Welcoming In The Year With A Handshake

On the first day of school, the entire Upper Division – students and faculty –  gather on the main field (West Gym if rain), stand shoulder to shoulder and shake hands. At the end of 30 minutes, each child and adult has shaken hands with every other child and adult and has greeted them by name – we wear name tags to help new members of the Upper Division. The handshaking line makes its way around the perimeter of the field/gym, and when the last pair shakes hands, we delight in doing The Wave several times. This tradition is a way to form community, to welcome each other back to school, and to learn new names. The handshaking also provides the front end of a bookend to the year; our Graduation exercises end with a handshaking line where we say goodbye to departing students. As we begin the school year, we take the time to remember the power of a face-to-face greeting and a handshake.

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What’s Your Name?

One of the first thing we learn about each other is our names. But we rarely have the chance to hear the full story behind those names. Park sixth graders research and write their name stories, sometimes learning things about their names that they had never know before. Several of the grade VI name stories were presented in Morning Meeting, and they inspired members of the faculty to tell their own name stories. These stories are varied and beautiful, funny and poignant, and always one of a kind, like the names themselves.



Social Justice Week 2016

psIn late February, the entire school participated in a Social Justice Week. Social Justice, explained Park’s director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, is what we DO so that everyone can have access to what they need. The organizing theme for the week was #do one thing to # make things better.
Upper Division students organized the first ever Pink Shirt Day at Park. Students also had a series of Morning Meeting presentations, including one by the artist Bren Bataclan, who spoke about his Smile Project.

While the younger students were assigned to do one specific thing, the older students were free to choose the one thing that they wanted to do. Below is a sample of Upper Division responses to the question, What is the one thing you are going to make better?

  • I’m going to try to make the world better by making sure everyone feels included whenever I can.
  • I do my best to say hi to nearly everyone.
  • I would like to try to express more positivity towards everyone no matter what.
  • Hold the door for someone and think about the people around me more.
  • We are working on creating a rooftop garden with herbs to harvest for the kitchen.
  • I will try to be the best student I can be by helping my friends in tough situations and help watch my language.
  • I am going to be even more appreciative to the kitchen staff for the delicious lunches they make. I am also going to clear even more dishes and platters at my table at the end of lunch.
  • I am going to recycle all of my papers that I don’t want instead of just throwing it in the trash!
  • I will treat my sister with more respect than I usually do.
  • To say hello to people I know and to acknowledge that people are trying to help me.
  • I am going to help people who are being bullied. If I see someone being bullied, I am going to be an ally and tell them to stop.
  • I am going to make sure that all the teachers know that THEY are making things better by teaching me things and helping students everyday.
  • I want people to feel more accepted and involved at school or in a conversation.

Social Justice Week may be over, but Upper Division students (and their teachers) will continue to identify what they can do to make their world a better place.