Category Archives: Education

Celebrating Black History Month

The Meadowbrook School has been celebrating and learning about black authors’, artists’, teachers’, scientists’ and mathematicians’ contributions to society in a little more depth throughout February. Classrooms are filled with different projects. In the art program, the students learned about black artists, Faith Ringgold, Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin, Alma Thomas, and  Kehinde Wiley, and created their own works honoring their style of art.

Interested students, teachers, and parents can walk through the Goldsmith Greenfield Gallery to appreciate the art lent to us by the Moodyjones Gallery.

Thank you to @ moodyjonesgallery for lending us these pieces made by talented black artists to help us celebrate Black History Month!
These two particular pieces were painted by Philadelphia-born artist, R.L. Washington. Learn more about him and other artists in our art wing! Each artist’s bio is available. @ The Meadowbrook School

Image may contain: one or more people, people on stage, people standing and outdoor
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Meadowbrook School Celebrates World Read Aloud Day

On Wednesday, February 5th, The Meadowbrook School celebrated World Read Aloud Day. World Read Aloud Day was created in 2010 by “LitWorld” to build more opportunities for children to celebrate the joy of reading aloud. World Read Aloud Day is now a global event and Meadowbrook was very happy to have participated in it!
Reading aloud has encouraged self-expression in children, along with building their understanding of text while furthering their confidence. This plays into our curriculum nicely, as our students are often expected to speak, perform, and give presentations in front of their peers and teachers both in the classroom and in assemblies. Our students had a wonderful time celebrating World Read Aloud Day in their classrooms through different reading activities. We gave the students an opportunity to read some of their favorite books and passages aloud to their peers. Teachers had a designated time that they read aloud to their students as well. In Preschool, the students were treated to “There’s a Monster in Your Book” by Tom Fletcher, while up in Sixth Grade, students read “Beowulf”! In Fourth Grade, children listened intently to “The Curious Garden” by Peter Brown, while Second Grade was enchanted by “Sam and the Lucky Money” by Karen Chinn. While we were delighted to celebrate World Read Aloud Day at school, we also encouraged parents to do some reading when their children came home after school. The Meadowbrook School was very happy to have participated in such a beneficial event, and look forward to celebrating World Read Aloud Day for many years to come.

To Resist, Use DARE. Written by: Nelson C’19

By: Nelson C ’19

Dare has influenced me greatly this year and has made me a more confident person when it comes to being in a tricky situation. We, the sixth graders, have learned so much in DARE class and know what to do in situations involving drugs, resistance, stress, and bullying. DARE has changed my perspective on stressful and negative events. From my DARE classes with Officer Ammaturo, I now know what I will do when I am faced with extreme choices and pressure. Without the knowledge and experience that comes with the DARE sessions, it would be hard to handle the unsuspecting turns and thrills we call life.

Situations such as drugs, stress, resistance and bullying can affect our personalities and lives greatly. Alcohol kills seventy-five thousand people a year in the United States alone. Alcoholic beverages can cause loss of coordination, memory loss, slow reflexes, and loss of self-control. It weakens the heart and can damage every organ in your body. Smoking kills more than four hundred-fifty thousand people a year in America. Whether you are using cigarettes, cigars, the pipe, vape pens, or Juul, tobacco contains nicotine which causes heart disease, colds, respiratory problems, lung cancer, tooth damage, and ruined skin. Alcohol and nicotine are both considered a drug and are very addictive. Remember what they can cause, so you can avoid them in the future. This knowledge can save your life.

Stress is another negative problem that you will most likely run into. You may get frustrated, warm, and start to sweat. Having a fast heartbeat and blushing are other symptoms of stress. You may have a temper tantrum when you are stressed. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of your words and not get mad at people who are trying to help you. Possible ways to relieve stressful feelings are breathing deeply and calming yourself with relaxing thoughts. Bullying is probably the most feared negative situation. There are four kinds of bullying: social, verbal, physical, and cyber. Social bullying is delivered by a group of people. Cyberbullying takes place on social media while verbal bullying is with words. Physical bullying is probably the most serious kind and it involves fights and injuries. All forms of bullying can be solved by telling a trusted adult or standing up to the bully. Use your DARE experience to stick up for yourself and others, for resistance is a mountain, and you can use your strength to charge up the first part, but your knowledge will get you to the top.

