If you were to visit Ambleside for a day, here is a “picture” of what you might see…
Children are greeted warmly by the Principal as they exit their car. The children look into his eyes, shake his hand, and say “Good Morning!” before playing outside a few minutes. Then they hang their backpacks and head to morning assembly.
The school body gathers to sing a hymn, say the Pledge of Allegiance, hear a brief announcement or thought for that day, and a closing prayer. In closing, all pray, “Unto you, O Lord, this day, I submit my heart, my head, and my hands. Amen.” Then, they head to class.
Sunshine spills into the Kindergarten class where art prints and beautifully illustrated books fill the shelves. Putting away their phonetic readers, the children gather around tables to examine the larvae of Painted Lady butterflies. Using dry-brush watercolor techniques, they mix their own colors as they paint the changing creature in their nature journals.
In the 6th grade class a student is narrating a section of Treasure Island before the class contemplates how the characters have had their consciences trained, and the consequences of that formation.
As the Kindergartners line up for Spanish, they hear the low voices of first-graders working through early-readers. A student pauses to decode a difficult word and the teacher prompts him: “What are the other sounds that ‘o-u’ makes?”
In our oldest classroom, Lewis and Clark are traveling up the Missouri River in search of a water route to the Pacific. The explorers’ portraits look down from their place on the class time line. The students read from the journals of the Corps of Discovery as they search for the Northwest passage. Taking out their history notebooks, they plot Lewis and Clark’s latest findings on the maps they have drawn.
Students flow back into the second-grade classroom, red-cheeked from the brisk air. The corners of their room are scattered with specimens from the world outside. The students have been studying the life and works of Mary Cassatt. Lately, they have focused on her “Child in a Straw Hat”. Now they take out paper and paint to create their own reproductions of the work. As the office administrator walks past, she is invited into the class for an impromptu “art exhibit.”
The quiet bustle in the hallway is the third grade leaving their classroom for math. Long division has been a challenge, but the teacher has grid-paper ready to help the class keep their columns in good order. As the class enters, a father leaves his appointment with the math instructor, thanking her for some new strategies she has passed on to help his daughter with her homework.
Two young boys face off on the playground. A conflict in the midst of a climbing game left both with tear-stained faces. Before hurt feelings escalate into anger, two older boys intervene to help them sort out their differences. As a teacher looks on, handshakes are exchanged, and all four boys run off to begin a game of soccer.
Strains of Debussy float out of the fifth-grade classroom, where students are sketching in their science journals. They carefully study a tray full of iron filings. Over the past few hours, the magnetic shavings have shifted and moved on their own, forming a pattern of swirls. Now they compare the pattern of the shavings to their own reproduction of the earth’s magnetic fields.
The day draws to a close. Homework is recorded in assignment books. Dictation, science and poetry journals are returned to shelves, chores are done and rooms are returned to order. As parents begin to arrive, students line up chattering quietly about their plans for the evening, and the chapters they look forward to for tomorrow. It is time to go home.
“The life of the mind is sustained on ideas.”