15 09, 2016

Curriculum Connection: The Outdoor Learning Space

By |2018-12-17T11:32:40-06:00September 15th, 2016|Curriculum Connection, Experiential Learning, Families, Parent News|0 Comments

It takes a lot of people to build a garden. In fact, it will require the help of every man, woman, and child in the Ancona community for our new garden to bloom to life.

We called the first event in the garden’s life, held on Saturday, August 27, a “farm raising,” borrowing the iconic rural image of neighbors coming together to build a barn. It’s fitting we borrowed a metaphor, because we are literally borrowing everything else, too–including the time, talents, and tools of many generous people.

Over 30 parents and children came out in the rain and mud to lift, build, fence, and plant.

More than a few parents have since approached me and apologized for missing that event. “We’re so sad we couldn’t attend the farm raising,” they say.

“No worries,” I reassure them. “The farm raising isn’t over. The farm raising is now. The farm raising is always.”

There will never be a time when something isn’t being planned, built, or retrofitted for the garden. That’s the way it is with gardens and with agriculture in general. They are chronically improvised ventures requiring constant improvement.

Many community members have found other ways–other days–to share their time, talents, and tools. Parent Sarah Dunn, an architect by trade, has shepherded the garden from sketches toward reality. Kids in the summer eco camp built prototypes of raised beds. Haun Saussy, a new parent, donated a nifty, almost-new wheelbarrow. Radiah and Ben Smith-Donald donated stumps to serve as seats.

The next installment of the ongoing farm-raising is a harvest fete, set for Wednesday, October 19, 3:30-6:30 pm. All are welcome. We won’t have as many crops this year as in future ones. Still, we should celebrate the garden’s first harvest while continuing its construction.

As before, this event will be a collaborative effort. Faculty and families are loaning cider presses. The pre-primary students will pick apples for pressing. Ari is bringing a guitar (and expects you to bring instruments, too). Kathy Yates has offered daffodil bulbs. We need folks to put in next year’s garlic and spread mulch.

These kinds of pay-it-forward zeitgeist suggests how the garden will and should work, that is, as a joint venture of many hands. E pluribus unum hortum.

Students often ask me about the possibilities of raising live animals in the garden. When are the chickens coming? What about the pigs? They are eager, understandably so, for the garden to arrive, shiny and complete as a holiday package.

Yes, I explain, there will be animals, (though not pigs), but first there must be plants, more beds, tables and benches. Before they raise chickens, they must, like Thoreau, raise beans–and carrots, and tomatoes, and squash, and  . . . And before they raise beans, they have to help build a bean bed. The garden isn’t just a place; it’s a process.

So the building continues. Do you have benches or an old picnic table? A stack of old bricks or pavers? A trellis? Hand tools? Stumps? We can use them. We can use you. Whatever your skill or resource, it can find a place here in a former parking lot on South Kenwood Avenue.

Out of many, one garden.

Chris Weber

Outdoor Learning Specialist

17 03, 2014

Maya’s Argument

By |2018-12-17T11:37:40-06:00March 17th, 2014|Families, Learning to Write, Parenting|0 Comments

Writers Celebrations punctuate our school year giving festive endings to the studies of particular genres in our Writers Workshops. In a Writers Celebration, groups of students gather together with their parents to share completed and polished works after weeks of drafts, critiques and revisions. Parents and kids share comments, questions and accolades for each young writer.IMG_0120

Our 3rd/4th graders recently celebrated a challenging month-long workshop on personal essays. Each student writer chose an idea s/he cared about and used three pieces of evidence to construct a logical argument for the reader. Sustaining a single idea, supporting it through several paragraphs and completing the essay as a unified whole is truly challenging work for eight and nine-year-olds!

There was a very poignant moment when Maya, having explained why vacations are both fun and educational, read her third reason.Maya Reading

It is good for you, because vacation is about getting my family back together and spending time together. On the Disney cruise line, it got my family back together for 5 days, and then we stayed at a hotel in Orlando. Jacob and Dad went golfing; we (Mom and I) relaxed and watched TV and read books together. We spent a lot of time in the pool. When we are at home it is not like vacation, because we have to go to school and work and spend a lot of time apart. So vacation is important for family.

