Learning At Lincoln

Lincoln Elementary School third-graders in Kim Pannes’ class are busy preparing for a schoolwide Town Meeting presentation on their interdisciplinary unit, “Our Global Family.”

Together with music teacher Cathy South, Mrs. Pannes’ students and Laurie Hollern’s special education class have learned sign language through song. The students hope to send a message to their Lincoln Elementary community that although everyone is very different, they are all very much the same.

“We are a B-10 family, part of a Lincoln family, and we are a whole family on the Earth,” noted Lincoln third-grader Alexis Lutgen.

The classes will perform the song, “A Smile Connects Us,” which was originally sung by Kermit the Frog. It helps children understand that communicating across barriers is possible.

“The more we collaborate and work as a team the more the students benefit,” said music teacher Mrs. South. “I feel the students learn best when they have prior knowledge to draw on. If music can ‘tie-in’ with what the classroom teacher is doing the level of success soars. It is also important for the students to see that the teachers and staff do work together. It is a skill that is used throughout life.”

Pannes’ classroom instruction began with a simple read-aloud book titled, “For Every Child A Better World” written by Jim Henson, to make children inspired by the work of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Then, students learned about the seven continents during social studies (the natural and man-made landmarks, the needs and wants of their people, and what life is like in those countries).

With the help of their art teacher, MaryGrace Anderson, the students painted maps of the continents, and learned about rhythm and dance from African nations as a way to get physically active. In science and English Language Arts, students completed non-fiction close readings. Students discussed the environmental benefits and dangers of not protecting their environment. Using technology and web-based sources, students devised a plan to make their part of the world a better place by taking an Earth Day Pledge on the Earth Day Network. In math, they calculated the impact they could make by collecting and recycling juice boxes from the cafeteria.

Together the classes will proudly wear the friendship T-shirts designed by Pannes and purchased as a gift for the students by Hollern and Pannes.

“I wanted the students to meet unit objectives across all content areas,” said Pannes. “Learning deeply through multiple subject areas, as part of a collaborative effort is a goal of the new Common Core Standards, and students instruction should be meaningful (with purpose and real life experiences). I wanted students to understand why they were learning, and to feel empowered to make change – knowing their efforts can really make a difference.”

Moreover, Pannes and Hollern wanted the children to learn acceptance and the beauty of diversity.

“Participation in general education special area classes is extremely important for students who spend the majority of academic time in a self-contained setting,” said Hollern. “While interacting with non-disabled students, special education students witness age-appropriate social relationships and interaction. They learn to collaborate to solve real-world problems and to be patient and understanding of others. For that reason, it provides the feeling of accomplishment, which is so important to self esteem.”