A Peak Inside the Classroom: Wednesday Walks

Every Wednesday, Diane’s Language Arts class starts the day with a “Wednesday Walk”—a place-based, nature-based writing activity. This Wednesday, the walk was focused on using simile and metaphor based on the poem “The Night is a Big Black Cat” by G. Orr Clark.

The Night is a big black cat

The moon is her topaz eye,

The stars are the mice she hunts at night,

In the field of the sultry sky.

This class started with a group reading of the poem. Several students were eager to try to read it aloud in front of the class, and students patiently gave each other a turn. Along the way, Diane and the students stopped for lively discourse: What is topaz and has anyone ever seen it before? How could a sky be like a field? What clues can we use in the poem to help us guess the meaning of “sultry”? Is it related to the word “salt”? Should we use the dictionary to help us learn more?

Next, Diane explained that they would be practicing writing in the style of the poem and shared an example based on the melting snow banks outside the classroom. As Diane read, students noticed that it was fun to think of the child leading the parent!

Equipped with pencils and clipboards, students went out into the sunny morning and found something in the natural world to write about.

Many students chose to examine the melting ice rink—one student wrote that it reminded him of a frozen ocean with icebergs, while another said it reminded her of sleeping creatures:

Once each student had finished writing, the group went back inside to listen to each other’s discoveries.

This weekly ritual is elegant in its power and significance. Literacy development and community building are layered on top of student agency and creativity. This lesson is a perfect example of a Bridge School class—one where students work together, make independent choices, and stretch their creativity while learning concrete skills.

Respect for Children–Using Fidget Spinners as a Tool for Learning

This is the first in a series of blog posts examining Bridge School’s educational philosophy tenets–Personal Excellence, Respect for Children, Engaged and Passionate Learners and Caring Community. For more details on each of these tenets, visit our Philosophy page.

Fidget spinners have become ubiquitous in classrooms around the country. First marketed as a tool for students who have difficulty focusing in class, they have created a buzz amongst parents, teachers, and school districts. The explosive popularity of the toy led many school districts to create blanket bans on spinners in the classroom–the whirring sound and mesmerizing motion can be distracting, and there isn’t substantiated evidence that they help students focus.

At Bridge School, however, we asked: What if we use fidget spinners as a powerful tool for learning? What if we respect our students’ curiosity, and explore fidget spinners in partnership as teachers and students?

At Bridge School, fidget spinners have become a meaningful opportunity to learn physics, as well as an opportunity to practice self-control in the classroom. Instead of creating a strict rule, we respected the children’s natural curiosity and structured our teaching to meet students’ interests.


We used fidget spinners as a real-world way to understand potential and kinetic energy, friction, and to practice the skills of scientific inquiry.

We asked:

  • Why and how do fidget spinners spin?
  • Why do fidget spinner spin so well without stopping?
  • What scientific questions do I have about a fidget spinners that I can answer by experimenting on it?

                      Students conducting an experiment looking at the length of spin time on different surfaces.

The learning goals for this unit were:

  • Students will be able to demonstrate and explain the motion of a fidget spinner as an example of energy being transferred.
  • Students will be able to explain why the ball bearing mechanism inside a fidget spinner reduces energy lost to heat through friction.
  • Students will be able to ask and answer question about a fidget spinner and collect qualitative or quantitative data.


Finally, fidget spinners have allowed us to help students cultivate their own self-control and behavior management. Rather than banning fidget spinners in the classroom, we engaged students in a dynamic examination of what it looks like to use a spinner as a tool versus as a toy. Students are allowed to use them in classes, so long as they do not cause a distraction to themselves or others. This learning can be messy and take time–however, it provides an authentic way for students to understand how their own actions impact both their learning, and their classmates’ learning. We demonstrate respect for children by learning with them in partnership.

Our philosophical tenet of “Respect for Children” highlights our pedagogical focus on child-centered, constructivist learning. At Bridge School, we believe students learn best when they construct their own learning through hands-on exploration alongside teachers. This unit respected children’s desire to learn about the world around them, and honored their natural curiosity

-Amanda Warren, Mentor-Teacher