Archive for November, 2010

Discussion Group Dec 6th

Come discuss how much parents can trust their kids to learn and grow. What happens when we trust our kids to be responsible for themselves? What happens when we don’t? What assumptions are made around trust in your child’s school? Date: Dec 6, 2010 Time: 7-9 p.m. Location: 67 Pinebrook Ave www.tinyurl.com/dec6trust Follow-on Information Night with Reach Sudbury School [...]

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First Snow

Last Monday was our first snow of the year, and was quickly followed by our first two Snow Days of the year! These photos are from a field trip I took with some students on Monday. They had quickly put together a sled from cardboard and a trash bag. We stopped at the maze to test the ice.

- Polly


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Fight Bullying with Babies

Here are four stories about the power of babies and young children to reduce the aggressiveness and increase the kindness of older children and adults.

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Ya Ya’s inquiry



INT. CLEARWATER SCHOOL KITCHEN
It's a hot day, maybe even the hottest day of the summer and I am in the kitchen opening all the windows before sitting down to lunch.

Ya Ya, a six year old girl, enters and climbs up on the big strong table next to my lunch bag. She casually takes a peak into my bag and seeing some chips:

YA YA
Can I have a chippy?
ME
Sure, here, have a few.

I set a small pile on the table and we both sit quietly for several minutes eating.
YA YA
What is your best secret?
ME
Wow, what a question, I'd have to think about that for a minute. My best secret?

Again we were silent for a bit, I was thinking about taking a stab at answering her question but she spoke first.
YA YA
What is space?
ME
What do you think space is?
YA YA
I think God made space...but then, who made God?
ME
I don't know. Is there someone or something that makes us breathe or keeps our hearts beating?
YA YA
The person who made God is more important than God.
ME
Yeah, you know maybe my biggest secret is that really I don't know what anything is...

We were quiet again, I gave her some more chips. Then she wanted to go outside so I followed her to the bench overlooking the rain garden and the stream. We sat down, she was barefoot as usual.

EXT. RAIN GARDEN/ BENCH

YA YA
What is your foot saying?
ME
Um...
YA YA
My foot is saying "I want to go to sleep but no one can force me to go to sleep."

End of post.

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What did you do in school today?

I’ve been thinking lately about the enormous challenges of being a Sudbury parent.  It is definitely not an easy role to be in, especially for parents (most of us) who did not experience this type of education ourselves.  First, parents must sincerely trust their student to successfully create their own education.  For most of us, this trust must be built consciously, over time, as we observe our child’s increasing personal power and deal with our own internal discomfort with parenting outside the norm.  And perhaps even more difficult, parents must learn how to speak about the Sudbury model to friends, family, and strangers who don’t yet understand how a free child will ever learn the skills they need to function and succeed in the world.  Answering (or hearing your student answer) the question “What do you do in school all day?” can be nerve-wracking as we struggle for the words to describe how freedom, personal responsibility, deep play, passionate conversation, solitude, and constant personal striving add up to a meaningful, useful education.

Recently, the Sudbury Valley School Journal published an article by Michael Bell, Sudbury Valley alumnus and staff, that explores this tricky question.  The article really captures the freewheeling, organic quality of a Sudbury student’s day and the intense intellectual, social, emotional, and physical nourishment that the students experience within the school environment, while acknowledging how difficult it can be to convey the experience to others.  Bell says:

At SVS my dried-out pea of a brain was plopped into this swirling pool of wild imagination, physical challenges and countless possibilities. Overnight I found myself becoming optimistic again. During those first months of mind and body freedom I began to effortlessly scoop up lost years of meaningful interaction and experience. All of a sudden everything I chose to tune my attention upon was absolutely fascinating and relevant to me. I gained a lion’s share of my education at SVS in a natural, integrated, organic way. Mine was a practical, invigorating course of study infused with the costs and rewards of taking responsibility for yourself. The way we do it at SVS is incredibly more complex but simultaneously way simpler than the other ways. Ours is a highly personalized process. So personal that it is nearly impossible to comprehend or weigh or appreciate or explain the value of what our School allows us to accomplish on our own on any given day. I guess this is why I had such a hard time finding a satisfying answer to “What Did You Do in School Today?” (Click here to read the full article, reprinted with permission from the SVS Press).