When I was younger, I would get scared when thinking of bullying, drugs, and stress but thanks to DARE I now know what I will do when faced with challenging choices. If I am ever in a situation involving drugs, I know that I can remind myself about the negative health effects of drugs, use resistance strategies to avoid them, and use the DARE decision-making model. We all know now when in times of uncertainty, to D) define the problem, A) assess the situation, R) respond to the problem, and E) evaluate your decision. As confident people, we should be able to fight against stress and know yourself and your mistakes as well as you know your good points. Life does not focus on mistakes; eventually, you will realize that happiness is the key to a good life. Along with stress, bullying is not an unsolvable matter. It is not something to dread. It can be solved and there are ways to avoid it. Just appreciate the joyful moments, and when a difficult moment comes, harness your rope, hold it tight, and take a big step forward.  The way you approach a situation is the way you overcome it.

Growing up can be stressful and challenging, but I know I can overcome and take care of these situations, so I should not be scared of them.  I can deal with bullying when I am older, and I will strive to be nice to people and not become a bully myself.  Resisting bullying and drugs should be easy if I think of what I know about them and confidently stand up for myself or say no to drugs.  As I get older, I know we will run into these challenges and face them confidently.  To choose the right path is a mediocre problem, to stay on that path is the greatest challenge of life.  Remember DARE and use it wisely, for we are the future and the future is great.

DARE has greatly changed my perspective on many topics including drugs, stress, and bullying.  Along with being confident about what to do in these problems, I have learned what these situations can cause and create.  Resistance is not hard when you learn and experience what can happen in the difficult settings of life.

Meadowbrook Students Recognized In National French Competition

Meadowbrook French Club
Winners of Le Grand Concours

Le Grand Concours is a national competition sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French. Students were evaluated for their written, oral and listening comprehension skills in French. More than 72,000 students in all 50 states competed in the 2019 event. Second-grade student, Juniper Oser, earned a platinum medal, plaque and certificate for earning the highest score in her level/division. This is the first time a Meadowbrook student earned this placing! Sixth-grade student, Zara Clark-Schecter, ranked in the 95th percentile earning a gold medal. Fifth-grade students, Delaney Stout, and Gabriella Cordon ranked in the 90th percentile nationally earning silver medals. Sixth-grade student Nelson Cordon ranked in the 85th percentile nationally also earning a silver medal. Elizabeth Grohsman (4th grade), Peyton Abbott (3rd grade), and Lia Khoury (2nd grade) ranked in the 80th percentile nationally earning bronze medals according to Lisa Narug, National Director of Le Grand Concours.

AATF President Anne Jensen indicated: As the president of AATF, I would like to extend my special congratulations to those students who ranked nationally in Le Grand Concours.
They have shown a superior level of French language skills, cultural competence, and commitment to French. It is my hope that these students will continue their interest in French and pursue study and travel opportunities as future ambassadors of the French language and the many cultures it represents. I would also like to congratulate the teachers who prepared nationally ranked students because without their dedication and hard work these students would not have attained their ranking. Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to the parents who have supported and advocated for the French programs in their children’s schools. Our Association is grateful to the dedication and hard work of everyone who shares our passion for the promotion of French.

The Meadowbrook School’s French Club, hosted by World Language teacher, Suzanne McDowell Cordon ’95 and Khyber Oser, prepares students for Le Grand Concours by conversing in French, preparing and eating French food, and having fun! Just another way the Meadowbrook School is bringing life to learning.

Jaimie Abt Shmelzer ’90 & Drew Shmelzer ’19 Civil Rights Journey

From February 14th to 17th,  Drew and I traveled with our synagogue, Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, on a Civil Rights journey to Atlanta and Birmingham.   We went with 17 6th and 7th graders, the director of our religious school, Rabbi Stacy Rigler, and some other parents.   It was a powerful and emotional trip for all who attended. We went with a company called Etgar 36, and most of us learned while we were there that Etgar means “challenge” in Hebrew.   The trip itself was challenging; we were forced to look at our country’s shameful past regarding slavery, and the racism that still exists as a result of it.   We were also left with a challenge to try to make changes and be the generation that ends racism and achieves equal justice for all.

