I have always loved Latin idioms. Give me a reason to announce “Carpe Diem” and you will find me celebrating wildly. Yet, beyond deciphering a college crest or racking up trivia points, my relationship with this dead language has been one of forced and contrived application at best! The excellent news, and the inspiration for this blog, is that recently I found myself reaching to describe the culture of professional collaboration here at Park Maitland. This is when one of my favorite Latin idioms immediately came to mind: E pluribus unum- Out of many, one.
What was the catalyst to dredge up this aged- yet still befitting- phrase, you ask? It was a fantastically creative 5th Grade Reading project, spearheaded by my innovative colleague, Mrs. Sandy Covert. The core of this adventure was forged by Covert’s intention to have her students immerse themselves into the
Award Winning Books. But, the truly impressive backstage information I would like to share with you today is the process of how the project was born, shaped, and embraced.
It all began when Mrs. Evelyn McCulloch, our dynamic Smart Tech instructor, sent out an email to the fifth grade team asking us if we would like to take part in a collaborative session with Futures Academy Coordinator, Kyle Wagner. He was currently visiting from the International School of Beijing to speak at FCIS (Florida Conference for Independent Schools). She casually stated in her email that, “His specialties are project based learning, design thinking, reflection, and authentic assessment.” Seeing as these were a bundle of teaching tools that I absolutely adore, I responded with whole-hearted acceptance. The session was everything that I hoped it would be. As teachers, we strive to urge our students to use 21st Century skills, which we lovingly refer to as the 4C(s): Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. The session with Wagner was essentially a lesson- for teachers- in utilizing these skills to derive our own projects for the classroom. He walked us through the step-by-step process of listening, questioning, and offering up suggestions for our peers that truly respected their essential curriculum goals, and allowed them to critically iron out the details of their project. In the interim, we all became somewhat invested in these projects. We wanted to be a part of them. This is what happened when Covert’s Newbery Project was conceived.
The end product was a project, no a venture, where students read their chosen Newbery Award Winning Novel, critiqued and supported its esteemed selection, as well as created summaries in their Reading class. The tentacles of this didactic beast did not stop there though. Students created characters of their own that drastically changed the course of the plot, and composed scenes modeling the style of their Newbery authors in my ESW class. They created a three dimensional representation of themselves within a distinct setting inspired by the novel in Smart Tech. They assembled a booklet decorated with their own individual print and displayed all of their work on its pages through Art. Mrs. Leah Unell was the mastermind of the art contribution. She composed the following passage to describe this artistic process: “The pages of this book were colored by hand using a paper marbelization process with shaving cream and food coloring (except for 5 Blue who used shaving cream and acrylic paint). The book was folded down from a single sheet of paper that was two feet by three feet in dimension. The two step process created a handmade book that is unique to each artist.”It was a magnificent manifestation of student creativity, and an even more profound demonstration of professional teamwork.
I cannot think of a more suitable use of the phrase “Out of many, one”. I have waited all of my teaching career to be a part of a learning community as open and impassioned as this. This collaboration may have only been a single example of the type of learning and immersion that happens all the time on the Park Maitland campus. Yet, for me, it was indication that I am now a part of something bigger than my own classroom. And the lover of Latin idioms inside me is overjoyed.
Mrs. Brett Carrier
Park Maitland School
5th Grade English, Spelling, and Writing