Category Archives: Uncategorized

Executive Functioning

Executive Function Every Day

The idea of executive function may seem abstract, but it’s a very practical concept. The words sound as dry as chalk, like what a bunch of academics debate over stale doughnuts. Yet it represents how each of us figures out how to manage life. The brain evolved a perspective that supervises and keeps track of the big picture, and EF is it.

Put yourself in a child’s shoes and consider these real-life situations:

  • A teacher assigns a several-page project. How do you pace your work so it’s not done last minute, and also avoid throwing a fit each time a part takes longer than anticipated?
  • You have chores and homework, and you want to go play. How do you figure out where to start, stay on task, and avoid distractions while all the other kids play outside?
  • A child takes the toy you’ve been playing with for the last half hour. You need it to continue your game, and she refuses to give it back. How do you resist knocking her down and grabbing it?

The bottom line is that EF represents a variety of skills needed to overcome obstacles and make good choices. It includes the ability to focus attention when needed, and for as long as needed. It involves learning from mistakes, coordinating activities, and planning for the future. It includes managing emotions and behavior. Kids need time to figure out the nitty-gritty while wading through all the increasingly complex situations life throws their way. That’s why kids need parents (and teachers and mentors) acting as their brain manager, so they can take their time growing up.


Article continues below


Join Dr. Mark Bertin’s online workshop to learn mindful strategies to help children who are living with ADHD:

Mindfulness and ADHD
SEPTEMBER 17th

Learn more


When you look at things this way, it’s understandable that without grown-ups, most kids wouldn’t eat as well as they should. They probably do not realize that staying up late means being cranky and tired the next day. They may not consider the consequences of carving their initials into the dining room table. They’re kids, after all, and getting in trouble for wrecking furniture is one way they learn. Without us, and without limits and discipline, it would take a long time to see the implications of much of anything.

Understanding Developmentally Appropriate Expectations

Expecting kids to act more maturely than possible at any particular age can be quite counterproductive. The phrase “You can’t walk before you run” may be a cliché, but you also can’t read before you achieve several steps that precede fluent reading — which, in part, relate to EF. The same goes for writing, math, homework, and morning routines.

Tracking the developmental trajectory of EF helps us better comprehend our children’s lives. You would not expect a four-year-old to organize getting out the door for school. A preschooler could probably list the steps: Get dressed, have breakfast, brush teeth. But a preschooler cannot coordinate time, remember the details, or stay on task, whereas most teenagers manage mornings on their own. Much of what changes relates to EF.

Let’s reflect for a moment on the consequences of rushing children’s development. In preschool, children advance around both social and life management skills that eventually serve them in a classroom, though most aren’t ready for actual academics. A generation ago reading and writing were six-year-old skills, with a big push in first grade, not kindergarten. Society’s expectations shifted, but nothing much has changed about our kids. Development still happens at its own unhurried pace.

Overly high expectations that can’t be met create false fears that a child is behind developmentally. Not every kindergartener can sit in a structured academic setting, then listen and learn; they’re geared for play. Many perfectly brilliant five-year-old students aren’t ready to read or write. One common consequence of pushing children academically too early and expecting young children to behave like older children is the misdiagnosis of ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. ADHD itself is a disorder of executive function. For all the children who actually have it, false expectations around development make it seem that others have fallen behind when they have not, potentially leading to misdiagnosis.

These expectations ramp up stress for both parents and kids. If someone suggests that reading is supposed to happen by age five, that creates a false benchmark, and you may end up wondering why your child struggles. If you’ve been led to believe that middle schools should assign two hours of homework, you may compare your own child’s behavior to those misleading expectations. Unreasonable demands challenge students. Well-meaning kids who want to please adults also become stressed as they reach to handle more than whatever made sense in the first place.

The same applies when setting overly high expectations for older students. If a high schooler strives toward competitive colleges or other lofty goals, guide them toward a viable resume but also around personal health and a balanced lifestyle. Support a broader perspective, because the expectation of the high school and extended community — even for something as basic as sleep — may be utterly off base. Teens need lots of rest, but they encounter both crazy early school start times and huge homework loads. Place value on downtime and family time and whatever else contributes to overall well-being, because with a teen’s EF, she may find it hard to do that herself. Support her goals, but neither you nor your child is going to gain from an unrealistic expectation that she has the life skills of an experienced CEO while wading through the pressures of high school.

A developmental view even explains why technology has potential benefits but a distinct downside when under-monitored by adults. Screen time looks like intense concentration from the outside but provides constantly shifting content that encourages little sustained attention. Too much screen time has been linked to disrupted attention, compromised EF, and other childhood concerns. Well-used and well-moderated tech time is fine, but the implied assumption that anyone lacking a mature brain manager (all children) would handle screen time on their own sets up a developmental risk for kids.

