Meet the Team: Stuart Fluharty, Spanish Teacher

Posted by: David Bergler   -   Posted in: News- Oct 12, 2015 Comments Off on Meet the Team: Stuart Fluharty, Spanish Teacher

Meet the Team is a monthly series that showcases the wonderful faculty and staff at Bright Water School.

This edition’s special guest is Spanish Teacher, Stuart Fluharty.

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Stuart pictured with his daughter Alannah

1. You volunteered for the Peace Corps in Honduras. What is an indelible memory for you from that time?

Volunteering for the Peace Corps was a life-changing event in many ways. I learned so much about life, the world, cross-cultural interactions, and myself. Many of my best memories was working up in small mountain villages with the doctors, nurses, and medical staff. It was humbling to see how people we would consider “poor” be so generous, happy, and content with what they have and who they are.

2. I understand you enjoy playing soccer – what about watching it? Do you have a favorite team(s)?

I have played soccer my whole life, but honestly I am not a huge fan of watching games. I do love the passion of the Sounders games (especially going to games). My Honduran team is Maraton, and when I have to decide between Real Madrid and Barcelona, I root for Barcelona.

3. You spent nearly six years living in Honduras. How do you feel like this period in your life changed you?

My entire life changed during the nearly six years in Honduras. What was supposed to be a two year experience after graduating from college lead to learning to deal with conflict/strife, the meeting of my wife, the birth of our first child, and the beginning of my teaching career.

4. What Bright Water School festival, event, or tradition are you most excited about?

I really enjoyed the Michaelmas celebration with the dragon bread, cider, soup, and apple spirals, but I have heard the most students talking about Sugar Plum Faire. I don’t really know exactly what happens yet, but it sounds like a good time.

5. Were you familiar with Waldorf education when you started here? If so, what resonates with you in this pedagogy? If not, what are you learning about Waldorf education through your work?

I had heard about Waldorf education, but I wasn’t very knowledgeable about how it worked. I love seeing and experiencing the creativity and uniqueness that our students, teachers, and families possess. There are many things that are learned here that are imperative for child growth that are being left out or cut from traditional school curriculum.

6. What are your favorite fall meals?

I love just about anything home-cooked. Some fall comfort foods for me are pumpkin pie, fresh apple cider, banana bread, mashed potatoes, and hot soups.

Meet the Team: Cait Platz, Grade One Teacher

Posted by: David Bergler   -   Posted in: Community Spotlights- Sep 11, 2015 Comments Off on Meet the Team: Cait Platz, Grade One Teacher

Meet the Team is a monthly series that showcases the wonderful faculty and staff at Bright Water School.

This edition’s special guest is Grade One Teacher, Cait Platz.

Cait Platz family photo
1. How did you originally get involved in teaching?

I have a hunger for knowledge and have continued to become educated through courses and seminars from an early age.  Teaching, which embraces the process of learning, has unfolded for me.  I began at a small one room school house in Jersey City while enrolled in graduate school in Manhattan.  I worked with young children, ages 2 ½ to 5, and I grew from the lessons of Maria Montessori.  “He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 25) Montessori’s vision of the hands as we engage the world through them became the foundation of my study of education.

2. Why does Waldorf education appeal to you?

I have been most interested in connecting hands on, practical work with intellectual concepts and philosophy.  I feel that the good life happens somewhere in the middle where these realms overlap.  Steiner-Waldorf education promotes balanced interdisciplinary studies, resulting in creative thinking.  Young children relish in pragmatic work while maintaining a strong vision of beauty.  This is seen in their play and later in their main lesson books and projects.  The students I see become immersed in their work, bringing with them overflowing imagination and joy.

3. What’s the last thing you did for the first time?

I recently kayaked on the Hood Canal for the first time.  I have spent plenty of time on the shore working an oyster farm at Dabob Bay but I had never ventured out to explore the canal from the water.  I met a former student there.  I had recently worked with this student in New York so it was rather uncanny to be together in Washington.  Together we spent some time kayaking about and exploring the waters of the Hood Canal.