The article provides no easy answers, but is full of inspiration for anyone who’s seeking to understand and convey the rich experience of a Sudbury student.  And although it may take time to become comfortable describing the school and our students learning activities, any effort that we can make is so supportive to the students.  I, and other Sudbury staff, observe that when parents are comfortable with the nature of their child’s time at school, the students take their activities more seriously and pursue them more passionately.  Even the youngest students here are aware that what they do is not how education is done in the cultural norm.  With support and enthusiasm from the adults in their lives, students can feel truly free to fully participate in this joyful, passionate, creative matrix of human energy that we call a school.

*A footnote: While Sudbury Valley had a Smoking Room in its early days, it no longer does, in accordance with today’s smoking laws.  No illegal activities are ever permitted at Sudbury Valley or any other Sudbury school.

(posted by Abbe)

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Beware: Adult Content (Guest Post)

This post by Shoshona London Sappir appeared on the blog of Michael Sappir, a graduate of the Jerusalem Sudbury School. (Michael writes often on issues of education at http://sappir.net.)

A few years ago my husband and I attended a lecture by linguist Ghil’ad Zuckermann, presenting a provocative theory: the Hebrew we speak today is closer to the European languages of the early Zionists than it is to classical Hebrew, even though most of its vocabulary is Hebrew; therefore, Zuckermann proposed, it would be more accurate to call it “Israeli” than “Hebrew,” letting go of the romantic notion that Israelis today speak the language of the Bible. Our conversation about this idea went on for days after we came home, sweeping up the whole family; later, Michael even wrote a term paper about it.

So it was only natural that when I saw the translators’ association to which I belong had scheduled another lecture about the genealogy of Modern Hebrew, I asked if anybody would like to go with me. Perry said he would and we both looked forward to a pleasant evening in Tel Aviv. I dutifully registered in advance. Next to Perry’s name I added: “14 years old.”

On the hour-plus drive we discussed the upcoming lecture. The speaker was a researcher who was studying the structures of spoken Hebrew and was going to present us with her findings as to whether they had more in common with European languages or with Hebrew, and whether, indeed, this language was Hebrew. Perry was already inclined to believe it was not, because he cannot understand the Bible without an intense explanation or translation: he welcomed the new translation of the Bible into Modern Hebrew and has begun reading it.

At the registration desk a colleague of mine searched for my name on the list, crossed it out and started writing me an invoice. I noticed the total she had entered, and started to protest, “what about him?” – but thought the better of it mid-sentence and shut my mouth; if minors got free admission, who was I to argue?

During the lecture we tried not to disturb anyone with our excited whispering and exchanges of meaningful looks of agreement, surprise or exasperation over certain points in the presentation or behaviors by members of the audience: one woman stormed out not ten minutes into the lecture, shouting at the speaker: “Shame on you!” for doubting the unbroken chain between ancient and modern Hebrew. Another translator prefaced a question about the effectiveness of correcting linguistic “mistakes,” by saying: “If my 15-year-old son had his way, he would spend his whole life lazing in front of the computer and television,” which elicited a room full of nods and sighs of agreement. Perry and I rolled our eyes at each other and clenched our teeth, as if to say: “Just look how people talk about children.”

On our way out of the room for the break, one of my friends turned to Perry, and asked in a kind but patronizing tone: “So, did you fall asleep?” More awake than ever, Perry replied with a startled: “Huh?”

Suddenly I started seeing a pattern: my friend was assuming Perry wasn’t there of his own will but was forced to suffer in boredom while he waited for his mother. As if a child couldn’t possibly come to a lecture out of interest, just like we did. Could that be why they hadn’t charged him admission? Just by looking at him and noting he is of school age, did everyone take it for granted I made him come because I didn’t have a babysitter? Did the organizers let him in for free as a favor to me, allowing me to use an extra seat because they thought I had nowhere else to park  him?

