Candidate after candidate in Mrs. Hadlock's combined third and fourth grade class shuffle to the front of the class, to give their campaign speeches. Clearly, the democratic process is alive and well at John Lyman School in Middlefield.
This is one of more than a dozen "HOT" schools in Connecticut. The Connecticut Commission on the Arts developed HOT, or the Higher Order Thinking concept, 18 years ago and it encompasses three main components: strong arts, arts integration and the democratic practice.
Longtime principal Karen Brimecombe said the third and fourth grade Senate election is a perfect example of that school democracy at work, but it's far from the only one..
"There's ... a constitution that teachers and students have developed from the beginning of the year talking about what it takes to have a good classroom, a good learning environment and how do they like to learn," Brimecombe said.
The arts are a major part of that environment and are integrated in nearly every lesson.
In Carol Sibiskie's combined first and second grade class, a science experiment involving several species of snail is inspired by an exhibit at the New Britain Museum of American Art.
Students share their work on a regular basis from the writing wall to the weekly town hall meeting.
"We get to have assemblies and we get to share what we're working on in our classroom," Alex Denhart, a fourth grade student from Durham, said.
The younger students took a trip to Hammonasset State Beach this fall to learn about oceans and created a performance piece that incorporated what they learned for the all school assembly.
Students leave John Lyman School after 4th grade for Region 13's intermediate school, but the HOT school experience is meant to impact their learning for years to come.