Apple Day is a new favorite here on the Hilltop. Somewhat spontaneous, Apple Day is a thematic, cross-curricular extravaganza featuring investigation, tactile learning, artistic expression, group work, and play. If not for the pandemic, we would have invited visitors to campus to watch some of the apple-related activities—apple poems, apple art, even apple math. For curious observers, we would also offer to explain as much or as little of the pedagogy and educational theory behind the event.
Apple Day is a quintessential independent school activity. None of the activities are published in mass-market textbooks, and no state-wide standardized tests ever measure how well students do pressing cider. And yet, there is nothing frivolous about the day. Learning theory is embedded. While turning the screw to compress the apples, students learn about the principles of leverage and torque; and an activity in taste testing offers a chance to hone graphing skills. In other words, while the social-emotional engagement is front and center, the students are engaged in cognitive activities as well.
It is our very independence which allows us to build units designed to captivate kids and put learning into action. That independence, coupled with our smaller class size, enables teachers to individualize the learning experience. Further, because we are attuned to student well-being, we also know when to add an activity such as Apple Day. Once scheduled, teachers meet in teams to design themed activities that complement and enhance the ongoing “classroom” curriculum. Because days such as Apple Day appear to be so active and so fun, the casual observer just might miss all the pedagogy and compassion our teachers bring to the job each and every day.
Indeed, not all learning is alike. When a unit strikes students as relevant and authentic, those students dive into the learning. Of course, in order to know what is relevant and authentic to a group of students, you first need to know them well. Through advisory groups, we seek to know our students and to discover what captures their imagination. Building units this way—rather than implementing prescribed, one-size-fits-all lessons—increases the enthusiasm for discovery which, in turn, enables students to retain more skills and information.
As I said, if we were able, we would have invited you to school to hear a few original apple poems. Sometimes it is better to “show” than to “tell.” With that in mind, now that I have told you a bit about why we build cross-curricular activities, here are some pictures to complete the story.
We hope to see you soon,
Head of School
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