How do you adopt a baby? How did words get started? What is the hottest planet? 3 x what number = 23?
These and other questions preoccupy the minds of our Grade 2 students, and have had their place this year on the Grade 2 Wonder Wall. Not all of the questions have obvious answers, even to an adult. You might think that Mercury is the hottest planet, being closest to the sun, but actually Venus, second closest, has the highest temperature overall. If you are wondering why that is, you are becoming caught up in the twists and turns of discovery that guide the minds of the students, and of scientists, artists, and poets, of all those engaged in a creative way with the world we inhabit.
As the keeper of the Grade 2 Wonder Wall, Jeannie Bayer knows that there is an art to tailoring the search for answers to the age and developmental stage of her students. There are questions, and there are questions. Upon finding out that there is no whole number answer to how many times 3 can be multiplied into 23, her students reach for the horizon of their mathematical imagination, anticipating the role of fractions and remainders in an active way, out of their own curiosity. Then, when the new concepts are presented, these satisfy an intellectual desire for mastery of their world. “We encourage everyone to be part of our learning community,” she says. “Helping them find the answers is important, and what’s even more important is giving questions, and curiosity, a place of honor in the learning process.”
The Wonder Wall is related to a device used in the Responsive Classroom approach to classroom management known as the parking lot, which invites students to “park,” or make visible, their questions, ideas, words of encouragement, and suggestions for improvement. The teacher’s role is to recognize and respond to what the students express, and thereby to foster a feeling of community. “Questions arise from what’s going on in the children’s lives, and from what we are studying,” says Mrs. Bayer, adding that the timing and process involved in finding answers is important. “We don’t want them to lose interest by answering them too quickly,” she says, noting that letting questions languish is risky, as well.
Sometimes, having the teacher pose questions is a provocative way to start a unit of study, and the “aha” moment comes as the students become familiar with the new content. Questions and their answers also feature in other parts of daily routines, such as the Morning Meeting. Throughout, the Wonder Wall offers the students a home for their inquisitiveness, and a tangible expression of their teacher’s receptivity toward each student’s unique interests and experiences. “I want them to know that this is a safe place to ask questions,” says Mrs. Bayer, reflecting on the importance of questioning in the development of critical thinking.
By the way, if you do not have a Grade 2 student nearby to offer an explanation about the relative temperatures of Mercury and Venus, here is the answer: Temperatures on Venus, the hottest planet, reach 870 degrees Fahrenheit, because of its carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere that functions as an intense version of the greenhouse gas phenomenon.
Thank you to Ingrid Willenz-Isaacs for this post.
Our graduating Grade 8 class is hard at work completing applications and interviewing for secondary schools. Their hard work in and out of the classroom has led to the excitement of contemplating which of their acceptances will constitute the best fit for their high school years.
Given the rich array of secondary school options in our area, finding the right next school can seem an overwhelming task. However, when our students (and their parents) start looking into secondary schools they aren’t going it alone. They collaborate closely with Ms. Bohnen, our Head of School, throughout the journey, so that when it comes time to apply to schools in their final year at Green Hedges, they know what type of school will be the right fit for them.
At GHS, the secondary school process begins with a breakfast in December for our Grade 7 students and parents. They are given an overview of both the application process and the support they will receive over the next year and a half. Ms. Bohnen always invites a representative from one of the independent schools in the area. This year, we were fortunate to welcome the Director of Admission at the Potomac School, Carson Roy, who provided our students with valuable tips such as how to approach and interact with secondary school representatives and how to conduct yourself on a tour.
There is regular communication between Green Hedges, the parents, and students during the application process. Family interviews help translate the broad experiences our students have at GHS into what they want in a secondary school. Ms. Bohnen’s deep knowledge of the secondary school world helps them create a list of schools to visit.
By the time our students start visiting secondary schools, they are already well versed in speaking confidently with teachers and other adults. Mock interviews conducted by Ms. Bohnen prepare our Grade 8 for their visits to prospective schools. On-site preparation for the SSAT helps ensure they are ready for the standardized testing required by the secondary schools.
Faculty members and Ms. Bohnen write personal letters of recommendation which are included in the student’s application packet for each school. Finally, Ms. Bohnen personally speaks to the schools to which the students apply and is in personal contact with the respective admission offices, constantly advocating for our students and supporting their candidacies.
The Green Hedges secondary school process is one of collaboration and preparation amongst our Head of School, faculty, parents and students. We are fortunate to have a community that understands that choosing a high school should be done through a process that ensures that our graduating students go on to a school where they will thrive.
Walk into a Green Hedges Montessori classroom on any given day and this is what you’ll likely see: a classroom that is thoughtfully arranged and inviting with a variety of activities and lessons. You may see one student working on an activity by him or herself in one area of the room and in another space, two students, perhaps of different ages, working across from each other. The children in these classes work at tables or on the floor, rolling out mats on which to work to define their work space. Students are responsibly distanced from one another thanks to the hard work and planning for the Montessori faculty over the summer and all students are wearing masks indoors and outdoors.
The Montessori Directresses, Ms. Nichols, Ms. Heill, and Mrs. Ashkan, and their assistants, Ms. Mills, Ms. Khalsa and Ms. Ingham, are always nearby, observing the students as they work and guiding them with lessons and challenges, but adhering to the philosophy and practices of Maria Montessori to “help me to do it myself.”
Green Hedges campus has been transformed in many ways this fall as the School prepared to reopen to in-person learning. Classrooms were redesigned to ensure proper social distancing and safety. This was at the forefront of the Montessori faculty’s minds when designing their classrooms this year. The changes in Montessori classrooms include:
Through all of the changes this year, Montessori students, our youngest on campus, have adapted exceedingly well. The primary principles of Montessori remain intact in our classrooms and our students are shown real-life skills that they work to master, all in an environment that continues to be safe, nurturing, and educational.
