The much-anticipated unveiling of the mud kitchen in the Early Childhood Center in spring 2021 was another reminder of how La Jolla Country Day School recognizes the diverse learning needs of each of its students. Providing the youngest learners the opportunity to create with their hands and feel the earth between their fingers highlights the value of the kinesthetic, visual and naturalist ways of learning.
Tailoring our curriculum to meet varied ways of learning can be seen across the LJCDS campus. This may be in Kirsten Luongo’s third-grade classroom, where students work with their writing partners and tap into their visual, auditory, verbal and interpersonal learning needs. It is seen in Middle School science when Stephanie Heinrich caught her fifth-grade student’s attention by kinesthetically and visually demonstrating plate tectonics with graham crackers and icing. The Upper School chemistry team collaborated with visual arts educator Liz Stringer to bring molecular forms to life through art, providing additional visual and kinesthetic opportunities for learning.
These mindful approaches to curriculum development enable students to recognize their strengths in learning, which leads to increased perseverance and overall effort. As our students explore learning preferences (e.g., visual, auditory, verbal, kinesthetic, naturalist, inter/intrapersonal, logical, musical), they hone their executive functioning as lifelong independent learners.
The Learning Resource Center realizes how valuable these skills are and has developed the Brain-Based Learning Strategies course to support all students at LJCDS in their executive functioning development. With grade-appropriate lessons, students explore and fine-tune their executive functioning, starting with identifying their own learning preferences. When students can name how they learn best, they can use their preferences when choosing study strategies, taking tests or completing assignments. The level of metacognition to name how they learn best and understand their academic development fosters this independence.
Students also explore time management, prioritization, organization, attention, self-awareness and working memory. This year’s course was taught in Grades 5, 7 and 9 and was a Flex offering for Grades 10-12. The intention is to expand to all of Middle School.
Seeing students empowered to take responsibility for their learning and executive functions for future success grounds us in the purpose of our work as educators. When I see our Tiny Torreys and junior kindergarteners demonstrate cubby management or Middle School students reflect on test preparation and performance with their teacher, it evokes a feeling of gratitude for all of the collective work the educators and students put into the educational experience.
Honoring and developing the unique differences each of us brings to the learning environment is one of the greatest gifts we can give our community, and I encourage every member to think about their learning preferences. So, when you see me walking around the LJCDS block with pencil and paper in hand, know that I am exercising my kinesthetic and naturalist learning preferences while reflecting on the future of education, the Learning Resource Center and La Jolla Country Day School.
Early Childhood Center Mud Kitchen