It reminded me of the story about the guy who comes to a movie theater box office carrying a crocodile under his arm, and says: “Two, please.” The teller says: “Sir, don’t you think you should take that crocodile to the zoo?” “Thanks,” he answers, “but we already went this morning.”

Sitting down in the lounge with our refreshments, we analyzed the evening. We agreed that people were so upset by their preconceptions’ being challenged that they hardly let the lecturer speak, interrupting her with questions and comments from the beginning.

The next day I sent an e-mail to a colleague whom I had seen at the lecture, with some information she had asked for. On a personal note, I added: “My son really enjoyed the lecture and would like to come to future events.” To which she replied: “That is SO funny! What an adorable geek!” I answered: “What is funny is that everybody thinks he came with me because I didn’t have a babysitter. He really came because he was interested.” She replied, by way of apology: “My son’s a geek too.”

But Perry does not consider himself a “geek,” nor is he considered one by others. The idea, I gathered, is that it is unusual, and what’s more, uncool, for a teenager to pursue intellectual interests, especially at an “adult level.” The geek label implies that such a child is probably uninterested in sports, music and girls, socially awkward and unpopular, living the lonely life of the misunderstood, his best friend being his computer.

Perry knows what a geek is; he just played one in a teen musical about geeks and jocks, the American high school stereotypes. But such categories have never meant much to him. From the first grade Perry has been attending Sudbury Jerusalem, where students are not divided by age and mix freely with each other and with the staff. They are free to pursue whatever interests they have at a given time with whatever means available: play, books, the Internet, but primarily conversation with other children or adults.
Maybe it is because of this upbringing that Perry has never internalized a hierarchy of subjects of interest and activities, rating them as childish/adult, work/play, serious/frivolous, cool/geeky. He has always flowed with his interests, at times devoting intense attention to one thing and then moving on to another. In the early years of school he was very interested in climbing on door frames and walls and leaping from high perches; we nicknamed him Spiderman. He went through an Ancient Egypt period and still likes to go to the museum and decipher hieroglyphics. He spends a lot of time playing the piano. He has a rock band with some school friends. In the last couple of years he has become politically aware and sometimes comes to demonstrations with me.

Perry is still a child and we treat him like one: we support and protect him, attempt to know where he is at all times and keep him safe. But the status of child should not be a barrier that keeps him out of the adult world insofar as the environment in question poses no danger to him. He is just as mentally capable as any adult of hearing a lecture about the Hebrew language, and a lot more open-minded than some language professionals.

Sometimes we are startled to be reminded we live in a world where adults have such a skewed view of children: if they spend a lot of time on their computers, like us, they are presumably brain-dead. If they show signs of interest in their culture, they are freaks. I suppose the ideal, non-threatening child, in this view, would be penned up in his classroom with other members of his ilk, dutifully performing age-approved tasks dictated by adults – but not too enthusiastically.

Shoshona London Sappir

(reprinted with permission)

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Beware: Adult Content (guest post)

The following post is reprinted with permission of the author and the host of the blog where it first appeared. Our thanks to both of them for allowing us to include this piece on Clearwater's blog. Author Shoshana London Sappir is a founder and staff member at Jerusalem Sudbury School in Israel, one of Clearwater's sister schools. Blog host Michael Sappir is a graduate of Jersalem Sudbury School and Shoshana's son. A linguistics undergrad at University of Leipzig (Germany), he has written a number of blog posts on education and his blog is highly recommended. You'll find a permanent link to his blog on this blog's "My Blog List".


Beware: Adult Content
by Shoshana London Sappir



Image via Wikipedia


A few years ago my husband and I attended a lecture by linguist Ghil’ad Zuckermann, presenting a provocative theory: the Hebrew we speak today is closer to the European languages of the early Zionists than it is to classical Hebrew, even though most of its vocabulary is Hebrew; therefore, Zuckermann proposed, it would be more accurate to call it “Israeli” than “Hebrew,” letting go of the romantic notion that Israelis today speak the language of the Bible. Our conversation about this idea went on for days after we came home, sweeping up the whole family; later, Michael even wrote a term paper about it.

