From the Superintendent's Seat
Giving our young children the love of learning is the optimum goal for parents and educators. In our elementary schools in Syosset, we have found that children will always want to learn something new when it concerns a topic that they have a personal interest in, and we have the evidence to prove it. Many of our students choose to join a special interest learning group in place of that perennial favorite time of day: recess.
Our schools have coined their own names for the programs. We have "The Lunch Bunch," "Brown Bag Seminars," and "Lunchtime Explorations." Both students and teachers are welcome to propose a topic of interest. It is common for a guest speaker on a topic to be a parent or other relative of a student who has extensive knowledge on a subject area, a hobby, or is a member of a profession the students want to know more about. The schools may also invite teachers and administrators from the secondary schools to share their expertise. The program is under the direction of the full-time enrichment teacher employed at each school. At our last month's Board of Education meeting, students from each school presented demonstrations of some of the topics they have learned about at lunch. One group of students talked about what they had learned from a visit from a classmate's parent, who also happens to be a Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist. Now those students look at the editorial page when they read a newspaper.
Another group reported on a lunchtime seminar that tied into the school district's celebration of our fiftieth anniversary this year. In a delightful demonstration that highlighted toys made famous in the 1950s that continue to be popular today, students showed their prowess in the use of the hula hoop and also hit a nostalgic note by singing the original jingle from the commercial for the "Slinky."
The lunchtime seminars have also served as opportunities for students to share some of individual cultural heritage with their classmates. Two young girls were dazzling in beautiful costumes and performed a graceful Korean Fan Dance. It's interesting that the girl who introduced the dancers said, "I can dance, but not like this!" It was clear that she was very impressed with the skill and effort the girls demonstrated.
One thing common to all the different presentations was the pride the children felt in learning about subjects that were basically of their own choosing. The lunchtime groups let children decide whether or not they want to participate, and allow them to request subjects that they want to explore. Of course, the adults involved know that all these seminars are providing lessons that serve to enhance the basic curriculum areas of math, science, social studies, English, and technology as well as music and art.
You may also want to provide this kind of enrichment at home with your children. Friends, neighbors, and family are great resources for experts who can teach your children more about a subject that interests them. The same could be true for other children, especially those a little older than yours, who can serve as realistic role models by demonstrating their own accomplishments and knowledge.#
Dr. Hankin is superintendent of Syosset Central School District. Randi Sachs is Public Information Office of Syosset Schools.