The following describes a typical day in the life of a scholar at HLA-Morris Park.
Morris Park scholars begin to arrive on school buses, pouring out in their yellow logo t-shirts and khaki bottoms; the school’s official uniform. Scholars are greeted by the smiling faces of many of our teachers and staff.
Younger siblings follow closely behind their older siblings, friends walk in groups, backpacks on, some carrying books in their hands. Inside the building, Principal Catherine Chu-Lapiska welcomes the children. Excited scholars run up to hug her, others are eager to show her their latest art project.
The classrooms fill up quickly as scholars sit down to eat breakfast, which is served from 7:20- 7:40 a.m. each day in their classrooms. Most of the scholars at Morris Park eat breakfast in school every day. And as the clock nears 7:40 am, the classroom teachers begin to prepare scholars for their day of learning. Lingering Fruit Loops are spooned up, and milk cartons chugged back before scholars sort their breakfast packaging into recycling or trash.
Teachers hold morning meetings with the scholars, giving students a chance to greet each other, share about themselves, and connect with a shared activity and daily morning message. Ensuring that scholars know what is expected of them is a Hiawatha Academies best practice. As scholars read the day’s agenda off the teacher’s board there’s a feeling of camaraderie and teamwork in the room: “we are all in this together.”
As reading groups begin, students sit in small groups, allowing for more focused and differentiated learning. During literacy, all classrooms have two instructors, which offers scholars more targeted attention from teachers. The small groups also allow teachers to structure lessons at different learning levels, so no one gets left behind. The classroom walls themselves are a lesson waiting to be found; peppered with inspirational quotes, the week’s plan, and fast facts both fun and weird.
In fact, learning and engagement is in play everywhere you look, exemplifying Hiawatha’s commitment to nurturing our scholars’ minds and characters. Whether in the scholar-made posters on how to properly recycle plastic and paper, or the kindergartners’ project on what aliens might be found in outer space, scholars are encouraged to be their best selves, use their imaginations, and have fun as they learn and grow.
Scholars eat lunch together in the cafeteria, building a strong school community, and filling the air with the sounds of laughter and conversation.
RECESS & MOVEMENT
In the afternoon, if the weather permits, scholars take recess in the playground adjacent to the building. Kids chase each other in a game of tag, others kick a ball. Even when scholars are inside, they are often encouraged to move around. Hiawatha Academies recognizes the importance of physical activity to health and concentration. For the first three weeks of school each year, recess is organized with activities that involve the whole class. This builds a sense of trust, community, and safety and make sure every scholar feels welcome and included.
Meanwhile, in the front office, parents gather and greet one another. They’re volunteering for a field trip and their excitement is palpable — almost matching that of the scholars themselves. Nancy Marin, the office assistant, answers the phone ringing on her desk. After a brief conversation in English, she switches over to Spanish in response to the parent on the other end of the phone.
As the afternoon heat builds up, third graders gather for their Writer’s Workshop. In a kindergarten class on the other side of the building, young scholars contemplate a math problem under the close guidance of their teacher.
Time for music class — the sweet sounds our scholars make travel down the hall. Scholars rotate between six different specialty classes. Downstairs in Physical Education, Mr. Jordan gets our scholars up and moving with fun music in the background!
As scholars spend time with specialists, teachers meet to share information about how each scholar is progressing. They make plans to help scholars who are behind catch up and to give more challenging work to scholars who are already on track.
Satisfied, stimulated scholars flood out of the building, looking forward to a rest and then another day of learning ahead.