Each week, Westridge 4th graders dive into a new hands-on, collaborative activity in Exploration Time.
While building and making skills emerge, learning to work in teams and developing a growth mindset are central objectives for this class filled with fun-learning challenges. For instance, recently the girls stood in a circle on the playground, carefully pulling colorful and precisely measured strings (see photo). From a distance, it looked like a maypole of sorts. But instead of a pole in the middle of this circle, there was a rubber apple sitting on a highly-breakable plate that was being elevated by the tension of the girls’ yarn lengths, which were connected in the center.
Slowly the plate was lifted, dipping this way and that before being met with a huge cheer when it was successfully elevated over the girls’ heads. The girls hadn’t started with the plate – rather, an inflatable frog was used on early attempts – some successful, some not. Talk of string tension and strategies for ensuring the plate was lifted evenly took place after each lift.
The girls say it is exciting and that they love exploring working with different materials (recently they built the tallest possible structures out of pipe cleaners and then out of blocks.) “You get to do things when you aren’t just sitting around listening. It’s really fun,” said Caitlin W.-C. ’27.
“In the class, I teach a curriculum on growth mindset―for instance this week the girls are interviewing someone successful, asking about times when they weren’t successful and how they handled those situations,” said 4th Grade Teacher Susi Pettersson. “We carry that learning over into the hands-on activities. After we work through the activity, we think through what worked and what we might tweak, and then we revisit the activity. I think in schools we often reflect on what students might do differently, but they don’t often get a chance to actually put that into practice. In Exploration Time the girls really do get the change to do it a second time.”