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What's Happening in 5th Grade

As the oldest students in Foote's Lower School, 5th graders take on greater leadership and independence as they dive into fascinating explorations of ancient cultures, new novels and how to use their voices for change.

Exploring the past and its impact on the present is a running theme in 5th Grade, and students have already immersed themselves this year in ancient Egyptian and Mayan cultures (they'll finish the year studying ancient Greece this spring.)

Each day in Grade 5 is full of play, challenges and new opportunities to create and observe—whether coding a game using Scratch software developed by MIT, or estimating plant species in the campus woods. This year, the students have been investigating new artists (such as Wayne Thiebaud), new books and new ways to tell their own life stories. As they prepare for Middle School, the students take on increased responsibility, building self-reliance and executive function that sets them up to be joyful and confident learners.

Experiential learning helps students form authentic connections with their studies. Above, teacher Adam Solomon discusses cartouches, or royal name plates, the students created as part of their studies of ancient Egypt. Over the course of the unit, students had the opportunity to experience ancient Egyptian games, study mythology and explore its culture.


Modern languages focus on using Mandarin and Spanish in practical, everyday contexts. In Wenyan Witkowsky's Chinese class, 5th graders are learning about jobs and recently made headbands on which they wrote and illustrated a job one of their parents does, and a job they would like to hold in the future (pictured left). Role-playing is another way students learn languages at Foote. In Spanish class, Miguel Paulino's students practiced greetings and salutations and how they would greet an adult versus a peer (pictured right).


Ecology and ecosystems are the focus of 5th grade science, and Foote's Sacred Woods provide a thriving habitat for scientific investigations. For a sampling project, 5th graders used a square quadrant to classify and count different plant species in the woods. Students them compiled their sample data to estimate plant populations throughout the Sacred Woods. Among the catalogued plants were a few invasive species—Japanese knotweed and garlic mustard—which formed the basis for individual research about invasives which the students presented to their classmates.


Language Arts integrates reading and writing throughout the 5th grade curriculum. Lessons are intentionally designed to engage and explore students' interests. Students refine their skills through daily writing and explore different literary genres including poetry, drama, fiction and persuasive writing. Recently students were tasked with creating shape poems based on something in their lives. After writing down a list of ideas, students then illustrated their poem in the shape of their subject.


The significance of place—as a habitat, cultural foundation and basis for stewardship—grounds the 5th grade social studies curriculum. As the culmination of their study of the ancient Mayans, students created a board game version of Pok-a-Tok, a popular ball game in the ancient world. Students worked in pairs to design their games which included a decorated board, game pieces and items needed to play, as well as detailed, well-revised rules. (Photograph by Jake Burt)


Using the set from this year's 9th Grade play as a backdrop, 5th graders were asked to imagine themselves with specific character traits as if they were in a fancy living room attending a party. Each child instantly posed and created a character of royalty. The study of drama teaches students how body language and gestures can communicate emotions and characterization both on and off stage. The program also teaches students important non-cognitive skills such as creativity, improvisation, empathy and concentration.


Fifth graders race across the lower athletic field during an energetic game of capture-the-ball in physical education class. Strenuous exercise gives students a positive outlet for directing their physical energy during the school day while at the same time developing locomotor skills and teamwork through a sequential curriculum.


Every grade has recess twice a day, giving students a chance for fresh air and exercise—which numerous studies connect to improved concentration in the classroom. Four square has been a favorite recess pastime for generations of Footies, with students excitedly debating game rules and calling who is "in" or "out" as they line up for their turn.


While studying cartesian coordinates in math class, students used Scratch coding to create games that explored their studies. Each student's game contained math problems but they ranged in themes from solving mazes and playing kickball to unlocking safes and doors. In the photograph above, a student explains how her program functions to a fellow classmate. (Photograph by Jim Adams)


Foote's music curriculum is built on the Kodaly concept, a comprehensive program that teaches the reading and writing of music to develop a joy of singing, dancing and playing together. Pictured, music teacher Dana Kephart Queiros leads students in a number-line game. The friendly competition focuses on beat-keeping and part-work using body percussion. The rules in a nutshell: if you miss your number or lose the beat, to the end of the line you go!


Librarian Anna Stover reads The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies. In 5th grade, library class provides students an opportunity to discuss books and to generate questions that lead them to conclusions and inferences about stories and characters. Fifth graders also learn to effectively research topics and how to evaluate the relevance and reliability of sources.


Fifth graders use technology to design, edit digital images, create spreadsheets, animate characters and write blogs and calendars. A 1-to-1 Chromebook program supports students' independence and learning to use technology responsibly. Above, teacher Jim Adams reviews a student's poem and offers suggestions for improvement.


After studying the work of pop artist Wayne Thiebaud, students created similarly styled works using craypas on recycled cardboard. Above, art teacher Karla Matheny discuses blending techniques with a student as he works.


Teacher Jake Burt points out an interesting detail on a student's cereal box project. These creative visual pieces accompanied each student's personal narrative, a writing project that asked them to recount a brief, intense memory and the lesson they learned from the experience. Elements of the students' stories were represented by the various sides of the cereal boxes, including a game on the back that reflected the plot arc of the story; nutrition facts that highlighted the grammatical components of the story; and a clever story-themed name for each cereal. Completed personal narratives could be found inside each cereal box, and the students enjoyed checking out their classmates' narratives and artwork.


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Since 1916, The Foote School has provided child-centered education that nurtures creativity, excellence and joy in learning.

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