Cascades Academy Independent School PK-12
What Can't Be Measured on a Test?

This week and next, third graders are entrenched in their first standardized tests. As a school, these tests are important; they let us know where our students are as learners, and help us evaluate our curriculum's strengths and weaknesses. As educators who instruct in subjects like reading, writing and math, we assess our progress in those areas. Yet, so much school time is also spent cultivating community, perseverance, creativity, friendships and other life skills. So I asked the students, what are three words that describe them, or things that are important and awesome about them that we can't measure on a test. Using their responses, I created a wordle. A wordle is an image that looks like a word cloud; the more frequently a word is used, the larger it appears in the design.

This is what third grade looks like:

Clearly, they are learning the right things. It's pretty sweet.

A Ghost of a Guest for Halloween
A Ghost of a Guest for Halloween

It may not come to much surprise that Halloween is my favorite holiday. Coming up with costume ideas, getting crafty and transforming myself and my kids has always been fun for me, as I am a stickler for details and like to get them all just right. The other great part is seeing everyone else's clever costume ideas, and this year, the kids at Cascades Academy really brought it!

Having school during this holiday is fun but also can be a challenge, as we are all amped up, taking on different personas, and distracted with costume props and the excitement of trick or treating. I just happened to have the second/third graders on this day, so I decided instead of a regular class with regular 'ol Ms. Meadow, I would "invite" my dear old friend, the ghost of Frida Kahlo, to speak with the kids about her life and art.

This also tied in beautifully to what we will be doing in class--portraits of ourselves as our "spirit animal", inspired by Frida's 1946 painting, "The Wounded Deer", in which her face is on the body of an injured stag in the forest.

Before Frida came to visit on Halloween, students had a chance to see this painting and without knowing about her life, try to interpret its meaning as well as get their initial reactions to this symbolic piece of art. When Frida showed up, she told them about her life, took questions, and showed other examples of her work. When our circle time was over, the kids had a much better understanding of her often sad and tragic life, and her artwork made much more sense to them. I think they really enjoyed the "visit", I appreciated that they asked questions in first person to Frida, and were genuinely interested in her life and paintings. And I cannot wait to see how each child transforms him/herself into their animal of choice, which will be more than "what's your favorite animal?" In class we have talked about symbols, animal traits and "powers", and what creatures they feel personally connected to. I want the second/third graders' work to have as much meaning as Frida's...though a lot more light hearted and playful.

-Ms. Meadow, Art Teacher

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