A great writer speaks to a timeless truth and makes an emotional connection to her audience. When it was time for feedback, more than one parent confessed to being a little teary. I was personally moved by the sweet earnest quality of Maya’s essay.

I thought of this moment the other day when I read a summary of psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair’s address to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) conference, taking place at just about the same time as our Writers Celebration. Steiner Adair is a therapist and instructor at the Harvard Medical School who researches the effects of technology on our kids and our relationships.

Are we living in a time in which we are more connected than ever and, paradoxically, more isolated? she asked.

According to Bridget Janicki, who blogged from the conference, Steiner-Adair interviewed kids, parents, school leaders, young adults and even preschoolers around the country. She was blown away by this finding:
Children at every single age group use the same words to describe being in a family — and they all speak to feeling alone. It’s sad, because they cannot get their parents’ attention. They feel frustrated that at a moment when they need a connection, their parents’ eyes are in the screen.

And then, a couple of days ago, I saw this headline from Time.com: Don’t Text While Parenting — It Will Make You Cranky. The story described a study from Boston Medical Center showing that parents absorbed in their devices throughout an entire meal had increasingly negative interactions with their children. Since children learn their primary social skills from interacting with their parents, the researchers wondered what the long-term effects of such digital absorption on children’s social development might be.

In our fast-paced and digital world, Maya reminds us that children need and desire deep connection to parents and family. And even amidst all the attractions and distractions of Disney World, the most delicious and memorable moments might just be spent hanging out with your parents.

21 11, 2013


By |2018-12-17T11:37:42-06:00November 21st, 2013|Families|0 Comments

The abrupt arrival of cold weather and snow last week was a chilly reminder that the balmy days and beautiful foliage of fall are at an end, and the Thanksgiving holiday is just around the corner.
I imagine that for most of our families, Thanksgiving preparations are well underway. In our household, we are excited to be celebrating not only Thanksgiving, but also two engagements, one birthday and Chanukah, and we’re busy planning a feast that includes vegetarian, gluten-free and lactose-intolerant options as well as figuring out how to squeeze a growing and increasingly diverse family around the not-growing table.
Every family has different traditions and different challenges for celebrating the holiday, but it offers each of us a moment to reflect upon the good fortune in our lives, to consider ways to share with those who have less and to give back to institutions that have meaning for us. IMG_0569 In our 1st/2nd grade classrooms, reflections on homelessness and poverty are taking new shape in the form of our coat drive. IMG_0550As I watch the boxes fill to overflowing in the Umeh Foyer, I am very moved by the generosity of our Ancona families. And when they deliver the coats to South Central Community Services (http://www.sccsinc.org) and receive their appreciation, our children will learn what researchers tell us – that giving stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain. Giving feels good and makes us happy!image
Just as every family has its own Thanksgiving traditions, every family has its own charitable traditions. Some families make a habit of sitting down together to discuss philanthropy as a group and to decide on their contributions for the year. Others volunteer time at a soup kitchen or food pantry to help ensure that indigent people share in the bounty of the season. Many do both.
As families think about institutions that make a difference in their lives and that of others, I hope that you will join me in giving Ancona a prominent place on your lists. Because I believe so strongly in what we do here every day, I make Ancona my top philanthropic commitment. This year, we’ve set and ambitious $170,000 goal for our Annual Fund, and we are trying out a focused and time-limited Annual Fund Drive to ensure that Ancona provides that margin of excellence every day. Four weeks into it, we have made some remarkable progress. As of today, we are just over half way to our goal with $88,000 pledged or received. We started the drive with gifts from 20% of our parents who pledged through their enrollment contracts. Just three weeks later, participation is doubled at nearly 40%. Room 210 is already at 65% participation with Room 208 coming up right behind! We’re looking for some gift, of whatever amount, from every family to reach our 100% participation goal. And we’re looking for strong participation, as well, from all of those friends, alumni and former parents whose lives have been touched by Ancona.
We have just a couple of weeks left to reach our goals for the Annual Fund for the current fiscal year. If your family has a tradition of planning year-end giving, please consider adding Ancona School to your list of worthy charities. Although the “public phase” of the Annual Fund Campaign will be over as of Thanksgiving, we will be gratefully accepting donations right up to the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2014.
Your can make your gift now at right here.