HEADlines for March

03 Mar

We weren’t sure it would arrive before spring break, but the 100th Day celebration has actually occurred – Thursday February 26th! We have even enjoyed a full five days of school this week – the first in six weeks – and were they ever full!  The seventh and eighth grade thespians performed the demanding dystopian play The Giver, various Lower School grades enjoyed Bring a Parent to School days, first graders delivered their Animal Project presentations and second graders made another visit to their Senior Friends at Highlands, the National French exam was taken by fourth and fifth graders, the fifth grade traveled to Mars, and eighth graders all present at the Regional History Day competition on Saturday!

Christie Stover on Campus

The week before ended with our celebration of the Family Math Event. Events like Bring a Parent to School, our plays and Family Math assure that parents have multiple ways to see your children eagerly involved in their school activities, something we delight in every day. We have also been gearing up over the recent past for the Marshall Fund In Ears ‘n Eyes (IENE) residency. We will share that at our “Harlem Rent Block Party” March 5 for all children and their families. Our last week of winter (We hope!) will therefore be filled with music, painting, and poetry.

The Marshall Fund and The Harlem Renaissance

The IENE Marshall Fund residency is a perfect example of the intentionality of our program. Each year we connect our diversity work to our Martin Luther King Jr assemblies. This year we have extended that to IENE and the Harlem Renaissance. The period from the 1910’s to 1930’s saw a flowering of intellectual and artistic activity as Blacks migrated north to work in the factories of our major cities. In New York, the music, dance, art, and creative writing combined to create an energy that became known as the Harlem Renaissance. Our students have been learning about this time period and some of the key contributors to the movement: intellectuals, poets and authors such as Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Zora Neale Hurston, and Countee Collen; musicians such as Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday, Cab Calloway; painters William H. Johnson, James Van Der Zee, and others; and performers Josephine Baker and Paul Robeson — even the Harlem Globetrotters got their start at this time! When Mrs. Sanford explained this energy to her second grade class, one of the children asked a great question: “If there was such great positive energy in the 1920’s for Black people, why was there a need for the Civil Rights Movement with Reverend King in the 1950’s and 60’s?” That question is typical of the insight our students have. Sadly, the question is as germane to our society today as it was in the 1920’s and 1960’s.

Spiraling Curriculum

Another example of the intentionality of our program is our spiraling curriculum from grade to grade, both in specific disciplines and in our approach to Core Competencies generally. Family Math provided many examples of this approach in mathematics – and across disciplines. I enjoyed being reminded of the importance of encouraging students to think of math as much more than drill. Asking questions, “wondering and noticing,” and problem solving start in kindergarten and extend into 8th grade Algebra.

We also spiral more generally. I had the wonderful opportunity last Wednesday to watch the first graders’ Animal Project Reports. The children had researched their animal, typed their reports, and drawn a picture of a key aspect of their animal. They made eye contact with me as they presented them in front of their class, and they displayed their pictures and highlighted something for me to notice. Clearly, they also learned from each other. They understood concepts such as habitat, predator, primates, and amphibian. They recognized that for several of their animals a serious predator is humans, sometimes because we are nervous about an animal (a wolf), sometimes because we use parts of them (seal, gecko [!], fennec fox, owl) sometimes because our behavior endangers them (giant panda, giraffe, gorillas). As I prepare to stop by the eighth grade History Day regionals on Saturday, I am once again struck by how the work at each grade level supports the robust development of skills and Core Competencies. The first grade project leads into second grade reports for their Living Wax Museum and that process continues throughout the grades so that our eighth graders every year are very competitive at regional and state History Day and sometimes qualify for Nationals.  These presentations are among the many ways we intentionally provide our students with a thorough understanding of our Core Competencies: to usefully reflect on their work, solve problems, communicate, work with others, create, and persevere.

The Ripples of Intentionality

Another way we are intentional is in how we approach our service curriculum. Applewild has earned praise for how we integrate our service initiatives into our program. The Parent Association’s fun “Frozen” event in early February exemplified the power of that approach. Alumna Nicole Fleming ’11 portrayed Elsa, and the children were thrilled to be with her. Nicole does this to raise money for trips to Haiti to help with the country’s ongoing recovery from the earthquake. She explained that she committed to this because she was moved by the 2010 Operation Smile presentation to the school by Laverack Family Alumni Award recipient Andy Wexler ’67. Andy encouraged students to realize that they each have the capacity to make a difference. Nicole took this to heart, and she has worked throughout high school to help others.

Let’s hope that the rest of this winter is kind to us and that we all return from “spring” break warmer and refreshed!