Throughout the school year, Corlears students at each grade level engage in units of study. In any given year, the focus can range anywhere from dairy farms to the immigrant experience in 19th century New York. Each unit is unique to each class, because the students themselves are responsible for choosing it. Through in-class learning, a series of field trips, and various immersive learning experiences, the students soak up as much information as possible while they work to create what can only be described as a living, experiential presentation. At Corlears, this is known as a culmination.
As its name suggest, the culmination is where everything comes together. All of the work, the trips, and hands-on learning that take place throughout the semester are put into action as students and teachers transform their classrooms into new places and the students, into new people. Each class embodies their topic in this immersive sharing experience. This year, students studied topics ranging from journalism to Greek mythology, with each culmination as detailed the last. Travel through the floors and you’ll find yourself in different worlds and time periods. Watch your step as you carefully walk through an active construction site on the first floor. Make it through and next door you’ll find news team hard at their broadcast; a show aptly titled Great News. Upstairs is a busy farmer’s market, food co-op and supermarket with experts at each site ready to answer questions from shoppers. Turn the corner and you are instantly transported to Mount Olympus, where Greek gods surround a fire pit on their thrones. Reach the fourth floor and travel through the woodlands as the sounds of native animals surround you. Each class created an experience for their visitors, sharing information in a way that only experts can.
Each culmination is nothing short of elaborate. Each room is visually stunning, and behind all of the decorations lies deep, layered learning that has gone on throughout the semester. For Joy and Jacob’s Ks “are able to collaborate across the many disciplines of the school community…we picked STEM to highlight the new and growing field of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. The K's learned about many fields in the area of construction which, combined with STEM, gave the class a rich and deep culmination experience.” Randi, 6/7s teacher agrees, saying "Culminations are [an] authentic way to showcase the learning that happens throughout the unit. Students are able to piece together information in a meaningful and creative way." As you walk through the rooms it becomes clear that students have gained a wealth of knowledge, and are eager to share that with their visitors. "The children worked so hard to share everything they learned," says Patricia, 6/7s teacher, "after interviewing so many different experts in the food industry, they became the experts!"
Culminations are not just a prime example of the rich learning that takes place at Corlears, but also showcases the strong community within the school. Each class welcomes parents, staff and their fellow students into their room and proudly presents their work. While students are eager to show their parents what they have created, perhaps most unique is just how excited students are to share their knowledge with their fellow students. For students in the 8/9s and 10s, their culmination is yet another chance to connect with their younger friends and embrace their role as leaders of the school. On Wednesday, the 3/4s visited the 10s class to learn about Greek Mythology, one student said, "I really liked the 10s culmination because I got to see my buddy and sit on the throne!" Spend a few moments with these two groups and it is clear to see that a real bond has formed, and culmination is an opportunity for them to come together and celebrate those relationships and their school. Teachers, of course, are a huge part of this process. Not only are they guiding their classes each day, but once culmination arrives they show their support for all Corlears students. Teachers visit each other’s rooms and participate in this semester-end celebration. They, too, beam with pride at the work their students have done and take in the energy of excited visitors. As Kate, 8/9s teachers simply states, “it’s magical.”
The experience of culmination is meaningful for the entire Corlears community. The excitement from students, teachers and parents is infectious, and each culmination is truly remarkable. Witnessing the students present their work and speak so fluently about a given topicdisplays the kind of deep, interdisciplinary learning that takes place at Corlears. The culminations are a true example of how education and community come together and support each other every day at the school.