After arriving in Atlanta in the late afternoon, we met up with our incredible guide, Josh.   He took us to dinner and then told us a story about the lynching of a Jewish man.   Most of the kids, and some of the adults didn’t know what lynching is. While it wasn’t the best bedtime story, it really set the stage for the days to come.   Our first full day was spent in Montgomery, Alabama.   We started in the Rosa Parks Museum.   While everyone had heard of Rosa Parks and the bus boycotts, there was a lot we didn’t know, and we all found the museum to be interesting and worthwhile.   Then after a delicious lunch of southern fried chicken, we went to the Equal Rights Initiative.   They recently opened The Legacy Museum, which looks at racial inequality from enslavement through mass incarceration; and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which is a memorial to victims of lynching.   These places were eye-opening. Some of the students came out of the museum really upset that they didn’t learn about this in school.   To hear that one in three African-American boys born today will serve time in jail really shook people. To see the thousands of names listed in the memorial on stones the size of coffins of those lynched for things like, “writing a note to a white woman,” was shocking to us.   There were dates and locations of the lynchings too, and they didn’t all take place in the South.  Some were in Pennsylvania. The latest date I saw was 1949.

That evening we attended a local Shabbat service, which was a really nice ending to the day.   Then we enjoyed a pizza dinner, and the kids got to let out their energy with a swim party.

The next morning, we left for Selma.   We stopped outside the Edmund Pettus Bridge where Rabbi Rigler led a brief, interactive service.   She was amazing at having everyone share short reflections throughout the trip.   The students were impressive each time, saying really thoughtful things.   In Selma we met Joanne Bland.   She was 11 years old when she marched from Selma to Montgomery and was beaten on the second attempt.  Ms.  Bland gave us a tour of Selma and shared her story, which included being arrested multiple times before she was 13 years old.   Ms. Bland was unbelievable.   She never gave up.   She has spent her whole life fighting for civil rights. She told us how much better things are now, but knows there is still a long way to go.   She told each of us that we are the most important person, and, “You are standing where history was made, I know you must be a history maker too.”   The impact she left on us will be  everlasting.

 

That afternoon we went to Birmingham, Alabama. Our first stop was the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. This was a very impressive museum where we learned more about the history  of the civil rights movement. After that we met up with Bishop Calvin Woods. He has been a civil rights worker since the 1950’s and was a friend of Martin Luther King, Jr. He took us on a walking tour of Freedom Park and showed us the 16th St. Baptist Church, which was bombed and four young girls were killed. Bishop Woods told us incredible stories and sang with us. There is a plaque in the park dedicated to him, which is very unusual for someone still living.   Hearing stories from Bishop Woods and Ms. Bland left huge impacts on us.   It makes history come alive when you hear from people who lived it.

We drove back to Atlanta that night, and people were really tired.   It was a long few days. Rabbi Rigler said we were going to have a Havdalah service.   I thought the kids were going to complain and have nothing left.   They surprised me.   Rabbi Rigler asked each person to share one thing from the day that made the most impression on them. Each person said something that either the Bishop or Joanne said that was powerful and meaningful to them. It was beautiful.

Sunday morning, we went to the Names Project/ AIDS Quilt and learned how AIDS is a modern civil rights issue.   We then went to a church service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, which is where Dr. King was raised.   Finally we saw his burial site.

 

This trip was so impactful.   Everywhere we went, people were telling the kids that they are the generation that is going to change things  and end racism and bigotry.   They felt empowered.   We now know that it is our job to tell these stories to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.   Some of the kids are going to do more than that; they are going to become activists for equality and prison reform.   Some of the students left saying they want to go again, others left saying it was too short.   The adults left feeling exhausted!   Travelling with students this age can be challenging – these kids made it easy.   They exceeded our expectations in every way.

How to help your child get and stay organized

Most kids generate a little chaos and disorganization. Yours might flit from one thing to the next — forgetting books at school, leaving towels on the floor, and failing to finish projects once started.

You’d like them to be more organized and to stay focused on tasks, such as homework. Is it possible?

Yes! A few kids seem naturally organized, but for the rest, organization is a skill learned over time. With help and some practice, kids can develop an effective approach to getting stuff done.

And you’re the perfect person to teach your child, even if you don’t feel all that organized yourself!

Easy as 1-2-3

For kids, all tasks can be broken down into a 1-2-3 process.

1. Getting organized means a kid gets where he or she needs to be and gathers the supplies needed to complete the task.

2. Staying focused means sticking with the task and learning to say “no” to distractions.

3. Getting it done means finishing up, checking your work, and putting on the finishing touches, like remembering to put a homework paper in the right folder and putting the folder inside the backpack so it’s ready for the next day.

