Are you curious? That is the first prompt for the Curiosity Challenge sponsored by the Cambridge (MA) Science Festival, which wraps up this Sunday, April 23rd. Park’s Upper and Middle Division students got curious and then submitted their questions to this year’s challenge. Our students wrote such good questions – all of the entries were wonderful. Six Park students were even chosen as winners.
In the Upper Division, one of the Habits for Scholarship and Citizenship is curiosity. We have defined curiosity as the following: Curiosity is the desire to personally connect with learning. This begins with a sense of wonder, requires an open mind and a comfort with not yet knowing, and leads to learning for its own sake. This definition is so powerful! Connecting with learning, a comfort with not yet knowing, and learning for its own sake are three extraordinarily important things. Add a sense of wonder, and you have the magic that is curiosity.
Take a look at this video created by Science teacher, Karen Manning, if you are curious to see what your children are curious about. And then be sure to get curious yourself and ask your children what else they are wondering.
In February, Head of School, Cynthia Harmon, announced exciting plans for an Outdoor Learning Garden (OLG) at Park. Just before our March vacation, students in Grade VIII began work on the OLG. Breaking into four groups, the students researched topics, met with experts in the field, created models and/or plans, and made proposals for what is going to be planted and grown in the garden – starting this spring.
One group of students worked with herb spirals – spiral shaped vertical growing spaces with microclimates and 30 feet of planting space in each spiral. In addition to researching which herbs would grow best in each section of the spiral, the students met with members of the Park dining staff to learn about the herbs that are most often used in our lunches. Another group studied high-yield vegetables for the planting beds and container garden in order to identify the best crops based on climate, growing season and use in the Park kitchen. A third group made recommendations for the berry patches and fruit trees – again looking at the growing season and use in the Park kitchen, as well as researching cross vs self pollinating plants and companion plants. The fourth group studied composing and researched various types of composters and composting plans as well as analyzing data from the Park dining room in order to make their recommendation.
The metaphor here is quite powerful. Our oldest students – a few short months away from their graduation – are the ones who are making the recommendations, planting the seeds, if you will, for a next generation of students at Park in the Outdoor Learning Garden.
See the photos below to get a sense of the day. A special thank you to Green City Growers, Allandale Farm, the Park dining staff, the VIII advisory team, Elaine Hamilton and Pamela Penna, and all Grade VIII students for making this day work so beautifully.
Last week, while students were beginning their extra long weekend, their teachers came to school, ready to work and learn. The focus of the day was applied learning, which in its simplest terms has to do with how students apply what they have learned in order to demonstrate their understanding. In other words, what students do with what they know.
In the morning, we watched a movie together and had discussion groups. In the afternoon, nine faculty members presented things that they had been working on in their classrooms so that we could be inspired by and learn from our colleagues.
At the heart of our work was exciting thinking, conversation, and questions about the purpose of school and the most important skills needed in our changing world. I wanted to explain some of these ideas to the Upper Division Students, and so I showed them this short video in Morning Meeting.
In our moment of silence, I asked the students to reflect on how their work and our Habits for Scholarship and Citizenship connect to the qualities and skills described in the video. I hope that in that quiet moment, they began to think about the many connections that I see in classrooms each and every day.
In mid-January, we held our first all-school Winter Spirit Day. Park students and adults came to school wearing school colors. At the end of the day, Grades I – VIII gathered in the west gym for an energetic (and fun!) pep rally for the Varsity basketball teams. Later that evening, the teams ate diner at school and then traveled to Meadowbrook School – with 200 green frosted cupcakes – to play back-to-back games. The teams were evenly matched, and the games were well-played and very exciting to watch, and, in the end, Park won both games. We hope that this is the beginning of a wonderful new tradition!
Upper Division students and their teachers begin the school day with Morning Meeting (8:15- 8:30) every day except for Tuesday. Morning Meeting provides a time for the logistics of attendance taking and announcement making, it gives us all the chance to start the day together, and it allows for the opportunity to have four short presentations a week – presentations by teachers, parents, outside speakers, individual students, or whole classes or grade levels, Morning Meeting provides an important window into the life of the Upper Division. It is always a highlight of my day.
Parents are welcome to come to Morning Meeting, provided that they sit in the top rows on the side sections of seats – and that they turn off their cell phones.
To whet your appetite, I am providing below a partial list of topics of recent and upcoming Upper Division Morning Meetings. Please check Friday Notes each week for a complete listing of Morning Meeting presentations.
- VII Modern and Classical Languages Trip to the MFA
- How to Spot Fake News?
- VIII English “This I Believe” essays
- #powerofwords – the importance of saying thank you and telling people they are important to you before the end of the year
- Mock Caldecott Award
- Grade VI Book Character Day
- Don’t Be An Armadillo – tips for public speaking
We look forward to seeing you in Morning Meeting sometime!