Teachers, Students, and the Curriculum

“Somewhere, I suspect, down in the elementary school, probably in the fifth and sixth grades, a subtle shift occurs.  The curriculum–subjects, topics, textbooks, workbooks, and the rest–comes between the teacher and student” (Goodland, 1984, p. 80).

I found this quote in Michael Fullan’s The New Meaning of Educational Change, and it stopped me in my tracks.  Now, the whole book is about how hard it is to make changes in education, so it’s not a really uplifting read, but this quote made me feel like my guts were being ripped from my torso.

It makes sense for high school; I certainly had teachers who placed quadratic equations or the First Constitutional Congress between us. But, curriculum gets between teacher and student as early as elementary school?  As early as fifth or sixth grade?  Those are the grades I have been a teacher in for more than half my career!  That’s horrifying!

And, I believe I can safely say that this is not happening at Trinity School.

At Trinity School, we share the out of doors with our students.  See Why Outdoor Education? and Keep in Rhythm

At Trinity School we value the arts and our students’ efforts and accomplishments in them.  See The Art of Badging and A Song in the Spotlight

At Trinity School we encourage students to take risks and build agency.  See Just Ask… and Modeling Improves Learning

At Trinity School we know students by name and as individuals, and we relish watching them flourish.  See What’s in a name? and Flourishing: A Trinity Journey

At Trinity School we push our students to discover new worlds- in between pages or across borders.  See Just a taste… and La Grafiti de Colombia

These Flourish posts are just a sampling from the 5th and 6th Grade.  The examples would go on for days if we looked at #TrinityLearns on Twitter and the tremendous work that is going on in every grade level.

I know that curriculum does not get between Trinity students and Trinity teachers, not in fifth and sixth grade, and not in any earlier grade either.  We’re all having way too much fun learning and flourishing together.

Fullan, Michael.  (2015). The New Meaning of Educational Change (5th ed.). Teachers College Press, Columbia University

Goodland, J.  (1984).  A Place Called School.  McGraw-Hill Education, New York.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Kate Burton serves the Trinity School community as 6th Grade science lead teacher.

The Art of Badging

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania I was extremely active in Girl Scouting. One of the joys of scouting was earning badges. Badging required me to fulfill a variety of criteria, skills, goals, and objectives in all areas of life. From drawing and painting to sewing and photography, I learned skills that are the basis for my teaching career to this day! Earning badges and awards (specifically the First Class award, equivalent to the Boy Scouts Eagle Award) and receiving it demonstrated to me the skills I had acquired and the honor of receiving the badge or award validated that fact.


When Nina Chamberlain, my teaching associate at the time, returned from the 2015 National Art Education Association conference held in New Orleans, she brought back the idea of “badging” to our art classroom. I was totally on board with using them within the Choice-Art studios! She hand-drew over 100 badges for the 10 studios we have in the Choice-Art Studios. We had a “soft opening” last year, awarding the badges to students who demonstrated specific skills with materials, techniques, or concepts in the studios. A big THANK YOU to Nina! Thank you for sharing your talent. I couldn’t have done it without you!


Photo by Pat Kerner, Art by Nina Chamberlain

This year I have taken the art of badging to the next level. I have developed learning progressions in each of the 10 studios. After demonstrating their skill earning specific badges and fulfilling the criteria in a studio, the student can earn a “ribbon” signifying their attainment of the skills at that level of the learning progression. The Green ribbon signifies the “Novice” level, then comes the Yellow Ribbon for the “Emerging” level, after that is the Red Ribbon for the “Proficient” level, and finally the Blue ribbon for the “Advanced” level. In some studios, such as the Architecture studio, I have changed the names of the levels to reflect historical terminology: Novice, Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master Architect.


Photo by Pat Kerner, Art by Nina Chamberlain

Students have enthusiastically embraced the earning of badges and ribbons, and I am finding their motivation and engagement has increased. Many students are determined to earn all of the badges and subsequent ribbons in a studio to become a master of their craft!

Little did I know that when I was a Junior, Cadette, and Senior Girl Scout that badging would come full circle and become a focus for my work with students in the arts!

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Pat Kerner serves the Trinity School community as the Lead Upper Elementary Department Art Teacher.

Deep Learning…what does it REALLY mean?


I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what Deep Learning really means? Is it “less”, but “more”? Is it more complex, more work, and difficult? Does technology assist in this? Is deeper learning only for a select group of students, or is it for everyone? What does it look like in the classroom?
How do we create a community of people who truly understand what deep learning really is?

For me, I’ve been grappling with all of these ideas, asking a lot of questions, and trying to gather information about the topic. As our school community begins to look at this topic, do we really understand it? Can everyone articulate what it means? I’m still getting there.

A Rich Seam How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning

A Rich Seam
How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning

One resource that I came across, was focused on the use of technology and how the effective integration of it, allows for deeper meaning and understanding from our learners. For years, I’ve been talking about the difference between consuming information (knowledge acquisition) an creating content to share with the world. Applying what they’ve learned in new ways.

~One way that deep learning can occur is through the intentional use of technology in the classroom along with the change/shift in pedagogy from the facilitator.~ According to Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy,

“the explicit aim is deep learning that goes beyond the mastery of existing content knowledge. Here, deep learning is defined as ‘creating and using new knowledge in the world.’ “

Deep learning tasks are those that re-structure the learning process towards knowledge creation and purposeful use.

Deeper Learning for All is a resource that had me nodding my head YES to as I was reading…it confirmed what MY ideas about Deep Learning are! Mastering core academic content and being able to think critically to solve complex problems. Working collaboratively to learn how to communicate effectively while developing an academic mindset. All of these competencies help us understand what it means…but how to we accomplish these things?

Personalized Learning- LEARN

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Project Based Learning-DO

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Work Based Learning-APPLY

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Competency Based Learning- SHOW

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As I’ve been thinking about what all of this means, and what it looks like in particular, it’s affirming to know that we ARE doing these things, and doing them WELL. Finding intentionality in how we do things will lead us to an understanding of what deeper learning really is.


Learner, Thinker, Writer: Marsha Harris serves the Trinity School community as the Director of Curriculum.