Intrinsic motivation

Kids are naturally curious about the world around them and inherently WANT to learn. When they’re given rewards (sticker charts, gold stars, candy, toys) for learning, as is common practice at so many schools, this intrinsic motivation is taken away and replaced by the reward given behavior. Kids learn to expect a reward every time they do something “good” and become wholly unmotivated and complacent. In short, that’s why we don’t believe in rewards here! The kids do work that is meaningful because it’s driven by them. They’re learning because they want to, and sometimes, don’t even know they are.  A great example is the children’s self-chosen project: The Sara Curry Restaurant




The reviews are in…Sara Curry Restaurant earns 5 stars!

For more on intrinsic motivation, a good book is:”Punished by Rewards” by Alfie Kohn

A visit from Alan Cumming & Grant Shaffer

We had a very special visit this past week from Alan Cumming and Grant Shaffer. They have co-written and illustrated a book about their two dogs, titled “The Adventures of Honey & Leon” and came to read to us. The kids were enchanted by the story, which had lots of adventure, humor, and real life commentary. They also gave us an exclusive preview of their next book, which features Honey and Leon on a new adventure in Scotland. It was powerful for the kids to get to meet a real life author and illustrator, as they got a view into the process behind creating a book, which they do almost daily! They had lots of insightful questions for them, and only positive reviews!

Making Jewelry with Arie

The children began a series of lessons in jewelry making. There are many different approaches to this craft, but children began by working in a method called Lost Wax Casting. Everyone got their own piece of wax. Using carving tools, the children got to draw on, pierce, and file their pieces of wax into a pendant they each created on their own.


Children learn how to properly sit at a jeweler’s bench and how to use a saw frame to cut out shapes for their pieces. Eventually they  get these pieces cast in real metal and learn how to clean them, polish them, and make them ready to wear! The children are excited to  work on their own pieces in multiple different mediums and can’t wait to see how they come out in metal!



Making a movie

Last week, the children were allowed to separate from the teachers, and by themselves they were asked to decide what their final presentation should be. Children took on various roles in the meeting, someone volunteered to chair it and take votes. They wrote lists of ideas, including writing a book, making a documentary, creating a model of a beach, and then they voted and created a graph of the votes.  The final decision was to make a documentary, all this without help from teachers!

This week, the kids titled the documentary “Beach” and listed the topics it should cover. They each chose one and researched, brainstormed, drew, and wrote about their topic. Then, they began writing scripts and gathering props. Later they set up lights and film.  They invited an editor to come in and help edit it with them.



 Each week we spend time studying writing topics and developing our own books. The kids have learned everything from author biographies to dedication pages. Recently we studied character development. We started out using our very own class caterpillars to base our characters off of. We then thought about 5 characteristics for each one, fleshing out who each caterpillar character would be in our story! The kids got to spend the time thinking about things that make up a character, which brought up things like fear and love. They have really developed a fascination with this idea and you can see this in how much work they put into their finished books.

Learning about insect jobs at Battery Park Urban Farm

At Battery Park Urban Farm, Sam, the farmer and teacher, taught us all about the different jobs bugs do to help gardens grow. She sourced the kids for their ideas, and was very impressed with how in depth their knowledge was already! We talked about pollinators, predators, and aerators and mapped out all the different bugs we thought might be found at a farm. We also looked at some amazing close up photographs of bugs and small animals in the garden. The kids especially loved seeing field mice sleeping in flowers and learned that they’re pollinators too!

A visit from the Art Farm

This week we had a teacher from the art farm bring in animals for us to meet and learn about! We met a chinchilla, a chicken, a chuckwalla lizard, and a stick bug! We learned all about their habitats, what they eat, and survival strategies. We had coincidentally learned about stick bugs the day before, so it was an amazing surprise to meet one in real life!