This week's #FeatureFriday highlights Liz Sobel and her son, Sam. Liz is a proud parent to three Far Hills Falcons. She has a very broad perspective of the Far Hills Kindergarten experience. Her oldest son, Ben, is a Kindergarten graduate now in Grade 2, Sam is currently thriving in the program, and her daughter, Brooklyn, is in Preschool preparing for Kindergarten and Lower School.
Q+A with Liz Sobel
Name a favorite Kindergarten project and why?
How can anyone NOT love the Kindergarten Gingerbread STEAM adventure?! This fun exploration takes place over several weeks in the winter. It incorporates everything from language arts, math, social studies, art, science, engineering, and technology.
I am grateful every day that Sam was able to participate in this classroom exploration. I could actually see a spark ignite in him as he worked on his gingerbread tasks. The wheels were turning in his mind constantly. Sam came home from school practically bursting with enthusiasm every day as he regaled us with tales of the latest gingerbread-themed project! He particularly enjoyed the water table test. This experiment involved the students placing homemade boats (made of materials such as popsicle sticks, wiki sticks, sponges, straws, tin foil, clothespins, etc.) into the water and then attempting to safely float that boat, along with a little gingerbread cookie passenger, from one end of the water table to the other. Through the magic of Seesaw, the parents were able to join the fun and watch the video recordings of these mini voyages. The suspense and utter joy in the room as the children made predictions and drew conclusions was palpable.
Typically, as part of the Gingerbread learning exploration, students invite a parent or other adult to join the classroom and help decorate their own homemade gingerbread structure, which they choose to build after reading gingerbread stories from urban, rural, and suburban settings. I vividly recall that bonding experience with my oldest son Ben two years earlier. Although I'm bummed that we couldn't physically be present to engage in this particular classroom activity, we are eternally grateful for all that Sam, his classmates, and our other FH children were able to do within the school's walls during this unprecedented year. I definitely look forward to decorating tons of gingerbread with Brooklyn and Jesse in future Kindergarten years!
Kindergarten is the foundation of academic maturity for children—when they learn to become learners. Can you share an example or describe your observations of that transformation?
I have witnessed so many positive transformations in Sam throughout Kindergarten. I believe that his significant development has been particularly heightened this year, as he is clearly overjoyed (as are his parents!) to be back LIVE in school!
Through his Kindergarten experience at Far Hills Country Day School, Sam has gained an enormous amount of self-confidence. I remember vividly the first time I knew that something truly special was happening within those Kindergarten classroom walls. It was when our family watched Sam's "I Can Kid" presentation. Laura Hefferan and Ben Yu worked tirelessly to individually assist each student in preparing shareable video presentations of something the students had worked really hard to learn/do and something of which they are very proud to have accomplished.
We clicked on Sam's video, and my jaw literally dropped as we sat and listened to my "baby" eloquently describe his physical and emotional journey learning to ski.
It wasn't WHAT Sam said in the video that struck me so profoundly - rather, it was the sheer confidence with which he presented himself. I simply could not believe that his teachers had been able to bring so much out of him in such a short time. His voice was steady, clear and thoughtful. He sounded proud, strong and happy. It was Sam at his very best. I suppose that is what I love most about Sam's year in Kindergarten....every day (sometimes unbeknownst to him), he is learning to be the best version of himself.
We have witnessed true emotional development in him as he learns to understand his feelings and the feelings of those around him. He has also made great strides in self-regulation - specifically, learning how to take a deep breath and modify his approach when he doesn't instantly know how to execute a task perfectly. Every day, he gains a new skill and adds a new tool to his knowledge kit.
Q+A with Sam Sobel
Discuss how you worked with Mr. Yu during lunch one day to count the number of surfers crashing into the waves.
[insert typical, enthusiastic, LOUD Sammy voice here] "Oh, YEAH, I LOVED that!!! Mr. Yu and I are both REALLY into surfing. Sometimes at lunch, we watch surfer videos and play a game...like a contest. We see who can guess the right amount of surfers who will stay up and who will wipe out. We have to count everything really carefully. It's SO fun!!!!"
What has been something new that you have been able to do this year that you couldn't in Preschool?
"I can read now!!! That's the biggest thing. I read short books to my little brother and sister because they can't read yet. Oh, and I can understand and speak some Spanish thanks to Senora Maria!"
What is the best or coolest thing you learned so far in Kindergarten?
"Ohhhhh, one of the coolest things we did was in Learning & Design! We figured out how to use our iPad to control Dot the robot! I used code to change Dot's eye color and to make him move, talk and sing. I also liked when we drew pictures on paper that came to life [referring to the augmented reality experience using the Quiver app]. It was SO awesome!!!!"
Tell us about a time your teacher made you laugh/smile?
"Hmmmmm, that's a tough one.....because a LOT of them make me laugh and smile!! They are very funny!
It makes me smile when Ms. Hefferan reads us stories and when she tells Mommy the kind of yogurt she is eating at lunch so Mommy can get it for me, too. Ms. Hefferan always wants me to feel happy and be healthy. That makes me feel good because she cares about me so much!
Mr. Yu makes me smile when we watch surfing, play Spaceman, and when he draws pictures. He's a GOOOOD artist!"
What is your favorite specials subject?"It's so hard to pick!!!! I love PE with Mrs. Houghland when we play the Pac-Man game....or pretty much all the games in PE. Everything in PE is SUPER fun!!!
Also, Music class is definitely one of my favorites!! I was in the Pete the Cat play!! I was the narrator, a singer and and Pete in his red shoes! I think I sounded pretty good. I love music because Mrs. Burns lets me play the drums and helps me work on the beats and learn notes. I want to be a real drummer when I grow up and also maybe a hip hop dancer."