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.
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!
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)
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.
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.
Neck, 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.
I 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.
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.
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.
Proud BWS parent
Development Committee Chair for the Board of Trustees
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.
Most people expect a math teacher to have a protractor. Generally, number two pencils are par for the course, and there’s not much surprising about a ruler. But walking down the hall with 23 neon colored pool noodles? I definitely get some confused looks.
Part of my job as a math teacher is to connect math with other subjects. When the sixth grade works with earth science, in math we’re talking about the ratio of uranium and thorium in basalt. When seventh grade learns about mechanical advantage in their physics block, we’re rearranging mechanical advantage equations. I’m always looking for connections to other content areas, but when Ms. Simpson, the eighth grade main lesson teacher, announced the class play was going to be an adaptation of The Phantom Tollbooth I didn’t see an immediate connection. This was probably due to my not having read the book.
So when Jade, one of the eighth grade students, announced to me that she was the dodecahedron, I was slightly confused. I’d imagined The Phantom Tollbooth as a type of film noir murder mystery, but I was obviously mistaken. I quickly borrowed a copy from Nori, another eighth grader, to take home and read over the weekend.
The next week, during our regular meeting, Mrs. Simpson and I brainstormed. The eighth grade students were about to do a unit on platonic solids; how could we incorporate the play’s dodecahedron into the unit? We decided that students would create a dodecahedron costume in math class.
Now, here is the point when I could wax poetic about the benefits of organized project planning, practicing working in groups, and visualizing 3-d shapes, but instead, I’m going to give you a few conversations.
Upon cutting the noodles to make the dodecahedron:
Student 1: “So wait, how many do we need to cut?”
Student 2: “We can figure that out – we know how many sides and everything”
. . . busy calculations . . .
Student 1 and 2: “There’s not going to be enough!”
Student 3: “What do you mean?”
Student 4: “Oh, man, look at the math! It’s not enough!”
Student 2 to me: “There’s not going to be enough for every side. We don’t have enough noodles”
. . . I deliberately look busy with something else, listening in case I need to step in. More students gather around, looking glumly at calculations . . .
Student 5: “Wait! It’s okay, because we don’t have to double every side”
Student 4: “What do you mean double every side?”
Student 5: “We have a separate pentagon for every face, but the sides connect and double up”
Student 4: “Yeah! Yeah! We could just connect the one in the back with the others!”
Problem solving? Check. Communication? Check. So let’s move on to visualization. After all, most people have a very solid picture in our head of a cube, but not so much a dodecahedron.
Upon installing the dowel rod “frame” to help our dodecahedron keep it’s shape:
Student 1: “Don’t we need another stick over here to help support the other side?”
Student 2: “No! There’s only one pointy bit!”
Student 1: “Wait, what? Why?
Student 2: “Because the faces are pentagons!”
Student 1: “Uuuugghhh!! Duh!”
Upon coming back from winter break and trying to complete a chart of all the platonic solids and their corresponding number of faces, vertices, and edges:
Ms V. : “So how many folks remembered the cube?”
. . . everyone raises their hand . . .
Ms. V.: “Why do you think that is?”
Student 1: “They’re everywhere!”
Ms. V. : “Absolutely! We have a great picture of them in our heads, and you all have used them in art, and seen them a lot. What about the dodecahedron?”
. . . some laughter and raised hands . . .
Ms. V.: “Why do you think that is?”
Student 2: “Because we made one!”
When I think about creating lessons, there are a lot of things to consider. Research about how many facts a student can hold in their working memory (generally 5-7), the key concepts I want my students to master, and how I’m going to get students interested enough to participate actively are just a few. The projects that go across the curriculum, that involve art, planning, organization, mathematical calculations, visualization, and communication grab everyone. They allow each student a chance to create something larger than what they could have accomplished on their own, and, especially in this case, contribute to an even larger project. This is what happens in experiential education: ownership in a deeper understanding of how and why something works.
So when you see me walking down the hall, you can rest assured I probably have a protractor, I will usually have a number two pencil, and I may also have neon colored pool noodles. But what I always have is a plan to create connections and involve students in exploring the many facets of math. Even if there are exactly 12 facets (with 20 vertices and 30 edges).
