 6) and Daycroft’s administrative offices are at 1095 N. Zeeb Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48103. Phone: (734) 662-3335.
Diane Mukkala, our head of school, shares her thoughts.
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