Three-year-old Mateo stood in the middle of the rug in the 4-5s classroom, surrounded by a circle of 4-5s students. The preschooler, who happens to be brother to Esme in the 4-5s, alternated between pretending he was a rock star, jumping up and down and pulling his shirt over his head. It was clear he enjoyed being the center of attention. Ella, also three and Clara’s sister, was a bit more low key, preferring sit outside of the circle in the comfort of her mother’s lap. These two additions to the classroom weren’t pint-sized prodigies starting in the 4-5s early (although we hope they’ll be Manhattan Country School students one day). Instead, they were the final visitors in the 4-5s’ multi-week-long baby study.
The 4-5s students peppered Mateo and Ella with questions: What do you like to eat? Do you have all of your teeth? Do you take naps? What do you like to play? Can you run? Do you use a diaper or the potty? What’s your favorite song? Can you speak more than one language? While just a year or two separated these specials guests from their interrogators, the developmental differences were clear.
The annual 4-5s baby study gives MCS’ youngest students an opportunity to learn about human development as they observe how babies grown and change. Their first visitors were babies in utero, followed by different guests increasing incrementally in age—a five-month-old, a seven-month-old, a 9-month-old, a one-year-old, a one-and-a-half year old, a two-year-old and two three-year-olds. During each visit they observed the behavior of the babies and toddlers and asked questions about their growth and development. The 4-5s students then created information bubble maps with the details they noticed about each child during his or her visit.
In addition to studying other children, the 4-5s students explored their own development, bringing in their own baby photographs and sharing stories about the first few years of their lives.
“The baby study is your child’s first look at understanding history and there is no better place to start than to look at their own histories from birth to age four or five,” says Sarah Leibowits, MCS’ 4-5s head teacher.