Once kids know these steps — and how to apply them — they can start tackling tasks more independently. That means homework, chores, and other tasks will get done with increasing consistency and efficiency. Of course, kids will still need parental help and guidance, but you probably won’t have to nag as much.

Not only is it practical to teach these skills, but knowing how to get stuff done will help your child feel more competent and effective. Kids feel self-confident and proud when they’re able to accomplish their tasks and responsibilities. They’re also sure to be pleased when they find they have some extra free time to do what they’d like to do.

From Teeth Brushing to Book Reports

To get started, introduce the 1-2-3 method and help your child practice it in daily life. Even something as simple as brushing teeth requires this approach, so you might use this example when introducing the concept:

1. Getting organized: Go to the bathroom and get out your toothbrush and toothpaste. Turn on the water.
2. Staying focused: Dentists say to brush for 3 minutes, so that means keep brushing, even if you hear a really good song on the radio or you remember that you wanted to call your friend. Concentrate and remember what the dentist told you about brushing away from your gums.
3. Getting it done: If you do steps 1 and 2, step 3 almost takes care of itself. Hurray, your 3 minutes are up and your teeth are clean! Getting it done means finishing up and putting on the finishing touches. With teeth brushing, that would be stuff like turning off the water, putting away the toothbrush and paste, and making sure there’s no toothpaste foam on your face!

With a more complex task, like completing a book report, the steps would become more involved, but the basic elements remain the same.

Here’s how you might walk your child through the steps:

1. Getting Organized

Explain that this step is all about getting ready. It’s about figuring out what kids need to do and gathering any necessary items. For instance: “So you have a book report to write. What do you need to do to get started?” Help your child make a list of things like: Choose a book. Make sure the book is OK with the teacher. Write down the book and the author’s name. Check the book out of the library. Mark the due date on a calendar.

Then help your child think of the supplies needed: The book, some note cards, a pen for taking notes, the teacher’s list of questions to answer, and a report cover. Have your child gather the supplies where the work will take place.

As the project progresses, show your child how to use the list to check off what’s already done and get ready for what’s next. Demonstrate how to add to the list, too. Coach your child to think, “OK, I did these things. Now, what’s next? Oh yeah, start reading the book” and to add things to the list like finish the book, read over my teacher’s directions, start writing the report.

2. Staying Focused

Explain that this part is about doing it and sticking with the job. Tell kids this means doing what you’re supposed to do, following what’s on the list, and sticking with it.

It also means focusing when there’s something else your child would rather be doing — the hardest part of all! Help kids learn how to handle and resist these inevitable temptations. While working on the report, a competing idea might pop into your child’s head: “I feel like shooting some hoops now.” Teach kids to challenge that impulse by asking themselves “Is that what I’m supposed to be doing?”

Explain that a tiny break to stretch a little and then get right back to the task at hand is OK. Then kids can make a plan to shoot hoops after the work is done. Let them know that staying focused is tough sometimes, but it gets easier with practice.

3. Getting it Done

Explain that this is the part when kids will be finishing up the job. Talk about things like copying work neatly and asking a parent to read it over to help find any mistakes.

Coach your child to take those important final steps: putting his or her name on the report, placing it in a report cover, putting the report in the correct school folder, and putting the folder in the backpack so it’s ready to be turned in.

How to Start

Here are some tips on how to begin teaching the 1-2-3 process:

Introduce the Idea

Start the conversation by using the examples above.  Will it be easy or hard? Is he or she already doing some of it? Is there something he or she would like to get better at?

Get Buy-In

Brainstorm about what might be easier or better if your child was more organized and focused. Maybe homework would get done faster, there would be more play time, and there would be less nagging about chores. Then there’s the added bonus of your child feeling proud and you being proud, too.

Set Expectations

Be clear, in a kind way, that you expect your kids to work on these skills and that you’ll be there to help along the way.

Make a Plan

Decide on one thing to focus on first. You can come up with three things and let your child choose one. Or if homework or a particular chore has been a problem, that’s the natural place to begin.

Get Comfortable in Your Role

For the best results, you’ll want to be a low-key coach. You can ask questions that will help kids get on track and stay there. But use these questions to prompt their thought process about what needs to be done. Praise progress, but don’t go overboard. The self-satisfaction kids will feel will be a more powerful motivator. Also, be sure to ask your child’s opinion of how things are going so far.

