Old Projects, New Lens

Danny Stock
4th grade revisits identity exploration 

Building upon their previous learning during the yearlong 2nd grade Identity Project, the 4th grade has been busy strengthening personal identity awareness and developing deeper relationships between students. Last week, students crafted interview questions in conjunction with their writing curriculum in order to interview a classmate about their identity. Students asked questions about family, gender, religion and beliefs, race and ethnicity, personal choices (hobbies, favorite activities, likes/dislikes), and values. Following the one-on-one interviews, students wrote paragraphs about their partner.

“Lawson is someone who loves his family very much,” Ariane ’28 wrote. “He feels that he would be nothing without them...A few values that are important to him are humor, family support, and challenge.”

“Tessa LOVES school so l put a GDS license plate on it (she likes social studies the most),” Sophie ’28 wrote. Each student also drew a portrait in profile that illustrated elements of that person's identity. “I also thought a leaf would represent her love for the outdoors,” Sophie added.

The portrait of Max ’28, from Payal Sangani’s 4th grade class, featured kugel and a map of Florida.

Later, students published “I am from…” poems, a longstanding 3rd grade tradition now revisited in 4th grade. The poems spoke to heritage, personal identity, and personality.

Nora ’28 wrote, “I am from watching a movie on Friday nights. / I am from making Easter bread with my mom.”

In a delightful twist, 4th grade teacher Julia Tomasko ’05 surprised her students with guests and a publishing party. Who were the special guests? Their 3rd grade teachers! “Normally,” Anthony Belber said, “we would be seeing each other in the hallways and be able to say, ‘Hi.’ It’s so nice to actually see you. I’ve missed you.” For their part, the 4th graders welcomed Anthony and Laura, along with Todd Carter and Jessica Ahn, with quite a lot of excited screeching. Students showed off their writing and artwork to their former teachers and made the most of their virtual surprise party. 

Revisiting projects they’ve explored in previous years is of particular value these days when so much of their daily life has been disrupted and feels unfamiliar. Students are able to consider some familiar projects with a slightly more sophisticated lens and an evolved understanding of self. That’s why at GDS, students will revisit these same themes—of identity and community—often, and when they participate in the High School Identity Art Show or write a college essay, for example, they will draw upon rich foundations from meaningful explorations as far back as Pre-K, should they have been lucky enough to start from the very beginning.