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Archive for July, 2012

Up Close with the Mural in Wheaton Triangle

I was eating a delicious pork banh mi sandwich at Saigonese Restaurant  with my son and daughter today when I noticed the Evergreen School mural across the parking lot.   The mural was created in 2009 by Evergreen students.  Here are a few of my photos; I was focussed on close ups, but felt obliged to include one picture that  reveals the mural’s massive size.  It must be at least 30 feet long and 20 feet tall.  Our school is so proud to be responsible for such an awesome Wheaton landmark!  I would love to hear stories about how it was painted.

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A Fairy Batman Wall in Takoma Park

A Fairy Batman Wall in Takoma Park

In April, I blogged about the evolution of the the Evergreen playground into a rain garden.  What should playgrounds be like in an iPad world? You can read the post here.

My inspiration for the post came from Lesley Romanoff, the Director of the Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School.  You can see her awesome summer program’s collaboration with Community Forklift here.

A Distracted School Head in the Summer (and a list from Angeline Lillard)

Dr. Lillard

Dr. Lillard, Author of Montessori: The Science behind the Genius

On this hot Friday afternoon in July, I set aside time to address the perennial question: “What do School Heads do in the summer?” And then I got distracted by a wonderful book, Montessori: the Science Behind the Genius by Dr. Angeline Lillard, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia.

I will return next week to reveal a behind-the-scenes look at Evergreen School’s administrative projects. You’ll discover how a School Head keeps busy in July.  It will be as interesting as when Dorothy pulled back the curtain to reveal the Wizard, I promise. But first, I will leave you with a thought provoking list from Dr. Lillard’s book to keep you intrigued all weekend…

Eight Principles of Montessori Education, p.29

  1. movement and cognition are closely entwined, and movement can enhance thinking and learning;
  2. learning and well-being are improved when people have a sense of control over their lives;
  3. people learn better when they are interested in what they are learning;
  4. tying extrinsic rewards to an activity, like money for reading or high grades for tests, negatively impacts motivation to engage in that activity when the reward is withdrawn;
  5. collaborative arrangements can be conducive to learning;
  6. learning situated in meaningful context is often deeper and richer than learning in abstract contexts;
  7. particular forms of adult interaction are associated with more optimal child outcomes; and
  8. order in the environment is beneficial to children.
It doesn’t sound like your traditional school in Kansas, does it Toto?  Montessori education works!

Enjoy the weekend.  John

An Evergreen Reunion

An Evergreen Reunion

Our reunion today was a celebration of our community, lasting friendships and the legacy of dedicated Evergreen parents. Parents and former students attended despite 95 degree weather. We gathered at the Spencerville-Mildred Pumphery Park thanks to the coordination of Ronda Kent.

We are so proud of our recent alumni!

What Do You Want Your Child to Be Like?

Jump RopeIt’s the most common question at open houses, back-to-school nights and parent meetings:  “what do you want your child to be like?”  As a School Head and a parent, I have been both the asker and the askee.

Pause for a moment.  How would you answer?  If you are like me, your responses includes the following: I want my child to be happy, well-adjusted, academically prepared, faithful, well-rounded, smart, and fulfilled.

Are these answers universal or do they represent the cultural biases of affluent suburban Americans of the early 21st Century?  Recently, two cultural anthropologists attempted to answer this question.  Carolina Izquierdo and Elinor Oches looked at an indigenous tribe in the Peruvian Amazon as well as thirty-two middle-class families in Los Angeles.  Their reflections are documented in an article by Elizabeth Kolbert in last week’s New Yorker. Read here.

In her sometimes hilarious, sometimes scathing article, Kolbert comes to the sad conclusion that the one thing American parents do not want for their children is for them to be independent, self-sufficient or self-reliant.  While six-year-old girls in the Amazon catch, clean and cook crustaceans for their families without any adult direction, in L.A. no adolescent child “routinely performed household chores without being instructed to.”  Most often the LA children had to be coaxed, bribed or threatened before they would perform a household duty– including bathing, themselves.

Raising children in times of great affluence is a prodigious challenge.  We are torn between providing the greatest opportunities, learning activities, toys, digital tools and other by-products of American affluence on the one hand and teaching the values of hard-work, duty, responsibility and sacrifice on the other.   Do we want to raise our children at all? If we wait until they reach adultescence, won’t they be able to raise themselves?

Kolbert relates the story of an exasperated parent of twenty-somethings. Sally Koslow, a former editor at McCall’s, bitterly writes in Slouching Toward Adulthood “Our offspring have simply leveraged our braggadocio, good intentions, and over investment,” They inhabit “a broad savannah of entitlement that we’ve watered, landscaped, and hired gardeners to maintain.”

Montessori education—and our friends at the Parent Encouragement Program—are outliers in the child raising conversation.  Why? Because, more than anything, we emphasize life skills and unity of experience over isolated academic skills.  When mainstream schools, pedagogies and well-intentioned teachers think about outcomes for students, they rarely mention self-sufficiency or independence.  Maybe it is because there is no standardized test to measure self-reliance.

At Evergreen, we believe that children are far more capable, competent and resilience than they are given credit for.  Let’s give them a chance to show us.

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