4. Any fun or memorable stories to share from your time working on a dairy farm?

Dairy work was filled with hard labor and early morning hours.  I had to be up by 4:00 am in 20 degree below weather (with wind chill) for the early kid feeding.  With one eye open and my hat covering the other eye, I’d stumble into my insulated boots and out the door to the parlor to mix up the kid’s breakfast.  It had to be just the right temperature and I’d fill two 5 gallon buckets with 12 black nipples sticking out of the most bottom portion of the bucket.  Then back out into the cold and finally into the goat dairy barn, I’d unlatch the pens on the wall and out would jump very hungry little goats. Before I could turn around they had found a nipple and were drinking contentedly.

Sugar was a full grown American Lamancha milk goat (you know the white goats without ears) and she knew how to keep me awake so early in the morning.  Charismatic and cunning she would chew on my zippers and boot laces while slyly making her way closer to the milking buckets where the kids were feeding.  In a wink Sugar would have her whole head submerged in the bucket and could suck up the milk as fast as if she were drinking out of 20 straws.  Oy vey, Sugar!  She sure was sweet though.

5. What are you most looking forward to at Bright Water School?

I am looking forward to the process of becoming a class family.  It is a wonderful path where we learn a great deal about one another and even more about ourselves.  I also imagine the possibility of making meaningful connections with the eighth grade students and other classes where overlapping experiences might benefit both groups and work toward broadened relationships and a greater feeling of connection.      

6. How do you relax in the summer months?

I appreciate travel and stepping into unfamiliar territory despite that I often feel out of place.  I enjoy travel across this country and the experience of different lifestyles.  I also relish in traveling overseas, especially to study with a group in Switzerland.  I hope to spend more summer months back to Saas-Fee to reconnect with folks there.

7. Who inspires you? Why?

Ingmar Bergman.  I am a big Bergman cinefile and although the complexities in the relationships he builds are not always uplifting I sure enjoy the thought and reflection his work unleashes in me.  There are many great Bergman films and I should not list them all, but I do have a special affinity for Fanny Och Alexander (1982).  I enjoy watching this film yearly around the time of the winter holidays.

Class of 2015 Interviews

Posted by: David Bergler   -   Posted in: Community Spotlights- Jun 04, 2015 Comments Off on Class of 2015 Interviews


Beth Simpson, Class of 2015 Teacher

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1. How would you describe the Class of 2015?

This is a group of true go-getters. They are smart, energized, enthusiastic, and willing to reach and work for their goals. The students don’t shy away from work. This ‘yes’ group meets my high energy well – we have taken it great places!

2. Do you have a favorite memory or experience with the class from this year? How about prior years?

This year’s class trip, absolutely. It was an incredible week of bonding; a rite of passage for the Class of 2015. Last year’s Renaissance curriculum – the beauty and and vitality of it – was a balm for some of the social struggles in seventh grade. The curriculum met their needs very well. Another field trip that stands out was the sheer fun of the Goldendale Observatory in sixth grade.

3. What was your favorite block to teach this year?

My favorite block to teach was short stories. It was a delight to read fun, taut stories, often with twists at the end. We approached the block from both the creative and the analytical. Creatively, every student (and myself) wrote short stories to share. We also developed vocabulary, grammar knowledge, and analyzed other writers’ short stories.

4. Do any projects from this year stick out to you?

The Class of 2015’s community service projects. A resounding accomplishment. Bright Water School’s mission is to send well-rounded students into the world to serve humanity – this project was an essential stepping stone for the students.

5. Do you have any advice for next year’s eighth grade class?

Enjoy every minute. Every minute is so full…and in the end every minute is meaningful. Stay present to your learning, your experiences, and your friendships.

Al

2014-11-25 15.07.06-5 1. Where are you going to high school?

The Northwest School.

2. What are you looking forward to at high school?

Playing saxophone in the upper school jazz band.

3. What was your favorite block during Grade Eight? Why?

Probably “Current Events.” I am interested in modern history and politics.

4. What will you miss most about Bright Water School?
The extremely tight-knit community.

5. Do you have any advice for next year’s eighth grade class?

Plan ahead!

Ruby

2014-11-25 15.07.06-21. Where are you going to high school?

Garfield.

2. What are you looking forward to at high school?

Meeting new people.

3. What was your favorite block during Grade Eight? Why?

Short stories, because I like literature and writing.

