Studies show that somewhere around 90% of a child’s brain develops before their sixth year, a period of time in which they experience amazing neural growth as they rapidly develop cognitive pathways. They effectively learn all the time, at least while they’re awake, and many of their early impressions have long-lasting effects. In Merrick’s class, rest assured that EMS kindergarteners are well nurtured, and that a snapshot day-in-the-life includes an array of progressive insights that exemplify not only their vast learning, but also their appreciation of one another. I was fortunate to tag along for a quick visit last week, a random pop-in that was purely authentic. I first caught them outside, advancing along the pathway back from recess. Having just enjoyed a spell of controlled chaos on the field, they now moved with quiet resolve, as Merrick calmly reminded them of the larger world around them and helped to bring them into leadership roles. “What’s our next place on the sidewalk to stop and look?” Hands went up to volunteer the answer, and Merrick led the group from the center of the line, while students in the front took on the responsibilities of pace and purpose. As with all good instruction, the best laid plans were marked by unpredictable outcomes, too, which Merrick seamlessly worked into the walk as learning opportunities. On 8th street, near school, the class chanced upon a pile of bear poop, plentiful in town these days, and the students gathered around it, an assembly of short scientists. “Let’s look at what’s in the poop. What do you think this bear has been eating, and why?” It was a real conversation about real events, presented in the language of young learners and with relevance and purpose they’ll need for years ahead. Students contemplated and discussed the bear that was no longer present, its species, the process of hibernation, where the apples may have come from in nearby foliage, and why it’s important for humans not to leave their trash outside. All the while, they listened to each other’s ideas with respectful demeanor, then crossed the street, together, and continued on toward the school building. Before they entered, Merrick asked for two things that everyone does in the hall, received the two correct answers of “We’re quiet and we’re walking,” then selected volunteers to lead the class back to their room. Inside, they shared gratitude and toasted “Salud!” with their sippie cups to things and people they appreciated, finished a quick snack, reapplied their masks, then, one at a time, announced the color of their ‘lily pad’ (seat squares) in Spanish, to form a circle for storytime. Merrick led them in guided reading and listening, at once a process of comprehension of theme and concept within the book, and of citizenship within the group. I left the room with a profound calm, having enjoyed a sample of amazing lessons taking place everyday.