It’s 6:30 a.m. when I pick up a cheerful and eager Dr. Ghosh in Greenlake. I am a little unsure at first, but know that there’s a lot of excitement and encouragement around someone on the faculty attending the WAETAG Conference. WAETAG, which stands for Washington Association of Educators of the Talented and Gifted, puts on an annual conference with the goal of educating the educators – providing information through presentations and talks about how to meet the needs of gifted students in the classroom.
As we head down I-5 towards Tacoma, chatting about Dr. Ghosh’s background in working with gifted students, I wonder what I will learn at this conference. Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to participate in a lot of professional development from workshops at Sunbridge Institute (a teacher education program for Waldorf methods), to attending the annual NWAIS (Northwest Association of Independent Schools) and General and Special Education Conferences. Each opportunity offers unique flavors of inspiration, practical ideas to implement in the classroom, and the sense of a greater community working towards the highest quality of education for students. What would I learn today? What could I bring back to my colleagues to help inspire and encourage them?
When we arrived, the WAETAG Conference was bustling. Teachers from districts across the state filled up on coffee and picked out their sessions. Dr. Ghosh and I looked through the books available and picked out some that we thought the faculty might be able to use. I chose the sessions I was interested in – mainly focused on math or practical application of methods, and headed to my first room while Dr. Ghosh went to present to the WAETAG board.
As I listened and took notes, I began to dream about my classes and what the most pertinent ideas of my experience had been. The following three made the top list.
1) Give Students Opportunities to Observe and Communicate: As a whole class, students can begin to practice looking at patterns. In my case, they’re looking at patterns in mathematics, but there are also patterns and choices in language, history, and science that are observable as well. If I show you that the absolute value of 2 is 2 and that the absolute value of negative 2 is also 2, do you have a guess as to what the absolute value of 8 is? What about negative 8? From that, can you find a definition? Providing students with truths and asking them to find patterns or other examples in their lives can allow everyone to participate at many different levels. Those students who are ready for a challenge might also be able to guess at what the absolute value of nine minus thirteen might be or what the absolute value of x might be. This idea also corresponds with the Waldorf idea of approaching a topic from whole to parts.
2) Think about the questions you will ask: Open-ended questions allow more opportunities for students to discuss, engage, and explain their thinking. Instead of asking a question like “what is .04 divided by .2” you can ask a question like why is .04 divided by .2 equal to 2? Many students will start with an explanation of how to perform the division process with a decimal, but you can continue to push students who are ready to go further to draw visuals and go deeper to look at the relationship between .2 and .04 and 2 and 4.
3) Group Flexibly: There are many different ways to think about grouping students. For some activities it’s helpful to have a range of abilities or mindsets, but it is important to also let students work in groups where they can interact with peers with similar interests and abilities. Thinking about when and how to group is an important part of making sure that all students get the support and encouragement to learn and grow.
By then end of the day, I felt energized and motivated to share what I had learned! Despite my earlier trepidation, it turned out to be a wonderful and engaging Saturday. My experiences at WAETAG informed my classroom practice and served as discussion points about meeting all of our students.
It’s through time and reflection that we gain a true understanding of how our past experiences have built, shaped, and molded our lives in some capacity. It is through new experiences and new opportunities that we see where our capabilities lie. Our Alumni Panel offered an evening that did just this.
We were fortunate enough to be joined by a diverse group of six wonderful alumni last Tuesday, October 28 for a night of reflection as well as a chance to hear about the success and opportunities that have been presented to them. Our amazing eighth grade teacher, Ms. Simpson, lead the panel members through a series of questions that engaged conversation on topics ranging from their favorite experiences at Bright Water School, to challenges in their public or private school high school experience, to homework, to their major takeaways from life at BWS.
The open panel allowed students, parents, and faculty to ask questions to our alumni as well. This open and honest conversation allowed both our middle school students and parents to hear firsthand how high school was for many our alumni. Our panel spoke about challenges they had with math or science, dealing with stress, and the fear of selecting a high school. Throughout the night it seemed clear that many of our students felt advanced in their ability to publicly speak, take on academic challenges, make new friends, and find confidence in themselves to try new things.