Start Thinking in Questions

Though you might not realize it, every time you take on a task, you ask yourself questions and then answer them with thoughts and actions. If you want to unload groceries from the car, you ask yourself:
•Q: Did I get them all out of the trunk?
A: No. I’ll go get the rest.
•Q: Did I close the trunk?
A: Yes.
•Q: Where’s the milk and ice cream? I need to put them away first.
A: Done. Now, what’s next?

Encourage kids to start seeing tasks as a series of questions and answers. Suggest that they ask these questions out loud and then answer them. These questions are the ones you hope will eventually live inside a child’s head. And with practice, they’ll learn to ask them without being prompted.

Work together to come up with questions that need to be asked so the chosen task can be completed. You might even jot them down on index cards. Start by asking the questions and having your child answer. Later, transfer responsibility for the questions from you to your child.

Things to Remember

It will take time to teach kids how to break down tasks into steps. It also will take time for them to learn how to apply these skills to what needs to be done. Sometimes, it will seem simpler just to do it for them. It certainly would take less time.

But the trouble is that kids don’t learn how to be independent and successful if their parents swoop in every time a situation is challenging or complex.

Here’s why it’s worth your time and effort:
•Kids learn new skills that they’ll need — how to pour a bowl of cereal, tie shoes, match clothes, complete a homework assignment.
•They’ll develop a sense of independence. Kids who dress themselves at age 4 feel like big kids. It’s a good feeling that will deepen over time as they learn to do even more without help. From these good feelings, kids begin to form a belief about themselves — “I can do it.”
•Your firm but kind expectations that your kids should start tackling certain jobs on their own send a strong message. You reinforce their independence and encourage them to accept a certain level of responsibility. Kids learn that others will set expectations and that they can meet them.
•This kind of teaching can be a very loving gesture. You’re taking the time to show your kids how to do something — with interest, patience, love, kindness, and their best interests at heart. This will make kids feel cared for and loved. Think of it as filling up a child’s toolbox with crucial life tools.

Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD

Science Garden

The first week of school is always very exciting as the students visit the science garden. Last spring the 3rd grade students planted red pepper seeds. Over the summer they grew into large producing plants which every class visited last week. After picking peppers the students had a chance to sample in the science room red peppers as we discussed their health benefits. We also tried orange peppers to do a comparison taste test. What’s your favorite?!!!

Third Grade enjoying peppers from the garden.

French Competition

By:  Suzanne Cordon

Bonjour!

Le Grand Concours is a national competition sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French.  Students were evaluated for their listening and oral comprehension skills in French.   More than 85,000 students in all 50 states compete in this event. This year, Meadowbrook had nineteen students participate in the contest.

Zara Clark-Schecter of {Meadowbrook School} has ranked in the 95th percentile nationally again this year in the 83rd annual event earning another gold medal. Zara is a fifth grader at Meadowbrook and has been participating in the National French Contest since first grade.  After achieving a superior score on the listening exam this year, she was invited to participate in the oral interview portion of the National French Contest.  Felicitations Zara!

Juniper Oser of {Meadowbrook School} also ranked in the 95th percentile nationally earning a gold medal. Juniper is in first grade and this was her first time participating! Juniper also completed the oral interview! Excellent Juniper!

Gabriella Cordón of {Meadowbrook School} ranked in the 85th percentile nationally earning a silver medal again this year! Gabriella is a third grader and has been participating in the contest since first grade.  Gabriella also participated in the oral interview portion of the contest. Très bien Gabby!

Elizabeth Grohsman (third grade)  Nadia Russell (third grade), Allie Bernert (second grade), and Karleigh Sowden (first grade) of {Meadowbrook School} earned scores of higher than eighty-five percent on the listening exam and will be pinned and awarded with Honneur by the American Association of Teachers of French.

 Lia Khoury (first grade), Delaney Stout (third grade), Darbee Stout (first grade), and Ethan Sweigard (first grade) earned a score of eighty percent on the listening exam and will receive a special recognition from Meadowbrook for their accomplishments.