4. What will you miss most about Bright Water School?
My friends and teachers.

5. Do you have any advice for next year’s eighth grade class?

Try to forget your all your issues in the past, and just be friends.

Tallis

2014-11-25 15.07.04-51. Where are you going to high school?

Holy Names Academy.

2. What are you looking forward to at high school?

Meeting new people and experiencing new things.

3. What was  your favorite block during Grade Eight? Why?

Short stories because it was fun and allowed for creative experiences.

4. What will you miss most about Bright Water School?
The great community and welcoming attitude.

5. Do you have any advice for next year’s eighth grade class?

Come to school every day and do your homework!

Lyra

2014-11-25 15.07.05-21. Where are you going to high school?

Holy Names Academy.

2. What are you looking forward to at high school?

Meeting new people.

3. What was your favorite block during Grade Eight? Why?

Short stories – it was fun reading all of the stories.

4. What will you miss the most about Bright Water School?
Everything.

5. Do you have any advice for next year’s eighth grade class?

Study for Washington State history, and start high school applications early.

Zach

2014-11-25 15.07.05-31. Where are you going to high school?

Shorecrest.

2. What are you looking forward to at high school?

Meet more people, and new people, in my grade.

3. What was your favorite block during Grade Eight? Why?

Anatomy, because I learned physically who I was.

4. What will you miss most about Bright Water School?
My friends.

5. Do you have any advice for next year’s eighth grade class?
Study!

Annelie

2014-11-25 15.07.06-41. Where are you going to high school?

Nathan Hale or Ingraham.

2. What are you looking forward to high school?

To the change.

3. What was your favorite block during Grade Eight? Why?

Anatomy because I want to be a doctor, physical therapist, or radiologist.

4. What will you miss most about Bright Water School?
The education style and my friends.

5. Do you have any advice for next year’s eighth grade class?

Get a planner so you will be able to write down things you need to do.

Nori

2014-11-25 15.07.05-11. Where are you going to high school?

Holy Names Academy.

2. What are you looking forward to at high school?

Being with Lyra and Tally.

3. What was your favorite block during Grade Eight? Why?

Anatomy because it was fun learning bone structures and drawing skeletons in motion.

4. What will you miss most about Bright Water School?
My class and making art.

5. Do you have any advice for next year’s eighth grade class?

Study!

Carmen

2014-11-25 15.07.06-31. Where are you going to high school?

Seattle Academy of Arts & Sciences.

2. What are you looking forward to at high school?

Continuing to do the things I like, learning new things, and meeting new people.

3. What was your favorite block during Grade Eight? Why?

Anatomy because I find human science interesting.

4. What will you miss the most about Bright Water School?
The community and relationships.

5. Do you have any advice for next year’s eighth grade class?

It only gets better! Do your homework, come to school, and study, study, study.

Suzanna

2014-11-25 15.07.06-11. Where are you going to high school?

Roosevelt.

2. What are you looking forward to at high school?

New experiences.

3. What was your favorite block during Grade Eight? Why?

Short stories because it was fun!

4. What will you miss most about Bright Water School?
Tight connections, and the kindness and respect of BWS.

5. Do you have any advice for next year’s eighth grade class?

Take notes, make good choices, and enjoy your last year while you can.

Dalia

2014-11-25 15.07.04-31. Where are you going to high school?

Seattle Waldorf School.

2. What are you looking forward to at high school?

Seeing the people from my old school.

3. What was your favorite block during Grade Eight? Why?

Short stories, because I got to write stories of my own.

4. What will you miss the most about Bright Water School?
All the people in my class and friends from other classes too.

5. Do you have any advice for next year’s eighth grade class?

Make an effort to be really close with everyone in your class.

Miranda

2014-11-25 15.07.06-61. Where are you going to high school?

Seattle Academy of Arts & Sciences.

2. What are you looking forward to at high school?

New experiences.

3. What was your favorite block during Grade Eight? Why?

Short stories because I like reading, and History because you get to learn interesting things about the past.

4. What will you miss most about Bright Water School?
My friends.

5. Do you have any advice for next year’s eighth grade class?

Study, do your homework, and be nice.

