First Graders Build Model Town

The Willow School’s first graders built their own town on Willow’s campus as the culmination of their lessons on community on Friday, June 1. Willow’s Community in the Woods serves not only as a celebration of the students’ learning, but also as a fundraiser for Homeless Solutions, Inc. Students raised over $800 for Homeless Solutions!

“In the first grade, we study different communities, we start small with the classroom community, go to the school community and at the end of the year, we move onto the town and global community,” Willow’s first-grade teacher, Katie Lombardo, told the Courier News.

Over the course of this school year, first graders took field trips into town, experienced the neighborhood first-hand, and interviewed important community workers. Students met Peapack-Gladstone Mayor William Muller and visited the Peapack and Gladstone Police Department. They learned about money at the Peapack-Gladstone Bank, cashiered and decorated cookies at The Fresh Market in Bedminster, and learned about the local library system. At the Public Works Department, the students not only learned about maintaining a town, they also helped the PWD out by laying mulch at a local park!

As first graders studied Peapack-Gladstone and neighboring communities, they asked, “What is a community? What are some of the roles and responsibilities of community members? What makes a community successful?”

First graders also visited Homeless Solutions, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Morristown that offers supportive housing to homeless and low-income families and individuals. The visit prompts students to discuss what responsibilities the members of a community assume to support those in need. Tamala Reynolds, a volunteer manager at Homeless Solutions, told the Courier News that Willow students learned a lot during their visit. By the end, their questions had evolved from, “Can people  bring their pets?” to questions like, “How do they get to work if they don’t have a car?”

These visits are just the beginning. Students deepen their understanding of banking, food, retail and service businesses, laws, citizenship and government planning through a number of creative, collaborative projects, leading up to the annual Community in the Woods learning celebration. “The kids do mapping, they do money in math, and they learn about needs and wants in that way,” Lombardo told the Courier News on Friday. “They did job applications, which are hanging up at the mayor’s office here, to figure out which station they were going to run.”

At Community in the Woods, students assumed the roles of the community workers they’ve studied. Visitors to this town in the woods can traded money for tokens that they could use at each station, getting their fingers printed at the police station, making and mailing a card at the post office, purchasing books from the library, and buying food and beverages at the local market.

Read the Courier News/Home News Tribune article on this year’s Community in the Woods here, and find out more about how this learning celebration defines Willow’s first grade curriculum here. Willow is still accepting applications for first grade for the 2018-19 school year! Start your application today!