Students at The College School never sit in class and wonder: “When will I use this in real life?”

At The College School, students learn by going off campus, collaborating with experts, and creating solutions to real-world problems. We don’t teach to the test, drill worksheets, or learn content just for the sake of doing so. Instead, students master physics by designing and building their own roller coasters or learn financial literacy by starting their own businesses.

Students explore the world through authentic experiences. Along the way, they are part of a close-knit community that allows them to be who they are and to use their voice. It’s no wonder students love coming to school.

“At The College School, I learned that caring about the environment is a lifelong task and one that is paramount. I learned that I have the agency to enact change no matter the barriers. I learned that it is important to stand up for your peers and care about those in your community.”

Grace Wagner, Class of 2015

This week’s #FacultyFriday is First Grade teacher, Melissa Ridings! Melissa began teaching First Grade at TCS in 1996. She then moved to California with her family and taught preschool there. Before returning to St. Louis and First Grade at TCS in 2001, Melissa traveled to 27 states by RV! She holds a BA in Elementary Education/Spanish from Washington University and an MA in Speech and Hearing from the Central Institute for the Deaf and Washington University. Melissa’s son Zachary is a ‘14 TCS grad. >>How (and why!) do you bring your love of sign language into the classroom? ASL is a great way to introduce another language to kids. Part of our curriculum is learning about a variety of people and places, in addition to understanding and appreciating the differences and commonalities that exist. Signing is a visual and kinesthetic method of learning, so it may benefit certain learners to use it. Many kids are familiar with some signs, as they may have used them when learning an oral language as a young child. Kids also innately gesture with some communication, and it’s often the ASL sign. it’s also really fun! >>What is your favorite project that first graders do and why? If I must pick one, it would be our maple syrup project. I love bringing learning outdoors. What better way to learn about something than to actually do it yourself? Our maple project seamlessly incorporates math, science, and language arts. It’s a lesson in patience and flexibility because it’s long. We introduce kids to the role of weather, how to read a thermometer, and how to track temperatures. We also learn about the temperature needed to boil sap to make syrup instead of sugar. We talk about capacity, like 40 gallons of sap equates to one gallon of syrup! We learn about trees, like how to identify a maple tree and why sap flows inside the tree. We read stories about the process and learn about places where sugaring occurs. I could go on forever about this project. As kids pass by the First Grade classroom in later years, they often comment about fond memories they have of this project. Plus, who can deny the amazing taste of fresh maple syrup? Pancake parties in First Grade are the best!

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