I am extremely proud of each student that participated in the contest.  The listening exam is given in a standardized test format.  The speakers are native and speak at a natural pace.  The time is limited and all of our students did an exceptional job with this!  I love that they are provided with this experience early on that will help to prepare them to be more willing and confident to partake in these endeavors in the future.  I have also attached the TOP-TEN Philadelphia ranks for the high school students.  Samuel Berger ’16 and William Stutman “16 are former Meadowbrook students who began taking the National French Contest here as young students. How exciting that they earned a chapter Philadelphia rank of 1 and national rank of 2.

Thank you to all who were a part of French Club and French Contest! I truly hope you will consider it again next year! Please join us for the annual Distribution des Prix ceremony (the 41st!) on Tuesday, May 15, at Chestnut Hill College from 7:00-8:00 p.m. in Sorgenti arena. We will also celebrate with a special assembly at Meadowbrook on Monday, May 21st at 8:30 am where everyone who participated will earn his or her certificate. I am looking forward to seeing you there!

7 Myths About Independent Schools

Seven Myths About Independent Schools

Myth #1: Independent schools are only for the rich.

Fact: While it’s true that independent schools are chosen more often by families from higher income brackets, it’s also true that a significant proportion of independent schools’ population is comprised of the three lowest socioeconomic quintiles (students who often receive financial aid) and the fourth quintile, the middle to upper middle class families who find a way (including grandparent contributions) to afford a quality education for their children, seeing it as the best investment they can make in their children’s future, whatever the cost and sacrifice.

Myth #2: Independent Schools are “not the real world.”

Fact: Of course they are not, thank God. The real world is, sad to say, unsafe, unstructured, and — worse than values-neutral — values bereft. The independent school culture is, ironically, counter-cultural in the sense of establishing a values matrix that runs counter to the child-toxic values of the popular culture and amorality and immorality that surrounds us.

While independent schools are “not the real world” themselves, they prepare students exceedingly well for the real world(s) of college, the workplace, and life in general, as the National Education Longitudinal Study from NCES demonstrates: independent school graduates in disproportionate numbers earn college and graduate degrees, report high career satisfaction, vote and engage in civic activities, exercise, and generally contribute to make the real world a better place.

Myth #3: Independent schools are unaffordable.

Fact: Independent schools are expensive but not unaffordable. It’s expensive to hire and support high quality teachers, maintain relatively small classes, offer intimate advisor/advisee counseling groups, provide a full-range of sports and arts programs and activities (and expect everyone to participate, unlike large public schools where only elite athletes and artists are served). With our Variable Tuition package, the “sticker price” is discounted for a significant proportion of families so that they can afford to send their children to a high quality independent school. Families of even relatively high incomes often qualify for some Financial Aid/ Variable Tuition

Myth #4: Independent schools lack diversity.

Fact: To belong to NAIS, an independent school must agree to abide by “Principles of Good Practice,” one of which is related to “equity and justice” practices to assure that NAIS schools commit resources and energy to advancing inclusivity and diversity of all kinds in our schools. These principles are grounded in the knowledge that all students benefit from more diverse environments and that, once they leave school for college and the workplace thereafter, the comfort students have with diversity will serve them well. Because public schools are tied to specific neighborhoods and independent schools are not, the facts believe this myth: Most independent schools tend to be more, rather than less, diverse than local public schools, since too often residential housing patterns remain largely segregated by race and ethnicity.

Myth #5: Independent schools (especially boarding schools) are for kids with social problems.

Fact: In large urban areas throughout the United States and on the East and West Coasts, there are large concentrations of families that send their children to independent day schools or boarding schools, so the practice is seen as normal. For more suburban areas and throughout the Midwest and Southwest, however, there is far less density of independent schools (though this is changing as new schools emerge). Sometimes those not familiar with independent schools assume “something is wrong” if a family chooses anything other than the local public schools. While there are very good private therapeutic schools for students with very serious problems (schools that serve that specific population well), none of those schools belong to NAIS, because our schools are all “college-prep” (even the elementary schools, since all families see them as the first step in the journey to being well-prepared for college).

Myth #6: Independent schools are only for really smart kids.

Fact: It’s true that “really smart” kids graduate from independent schools, but they don’t all come to us that way, and even the ones that do have much “value added” from their experience. Fundamentally, NAIS schools believe in the “growth mindset” research that indicates that success comes largely from hard work and optimal conditions; and that emphasizing one’s “native intelligence” is often counter-productive. So independent schools create the optimal conditions for what Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, describes as formative for highly successful people: they have the capacity for hard work and find themselves in situations that demand hard work. Truth be known, the typical independent school student has average-to-above-average ability, but becomes exceptional from hard work and opportunities to develop multiple intelligences, not just academic and intellectual ones. Truth be known, there is a segment of students with learning differences in many independent schools (and some independent schools whose mission is to specifically serve LD children): LD kids in independent schools are virtually all college-bound.

