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Gardner News: School Corner

31 Mar

Last month I wrote about how essential it is for children and young adults to be confident that they are known and valued by the adults in their lives at school. Dan Frank, a colleague at Seward School in Richmond Virginia, has taken this one step further and writes about “the new 3 R’s” – relationships, rigor and relevance.” He argues that without strong relationships, it is difficult to expect as much from students, nor is it as likely that they will see the relevance of what they are learning.

I was reminded of that at Regional History Day competition at the end of February, beautifully hosted again by Quabbin Regional MS/HS and by the History Day volunteers, led by Regional and State co-Coordinator Bob Jones of Applewild. This fun day is a rite of passage for all Applewild eighth graders, who head out from campus by bus at 7:15 on Saturday with Department Chair Todd Goodwin to set up. They are competing for a chance to go on to State History Day. Every year many of our students qualify for states, and, because of the combination of “relationships, rigor and relevance” that is key to the Applewild experience, some then qualify for National History Day. This year, in fact, students took first place in every middle school category, swept two of the categories, and 96% of the class earned recognition, with 76% qualified for States on April 11!

While at Regionals, I was reminded about the ripple effect that educators – and all adults – can have. A parent in the exhibit hall mentioned to me how he had started to think about himself in a different way because a teacher took the time to suggest a book to him, and at about the same time another adult mentioned how he had not enjoyed one day of his job. Those comments helped transform this self-described unmotivated youngster into someone who succeeded in high school, college and is clearly as success in his career (and as a dad, by the way!).

Children listen to us, they watch us. They notice if we are living what we say. Applewild provides such a powerful environment because everything we do stems from a commitment to Core Values that build relationships of trust and affirmation. Out of that come heightened opportunities to create moments of clarity for our students, not simply to prepare them for success in secondary schools.

A fascinating case study in how this works connects to our annual focus on Martin Luther King, Jr in preparation for the observance of his birthday.  We use this as one opportunity to focus our attention on “the other.” Students in all grades develop time lines, examine the history, read stories, research a variety of people who have contributed to our understanding of an appreciation for others. In Lower School, the students share what they have learned in a Common Time so that all students learn from each other. In Upper School a variety of approaches have been employed, including inviting a speaker who was involved with Dr. King during Freedom Summer. It was natural, then, for Upper School faculty to decide to take the entire Upper School to see the movie Selma. We previewed it with the students and also invited parents to join us, some of whom did

We continued these conversations throughout Black History Month and into March with a focus on the Harlem Renaissance. One of our second graders asked, “If the Harlem Renaissance occurred in the 1920’s and 1930’s, why was the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr. necessary in the 1960’s?” That is such an essential question, and it answers the Upper School student’s question about why Ferguson would be mentioned in a movie about Selma. Our country still needs to heal. Honest dialogue and empathy are essential to that process. Those are possible at Applewild.

To learn more about Applewild, including our Worcester County AppleCore Scholarships for students entering grades 4 – 7 and our Cushing Academy tuition discount for Applewild Honors students, contact Jen Wing at 978-342-6053 x110 ( jwing@applewild.org).

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