Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lexicon in Brookline

On a sleety Thursday night at the Driscoll School in Brookline, Massachusetts, over a hundred parents and students turned out for an evening in Lexicon. Maybe it was the offer of pizza that brought them, but the pizza ran out early, and they were cheerful anyway. We let the still-hungry hordes in to the ten stations staffed by parent and teacher volunteers, some of them in costume and in character. Miss Needle was wrapped in ribbons marked with numbers at irregular intervals, Lily of Flora was wreathed in flowers, and Zeta of Irrationality was dramatic, beautiful, and a little scary in her dress and long dark hair.

The kids, from grades 4 to 6, picked up their Lexicon Travel Guides and crowded around the tables. They fed synonyms to Emily and found metaphors for the Mistress of Metaphor. They measured with erasers and paperclips instead of rulers, and they relied on measurement to calculate the approximate value of pi. (They worried when their calculations didn't come out close "enough.") They coaxed the feuding parts of speech of Flora together by arranging colored petals marked with words into full, multicolored sentences. Tangram puzzles and the mirror maze were favorites, as usual. Kids and parents used word roots to make up words of their own, and they rescued and decorated words from the trashcans of Brevity.

What was so impressive was not just the turnout but the way parent involvement translated into kid enthusiasm and persistence. The kids wanted to complete each task and do it well. Parents came up to me to thank me for coming; all I wanted to do was tell them what great parents they are. I signed books so fast my signature got messier and messier.

To give some kids a break from the noise and activity, we reconvened in the computer room, where I talked to them about writing a book and where ideas come from. Then it was time to clear up and head back out into the sleet. But all of us involved with Lexicon came away elated at how a school community of dedicated staff and attentive parents can make learning such a celebration. Here's to the people of the Driscoll School, to Ellen Davidson and her math group, and especially to Izzy, the fourth grader who first invited me.

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