Donning surgical headlamps and gloves, our 4th-grade boys were led by three cardiologists in the inspection and dissection of cow and lamb hearts last week. It was Cardiologist Day, which meant a hands-on lesson on the function and anatomy of the heart. At just 10 years old, not only can these students describe what it means to have a “great heart,” full of generosity and courage, but they’re also able to discuss how the left and right atrium work together.
The Lower School's new language arts curriculum—Wit & Wisdom—was the catalyst for this special day organized by teachers Kate Caro and Laura Angeline. Each module in this engaging program is organized around an “essential question,” and the interconnection of reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. This module’s question was, “What does it mean to have a great heart, literally and figuratively?”
“It’s never too early to delve into big themes. This is SCH’s answer to decades of research about reading comprehension,” says Head of Lower School Douglas Wainwright. “With Wit & Wisdom, students are exploring literature and building knowledge around one particular topic in complex, deep, and interesting ways. SCH wholeheartedly embraces a program that fosters boundless curiosity by teaching children the value and power of analyzing texts, forming opinions, and approaching profound questions that have no definitive answer.”
These 4th graders had already read several texts about the heart including a collection of free-verse poems in Love that Dog about the figurative heart and The Circulatory Story about the anatomy of the heart. During Cardiologist Day, they were prepared to understand the answers to high-level questions such as: What are the basics of blood pressure? What is an atrioventricular groove? What is the purpose of an EKG?
Drs. Danielle Spragan P’32, P’33, P’36, Payman Zamani P’32, P’35, and Kiran Sidhu talked to students about their careers and daily lives as doctors and gave them the basics of the circulatory system, discussing everything from oxygen transport to heart rate. The doctors even displayed a working heart (thanks Mr. Spragan!) on an echocardiography machine.
Following the lesson, teachers and students both expressed the value of experiential learning. Caro said that her students were thrilled to “see a real heart in action,” and one student, in a thank-you letter to the guests, wrote that his favorite part of the day was the echo, “because you can see through someone’s chest and see the valves opening and closing clearly.” Another wrote, “I loved learning about the heart and its parts that a lot of people don’t know about, like the superior vena cava. The heart is so much cooler and interesting than I ever would have thought.”
Through this program our Lower School teachers aren’t just inspiring a love of reading, they’re instilling an appreciation of deep and lasting knowledge. This is all a part of the larger cross-disciplinary curriculum that will prepare students for life beyond Lower School.
“The complexity of the information that students will now be able to discuss with each other,” says Wainwright, “to bring home to their families, to be able to write about, is at an incredibly high level.”
Head of Lower School Douglas Wainwright talks more about the newly adopted Wit & Wisdom program in our story about the launch of the program, here.