Archive for March, 2012

Jellyfish at the National Aquarium in Baltimore

March 28, 2012 4 comments

Jellyfish at the National Aquarium in Baltimore

This breathtaking photo was taken by an Evergreen parent during our Elementary class trip to the National Aquarium. Can’t you imagine their undulating pulses as they propel through the tank? I love the transparency of their filmy forms.


Career of the Hopeful

Aquarium TripDo you love it or do you hate it when your children ask difficult questions?

A few days ago, my eleven year old daughter asked this one:  Dad, when was the golden age of American history?

Oh no!  I felt like I was reliving the AP American history exam.  What’s the answer?  Was it our nation’s birth when Madison, Adams, and Jefferson forged our country and our founding principles? Was it when Lincoln and the North ended slavery and gave the nation a new birth of freedom?  How about the sixties and seventies when social movements brought greater equality to women and minorities?

I wondered: Is there such a thing as a golden age? Aren’t there categories of golden ages? One of technological innovation, one of artistic creativity, one of industry, one of political philosophy, and one of political discourse?  What about a golden age of quality of life?

To my daughter, I said, “It is now. We are living in the golden age.”

To many, my answer offends.  There is too much injustice, conflict, inequality and unemployment in America today.  Look at the senseless death of Trayvon Martin. The most popular movie in America is about children forced to hunt one another.  Our nation is saddled with unsustainable debt. We are polluting ourselves to death. Compromise is impossible; our politics are broken and appear unfixable.

But for my daughter, and her generation, I have hope.  Mankind has never had more powerful tools to help itself. In technology.  In education. In governance. We have the ability to create systems of checks and balances. We have vaccines, biotechnology, brain scans and iPads.   We can regulate ourselves so that the public’s interest is put ahead of private, selfish interest.  It can be done.

I chose work in schools because education is the career of the hopeful.  Life, in so many ways, has improved.  We have come so far. Believe in today and tomorrow.

Our greatest threat is longing for a bygone era.  Could you look your daughter in the eye and tell her that our best days are behind us? Let’s enjoy here and now, as we work to make a brighter, safer tomorrow. It can be done.

Action Painting at Evergreen School

March 21, 2012 1 comment

Action Painting

Adolph Gottlieb meets Willem de Kooning. Student art from Evergreen School is worth a closer look.

Gates Foundation: Great Design for a School, too

March 19, 2012 2 comments

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation just moved into their new $500 million headquarters in Seattle. That’s a lot of money for a non-profit to spend on a building. Why is it so important to be in a great space? Wouldn’t that money have been better spent on global health issues?

According to Martha Choe, the foundations chief administrative officer, they needed a building that would accommodate different kinds of work. As she said in a New York Times article yesterday, “There’s recognition that we work in different modes, and we have designed a space to accommodate them.” She continued, “I think one of the lessons is to understand your business, and understand what your people need to do their best work.”

The way your physical environment is set up affects the quality of the work you produce. This belief is the cornerstone of the design-thinking movement.

The new Gates Foundation Headquarters was designed by a firm called NBBJ in Seattle. They focused on six core principles. First, there should be energy in the workplace. Quiet conversation is a good thing. As the Times said, “Buzz… is good.” Second, private offices create hierarchy that work against collaboration. Space should reflect the cooperative nature of the organization. Third, less space per person can encourage people to work together. Fourth, NBBJ emphasized lots of window for natural light. Fifth, accidental meetings (or “chance encounters” as the Times calls them) enable creativity. And sixth, according to NBBJ, “mobility is essential.”

With workers unchained from cubicles, they are free to choose workspace that fits their style and their tasks. Many “free-deskers,” as the Times calls them, find spots with great views close to their teammates’ hubs. Teams come together when needed and can easily find breakout areas. Some workers, who may be more introverted, prefer to work at the quiet, glass-enclosed end of long hallways. NBBJ calls these “diving boards” spaces because of the way protrude from off the main building.