Emory

2014-11-25 15.07.05-41. Where are you going to high school?

Shorecrest.

2. What are you looking forward to at high school?

Meeting new people.

3. What was your favorite block this year? Why?

Short stories, because I like reading.

4. What will you miss most about Bright Water School?
The sense of community.

5. Do you have any advice for next year’s eighth grade class?

Don’t gossip – if you have a problem with someone, tell them and talk to them about it.

Jade

2014-11-25 15.07.04-41. Where are you going to high school?

University Prep.

2. What are you looking forward to at high school?

Trying new things, meeting new people, and playing sports.

3. What was your favorite block during Grade Eight? Why?

Drama because I like to act and it was fun.

4. What will you miss most about Bright Water School?
My classmates and my art classes.

5. Do you have any advice for next year’s eighth grade class?

Get in high school applications in early, apply to private schools even if you don’t think you want to go, and make sure to take practice tests!

Grade Three Practical Arts: Shelter Projects

Posted by: David Bergler   -   Posted in: Student Work/Class Projects- May 05, 2015 Comments Off on Grade Three Practical Arts: Shelter Projects

The sun spills through the trees in fractured waves, pouring unevenly across the third grade as they orbit the verdant parts of our playground. One student, eyes squinted, carefully adds a brick to the garden plot. Two others puff their chests out and toss and turn the soil with their hoes. The earth matter is warm from the dollops of sun, warmer still from their tilling. They are jovial, attentive. A bustling child, knees soil-sunken, raises her hands high: they are stained with the dark-rooted richness of experience.

I observed Grade Three create and cultivate over the course of a few minutes. This scene isn’t singular. They have cooked, constructed, farmed, and otherwise engaged the body’s theater of ‘practical arts.’ Most recently, and perhaps most individually resonate, is their shelter-building project.

Ms. Chamberlain, Grade Three Class Teacher, echoed stirring stories of shelters the world over: houseboat dwellers in China, the Inuit people of the Arctic region, Bedouin of the Arabian Peninsula, East African mud houses…

With this imaginative ‘living out’ of cultural experiences, the students began to think about a shelter of their choice. They visited the local library to meet their enthusiasm with books best fit to awaken their ideas.

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Soon, with the support of their parents, the guidance of Ms. Chamberlain, and a litany of building materials singing out to them, the third graders spent a week of main lessons excitedly creating their shelter homes.


Let us take a tour, then…

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Viking Longhouse

 

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Log Cabin

 

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Cajun Cottage

 

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Tipi

 

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Mongolian Yurt

 

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Igloo

 

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The White House

 

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Four Square House

 

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The Great Pyramid

 

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Sunwatch Stockade

 

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Fort Clatsop

 

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A Recycled House

 

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Tipi

 

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Layered Tower

 

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Clochan

Middle School Ultimate Frisbee “Spring Reign” Recap

Posted by: David Bergler   -   Posted in: Extracurriculars, News- May 01, 2015 Comments Off on Middle School Ultimate Frisbee “Spring Reign” Recap

By Ultimate Coach and Parent John Healy

The Middle School’s “Commotion” Ultimate team made an impressive run last weekend at Spring Reign, the world’s largest youth Ultimate tournament, in Burlington, WA. The team entered the mid-season tournament with high hopes after compiling a 5-0 record in Disc Northwest league play. After defeating teams from Eckstein Middle School, The Evergreen School, and Pacific Crest School during Saturday’s preliminary round, the team found itself a top seed in Sunday’s B Division Championship round.

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Commotion bested friends from Three Cedars Waldorf School in the quarterfinals, then beat a talented and spirited team from University Prep in the semifinals. The team played powerful Aki Kurose Middle School in the championship, losing 10-7, in a game that was exciting from beginning to end. The second-place finish is a best-ever for Bright Water School at Spring Reign, a true Ultimate festival of some 2,000 players on 96 middle- and high-school teams from across the Northwest and Western Canada.

One of the reasons we love Ultimate at Bright Water School is its emphasis on the Spirit of the Game: fairness, sportsmanship, and equanimity that is required in a sport where the players are responsible for officiating their own play. Commotion players should be proud that they carried themselves with grace and even temper in both victory and defeat at Spring Reign. And their gift to opponents of a “Spirit Pineapple” at the end of each game might just become a yummy Bright Water tradition!

