Every spring, our 4th graders set off on a campus trek, hauling handmade oxen and wagons. They are dealt cards of fortune and misfortune. They work as families to negotiate the terrain, and at the end they celebrate their arrival in a new and unknown territory. This exercise is a culmination of many strands of learning from throughout a school year packed with challenge and adventure.
What will they need to have in their wagons for a successful journey?
Our 4th grade teachers note some of the attributes of a typical 4th grader that stand them in good stead, as well as those they will further develop in this year of growth.
- evaluates their own work,
- serves as a peer tutor,
- speaks up to defend themselves,
- works in cooperative groups,
- presents to an audience,
- shares work with parents that was completed independently from school.
Shows initiative, self-control and self-direction:
- handles increasingly difficult tasks and remains calm during trial and error (such as design challenges, which can be open-ended),
- selects and reads different genres of literature,
- completes homework independently,
- realizes results come from effort.
Is ready to handle increased responsibility and independence:
- becomes more self-reliant,
- can be flexible with changes in routines and schedules,
- is able to handle long-term projects,
- enjoys setting and achieving goals,
- uses time constructively,
- is eager to learn and ask questions.
Interacts positively with others:
- begins to develop close friendships,
- does not exclude others,
- understands the importance of teamwork,
- interacts easily with adults,
- likes to volunteer,
- begins to consider other viewpoints and feelings.
At 10, 4th graders are very much still children, but can feel the twilight of childhood, as this mom describes in a blog post, "35 Things to Remember if You Have a 10-Year-Old Son." For girls and boys, this is an intense period of finding their way through and within social structures and roles, through play and peer interactions. Fairness, rules, social hierachies, and competency are all important to this age group.
The Oregon Trail simulation is an apt metaphor for this year of increased growth, skills, independence, and resilience. In this final year of our Lower School, our 9- and 10-year-olds will traverse childhood and be prepared to face the more uncertain terrain of preadolescence.