Green Hedges School responded nimbly and swiftly to the COVID-19 crisis this Spring. Administration and teachers worked hard to create a model that could be implemented quickly and efficiently for our students and parents. Our guiding principles in this journey was to tend to the well being of students and teachers in this time of uncertainty.
Our Distance Learning program was a success for many reasons, but these five reasons stand out as to why we were able to thrive:
We are looking forward to welcoming back students and teachers in-person this Fall. Should the need arise, we are ready and able to move successfully to Distance Learning again. If you are interested in learning more about Green Hedges for your child, please contact Director of Admission & Financial Aid Katherine Vazquez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Green Hedges School’s first Community Engagement Week began earlier this year with a group of committed parents, Trustees, and faculty coming together to re-imagine what was originally Stewardship Week at Green Hedges. Community Engagement Week was created to provide a designated time for students to engage with our local community. While the week may look and feel different than was originally intended, it is still grounded in providing ways for students to responsibly and respectfully contribute to the improvement of their communities.
The vision of Community Engagement Week is to foster partnership experiences with organizations in Vienna. The organizations that we intended to collaborate with during the week need our help now more than ever. While we may not be able to come together in-person to engage in activities with these organizations, there are still plenty of ways to help build relationships from afar. Below are ideas of activities that you may do as a family that further build upon engaging with your community. Engagement takes many different shapes and forms and we hope that one of these ideas sparks in your child a desire to provide joy to someone who may need it right now:
Throughout the week, we will also provide additional opportunities for service-related and educational activities. One will include a video on planting victory gardens and another by beekeeper Bill Hahn who will open up the working hive and while looking for the queen, he will discuss the difference between drones and worker bees, the cells of the hive, how honey is produced and what makes a healthy hive. We will be adopting one of the beehives as a School and will share the honey that is produced with our historic Windover Heights neighbors as a way to further engage and build relationships.
Lastly, the culminating event of Community Engagement Week will be our #lovegrowshere Day on May 1. Students will spend time during the school day on May 1 creating lawn signs for front line workers such as healthcare personnel, grocery store employees, postal workers, law enforcement, delivery workers, and the countless others working on the front lines of this pandemic. We are thrilled to be able to build a school-wide event that not only creates a way to engage our students but one that will have a direct impact on those essential workers who see the lawn signs.
Our Community Engagement Committee has developed some thoughtful questions as your student begins to think about what his or her sign will say as well as the meaning behind this activity:
● How do you hope your sign will impact others?
We hope our first Community Engagement Week continues the conversation both at School and at home about the meaning of community, empathy, and compassion. Our desire to be part of a community is stronger than ever and we are so fortunate to be a part of one here at Green Hedges that encourages avenues to foster relationships between people and organizations in Vienna.
Green Hedges School’s 3D printers are being used to make parts for face shields that health care workers will use to prevent themselves from being infected with COVID-19. Thank you to parent Jason Torchinsky for creating the parts that will eventually create these vital shields for men and women who are working tirelessly on the front lines.
So far, over 25 parts have been made using our printers and Mr. Torchinsky recently changed to a new design that prints much faster. The reusable face shields that are made are being used in hospitals in D.C. and New York. The designs can be disinfected so they can be cleaned and reused, therefore helping to preserve the longevity of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that medical providers have available to them.
The use of our 3D printers is part of a larger effort organized by Dr. Eric Bubar of Marymount University. Read more about the project here.
Articles about Mr. Torchninsky’s work:
“Family does its part to help protect those on front lines of pandemic” By Brian Trompeter, Sun Gazette Newspapers
“3D Printers, Swimwear Maker Contribute Medical Protective Gear” By Emily Leaman, Patch.com
The following list of resources will be updated as we continue to gather articles and organizations that we think you may find useful as you navigate COVID-19 with your families.
Dr. Heather Tedesco, a Northern Virginia-based Applied Psychologist, shared some research-based words of wisdom and guidance with our parents this Winter about fostering independence in children. Parenting, as we all know, is our most important — and at times challenging — calling and privilege in life, and the workshop was a wonderful opportunity to listen to, reflect on, and incorporate Dr. Tedesco’s helpful tips and strategies to help nurture confidence and independence in children.
The top takeaways from Dr. Tedesco’s workshop were:
Through the workshop, parents also learned the different types of independence: academic, in the home, learning life skills, emotional, and identity. With each, Dr. Tedesco provided valuable tips and suggestions on how to engage children, no matter what the age, in learning to be more independent. Her tips are provided in the presentation below.
Fostering independence is certainly a skill that can be learned and practiced by both parents and children. Dr. Tedesco concluded with this insightful quote, “Prepare your child for the road, not the road for your child.”
As parent-teacher conferences approach, we want to express our gratitude to our teachers and parents alike for guiding our students both inside and outside the classroom. Teachers have been hard at work preparing to have conversations with each of our parents about the first few weeks of the school year and we are grateful for this opportunity to speak with you one on one. Communication is a key strength of our community and parent-teacher conferences are just one of many opportunities throughout the year that we look forward to conversing with you.
For some, it is your first parent-teacher conference ever, as with many of our Montessori parents. For parents of students in our lower school, a new school year brings new teachers, new expectations, developmental milestones, and challenges. For middle school parents, the conferences are more of a dialogue about how your child is performing and adjusting to learning from several teachers.
At Green Hedges, our students learn from excellent, caring teachers and have supportive, understanding parents. We set aside this time to make sure we are all working towards shared goals for your child.
Here are some thoughts on making the most of your parent-teacher conference:
Remember, a parent-teacher conference is just one check-in of your child’s progress. Throughout the year, our teachers are always willing to take an opportunity to sit down with you to discuss any issues that may arise.