Myth #7: Independent schools are not part of the community.

Fact: Independent schools are very conscious of “community impact” issues and opportunities, especially given the commitment as charitable enterprises to demonstrate “the public purpose of private education.” On the most obvious surface level, independent schools have multi-million dollar budgets and employ local citizens, so the multiplier effect is a significant contributor to the local economy. On a programmatic level, virtually every independent school’s programming includes community service, where students and faculty contribute “sweat equity” in the local community, tutoring in schools, assisting at hospitals and nursing homes, cleaning up parks and rivers, and the like. These programs tend to have a “service learning” dimension where the work in the field becomes the subject of classroom research and discussion towards the end of producing lifelong civic engagement. Finally, independent schools are defining being “part of the community” very broadly, seeking to address global challenges by implementing local solutions.

Spotlight on Meadowbrook’s “Design Thinking” Program

“Design Thinking at Meadowbrook is about synergy, ingenuity, and stick-to-itiveness,” explains academic-advancement director Kristen Haugen. “We’re encouraging our students to tackle big ideas with big integrative solutions and to take bold action instead of holding back. To fail fast and try, try again. Also to seek out feedback that makes the product better. Basically how to be global learners in our modern, global society.”

WP_20170302_004For art teacher Becky Blumenthal, Meadowbrook’s Makerspace Studio is a launchpad for hands-on projects that bring classroom lessons to life. When her 6th-grade students were studying Roman culture in their social-studies class, Mrs. Blumenthal had them build columns with dixie cups and find out how many such columns it would take to balance trays that would successfully support a student’s weight. For Egyptian culture, the class’s task was to replicate cave paintings using dirt, clay, charcoal, and berries—as well as to mummify a hot dog! Younger grades made compasses for orienteering; minted coins using plaster and clay; created maps of imaginary islands using found objects; wove textiles with recycled fabric; and made their own paper.

“Seeing students get so excited and so focused on their Makerspace creations is what being a Design Thinking teacher is all about,” Mrs. Blumenthal says. “We start with an open-ended problem, we embrace new ways of thinking about the problem, and then we test and rework to solve it. This kind of inventive problem-solving is preparing our kids for the jobs of the future. Makerspace shows them how to adapt and be fluid thinkers.”

Over in the Science Room, science teacher Janice Mockaitis also teaches through the lens of a multidisciplinary, Design Thinking framework. Mrs. Mockaitis is on the cutting edge of the garden-to-table movement, with an ample vegetable garden where students prepare the soil; plant seeds; tend to the growing plants; harvest carrots, watermelons, pumpkins, etc.; and enjoy eating their produce while simultaneously studying its nutritional value. Additionally, she garden to table spinachis expertly trained in the curriculum of Engineering is Elementary (EiE), which fosters engineering and technological literacy with an emphasis on math skills. And Mrs. Mockaitis collaborates with the renowned Fox Chase Cancer Center’s “Immersion Science Program” to bring real-world medicine into the classroom. “Our students draw on all the components of STEM/STEAM to investigate the world around them, whether that be inside school, out in the garden, throughout our 16-acre property and beyond,” Mrs. Mockaitis says. “We are constantly analyzing how science connects to other academic subjects and to the world at large. I feel proud of how far Meadowbrook’s Design Thinking program has come and how many exciting developments still lie ahead of us.”

Hour of code projectSpeaking of the path forward, let’s turn to Meadowbrook’s Computer Lab where 5th graders and 3rd graders are discovering the brave new world of robotics and coding through their very own Ozobots. Mrs. Haugen leads the older group in development of an addition-fact game (ultimately to be played by 1st graders), while the younger level creates a Halloween-inspired haunted path and then narrates the story to go with it. “Coding with bots is a perfect activity for our Design Thinking program,” Mrs. Haugen says. “It links the hands-on, real-world application of technology with the critical human value of empathy. Our kids are designing for others and putting themselves in the shoes of the end user. They’re coding for humanity—and having a blast. So are we as educators!”

written by Khyber Oser