Empathy, resilience, and a whole lot of fun

Kid EdCamp returned to the Lower School on Wednesday, April 3, offering children in Pre-K through 5th grade “opportunities to share their passions and choose what they want to learn about,” said 3rd grade teacher Judy Sandler, who, with Librarian John Scott, 4th grade teacher Jillien Lakatta, and Technology Integrator Andy Hanes, organized the day.

Now in its fifth year the popular program is student-led; Teachers supervise activities, but the ideas and instruction flow directly from 1st -5th graders, who submit lesson plans to the organizers for consideration. Whether the focus is on face painting, dragon drawing, or Minecraft, all sessions must be designed to engage a class of mixed-aged Pre-K-5th graders for 40 minutes, no easy feat. Once sessions are finalized, students then sign up through an elaborate method involving stickers, blank schedule templates, and endless patience on the part of planners.

The day of EdCamp is a whirlwind as students happily transition from one activity to the next. In one classroom, Eleanor Ratner '30 and Rory Rosenthal '30 led a workshop on creating origami cranes, boxes, and balloons. Down in the MakerSpace Eli Long ’29 learned firsthand that making chewing gum from scratch is a lot messier than he had anticipated. Such is the magic of Kid EdCamp, where serendipitous lessons in resilience, creativity, empathy, and collaboration share equal billing with the activities themselves.

The day concludes with an EdCamp “smackdown,” during which all of the participants and their teachers reflect on the day. “Kids talk a lot and it’s hard to teach when everyone is asking you questions,” observed one student, to the knowing smiles of every adult present. A 5th grader shared how much he had enjoyed a session led by two 1st graders, one of many feel-good moments during the 30-minute gathering.
“In the end everyone decided that this is work we should continue to do,” said Andy Hanes.
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