Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The internationalization of Room 404 [a 3rd grade class at The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools]

I feel very fortunate that my children are able to attend the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.  It’s truly an incredible place on so many levels!

Of particular interest to me this year is the international focus in my daughter's 3rd grade class!  Following are some of the main internationally focused projects of from her class this year:

- Towards the end of second grade students and parents had to select a language to begin in 3rd grade.  Language offerings were Chinese, French, German and Spanish.  We spent a bit of time discussing the various languages with my daughter and in the end my daughter chose Spanish.

-       - Back in October to coincide with Halloween my daughter’s class participated in the Trick-OrTreat for UNICEF program!  The children collected over $300 and then used the information from the back of the collection box to see what their money could be used for—vaccinations for 20+ children, fresh drinking water, blankets, and school supplies for needy children.

-       - The children also had to bring in a pumpkin for a painted pumpkin globe class project.  The children painted their pumpkins blue, placed their equator and prime meridian to place Africa first and then traced the other 6 continents onto their globes.  Finally they painted and put labels on the continents and oceans.  After finishing their pumpkin globes the children began looking more closely at each continent.  They examined Atlases to find locations of countries, landforms, and special features of each continent.

-       - The class started a Global Grains project and in autumn started with South America then on to Asia and the Middle East where they cooked Tabbouleh, potato samosas, and rice noodle stir-fry and recently to Australia where the grains of study were wheat and waddle seed. The children made Waddle Seed Biscuits and meat and vegetable pies. They also got to sample a taste of Vegemite!   

-      -  In January the children prepared and presented reports on Asia to the other third grade classes.  After taking and organizing notes, each group composed a page long report on their assigned research topic. 

-       - Immediately following the class presentations on Asia the children met with their Kindergarten buddies to write and decorate letters to the families in Honduras that were receiving class/family donations of baby supplies.  The kindergarteners had drawn many (adorable) pictures of babies and hearts that were cut out and pasted around the letter for decoration.  The third graders helped their buddies choose a message to write around the border and together they composed a short note to the families.  Additionally, the children received the names and photos of children in the village and the class wrote letters to specific children as well.  Students taking Spanish helped with some basic Spanish phrases to include.

   - German Club pretzels! – This long-standing tradition of selling bakery fresh pretzels every Thursday began with Lab’s first German teacher.  My five year old son particularly likes this and every Thursday a different Kindergarten student is responsible for taking pretzel orders, collecting money, purchasing and distributing pretzels.  Proceeds fund the Pretzel Scholarship for one Lab student to participate in the school’s three week exchange in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg (reminds me of my high school exchange program).

This photo is of the morning welcome sign on my son's Kindergarten class door at Lab: "Hip Hop Hooray We Will Learn About Diwali Today!"  How awesome is that?!  Each student in the class received their own Diwali candle which we have at home (in fact we have two as my daughter was in this same Kindergarten class and also learned about and celebrated Diwali!).

What is really great is that the academic year is not over yet so I’m excited to see what the next internationally focused homework/project will focus on!


  1. What an amazing school! Who would've thought that third grade students would be learning another language and expanding their knowledge of the world at such a young age?! I just hope my future children are able to have the same opportunities that are afforded to the students at a school like this.

  2. @Jacob ~ Thanks for your comment! It is a great school on many levels and I feel fortunate that my two and hopefully a third once he's old enough can attend. In addition to the international focus they are learning about people such as Rosa Parks and my Kindergarten son had to "write" a book about her (in the shape of a bus). What was really interesting is that we were taking the bus home from school in February and we were the only white people on the bus and he began talking about Rosa Parks and how she was told to sit in the back of the bus and how she refused. One of the older African American women on the bus became very interested (and I think impressed) that this little 5 year old knew who Rosa Parks was and that he was talking about how wrong it was the way she and so many others were treated. That bus ride was a great experience for all of us I think.

  3. This is an amazing school. The interactions they participate in provide them with experiences that many other students may never never receive. I look forward to reading more experiences from the school.


  4. That is an awesome project. I wish that more schools would undertake similar projects. Not only is it true learning with real-world applications, but it helps the students understand the world outside of their own. It can open their minds. Unfortunately, too many schools are so busy teaching to the test and trying to stay within a meager budget, this type of program would be out of the question.

  5. Following is an upcoming presentation February 2012 for parents at my kids school ( Another reason why I love their school:

    "Why a Second Language? Linguistic and Cognitive Advantages"

    Hear an expert panel discuss the benefits of being bilingual and bicultural and of learning a second language. Also hear an overview of Lab's World Languages program and what parents can do at home to promote bilingualism, multilingualism, or second language acquisition