Sunday, April 2, 2017

Hello Spring!

Dear Families,

April showers bring May flowers!  I love the thought of that idea as I look forward to the days when the tulips are blooming, blades of grass are greening, and the air smells fresh and clean.  Springtime means new beginnings . . . and time to be outside!

The other day, I was searching on Amazon, reading reviews of books that I’d like to get for my daughter.  I’m always on the lookout for good books that will enlighten her as a new parent.  I happened to stumble on a book called Balanced and Barefoot:  How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children by Angela Hanscom.  The book is written by a pediatric occupational therapist who believes that today’s children are pre-occupied by video games and computer screens, and they are spending less time in play that develops their sensory, motor, and executive functions.  Further, she makes a connection between this lack of play with cognitive difficulties and challenges with emotional regulation.  Sure, many children are engaged in structured activities every day, but the author presents a case for spending time outside on a regular basis in unstructured play . . . rolling down hills, swinging, playing games, and exploring nature.   As my daughter lives in the heart of New York City, I’m going to get this book for her.   

I am increasingly worried about the pressures our children have in their lives and the scarcity of free time they have to imagine, create, play . . . and even experience boredom.  It seems that if children don’t have a ‘resume’ of activities by the time they reach the prime age of four years, the alarm begins to sound for many parents.  How have we gotten to this state for our children?   I find myself questioning my own core beliefs . . . is it that I remember the ‘old days’ and am not ready to move into the 21st century of parenting, or is it that I’m truly concerned about our children’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being?  I honestly think it’s the latter.

A few weeks ago, when I was outside on recess duty with third grade, I watched our children at play.  Eight boys threw the ball and tumbled on the ground during the football game.  They didn’t care that the ground was soggy – they just wanted to score a touchdown.  Then there was the group digging in the sandbox, and the group playing on the equipment . . . I’m not exactly sure what they were doing, but it looked like fun!  It was a beautiful winter day for outdoor play.  We had to blow the whistle, though we knew they could have stayed much longer.  Today, we understand much more about the brain than ever, and we know that play enhances memory, improves language skills, promotes reasoning skills, and increases motivation. While some schools are decreasing the amount of time for recess, we remain committed to giving children this time for unrestricted play.

With nine weeks remaining in the school year, I encourage you to sit down with the Breck calendar and make note of all of the exciting things to come . . . “Moving Up” grade level parent meetings, Field Day, portfolio sharing, grade level celebrations, and Lower School Closing.  Sign-up is underway for the Breck Summer Program . . . has your child registered yet?

Enjoy the season,


Monday, January 9, 2017

Happy New Year!

Dear Parents and friends,

We’ve entered the New Year with great energy and enthusiasm!  Just this morning, several students exclaimed, “I just love school!”  Of course, that was music to my ears!  Among my many good fortunes, being around children who have an unbridled passion for learning, is one of my greatest pleasures! 

Last week, in preparation for our admissions open house, Mrs. Wright and I met with a group of ten fourth graders who are serving as Lower School tour ambassadors.  In our conversation, we learned about everything they love about Breck . . . and about their suggestions for change in our program. Leave it to students to share ideas that are so insightful!  Among their offerings were a desire to have more physical education and less recess.  They love learning new skills and having an opportunity to practice them within the context of a game or activity.  Another thoughtful idea was to have art more than once a cycle.  “We’d have more time to come back to projects, and probably be able to do more projects.”  And, since fourth graders have already been through a round of STEAM and coding . . . there was agreement all around the table for having STEAM throughout the year.  Given our students’ interests in creativity, problem-solving, and working collaboratively this came as no surprise!  We left the session fully illuminated by our fourth graders!

Our C.A.R.E. theme this month is tolerance!  Tolerance means understanding and respecting each other’s differences.  In classrooms, we are talking about how we can use our differences to build our strengths as a community.  Each of us has something valuable to contribute to a conversation or a task . . . can we find opportunities to recognize what we bring individually that adds richness to our collective work?  We’re also talking about how we respond to differences . . . do we listen and ask questions to understand, or are we quick to judge?  Given that we are days away from the Presidential inauguration, it might be an opportunity to have a conversation in your homes about citizenship and our responsibilities to one another.  One aspect of being a good citizen is to ‘seek to understand others’, and another is to ‘uphold the common good’.  Beginning with tolerance is a first step.

Coming up, we will be hosting six students from Seoul National University in Korea, who are studying to be teachers.  This is a partnership program we have with the University of Minnesota.  Our teaching guests will be in a few second, third, and fourth grades classrooms.  They will learn about the education system in the US, while also sharing their culture with our students.  We’re looking forward to their time with us. 

Gazing outside my window, the flurry of new fallen snow adds an element of wonder to a joy-filled Monday!  I hope this coming year brings you many moments of marvel and delight!