Seeing the Future by Looking to Ellis’ Past

Past, present, and future collide in the first grade during our exploration of The Ellis School community. Before we begin to discover the story of Ellis’ past, we spend the first month of the school year coming together in supportive play and work to build connections between our team of learners. The positive energy is contagious as students transform a once empty classroom into their home for the year. A stained glass mural appears on a window as girls work together to create something beautiful for a corner of the room meant for quiet and reflection. A class agreement signed by all of the students appears on the wall. It proudly announces the girls’ intention to learn and have fun together this year. Mathematics manipulatives appear on the desks and voices can be heard exchanging strategies about multiple ways to make the sum of ten. First drafts of small moment stories appear that will later become a polished piece of writing worthy of Writer’s Museum.
First grade students participate in Writer’s Museum after each unit of writing. Writer’s Museum allows the girls to share with the class a piece of writing that they are most proud of. As the girls read each other’s work, they write a compliment specifying what they enjoyed about that piece of writing. Receiving positive feedback from their teammates is exciting and builds confidence. Together, we help each other to discover ways to learn more through challenge and practice.

Once our team has begun to take shape, we look back at the history of Ellis and the many students who came before us. Acting as historians, first graders investigate yearbooks and study photographs for clues of what the School was like in the past. We welcome to our classroom our in-house alumnae, women who first came to Ellis as children and who now serve the School with their professional expertise, contributing to the school’s success. Alumnae such as Mrs. Whitney Sunday, Ms. Bayh Sullivan, Mrs. Amy Larsen, and Mrs. Carly Carstens visit to share their stories. These former Ellis girls, now Ellis women, bring to life the concepts we are exploring in our classroom by sharing Ellis experiences from the past that shaped their learning, lives, and dreams. As familiar faces that the girls see regularly during the school day, the girls can easily relate to the ways these women are making a difference in the School community.

Ms. Carly Carstens, Director of Development, expands our thinking beyond local Ellisians to national and international alumnae by bringing a diverse group of graduates to the classroom for Alumnae Visit Day in October. First graders interview them to learn more about their time at Ellis and their journey beyond Arbuthnot House. The girls see reflections of themselves in the voices, character traits, and impactful acts of the women who make up our history. Visits from Middle and Upper School students offer another perspective on the school community. This year we will enjoy visits from Zora Burroughs, Class of 2024, and Renee Peterson, Class of 2019, who will connect us to future Ellis experiences like House Games, overnight field trips, clubs and sports teams, and act as role models to the girls as they share a multitude of relatable experiences. Through all of these personal connections, first grade students can see in themselves the future.