Highlands Blog

Learning is All Around You

Elise Blackerby
Okay, so what exactly is radial symmetry? Well, this Indian mandala has it!

Through this recent art project, our first graders were able to observe the connection between art and mathematics. Mathematical connections abound in our world and are seen through our art, our architecture. They are seen in nature as the symmetry in snowflakes and the Nautilus shell, the Fibonacci Sequence of seed spirals in sunflowers, the hexagons of honeycombs, and the webs of orb-weaver spiders. It is because of this interconnectivity that Project Based Learning can so perfectly serve as another avenue through which learning is extracted. It breaks down subject area silos and integrates them into real-world explorations. Children soak up learning like sponges and are constantly seeking the next drop.

Highlands has focused quite a bit over the last several years on equipping our students with the skills to communicate, collaborate, think critically and creatively, and to understand the interwoven nature of the academic disciplines. With that in mind, rather than the science textbooks of earlier days, we now see students in science classes creating prototypes, working collaboratively while exploring strategies for problem solving, and engineering their own designs – even in our youngest learners. Critical reading of non-fiction text is necessary, that reading may just take a shape very different from the traditional textbook.
We know that the best learning occurs when students are engaged and focused on what they are learning and doing. In turn, a goal is for our students to achieve mastery, confidence, and perseverance. In addition, this collaborative atmosphere, which naturally occurs through project work and other social learning situations, fosters positive behaviors that work to inspire achievement through focus and engagement. Research validates this, and isn’t it wonderful when science confirms what our experience teaches us!

Howard Gardner (Harvard, 1999) has stated, “Unless students feel part of a community, unless they are motivated to work, struggle, master, they will never be able to benefit from formal education.”

So, if you visit our classrooms (and I hope you will), you will see students not only learning in the whole group, but also working in small groups and individually on work and projects which not only capture their interests but also inspire them along their learning journey. 

And … the next time you are outside, look for mathematics in nature! But be careful – your child might notice first!
Highlands School, 4901 Old Leeds Road, Birmingham, AL 35213, (205) 956-9731
Highlands School's 'whole child' approach to education and commitment to academic excellence, creative expression, and leadership development prepare and motivate students in grades 4k through 8 to make a positive difference in an ever-changing world. Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Highlands School holds dual accrediation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Associations of Independent Schools (SAIS).

For more information, visit www.highlandsschool.org.