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Commotion finishes its regular league season at 4:30 p.m. this Saturday, May 2 at Woodland Park, before heading into the playoffs on May 9 and May 16.

(Photos Courtesy of Jacek Cameron-Rulkowski)

Educating the Whole Child: The Head, the Heart, and the Hands

Posted by: David Bergler   -   Posted in: Pedagogy/Educational Methods and Philosophies- Apr 20, 2015 Comments Off on Educating the Whole Child: The Head, the Heart, and the Hands

By Flora McEachern, Early Childhood Educator and Pedagogical Assistant

The sun streams through the windows. The smell of lavender and beeswax mingle to create a warm, welcoming environment. Walls are painted with colors that are lively yet soft. Everything is prepared with intention and there is not a single wall, chalkboard, bookshelf, or counter that hasn’t been tended to; making sure it is ready to welcome the children. The teacher too has prepared him or herself in this same way: with intention and care worthy of imitation. It is this consciousness that is the felt substance of the classroom as the children arrive and are greeted individually with a handshake. The teacher takes a brief moment with each child to see how they are presenting themselves at the beginning of each day. They ask themselves, “How do the head, heart, and hands of the child feel today?” It is this keen observation that allows the teacher to deliver the day’s lesson with flexibility and awareness in order to meet the individual students but also hold the whole class.

Teachers prepare lessons for the day, for the week, and for the entire year. Yet this is just scaffolding from which they are able to create experiences that meet the students on multiple levels. When you learn to ride a bike you don’t just learn by listening to the instructions – you practice physically by developing balance, and emotionally by finding courage to move through space faster than you can on your own two feet while also not directly connected to the ground. Do you remember what that was like the first time? The freedom you feel once you are able to master this skill! And you don’t just practice once; you have to do it over and over and over. Once you get it, they say you never forget it. This is the same principle used by Waldorf teachers. Engage the head (verbal instruction, thinking skills), the heart (the emotional aspect), and the hand (the physical). This pedagogical approach allows the whole human being to engage in learning experiences, and thus learn in a deeper, more meaningful way.

So what have I been observing in the classrooms at Bright Water School these last few months? How does this concept of head, heart, and hand actually live in our classes?

Here are some examples:

Grade Two works rhythmically to learn their times tables. For each number there is a different rhythm. For example, if you are doing the 3 times tables there is a 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 etc. rhythm. This is very different from a 4’s rhythm or a 2’s rhythm. The number quality is felt by practicing rhythmically – stepping, clapping, or using sticks that are struck together to build a pattern. Students learn not just by mentally memorizing; they learn it in their bones, in their hearts, and their minds.

In Grade Three the students are asked to bring items that weigh one pound to school. They have to estimate, they are not allowed to weigh it on a scale. Can you feel mass, density, volume? This is the question but it’s not asked in such terms. Everyone lines up their one pound items. Some are large – one pound of Styrofoam cups is much larger than a pound of salt. Students are able to feel and see the difference. This reinforces the ability to estimate, a math skill that is called upon again and again as math becomes more complex.

In Grade Eight they work on geometry – the teacher gives them verbal instruction to draw. Can they make visible on paper what they understand in their minds? Does everyone have the same mental ‘picture?’ If not, there is some exploring to do. Together the class is able to come to the right answer. It is not handed over; no formula is provided. Through experience the formula is discovered. They reach that “A ha moment.” When a breakthrough like this is achieved, a deeper level of learning occurs. As science explains it: cells that fire together wire together. What this means is that as we involve more areas of the brain during learning, a greater number of neural connections are made. A single neuron is able to communicate to multiple neighbors. Students are regularly engaged in multi-faceted learning, a kind of learning that is more difficult to forget.

Ask a Waldorf graduate to draw a 1” boarder around the perimeter of a paper and then to make 1/4” lines horizontally all the way down the page within the boarder. And don’t give them a ruler. Most likely they will be able to do this without much trouble. These are all examples of deep understanding of number sense.