So it was only natural that when I saw the translators’ association to which I belong had scheduled another lecture about the genealogy of Modern Hebrew, I asked if anybody would like to go with me. Perry said he would and we both looked forward to a pleasant evening in Tel Aviv. I dutifully registered in advance. Next to Perry’s name I added: “14 years old.”

On the hour-plus drive we discussed the upcoming lecture. The speaker was a researcher who was studying the structures of spoken Hebrew and was going to present us with her findings as to whether they had more in common with European languages or with Hebrew, and whether, indeed, this language was Hebrew. Perry was already inclined to believe it was not, because he cannot understand the Bible without an intense explanation or translation: he welcomed the new translation of the Bible into Modern Hebrew and has begun reading it.

At the registration desk a colleague of mine searched for my name on the list, crossed it out and started writing me an invoice. I noticed the total she had entered, and started to protest, “what about him?” – but thought the better of it mid-sentence and shut my mouth; if minors got free admission, who was I to argue?

During the lecture we tried not to disturb anyone with our excited whispering and exchanges of meaningful looks of agreement, surprise or exasperation over certain points in the presentation or behaviors by members of the audience: one woman stormed out not ten minutes into the lecture, shouting at the speaker: “Shame on you!” for doubting the unbroken chain between ancient and modern Hebrew. Another translator prefaced a question about the effectiveness of correcting linguistic “mistakes,” by saying: “If my 15-year-old son had his way, he would spend his whole life lazing in front of the computer and television,” which elicited a room full of nods and sighs of agreement. Perry and I rolled our eyes at each other and clenched our teeth, as if to say: “Just look how people talk about children.”

On our way out of the room for the break, one of my friends turned to Perry, and asked in a kind but patronizing tone: “So, did you fall asleep?” More awake than ever, Perry replied with a startled: "Huh?”

Conclusion after the jump...
Suddenly I started seeing a pattern: my friend was assuming Perry wasn’t there of his own will but was forced to suffer in boredom while he waited for his mother. As if a child couldn’t possibly come to a lecture out of interest, just like we did. Could that be why they hadn’t charged him admission?
Just by looking at him and noting he is of school age, did everyone take it for granted I made him come because I didn’t have a babysitter? Did the organizers let him in for free as a favor to me, allowing me to use an extra seat because they thought I had nowhere else to park him?

It reminded me of the story about the guy who comes to a movie theater box office carrying a crocodile under his arm, and says: “Two, please.” The teller says: “Sir, don’t you think you should take that crocodile to the zoo?” “Thanks,” he answers, “but we already went this morning.”

Sitting down in the lounge with our refreshments, we analyzed the evening. We agreed that people were so upset by their preconceptions’ being challenged that they hardly let the lecturer speak, interrupting her with questions and comments from the beginning.

The next day I sent an e-mail to a colleague whom I had seen at the lecture, with some information she had asked for. On a personal note, I added: “My son really enjoyed the lecture and would like to come to future events.” To which she replied: “That is SO funny! What an adorable geek!” I answered: “What is funny is that everybody thinks he came with me because I didn’t have a
babysitter. He really came because he was interested.” She replied, by way of apology: “My son’s a geek too.”

But Perry does not consider himself a “geek,” nor is he considered one by others. The idea, I gathered, is that it is unusual, and what’s more, uncool, for a teenager to pursue intellectual interests, especially at an “adult level.” The geek label implies that such a child is probably uninterested in sports, music and girls, socially awkward and unpopular, living the lonely life of the misunderstood, his best friend being his computer.

Perry knows what a geek is; he just played one in a teen musical about geeks and jocks, the American high school stereotypes. But such categories have never meant much to him. From the first grade Perry has been attending Sudbury Jerusalem, where students are not divided by age and mix freely with each other and with the staff. They are free to pursue whatever interests they have at a given time with whatever means available: play, books, the Internet, but primarily conversation with other children or adults.

