As most of you know by now, we are an EL Education school, meaning we are a project-based learning school that desires to make our students true experts on a few big topics each year, instead of simply scraping the surface of every science and social studies topic. We also let these expeditions, whatever the topic may be, be an umbrella for the other subject areas in our classroom. At the beginning of every year, each crew takes on what we like to call a “mini-expedition”. This 6-8 week expedition (as opposed to a few months long) is an introduction and reminder for our students to the structure of this deep-level exploration and thinking.
Over the summer, when Mrs. McMillan (2nd grade teacher), Mrs. Acker (3rd grade teacher), and I (2nd grade teaching fellow) were thinking through various topics for our joint mini-expedition, an obvious one came to mind: coffee!
Now, I know what you’re thinking, of course a group of teachers want to teach about coffee! Though, yes, we do get the perk of having coffee available in the school building everyday from our coffee cart, the way that it incorporates into all of the 2nd and 3rd grade subject targets is perfect. The students have learned the “life cycle” of a coffee bean, able to tell exactly how coffee goes from bean to cup. They have heard from a coffee expert (our very own, Ms. Strader) who shared all about her time living in El Salvador, where she picked coffee beans with her El Salvadorian family for hours a day! We’ve been reading both non-fiction and fiction books about coffee to learn different reading strategies. In math, second graders are introduced to counting money, and by third grade, students are expected to be proficient at counting money, which our students are able to practice everyday! The price of coffee at our coffee cart, which serves the teachers, staff, and families of our school, is $2 if you pay with bills, and $1.50 if you pay with coins (since it’s extra good practice to count coins!). Our second and third graders are also in the process of writing persuasive letters to local Detroit coffee shops to see if they will donate coffee to our school coffee cart. And the best part of it is, all the money that the second and third graders raise throughout the year goes directly to sending them to overnight camp at the end of the year! Needless to say, everyone is ecstatic. And if you’re ever in the neighborhood, feel free to stop in and grab a cup. :)