In Grade Six the study of Astronomy is central to the year. Imagine being able to project your thinking and feeling into space in order to understand the relationship of stars, the moon, planets, and the sun? Our sixth graders are capable of this thought and reflection! It is no small task to deeply understand such a vast space and the precise movements and placements of the celestial bodies. And yet if you ask a sixth grader to draw a waxing gibbous moon and explain its relationship to the earth and sun, they can. To understand our place not only in the cosmos but also on Earth is a central part of being a global citizen.

Through Grade Seven’s study of Africa’s geography, history, and culture – often using the experiential lens of biographical stories – Bright Water School teachers and students jointly build an experience that is felt deeply. This connection builds compassion and humility in the budding adolescent that can sometimes be so self-consumed it is difficult for them to see beyond their own small world. Global citizens are just one of many things Bright Water School successfully creates.

The head, the heart, and the hands are consistently and collaboratively held in the classrooms of BWS. This educational balance is essential to meet the intellectual, physical, social, and emotional development of the child. More analytical work of the mind benefits their academic progress as well as their understanding of the physical (handwork, woodwork, movement) and the emotional (storytelling, art, reflection). By nourishing all aspects of learning, students’ take part in a dynamic range of experiences.

Nestled in this environment of integrated learning, a kernel of truth emerges: our students are not simply accruing academic skills, nor are they simply budding artists; they are immersed in a vessel of learning to prepare them as human beings to emerge in a complex, interrelated world.

Main Lesson Learning: Grade Seven & Physiology

Posted by: David Bergler   -   Posted in: Pedagogy/Educational Methods and Philosophies- Mar 13, 2015 Comments Off on Main Lesson Learning: Grade Seven & Physiology

This intermittent blog series is intended to experience and reflect on the daily learning occurring inside of our classrooms.

Merriam-Webster defines physiology as “a branch of biology that deals with the functions and activities of life or of living matter (as organs, tissues, or cells) and of the physical and chemical phenomena involved.” Ms. Kerr’s seventh grade students, upon my visit to the classroom last week, said the purpose of their science block was to understand “how the body (and heart) is built.” The middle-school student’s enthusiasm is palpable for concrete experiences. How are things put together? How can we utilize our hands and mind together to understand?

They are eager and prepared to press themselves deeply into a topic of study at this age. Bringing in experts, professionals, or other teachers of some kind to guide this deepening process – particularly in complex subjects such as physiology – is vital. On the given day that I visited, the topic du jour was the heart. Ms. Kerr looked no further for her heart-guide than Grade Seven’s immediate parent community: Dr. Stephanie Cooper is a practicing cardiologist. The students recognized the value and novelty of having an expert in their specialized field spend main lesson with them. They engaged readily as she involved everyone on a bodily level, students checking their pulse at several touch points.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANeck, wrist, foot – they cycled through the ways in which one can ‘feel’ their pulse. They compared their heart rates from different prone positions – lying down, sitting, standing up – and discussed possible explanations for the fluctuation in heart rate from one form to another. Ms. Cooper was adept at guiding them through these exploratory exercises while pointedly challenging them to answer why and how the observations they made were actually occurring. Their answers were not always correct, but the willingness to share their thoughts was widely held. A quiet confidence in critical thinking.

Having quietly listened to the beat of their own heart, the students anticipated the next part of the lesson: directly observing a human heart!

The process was gradual. Grade Seven did not leap forth first into the lab with gloves – Dr. Cooper discussed and demonstrated. And in fact, their direct observations began with a pig heart (and trachea) from a local butcher. One student was emphatic about the experience, exclaiming “So I can just go to the butcher and take apart my own pig heart?!” This was quite the revelation for him! He and the rest of the class handled the pig parts with wide eyes and delicate hands, taking in the tangible weight of this experiment. The concreteness of observing and handling real organs is an important experience for students to take in. They have long emerged from the den of fairy tales and fables. Studying hard sciences, and grounding themselves in hands-on work, is part of their scholastic and human maturation.

