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Love of Learning

1 09, 2016

Welcome Back Ancona!

By | September 1st, 2016|Curriculum Connection, Diversity and Social Justice, Experiential Learning, Genius Of Children, Love of Learning, Parent News|0 Comments

On August 27th I had the pleasure of participating in Ancona’s Farm Raising. From hauling lumber with a three year old, to shoveling soil into garden beds with grown-ups, I had the opportunity to speak with the entire spectrum of the Ancona community. While talking with a new parent at Ancona, I was struck by his enthusiasm and joy for our school. Even when the conversation led into other areas of our lives, he always brought the conversation back to Ancona and what an amazing connection his family felt with our community.

With so much stress in our lives, I am always happy to hear that Ancona brings joy into parent’s lives by providing an excellent education to our students. This education goes beyond the academic and brings the whole world to the classroom. An Ancona education intentionally fosters community, tackles issues of social justice head on, and brings student voice to the forefront of any discussion.  From day one, our teachers are educating our students to bridge the gaps that society has made. Where society separates, Ancona unites. As we start this school year,  I would like to take this opportunity to share how community, social justice and student voice are present at Ancona and why these hallmarks make us shine so brightly in Chicago.

This is a learning environment for children to learn who they are as individuals, who they are as a member of a group, and who we all are as a community. Children call their teachers and administrators by first names. They begin each day with a handshake as they enter the school and over the course of the year this tradition allows them to get to know all of our faculty. Advisors start each morning with a group conversation that establishes a sense of camaraderie that feeds into the learning for the rest of the day. This commitment to the joy and fellowship in learning is seen across the school. A long-time teacher once chided me for wearing a tie because the teachers here must always look ready to get on the floor and play with children on their level. While I’ve come to learn how to incorporate my tie into play, the sentiment from that conversation has stuck with me: educators at Ancona are fully present.

It is through this lens of community that our students understand social justice. Ancona educates children who will defend human rights in the face of a society that seems to revel in dismantling of them. Throughout my time here I have seen students march for equal access to healthy water, participate in reenactment scenes from the civil rights era, and research gun violence statistics. Last year, after researching water access for the Social Justice Data Fair, one of our eighth grade students became passionate about helping with the crisis in Flint, Michigan. With the help of family and friends, he created a campaign to help bring water to families in Flint. Classmates collaborated to design posters, family member drove the water out, and donations were secured from every quarter.  Parents at Ancona marvel at how their children’s learning is so often tied to illuminating greater problems in our society. Our student’s assign their imaginations to contemporary problems and their solutions fill us with admiration and hope.

Both community and social justice at Ancona are grounded in the elevation of student voice. When children choose their own work, they enact their best learning. The dignity of work is a Montessori principle: Children choose their work in a classroom according to what fulfills them. As they grow, they choose a balance of things that help them mature as learners. From engineering sound amplifiers, to building model bridges, to forming government policy recommendations, teachers provide complex sophisticated problems with multiple outcomes and students extend themselves to apply what they know to design solutions. Ancona students are innovators, collaborators, researchers, designers — they are problem solvers, they are “workers,” creating and fulfilling their own vision, then sharing that work and fulfillment with everyone around them.

What we want for our children is what we want for society – to feel supported by a community, to share in the work of equity and engage with life’s puzzles by leading solutions. Ancona is proud to be a space that fosters this hard work and acts as a “third place” — a place between home and work where your family learns and grows together. Thank you for becoming, being or remaining a member of the Ancona School! We are powered by the genius of children. We are powered by you. We can’t wait for this great year ahead!

Ari Frede 

Head of School

17 01, 2013

Sweet Gift

By | January 17th, 2013|Love of Learning|0 Comments

Every now and then, the cosmos sends an unexpected gift one’s way.  Just such a gift arrived in my inbox this week in the form of a completely unsolicited letter from Jacob Yanowski, Class of 2003.

At Ancona, we’re working every day to develop children’s love of learning, their problem-solving abilities and their sense of their own agency.  Such capacities don’t develop overnight; they unfold over years.   But the public din of test scores, racing to the top and teacher accountability can make it easy to lose sight of the true purposes of education.  So it is the sweetest gift of all when one of our alumni offers his own testimony to the power of an Ancona education and affirms our most fundamental commitments to children.

By the time of his Ancona graduation, Jacob had learned well that he was responsible for his own education.  He very much wanted to attend Jones Prep High School, and when his test scores left him a few points shy of admission, he took matters into his own hands.  Jacob put together a portfolio of his work, made an appointment with the principal and got himself admitted, thereby transforming an arbitrary system into a personal one.   Once at Jones, he and fellow Ancona graduate Kenneth Males looked around for the film club.  Finding none, they went to the administration, made their case for the club and led it until they graduated.  Ancona teachers nurture this kind of leadership and initiative  every day.   Both young men have gone on to become filmmakers.  Here’s Jacob’s letter:

Hi Bonnie,

How are you?  How are things at Ancona?  

It has been a while since I graduated, but a week hasn’t gone by that Ancona hasn’t popped into my head.  I can’t tell you the countless times I studied something in University, heard something said, and figured something out that Ancona already gave me when I was a kid.  I could go on forever about how Ancona taught me to be organized (which is absolutely true) or how Ancona taught me how to make friends (which is visible when I see that I am still friends with people from Ancona).  But what I can’t explain to most people and what I cherish most in myself is that Ancona encouraged and trained my enjoyment of learning.  Throughout high school, university, and now the professional world, I have never stopped having an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, for deciphering the unknown and learning about every corner of the Earth.  I thank Ancona and all it’s wonderful people for that.

I’m working in Toronto now, at a documentary film production company — and yes, even that infatuation and hobby was nurtured to no end by Ancona.  But what is more important, and really the impetus of this letter, is that two weeks ago I was at a massive art exhibit of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Toronto.  As I studied each painting, it struck me that I knew about these fabulous artists when I was six years old! Christiane taught us about these Mexican masters even before I knew my times tables.  I’m so proud of the fact that I knew about these wonderful artists at such a young age.  Like the million other things I learned at Ancona, I get to carry them with me wherever I go.  What an educational experience.

So thank you, to you and your wonderful staff, teachers and all the people and names I will never forget.

All the best,

Jacob Yanowski