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ESAA Classrooms Now Have "Thinking Trees"
ESAA students and room mother,
Shannon Rosenthal, pose in front of their
thinking tree.

At the Elementary School for Arts and Academics (ESAA), a public charter school in the Sheboygan Area School District, teachers have placed thinking trees in each classroom. The focus, learned at Harvard's Project Zero, is to deliberately teach students to develop thinking dispositions. As these thinking dispositions are identified and used, the words defining the thinking will be placed on leaves and be added to the "thinking trees". Under the leadership of Shannon Rosenthal, parent of first grader, Emma, and all the students in Ms. Marzouki's 1-2 grade classroom, painted a whimsical tree on the wall. They also added homes to the mural as part of their learning community

Project Zero poses the question, "What characterizes a good thinker?" and provides the following answer, "A good thinker possesses certain abilities: cognitive capabilities, as well as thinking strategies and skills. Yet what sets good thinkers apart is not simply superior cognitive ability or particular skills; rather, it is their abiding tendencies to explore, to inquire, to seek clarity, to take intellectual risks, to think critically and imaginatively. These tendencies can be called "thinking dispositions."

ESAA teachers will use vocabulary such as predict, clarify, describe, interpret, guess, hypothesize, estimate, calculate (and over 100 more words in English to name and describe different kinds of thinking) to help students organize and communicate their own thinking more precisely and intelligently. The leaves on the individual thinking trees in each classroom will reinforce and remind the students of the different thinking dispositions that are being learned.

Sheboygan Area School District Press Release
October 8, 2009