The crown of the class – human heart observation – was reserved for the last thirty minutes. The gravity of handling such an intimate, yet foreign, piece of the human body weighed heavy in their hands. They were respectful while keeping things light with collaboration and levity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am grateful to have served as a silent observer and documenting lens with seventh grade on this particular day. Over the course of two hours they held morning verse, tracked their pulse from different points on their body and positions, discussed arteries and veins, considered the intricate architecture of the heart via chalkboard diagram, asked about being a professional cardiologist, handled and observed a pig heart, trachea, esophagus, and a human heart! Their collective willingness to question and consider – both intellectually and with their hands – demonstrated a fearless zeal for learning.

 

Main Lesson Learning: Grade Six & Medieval Europe

Posted by: David Bergler   -   Posted in: Pedagogy/Educational Methods and Philosophies- Feb 11, 2015 Comments Off on Main Lesson Learning: Grade Six & Medieval Europe

This intermittent blog series is intended to experience and reflect on the daily learning occurring inside of our classrooms.

Ms. D’Souza and the sixth grade class are currently moving through a block about Medieval Europe. On the particular day that I visited them, they began with their morning verse as a familiar anchor point. After this brief recitation and a bit of singing to warm them up, they proceeded to their first project of the morning: “The Lady of Shalot.”

“The Lady of Shalot” is a poem written by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Tennyson uses a repetitive rhyme structure that builds anticipation into each line as ears wait expectedly for “Shalot” or “Camelot” at the end of every stanza. The students recited the poem – two verses at a time – in a highly practiced, overlapping way. Here, they were making the past present, in a tangible way. Lines brought to life off the page with each student’s individual cadence, personality, and pronunciation. Upon completing their lines, they were instructed to sit and quietly contemplate the remainder of the poem. This mode of contemplation defined much of the morning.

Deeply atmospheric, medieval chanting music was put over the speakers as they spent a few minutes writing. Carefully and quietly they assumed ‘roles’ like a monk, nun, squire, or artisan, and went to work on their letters. I was struck by the steady pulse of these different elements of main lesson: singing, recitation, writing – the learning activities varied, but Ms. D’Souza deftly cultivated an environment with continuity.

Music is embedded in the body of their main lesson. The students even sang a song in unison as they shifted their desks and chairs to the perimeter of the room! Throughout their two hour lesson, the class also did choral work in rounds and played their recorders. Rather than compartmentalizing the musical aspects of learning, they are threaded in with the reading and writing. The class remains unified as a result.

No aspect of the main lesson I experienced can be defined as passive learning The students are given opportunities to hold onto words, ideas, and concepts – and then express their knowing. One example is the ‘tableau of characters’ they created. After discussing feudalism and the hierarchical structure of medieval society – King and Clergy, Nobles and Lords, Knights, Artisans and Peasants – every student owned a role and gesture and shared it ‘on stage.’ There was a farmer chopping wood; an artisan crafting pottery; a knight riding on horseback. Many students thought up truly creative circumstances. This was another concrete way for the class to make the past present.

Among the takeaways from my visit to the sixth grade was Ms. D’Souza adroitly making the experience of history present and compelling for her class.

WE DID IT! 100% Participation our Community Accomplishment

Posted by: David Bergler   -   Posted in: News- Feb 04, 2015 Comments Off on WE DID IT! 100% Participation our Community Accomplishment

Dear BWS Families, Faculty, Staff, and Trustees:

WE DID IT! I am writing in celebration, gratitude, and deep, abiding optimism for the future of BWS. Every family, faculty member, staff member, and trustee said YES to Bright Water School through their choice to participate in the Bright Water School Community Fund. This is a tremendous, historic achievement for our school, and marks a transformation in our culture of giving and ability to set powerful intentions about our future together.

Not only does each of you participating in the BWSCF represent an acknowledgment and honoring of your choice to be part of our extraordinary community, but you are a co-creator of what is to come. Having each one of you take a seat at the table and be part of the conversation opens up avenues for opportunity, growth, and discovery of who we are and what our future holds.

There is foundational work going on at BWS: towards financial sustainability, towards refining our sense of and ability to articulate and share who we are and how we are changing the world, and towards continuing to build a community based on deep respect, transparency, goodwill, and a belief in the power of our collective intentions for BWS.

But there is more: not only did we achieve our participation goal, but we EXCEEDED our financial goal of $100,000. These funds are essential to meet our day-to-day financial obligations by contributing to the portion of our expenses that are not covered by tuition. And meeting this goal is a significant step forward on our path to financial sustainability.