The Times article paints a picture of beautiful office space designed with a keen understanding of different work styles. It reminds me of an Evergreen classroom with different work areas, freedom of movement, tolerance for quiet conversation, and respect for the needs of its workers. Comparing the Gates Foundation Headquarters to a traditional building with offices and cubicles is a lot like comparing a old-fashioned classroom with rows of desks to a Montessori space that honors children’s need to move, design, manipulate and create.

Remember Martha Choe’s words– we work in different modes, and we have designed a space to accommodate them—and apply them to education: you’ll have a Montessori-style classroom.

Doesn’t it sound wonderful? Too bad it took half a billion dollars for the Gates Foundation to achieve!

Bill and Melinda, would you consider making a grant to a Montessori school that would like room to roam, diving boards and picture windows too? 


Montessori Polishing

March 14, 2012 1 comment

Montessori Polishing

This is the first photo I have published without an article attached. I just really love the combination of textures and surfaces in this picture. Don’t you want to touch these objects? That is the Montessori way!

…and it is a nicely balanced composition, too!

Schools for Everyone, Not Just the Noisy

March 12, 2012 3 comments

Evergreen SchoolPlato told us to ‘know thyself.’  It’s easy now that you can take a Myers-Briggs test.

The test will reveal your psychological type and identify just where you stand on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. An extrovert is a person who derives energy from being with others, while an introvert prefers independence. Although the Myers-Briggs Foundation claims that there are benefits to being on either side of the line, social scientists have detected cultural biases that favor extroverts. When discussing a shy child, I was once told by a child psychologist that, “introverts need to learn to be extroverts to be successful in the world.” Negative stereotypes of introverts are many: unfriendly, unsocial, loner.  But great minds like Ghandi, Steve Wozniak, Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel), Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks all shared introverted characteristics.

Who will speak up for the introverts?

Susan Cain is a self-described introvert and author of the book QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She is worried that these cultural biases are causing us to label healthy, normal behavior as pathological.  Even though half to a third of all people are self-described introvert.  She says, “Our most important institutions, our schools and our workplaces, they are designed mostly for extroverts.”

In her TED Talk, Ms. Cain says in school, “Even in subjects like math and creative writing, which you think would depend on solo flights of thought, kids are now expected to act as committee members. And for the kids who prefer to go off by themselves or just to work alone, those kids are seen as outliers often or, worse, as problem cases.” Talkative and outgoing children have an advantage, but not better ideas. Solitude is a crucial ingredient in creativity.  Ms. Cain continues, “The vast majority of teachers believe that the ideal student is an extrovert as opposed to an introvert, even though introverts actually get better grades and are more knowledgeable, according to research.”

Traditional classrooms just don’t work as well for introverts.

How can we break the bias and create classrooms that honor all children’s personality and learning style?  Consider Montessori classrooms that support individual work, collaboration and multi-age configurations.   Children thrive in a system that honors their ability to choose how they work.  Montessori classrooms are quieter than traditional classrooms and put a premium on student empowerment. In the right environment, children, whether extroverts or introverts, can find their ideal way to learn.

To learn more, watch Susan Cain’s TED Talk, The Power of Introverts here:

It Takes an Esteemed Elder

March 6, 2012 1 comment
Isabel and Grandma Edie

Isabel and Grandma Edie

Its election season!

You are now free to choose sides: does it take a village (Clinton) or does it take a family (Santorum) to raise a child and strengthen our social fabric?  I will not weigh in on matters of politics, just parenting.  At Evergreen we say… it takes Esteemed Elders.

What is an esteemed elder?  Any mature person who plays a role in your child’s development qualifies. Relatives, neighbors, family friends and neighbors—they come in all shapes and sizes– and give so much love.

Take a moment to recall the special people from your childhood—was it an aunt or uncle, grandparent or friend? Did they teach you to fish or knit? Ride a bike or bake a cake?  (Add a comment and tell your story.)  You can probably see their face in your mind’s eye and recall the scent of their kitchen, their workshop or their cologne.

You wouldn’t be who you are without their unconditional love.  Would you?

On March 30, an esteemed elder in your child’s life is invited to join us for a special morning of celebration and togetherness.  We ask that each child has one or two special friends to spend time with us—learning, creating and sharing special moments.  Our schedule for the day will be posted in our next newsletter.

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