Open Work

4s – 7s

Open Work is a daily opportunity for children to engage in self-initiated work with a range of materials. In the 4s, the unit blocks, easel paints, sensory table, and clay are always available. Through extended experience with those open-ended materials, the children’s work develops in complex and often surprising ways.  Students make discoveries about mixing colors or balancing tall buildings. They are deeply invested in the dramatic play that evolves around block buildings and clay, and tell elaborate stories to accompany their paintings or work at the water table. They move fluidly between materials and activities, finding opportunities to work independently or with peers. Most important, children experience the satisfaction of making their own choices and following their own ideas. 

In the 5s and 6s classrooms, familiar materials continue to be available, while teachers add others, including a variety of art and building materials, curriculum-related explorations, and a woodworking station. Children learn to stay with their Open Work choices for longer stretches of time, beginning to return to work over several days. By the 7s year, students are proposing their own ideas for materials and explorations and engaging and teaching their classmates. Their repertoire expands to include activities like bookmaking, cardboard construction, science experimentation, and puppetry. The explorations and creations of Open Work in the early Lower School classrooms set the stage for continued self-initiated work throughout the upper grades, as children acquire the ability to manage more complicated projects. Encouraged to share their ideas with classmates, they become increasingly comfortable giving and receiving feedback and reflecting on their own work and process — skills that transfer readily to academic work. 

8s – 10s

Open Work is an important part of our academic program, providing daily opportunities for students to exercise choice, take ownership over their work, and develop skills in problem-solving and self-reflection that contribute to their work across the curriculum.  While teachers still introduce new materials or ideas for students to work with and may also have class-wide focuses for Open Work at times, 8s-10s students are capable of and eager to set their own courses for projects and investigations that pique their interest.  While some Open Work sessions are still spent “messing around” with materials and exploring possibilities, older students are encouraged to devote time to longer-term projects that give them the opportunity to plan and follow-through.  8s-10s love to work collaboratively as well as independently, sometimes trying out something they’ve never tried before.  At other times, students are able to incorporate skills they have learned in new ways, for example, by applying research skills to their own areas of interest, teaching classmates a new craft, or creating books, performing plays, or designing scientific experiments based on work in other areas of the curriculum.  As students get older, greater emphasis is placed on planning independent or group projects during Open Work, reflecting on work and process, and articulating the standards by which they believe projects ought to be evaluated.