Until recently, kindergarten screening included a child’s ability to write their name, recite the alphabet, rhyme, and count. That’s still appropriate, though some schools have added reading and writing into even pre-kindergarten settings. So how do you determine what your child needs? Take care of the bare facts, accept you’d rather your kids not be pushed at all, and then stick to your own personal view of what’s best.

Helpful Tips for Setting Age-Appropriate Expectations

Here are some guidelines for sustaining age-appropriate expectations while acting as the loving brain manager your child requires to thrive:

  1. Focus on building EF. In younger children, encourage skills through traditional play, along with lots of exposure to spoken language and books. Language is another major predictor of school success. Thankfully, another direct way to build organizational skills at any age is through the routines parents create. In other words, when life gets busy, the short-term solution of adults adjusting family routines (everything runs easier) is the same as the longterm solution (more independent kids with better EF).
  2. Monitor the big picture. Allow for discussion and options, but keep a bottom-line focus on what makes sense. Don’t expect kids to make rational choices about scheduling and daily health routines until they show those skills themselves. Talk to your kids often about, and demonstrate to them, whatever your family values most in life.
  3. Be selective in scheduling. Plan activities, but stick to only a few. Specialization in sports, in particular, is not recommended for most children until late middle school. Too much baseball by age eight means they may burn out, get hurt . . . or fail to realize that tennis is their thing.
  4. Seek support when children fall behind. Consider specific developmental intervention, academic classes, or tutoring if your child seems behind; early catch-up is better than later. Some children benefit from academic interventions or services like behavioral therapy, speech language therapy, or occupational therapy.
  5. Trust your own judgment. Whatever external pressures exist around you, come back to your own sense of what feels natural. Put your child’s temperament first. If you are in a demographic that pushes kids faster than you would like, stick to your own ideals whenever possible. Find a middle path when you can between the reality of your community and your own perspective. Most concretely, act as the brain manager whenever needed because your child’s ability to thrive greatly depends on that.

Watching development unfold requires patience and more patience. We’d love our child to have more mature EF, because we know how important it is. The same goes for reading, writing, soccer, dance, or any other skill. We teach what we can when we see an opportunity. At the same time, we can’t force development to progress any more quickly than it wants. Resiliency builds from early success, and success itself relies on appropriate childhood expectations along the way.

Consider This

Don’t worry that you must get everything right because that is, of course, entirely impossible. Kids are remarkably resilient and will do well across a wide range of life experiences. There’s no perfect — just an opportunity to explore, make mistakes, and adapt along the way. Notice when you find yourself comparing your child to other children or someone else’s arbitrary expectation. Pause and make choices founded in what you feel is accurate and true.


Content in this blog includes adapted excerpts from Dr. Bertin’s book How Children Thrive: The Practical Science of Raising Independent, Resilient, and Happy Kids (Sounds True 2018).

Mark Bertin, MD, is a pediatrician, author, professor, and mindfulness teacher specializing in neurodevelopmental behavioral pediatrics. He’s a regular contributor to Mindful.org, HuffPost, and Psychology Today. He is the author of Mindful Parenting for ADHD and How Children Thrive: The Practical Science of Raising Independent, Resilient, an Happy Kids. Dr. Bertin resides in Pleasantville, New York. For more, visit developmentaldoctor.com.

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.

In the classroom or on the field, Meadowbrook students are good sports

This Friday, May 24th 2019, The Meadowbrook School will host their annual Field Day from 9am to 12 pm. A tradition started in 1926, Red and Gray teams have been battling it out in good fun on the Friday before Memorial Day for 91 years. The tradition and non-traditional races are guaranteed to delight the youngest students and fiercest competitors.

In this day and age of children tuning out, Meadowbrook students tune in to learn the Grande Parade of Flags and practice the proper procession for weeks. Farah Horgan ’19, the captain of the Red Team carries the 2018 flag in recognition of her team’s victory last year. Kennedy Hayward ’19, carries the 2016 as that was the last year that the Gray Team won Field Day. This tradition was started in 1988 by Red Team captain, Dave Sirota.

The excitement builds in anticipation for this wonderful day during PE classes with students vying for a role in “colors”, the baton color relay that puts the two fastest Red and Gray team runners from each class in a race around the field. Alumni are invited “home” to Meadowbrook to join in the 100 yard dash and tug ‘o war competition. In a dramatic fashion, the Walker Cup, named in honor of Rev. Walker, Meadowbrook’s first Headmaster, is presented by Michael Reardon, Meadowbrook’s current Head of School, to the team that has amassed the most points. This long standing tradition is a testament to the students’ character and ability to rise above their respective teams and celebrate collectively after a hard fought battle. Both the students and the spirit of competition is applauded on this special occasion.

