At Overfield, we root our curriculum in over fifty years of rich, child-centered traditions that anchor our explorations and experiences. From yearly events and celebrations to welcoming artists new and long-loved, we value the role of tradition in building and nurturing community, establishing a sense of place and memory, and for the lasting legacy tradition plays in the lives of our alumni and families, teachers and staff, and the entire community.
Observing the environment and responding to its annual transformations provides a fruitful foundation for learning. Because Overfield is a place where tradition is blended with an evolving, responsive curriculum, the characteristics of each specific year influence the nature of the creative work that our children engage in. We are inspired by the Reggio approach and combine it with both our traditions and dynamic practices to foster a joyful, meaningful experience.
We ask parents to create a symbol that represents their child in the hopes that it will capture that child’s spirit. But like so much we do, it also has a profound educational component. In an early childhood setting like Overfield, the use of symbols supports children’s developing understanding that symbols have meanings. Why is symbolism important? It’s a first step of literacy, and a future love of reading and writing. Children move from understanding and reading symbols to understanding letters, then words. Each time children see a symbol next to their name, it helps build that understanding between a symbol and its meaning. We use those symbols on the cover of the children’s portfolios and on an all their name labels, such as their lockers or mailboxes.
Overfield is privileged to host three visiting artists throughout each school year through our Artists in Residence program, which introduces diverse viewpoints and perspectives to our students. One of these artists is beloved to our community, musician Jim McCutcheon. Along with Jim, we are fortunate to play host to two other artists who come to share their talents and passion for their art. Painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians, multimedia and textile artists, and more have all served as Overfield artists-in-residence. At the end of the residency, our families come together to celebrate the work the children have done with the artists. Learn more about artists who have participated.
A legend at Overfield, Jim McCutcheon has been bringing his love of music to our school for nearly two decades. The Guitar Man brings not only his guitar, but also an astonishing array of stringed instruments to the children. His goal is to share not only a wide-ranging wisdom about music but to share a variety of songs reflecting the history of the instruments themselves. We love that his passions embody the mission and joy of our school and that he has composed songs just for Overfield. Jim McCutcheon is an experience—in rhythm, physics, vibration, mathematics, history, movement, literacy, and friendship.
Our Night Tree event happens yearly after Thanksgiving Break. Based on the book by Eve Bunting, our annual winter tradition is a celebration that complements our nature-based curriculum. Children research our local animals and prepare food for them. Art made by our young students and collected natural materials transform the Gathering Place into a winter wonderland. On the night of the celebration, our families enter the space to sing and celebrate literature, nature, and the simple joy of being together. The evening concludes with a visit to trees on campus, where children and their families hang their treats for the animals.
We recognize and value the bonds between children and their grandparents and want to foster those relationships. At Overfield, grandparents and other special adults are encouraged to join us any time but we always set aside a few days in spring just for them. Grandparent’s Day offers a chance to spend time with a grandchild and experience Overfield’s days filled with drawing, painting, singing, reading and exploration of the school and grounds.
One of our sweetest traditions takes place in late February or early March. As soon as daytime temperatures rise to forty degrees and nighttime temps go below freezing, and once we see the first red buds appear at the ends of maple twigs, we break out the drill, hammer, sprouts, and containers. To tap our trees, children take turns drilling and hammering. We hang a collection bag on an installed spout and start gathering sap. We cook down the collected sap over a fire till it turns brown. We’ve made syrup! And what better way to celebrate than to host everyone for pancakes.
Some of our best ideas and learning experiences come from questions. By day, our school is ripe with the sounds of children, families, and teachers exploring and learning via the natural areas around our school. But what happens at night? At our spring night hike, we gather together to observe the environment that exists each night while we are away from school. Our kindergarteners work with our Naturalist to prepare, and then serve as guides for the evening. Families visit stations that teach about the nocturnal animals that call our school grounds home. And, to celebrate, our kindergarten children camp out in tents after the spring hike.