BWS and the exceptional education it offers is a rare gem. Our momentous achievement of both of our ambitious goals for the BWSCF attests to this; it is rare for schools to accomplish what we have.

Thank you for showing up and making this tremendous statement about our community. We have exciting work ahead, and I’m profoundly grateful and inspired to be doing it with all of you.

With gratitude,

Brooks Siegal
Proud BWS parent
Development Committee Chair for the Board of Trustees

Grade Eight Receiving the Baton of Service by Jayasri Ghosh

Posted by: David Bergler   -   Posted in: School Culture- Jan 16, 2015 Comments Off on Grade Eight Receiving the Baton of Service by Jayasri Ghosh

From the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer’s Website:

“In the summer of 1964, hundreds of summer volunteers, mostly college students from across America convened in Mississippi to put an end to the system of rigid segregation. The civil rights workers and the summer volunteers successfully challenged the denial by the state of Mississippi to keep Blacks from voting, getting a decent education, and holding elected offices.

As a result of the Freedom Summer of 1964, some of the barriers to voting have been eliminated and Mississippi has close to 1000 Black state and local elected officials. In fact, Mississippi has more Black elected officials than any other state in the union. While the Freedom Summer of ’64 made profound changes in the state of Mississippi and the country, much remains to be accomplished.”

I had the privilege of attending the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Freedom summer in June 2014 at the invitation of a dear friend who was a volunteer in 1964. Armed with Bruce Watson’s account of “Freedom Summer” I listened with awe at first-hand accounts of that time through the voices of leaders like Bob Moses who was instrumental in creating this initiative.

Returning volunteers returned to share their stories of how their lives had changed and public service became a central focus. There were struggles and victories in incorporating the lessons of that special summer into their lives. There was singing, dancing, and poetry. Photographers who were on hand during the marches shared their pictures at the Jackson Museum of Art. We visited the Fannie Lou Hamer museum, marveling at her courage in insisting on equal opportunity to vote for all, and wishing there was a broader appreciation for the true impact she had in Mississippi and the nation.

We visited Indianola and Shaw Mississippi where many of the volunteers worked out of the homes of hospitable African Americans noting how some things had changed and how poverty remains a feature of the Deep South. It was encouraging to see that many young people were involved in this special anniversary. Our conversations with them told us that they knew there were new issues and important work to be done. The baton was being passed.

Today, Bright Water School’s eighth grade students accepted that baton as they created led the Martin Luther King assembly. They organized all the students of the school creating a program that included historical speeches, familiar songs, and moving poems.

Grade Eight set a tone of reverence by reciting the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln’s timeless speech underscores the theme born out through the assembly: that the work is yet unfinished – serving others and working towards equality on earth.

Several spirituals were taken up by the lower grades, including “This Train” by the first grade and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round” by Grade Four. The latter song changes up its lines in each verse, while repeating “marching up to freedom land” refrain:

“Ain’t gonna let no hatred turn me around
Turn me around, turn me around
Ain’t gonna let no hatred turn me around
I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’, keep on a-talkin’
Marchin’ up to freedom land.”

Another beautiful sequence of the student-ran assembly was a vocal & guitar performance of Leon Greco’s “Solo le pedo a Dios” by the seventh and eighth graders. They transitioned fluidly from this delicate song to a group recitation of Maya Angelou’s fiery “Caged Bird.” You could see the strong emotions, the empathy rise up in the students. Several of them clenched their hands tightly as they pronounced the words:

“The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.”

Gandhi’s message of nonviolence and courage was echoed in a Hindi song version of “ We shall overcome” by Grades Three and Six. Then, students began to repeat the freedom song in English as parents and faculty joined in.

The communal participation in song perfectly illustrated the meaning of UBUNTU, touched on earlier in the assembly. Human interconnectedness, humanity and empathy towards other, the affirmation of value and dignity in every human being…

I was touched and inspired by Grade Eight’s work and the rest of the participating grades. I look forward to seeing the completion of the eight graders’ service learning projects later this year. The MLK Assembly was a great opportunity to practice public speaking and connect with their theme of service.