Maybe it is because of this upbringing that Perry has never internalized a hierarchy of subjects of interest and activities, rating them as childish/adult, work/play, serious/frivolous, cool/geeky. He has always flowed with his interests, at times devoting intense attention to one thing and then moving on to another. In the early years of school he was very interested in climbing on door frames and walls and leaping from high perches; we nicknamed him Spiderman. He went through an Ancient Egypt period and still likes to go to the museum and decipher hieroglyphics. He spends a lot of time playing the piano. He has a rock band with some school friends. In the last couple of years he has become politically aware and sometimes comes to demonstrations with me.

Perry is still a child and we treat him like one: we support and protect him, attempt to know where he is at all times and keep him safe. But the status of child should not be a barrier that keeps him out of the adult world insofar as the environment in question poses no danger to him. He is just as mentally capable as any adult of hearing a lecture about the Hebrew language, and a lot more open-minded than some language professionals.

Sometimes we are startled to be reminded we live in a world where adults have such a skewed view of children: if they spend a lot of time on their computers, like us, they are presumably brain-dead. If they show signs of interest in their culture, they are freaks. I suppose the ideal, non-threatening child, in this view, would be penned up in his classroom with other members of his ilk, dutifully performing age-approved tasks dictated by adults – but not too enthusiastically.

End of post.

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From The Scientific American 150 Years Ago

Some things don’t change. In an era of increasing homework, we are buoyed by this this quotation from 1860 reprinted as part of The Scientific American’s 50/100/150 feature:

Against Homework
“A child who has been boxed up six hours in school might spend the next four hours in study, but it is impossible to develop the child’s intellect in this way. The laws of nature are inexorable. By dint of great and painful labor, the child may succeed in repeating a lot of words, like a parrot, but, with the power of its brain all exhausted, it is out of the question for it to really master and comprehend its lessons. The effect of the system is to enfeeble the intellect even more than the body. We never see a little girl staggering home under a load of books, or knitting her brow over them at eight o’clock in the evening, without wondering that our citizens do not arm themselves at once with carving knives, pokers, clubs, paving stones or any weapons at hand, and chase out the managers of our common schools, as they would wild beasts that were devouring their children.”

October, 2010

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=50-100-150-oct-2010

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Halloween Party!

We all had a great time at the Halloween Party Fundraiser organized by Lego Corporation and Field Trip Corporation.  Corporation members made and sold yummy treats, beautiful friendship bracelets, “magic potion lemonade,” raffle tickets and more to raise money for their activities.  They also hosted a rockin’ dance party (with balloons!) in the Active Room, a costume contest, and apple bobbing.  Wow!

I personally was very impressed with all the effort that went into planning all this fun.  The students who originally decided to host the fundraiser are 6 and 8 years old, and they and their friends had to hold planning meetings, get School Meeting approval, enlist help, follow through with commitments, set up the party, collect and track the money they earned, and clean everything up when the party was over.  They did all of this with dedication and style.

The party also took an unplanned, but perfectly Sudbury, detour into science territory.  Our intern, Charlie, had brought some dry ice to add to the festivities.  This instantly sparked a lot of curiosity, and soon somebody had found a book full of dry ice science experiments.   A table was set up with beakers, balloons, soap, and some fascinating dry ice experiments were soon underway, with all ages participating spontaneously.  I, and other interested people, learned what dry ice is, how to handle it safely, and had fun seeing it behave under different conditions.  As always, because there is no line between “learning” and the rest of life here at school, people tend to enjoy all kinds of activities just because they are interesting and contribute to their understanding of the world.  I was reminded of a poem that one of my life teachers shared with me:

Masters in the Art of Living (author unknown)

I draw no sharp distinction

between my work and my play,

my labor and my leisure,

my mind and my body,

my education and my recreation.

I hardly know which is which.

I simply pursue my vision

of excellence through whatever

I am doing and leave

others to determine

whether I am working or playing

To myself,

I am always doing both.

(posted by Abbe)

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Pictures From Halloween 2010

Here are a whole batch of pictures from our Halloween party. Current students, alumni, and staff are represented. Enjoy!



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