We (the faculty at Baxter Academy) decided that we actually have three 1st days of school this year. Nathaniel called them 1D1, 2D1, and 3D1. The names stuck.
On 1D1, we all gathered at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. This beautiful seaside setting was the backdrop of our work for the day. The school contracted with Rippleffect whose fabulous staff designed a series of five challenges for the kids and faculty.
One challenge was called, “Where’s my water bottle?” Similar to the old red light, green light game, this time the kids had to figure out how to grab said water bottle, return to the starting line, and let everyone have a chance to hold it, all while making sure that Toby, the Rippleffect guide, did not see them moving or guess who was holding the water bottle. It was interesting to see them devise a plan that completely fooled Toby. It turns out that Toby was a student in the first year of the Francis W Parker Charter Essential School, the charter school in Massachusetts founded by Ted and Nancy Sizer. It was an interesting side note for me – during my first year of teaching, I met Ted Sizer during a Coalition of Essential Schools function and read his book, Horace’s Compromise. He made a tremendous impact on the direction my teaching ultimately took.
In a different challenge, the group was divided into four engineering/design teams. Their task was to design, build, and market a raft from three pieces of float foam, three 6 foot long 2×4 pieces of wood, and three lengths of rope. The ultimate test, of course, was to take them on the water to see how far they could go (and how quickly they would fall apart). There were some solid designs in my group. Unfortunately, the construction process didn’t go as well as planned. All four rafts fell apart in the water. Kudos to the kids who volunteered to test the rafts. Sure, it’s September and the weather was beautiful. But this is still Maine – that water isn’t very warm.
It was a fabulous first day. Lots of laughs, smiles, and new friends.
Our second first day was at the school. As students entered the front doors to wild applause and noise making, a reporter from Maine Public Broadcasting caught the racket from outside. He was later allowed to enter the building and speak with a couple of teachers. Here’s the report. Quite nice, actually, considering some of the turmoil that has surrounded the opening of this school. Once the opening ceremonies were over, we got down to business: building furniture and arranging our rooms. We had about 7000 pounds of tables, chairs, cabinets, and bookshelves to assemble. Computers needed to be set up in the lab. Off we went in our advisory groups and got to work. My classroom started out looking like this:
A few hours later it looked like this:
And the view out my window?
Sure, there’s a hotel under construction and a lumber yard next door (they own the building, after all). But there’s also water. I’ve missed the water. It’s good to be home again.
Stay tuned for 3D1 – that happens on Monday – and I get to teach some classes!