Over 250 current and alumni families, past and present faculty members of Evergreen Montessori School in Silver Spring, Maryland dedicated a new custom-designed Tree House play structure in honor of the 30-year career of Primary Division Director Marilynn Liotta. The dedication of the Tree House took place at the school’s annual Spring Festival and featured a violin recital and choral concert. Guest speakers included Mrs. Lynn Pellaton who served as Head of School from 1972 to 1996.
The Tree House is all natural and was constructed from sustainably harvested Black Locust logs and Osage Orange branches. The Tree House is a permanent part of the school’s award-winning rain garden and was built by local craftsman Marcus Sims. Ms. Liotta is retiring at the end of the school year.
If you answered the question “what is going on in this picture?” you used visual thinking strategies (VTS). What is VTS? In a classroom, by using a series of guided questions, you (the viewer) would be led by a teacher to a deeper understanding of the image. You would link vocabulary and language-based thinking with visual stimulation. Some of the questions you’d be asked: What kind of people are in the picture? Where are they? What are they doing? Do they look interested? ARE THEY THINKING? Are they learning?
You have deduced: these children on a school field trip; they are in an important museum setting (yes, that is a Picasso in the background); there is serious reflecting done in notebooks; this is a well-organized and successful program for learning.
Evergreen School has initiated a new program in VTS this year. Here we are on a field trip at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. We are so happy to be working with an art historian and arts program designer from the Glenstone Museum to teach Evergreen teachers in VTS techniques. I look forward to learning more about VTS and sharing here on my blog.
I hope to visit the Mall on Saturday for the 50th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington. You can see more about the schedule of events this weekend and through the week including an address by President Obama here. It will be a good time to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial where you can find one of my favorite MLK quotes from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964:
“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”
As Evergreen School prepares for our 50th anniversary celebration as one of the first Montessori schools in the Washington DC region next year, it has been startling to notice all the other milestones from 1964. From the beginning of Evergreen School, the passage of the Civil Rights act of 1964, MLK’s Nobel Peace Prize and the creation of the Black Student Fund (see blog post below), fifty years can feel close or far away.
With progress and set backs, we march on working to fulfill the dream for our children and students.
Have the audacity to believe.
During my twenty-three years in education, my beliefs about children have not changed much. But my understanding of how to meet their needs has evolved a lot. Schools must be open to change, particularly as new opportunities challenge our long-standing assumptions. We must ask ourselves if traditional models still make sense.
While visiting the Jefferson Memorial yesterday, I was struck by a quote inscribed under its dome. Jefferson had written, “…institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.”
As information technology has made vast amounts of information available at our children’s finger tips, the classroom paradigm has shifted. Education is about much more that teaching of facts. Now schools must be set up to nurture the personal qualities that prepare children for meaningful lives in a changing world. Personal qualities such as integrity, perseverance, grit and curiosity are more important than ever.
Are we willing to change our institutions to meet our children’s needs?
Evergreen recently became a member of the Black Student Fund (BSF). I am thrilled to be part of this organization that has helped so many DC area students and their families have access to quality education. Evergreen has a long history of leadership in diversity issues in independent schools. We have been recognized as the most racially and culturally diversity member of the Assiation of Independent Maryland Schools (AIMS)
As the BSF website says:
“Since 1964, the Black Student Fund has provided financial assistance and support services to Washington, DC metropolitan area African-American students, grades pre-kindergarten to 12, and their families. BSF-assisted students stay in school, graduate high school with distinction and enter college. 70% of these students are from one-parent households. Many are the first generation to progress to higher education.
Established to racially desegregate the independent schools of the National Capital area, the Fund serves as an advocate for all black children and strives to assure that black students and their families have equal access to every educational opportunity.”
Evergreen will be participating in the BSF Independent School Fair on Sunday September 8 from 2 pm to 5pm at the Washington Convention Center. I hope to see you there.
Life feels back to normal at Evergreen after being closed for Hurricane Sandy. We are so fortunate that the storm left the DC area unscathed. Children came into school today ready for the predictability of our routine. We quickly regained equilibrium. Teachers told me that there were no discussions of the recent storm in circle time nor were there conversations on the playground or at lunch. I appreciate our parents’ care shielding their young children from media images and news reports. Pictures of burning homes or waterlogged streets can be disturbing to old and young alike.
The lack of discussion of the hurricane doesn’t mean children have not been affected. Some children may have relatives in New York or New Jersey. Some may have anxiety about another storm. Children are deeply aware of stress in the adults who surround them. Please be ready to talk to your child about the storm. Let them know that being prepared is the key to safety. Fire drills, tornado procedures and our emergency plans are in place to ensure that we are safe at Evergreen. Most of all listen to their worries and reassure them with love.
Please speak to your child’s teacher if he or she seems worried, too. It helps us so much to have insight into what you are seeing at home. We can also point to additional resources to support your child. I am so glad that everyone in our community is safe– let’s not wait until Thanksgiving to appreciate all of our blessings every day.
One of my favorite spots in Washington, DC is the Alexander Calder Room at the National Gallery of Art. And to me, his mobile in the East Wing Atrium is a DC landmark on par with any of the memorials on the Mall. You can visit the room now using the NGA’s virtual interactive gallery here.
So I was thrilled when one of our teachers, Ms. Tobin, told me that her class was going to study Calder’s work and create their own kinetic sculptures. With Ms. Michael’s help, the class created a collaborative mobile after seeing Calder’s wire circus sculptures. Ms. Tobin even showed the video clip of Calder performing his own wire-sculpture circus. How fun is it to see a grown artist making his own toys out of wire!
Now Evergreen School has our own artistic landmark, too! Now if we could only create the virtual gallery…
Ms. Tobin also showed the video clip of Calder performing his own wire-sculpture circus at The Whitney.