Meadowbrook students are given the foundation to be life-long learners. When they leave Meadowbrook’s warm, loving campus, students take with them a solid knowledge of how to be a scholar, a self-starter, and a team player. These learned abilities make Meadowbrook graduates successful in all their future endeavors.

Second Grade Post Office

During our morning assembly, The Meadowbrook School had the honor of presenting Linda Barila a check for $150.00. For two weeks in February, the 2nd grade class at The Meadowbrook School worked tirelessly to sell stamps to our students, faculty and staff. Our community then had the opportunity to mail letters to one another within our school. Kelly Mosteller, 2nd grade teacher, took a class vote on where they would like to donate the money and ultimately decided on Stray Network Animal Rescue. Mrs. Barila spoke to the student body about the impact their contribution would make along with thanking them for their generosity and efforts to do something important for the community.

Christian Dougherty ’18 National Geographic Semifinalist

Abington Junior High School seventh-grader Christian Dougherty has been notified by the National Geographic Society that he is one of the semifinalists eligible to compete in the 2019 National Geographic GeoBee Pennsylvania State Competition. The contest will be held at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg on Friday, March 29.

This is the second level of the National Geographic GeoBee competition, which is now in its 31st year. School GeoBees were held in schools with fourth- through eighth-grade students throughout the state to determine each school champion. Abington Junior High School’s school-level competition was held in the library on Jan. 23, with Dougherty placing first above peers Ethan Eienberg (second place) and Sam Erwine (third place).

Dougherty and other school champions throughout Pennsylvania then took an online qualifying test, which they submitted to the National Geographic Society. The National Geographic Society has invited up to 100 of the top-scoring students in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense Dependents Schools and U.S. territories to compete in the State GeoBees.

This year, National Geographic increased the prize money for all State GeoBees. State champions will receive a medal, $1,000 in cash, and other prizes, as well as a trip to Washington, D.C., to represent their state in the National Championship to be held at National Geographic Society headquarters, May 19-22, 2019. Students that come in second and third place will receive cash awards of $300 and $100, respectively.

Each State Champion will advance to the National Championship and compete for cash awards and college scholarships. In 2019, the national champion will receive a $25,000 college scholarship, $1,000 in cash, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and an all-expenses-paid Lindblad expedition to the Galápagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavour ll; second place will receive at $10,000 college scholarship and $1,000 in cash; third place will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and $1,000 in cash; and seven runners-up will receive $1,000 in cash each. Visit www.natgeobee.org for more information on the National Geographic GeoBee.

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

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!

Teacher Spotlight: Mrs. Kristen Haugen

1. What is one item on your bucket list?
I would love to go to Egypt. I would definitely cruise up the Nile, visit the pyramids in the Valley of the Kings, ride a camel, and see Alexandria.

2. What book are you currently reading?
I love to read. I currently have three books sitting on my nightstand- Pendragon Book Five: Black Water by D.J. MacHale, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, and The Titan’s Curse in the Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan.

3. Who is your mentor? Why?
My mentor was Dr. Ruth Reed. She was my biochemistry professor at Juniata College. She taught me to stand up for myself. She also went above and beyond with her support after I left college. She regularly sent me care packages when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Papua New Guinea. I actually brought home two of my favorite books from her care packages: Personal History by Katherine Graham and The Secret History by Donna Tartt. She also transcribed my hand written letters and circulated them via e-mail.

4. What would your superpower be?
My superpower would be the ability to read minds to be able to anticipate how I can be of service.

5. Where is the best place you have traveled to and why?
I travel a lot. During the school year, we have a six time zone rule. We can’t travel anywhere that is more than six time zones away. My husband is always one to push limits so he has found that he can still get us on an 11 hour flight by simply going south. We have traveled through a lot of South and Central America as a result. I loved Argentina. We spent Christmas there a number of years ago. The sun was up until midnight. The country offered so much diversity. We got to swim in the desert, hike on glaciers, and visit penguin rookeries on the windy Trelew peninsula. The food was also amazing. Out at the Trelew peninsula we ate at this little restaurant where they cooked table side on a mini charcoal grill. The lamb was lovely. The seafood on the coast was outstanding, too!

6. If you could do any job for just one day what would it be?
I would work in the kitchen at El Bulli under Ferran Adria. El Bulli is located in Spain and is known as one of the most experimental restaurants in the world. I would need to work on my Spanish and my knife skills!

7. Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I swam competitively through college. My specialties were backstroke and distance. I was the crazy one swimming back to back events. Luckily, both my high school and college teams ran concurrent boys’ and girls’ meets so I had a boy’s event in between the 500 free and the 100 back.

8. What is your favorite thing about Meadowbrook?
My favorite thing about Meadowbrook is the people. The students are full of energy. The staff is very caring.

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