As a high school sophomore, my son is accustomed to exams, tests and quizzes. His middle school teachers at LMS introduced him to these assessments, and they have, together with papers and essays, become the standard for him. For the first eleven years of his schooling at LMS, these assessments were absent.
Well, maybe just different.
LMS kids show what they know and have learned all the time. Here are two examples of “final exams” at LMS:
In their elder year of the 3-6 classroom, kindergarten, the kids show from Day One how much they know and have learned. They serve as mentors and guides for their younger classmates by modeling respect for each others’ work; settling disagreements, conflicts; putting things where they belong in the classroom; how to work together to complete a work; how to put on a coat or zip a zipper.
Kindergarteners have written stories with the moveable alphabet; they learn to illustrate and bind books; in PE they join the first graders in organized games; they have performed songs during celebrations. I have seen the work they have done to learn about tigers or peacocks or snails.
The Planet Plays put all of this together. You will see your child skip in a circle, show off their handmade (from papier mache) planet, recite the research they did for Mars or Jupiter or the asteroid belt, sing the planet song – solo and chorus; perform in a group after team rehearsals and practice. They show what they have learned physically, artistically, academically, independently, and collaboratively over three or four years of school. Different from a test (and much more fun), but a demonstration nevertheless of what they have learned. Planet Plays are scheduled for June 5.
(And you know what happens after the performance? The younger children play “Planet Play” and put on one of their own!)
The Lower Elementary and the Upper Elementary students take overnight trips in the spring, but they begin in first grade. Throughout their years in the Children’s House and after their first year in Lower Elementary, children have learned to rely on themselves and depend on and trust their classmates and teachers. This comfort and trust are tested when they anticipate the two nights and three days they spend in the outdoors away from school and family.
By Upper Elementary they do this kind of trip in the fall, and prepare for a four night, five-day trip in the spring. From spring break until the trip in late May, UE students do considerable academic work, in this year’s case, on Washington, DC. The expo on May 14 will be a demonstration of this work.
These trips also show what kids have learned about independence – being away from what is familiar, away from parents – and how they can count on themselves, their friends and their teachers whom they have come to trust. Each year most kids get a little better at being independent and self-reliant: they prepare themselves for the bus ride or they pack more appropriately or they anticipate their own needs rather than relying on someone else to do that. They learn “I better go to the bathroom now while others are going.” “I do better on the bus ride if I sit with my older friend.” “I fall asleep more easily when I think about my dog.” Self-reliance, understanding one’s strengths and working through the weaknesses. These are not just learned on the trips. Children are learning these skills everyday at LMS when their teachers let them make mistakes, when they help them understand what’s hard, when they really listen to how a child is feeling. They have prepared not just all year, but for several years to be ready for these trips, to experience being away from school and from home, without what is most familiar beside them.
We set them up to succeed, and they do. They are challenged and tested, they have skills that will serve them for a long time.
End-of-year exams that show what they know, what they have learned, and what they can do.