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Pages Cafe

Imagine a room with plenty of natural sunlight streaming through the windows, shining on art tables where students are sculpting aliens out of Model Magic.  They laugh and compare characteristics as they sculpt, referencing a book the class is reading about aliens who eat an Earth child’s science project;

Imagine different classes and different grades all working on the same 350 piece puzzle, examining what the previous class was able to put together and then adding more to the picture;

Imagine being seven years old and having a vote in what book the storyteller is going to share each week;

Imagine a place filled with books, cooperative games, building materials, and art supplies.  A place where multicultural music fills the air and a student-created suggestion box has a prominent place and is taken seriously by adults.

The room is the Pages Café, a makerspace-in-the-making here at the Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School.  The Café houses our collection of literature and offers a friendly space to read old favorites and explore new titles or genres. The long tables also provide an inviting area for a variety of learning centers:  there is Lego building to stimulate spatial reasoning, games that have gears to inspire early engineering, and watercolors and beautiful paper to provide canvases for young painters.  Thanks to generous community donations, we also have a growing group of origami artists, some of whom have taught themselves to make fascinating creations without written or video instructions.

In addition, we have connected with favorite authors and characters by writing letters to Jeff Kinney, the author of Diary of A Wimpy Kid, and by sending photos of our art to a beloved character, Pete the Cat. Recently we sent an email to Bruce Coville, an author who has written over 100 books.   He emailed back within two days, sharing that he had been a teacher and expressing delight in our projects and discussions.  Inspired by a unit on different gingerbread folktales, one class wrote their own gingerbread story and is currently illustrating it.  Later this winter we are looking forward to listening to the favorite childhood books of our staff members which we will then reenact in tableaus.  In the spring, we will be planting seeds and then giving the seedlings to our sister schools with accompanying haikus. 

The Pages Café is a space where everyone, child and adult, can reflect, imagine, explore and create.  It Is not unusual to find teachers and students working together on puzzles, researching, or painting side by side.  Under the expert facilitation of Mrs. Rock, learning centers change to reflect the evolving interests of each grade so that students are always walking into a set of fresh questions and materials.

In short, the Café is a place in which creativity-through written word, spoken word, artistic representation or engineering marvel-can flourish. The Café is a place where children can take risks or find that which is more comfortable, and all of the activities and books scaffold cooperative skills and respectful socialization.  The Café, in a very real sense, reflects the children’s interests and inspires further expression.  It is a living organism here at the Nathan Hale Arts Magnets School, and we look forward to its continued growth!

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