It was impressive to hear about the varied interests many of our alumni have ranging from the medical field, to a focus in theater and creative arts, as well as social justice and comedy. Many of our alumni spoke about what was truly unique to Waldorf education and the differences between themselves and their peers. Most of our alumni focused on the care and warmth their teachers here at BWS provided. How they were presented with opportunities such as circus arts, eurythmy, and a strong focus on arts and music. It is through the grit and hard work here that many of them learned their strong work ethic, their love of writing, and found and pursued their passions and dreams. Many students spoke about the “power of stories” and the teaching of both myths and fables as well as the world views on history and culture. Through the consistent practice of “group dynamics” our alumni learned leadership skills, how to operate in a group or team, and how to collaborate despite challenges they might face.
It was lovely to hear them reflect on their individual classes and speak about their favorite times here from the Olympiad, to field trips, to drawing and creating their own boarders for their main lesson books, to Movement classes in Volunteer Park. After having had time to reflect on their experiences here at Bright Water School, they discovered they were all truly grateful for the opportunities they were presented. It was that time, space, and distance that allowed them to recognize how Bright Water School had really shaped their views on the world, people, and learning.
Overall the night was extremely successful and we would like to extend a special thanks to everyone who joined us as well as the Parent Association, middle school teachers, alumni parents, and most of all our alumni participants for helping shape and create the night. We hope to continue to build and strengthen our alumni relations and provide more opportunity to hear what our wonderful alumni are working on.
It’s 4:00 p.m. and the jubilant crowd has surrounded my teammates and I like a circle of red fire. This is where the pumpkin meets the pavement, I think to myself. Who knows what could go tumbling when too-big scarecrows get suited up in the heat of a wheelbarrow relay. I anxiously watch Michael raise his shining blade to signal the start of the race and…
I’ve often found that the ways in which groups of people orient themselves in public spaces can affect the temperament and soul of the occasion. One attends a piece of live theater or a film where they themselves are choreographed – planted into slightly curved lines of seats, ones which are draped in darkness – and experience an evening of public solitude (as well as entertainment).
A group of individuals converging for a meeting or collaboration often inhabit the shape of a circle. I don’t think this is merely a perfunctory step carried out to accommodate for a smaller space. This kind of everyday, human architecture signals a willingness to engage with the whole as an individual, as a limb among limbs in a larger body.
Our faculty meetings are punctuated with a mood of congeniality and reflection, a spirit that’s buffered by the circle shape we consistently take. Everyone is visible; everyone is heard.
I did not necessarily anticipate this rounded way for Michaelmas Festival. Student plays and assemblies are typically seated, box-like affairs.
But the community continued to gather. Soon a center circle of Skinner Theater’s floor was fenced with a second circle – that of Bright Water School’s students, faculty, parents, and other friends. We watched the second and third graders dance and sing about, teasing out the flames of the Dragon that St. Michael was poised to confront with courage and sword. The sixth graders came swirling through as the Dragon itself, that ethereal green and gold monster. There stood Michael, brave. And finally the Bright Water community, each person equidistant from the struggle and triumph. I believe the circle helped wrap one another into the moment, and wrap the play up in itself more fully as well.
…In the aftermath of the race, I could only laugh. The eighth graders proved victorious over myself, Ms. Robin, and Ms. Holli (both from the Woodland Kindergarten class). Loose hats fell; wheelbarrows toppled; pumpkins went rolling on out too – this WAS where the pumpkin would meet the pavement, after all.
My first Michaelmas was memorable: the sloppy relay race, the dragon slain, delicious apple spirals, and the shape of the Circle. Somehow I attended both Sugar Plum Faire and May Faire before partaking in Michaelmas. It was fitting though, in a sense: had I attended Michaelmas straight away after joining BWS, I don’t think I would have recognized nor appreciated the significance of the circle when it comes to community gathering. We must gather up strength within ourselves for the coming winter months, but that experience can be shared; fortitude, multiplied.