Each year as part of a combined reading, writing, and Tinker Time lesson, Grade 2 students have the opportunity to read the first book of the beloved children’s series Gooney Bird Greene by two-time Newbery Medalist winner Lois Lowry.
In the story, students discover a loveable main character with a fun sense of fashion (hello pajamas and cowboy boots and tutus and polka-dot shirts!) and a passion for telling creative tales to teachers and classmates that are “absolutely true.” For Grade 2 students, Gooney Bird Greene is a positive example of how to embrace individuality and develop the qualities of a good storyteller. She also provides important lessons on expressing empathy, a key piece of Graland’s character development curriculum.
According to Grade 2 teacher Kelly Palma, “Empathy is an important skill for students to learn early on because it teaches them to connect with others and act with compassion. When we are able to ‘put ourselves in someone else’s shoes,’ it helps us get along, work more effectively, and thrive as a community.”
For this reason, the lessons surrounding Gooney Bird Greene do not end after students finish reading the book. “After analyzing and familiarizing themselves with the characters in the story, students choose a character that they want to help in the book and head to the Gates Lab,” Mrs. Palma said. “From there, Gates Coach, Elizabeth Leddy, guides the students through the design thinking process. The first step of the project is to develop an understanding of their character’s challenges using empathy. Next, students identify a problem that they want to help their character solve. Then they brainstorm potential solutions and design a prototype or tool that will help their character solve the problem.”
Throughout the final stages of the project, the Grade 2 students could be found in the Gates Lab excitedly working together to brainstorm, problem-solve, and create one-of-a-kind contraptions for their new friends in the book. Upon the completion of their inventions, the students (and their teachers!) even got to come to school in the Gooney Bird Greene inspired outfit of their choice!
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.