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:
Send thank you cards to local first responders, hospital workers, and grocery stores.
Make care kits for delivery drivers to show your appreciation.
Create positive messages in front of your house or apartment with sidewalk chalk.
Use sidewalk chalk on your street to create hopscotch or other games to bring cheer to your neighborhood and those walking by.
Freerice.com: Students complete online math to unlock food for others.
Make dog toys for local animal shelters.
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:
● What does “Love Grows Here” mean to you?
● Who are the people who are helping others?
● Why are we making signs?
● What does gratitude mean to you?
● 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.
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:
Allowing children to make mistakes. This may mean that you know the mistake ahead of time and you, as a parent, have to let it just play out and see what happens. Ultimately, what may happen is that you and your child will feel the joy of seeing what happens when the child, independently, learns from his or her mistake.
Related to this is the importance of allowing failure and understanding that it is inevitable and something from which children should not be shielded.
Being bored is okay! Unplugged downtime or free time is valuable. There is sometimes a need to overschedule our children’s time and take care of everything for them so they aren’t “bored.” Allow children to have truly free time and provide them the freedom to do something of their choice with that time.
As a parent interested in encouraging independence, ask yourself these two questions: “Am I overinvolved?” and “What am I doing for my child that he or she can do for him/herself?”
Recognizing the framework for teaching new skills:
Step 1 is doing something for your child.
Step 2 is doing something with your child.
Step 3 is watching them do it.
Step 4 is allowing them to do it.
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:
Listen. Listen actively, and let the teacher guide the conversation. The insights they have to share stem from their daily interaction with their students as individuals.
Give and take. Conferences are a productive, cooperative exchange of information. These are essential conversations that help deepen the shared commitment to each child’s personal growth, cognitive development, and joy in learning.
Tell us about your child. Although time is limited, describe what they’re like at home, what interests and excites them, and explain any issues at home that may be affecting your child at school.
Check-in with your child. Sometimes, talking to your child in advance of the meeting, you can ask more specific questions about his or her grades, behavior or performance in certain classes.
Teachers are on your side. Be open to your teacher’s answers, suggestions and recommendations and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
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.
For the 2019-2020 school year, Green Hedges School enters its second year participating in Eco-Schools, a National Wildlife Federation program that provides schools with tools to develop eco-friendly practices and an eco-friendly mindset within the school community.
This year, students will identify successes and opportunities for improvement in our Schoolyard Habitat, Consumption and Waste, and Energy Use. Based on their findings, they will create action plans to begin our community’s journey towards ever-increasing sustainability.
Our students are already hard at work making environmental changes on our campus. We are eliminating plastic utensils and providing reusable utensils in each classroom. We continue to expand our recycling program this year by including crayons and markers.
Grade 4 started our Eco Club and is currently working on an Eco Code to guide the School’s work and Grade 7 is conducting a biodiversity study of the campus. Grade 3 continues to be our campus leaders on recycling. Students in Grade 3 collect recycling from our classrooms each week and are our “experts” on the ground when anyone has a question about what can and cannot be recycled.
As the school year progresses, we will continue to create opportunities for everyone to get involved in our Eco-Schools movement.
As your students settle into a new school year, we realize that going back to school comes with both a great deal of excitement and a need to get back into a routine, both for children and parents. Here are some tips to help ease the transition back to school:
Don’t underestimate the power of sleep: As Eleanor Mackey, a psychologist with Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C. says in this article about managing back-to-school anxiety, “When we’re tired, we’re moody, and little things can feel really big,” Mackey explains. “Anxiety is much worse if sleep is bad. Make sure you have a good quiet routine and early enough bedtime that your child can get sufficient sleep.”
Set-up a homework station (if your child has homework): Sit down with your child and together designate a time and place where they can do their homework each day. Having the supplies your child needs at the ready can help your child do their assignments more efficiently.
After school: Many children need a break after school, even 10 to 15 minutes to unwind after a busy day. Just a small window of time to engage in light conversation, read, draw, work on a puzzle, or do some other quiet activity can help children transition into after-school activities.
Review school materials and information: There is a lot of information disseminated from you child’s school at the beginning of any school year. It can be overwhelming, but valuable as you and your child may inevitably have questions come up during the first weeks of school that may be answered in communication that is sent through school.
Ask questions and let the teacher know about your child. Every teacher and student spend the first few weeks of school getting to know one another. At GHS we are available to support families and answer any questions you may have. We also encourage you to let us know more about your child to make the beginning of school a smooth start.
While we start every school year with the same enthusiasm and hopefulness of all that is to come, this year, we are very aware that many schools did not get off to the same positive start that we did. Our students, seeing and hearing about the challenges faced by students and their families in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, wanted to help. This week, many of them have put thoughts into compassion and action.
Our two Montessori classes came together to make and sell lemonade to our parents during afternoon pick up. The money raised will be used to purchase school supplies for Houston area schools. Driven by the students themselves, they juiced their own lemons and made the lemonade from scratch. It was a true example of the Montessori mindset in action—helping others and doing things carefully and well themselves.
Our Middle School is helping students impacted from Hurricane Harvey as well. They started a
collection drive last week to collect school supplies for students in Houston and mailed three
boxes worth of supplies to Houston over the weekend.
In just one week here at Green Hedges, we’ve seen two ideas put into action by our students
who understand that there are others in this country who need a helping hand. Sometimes we
wonder how young is too young to show children the impacts of natural disasters, but it can
often be a start of a conversation about how to help those in need.
A recent Washington Post article, Even kids can have a role in helping after natural disasters, is
a great resource for tangible things that parents and kids can do right away to help those in
need after a natural disaster, but it also gives examples of how to show compassion and
helpfulness in your own community.
“Eloquent speech is not from lip to ear, but rather from heart to heart.”
-William Jennings Bryan
Our Grade 8 students are in the midst of putting the final touches on perhaps one of the most significant speeches they’ve given in their young lives—the speech they will deliver at their graduation on June 9. They’ve been working on their speeches for a few weeks now, but in many ways, their preparation has been years in the making.
From the first time our youngest first graders perform their class play on stage in front of the school, to leading our school assemblies as our 8th graders do, there is a lesson or unit in every grade that is preparing the students for this speech. As we mentioned in last week’s blog post, Grades 3 and 4 present to fellow students and parents on a chosen state and historical figure during the State Fair and Wax Museum respectively. By Grade 5, they are writing an in-depth series of essays on the Roman Empire, further enhancing their writing skills.
When they reach Middle School, the students learn to write in detailed and descriptive ways about seemingly small moments in their lives. All the while, they are also reading literature that shows them what good writing looks like.Read More
As we approach the end of the school year, some of our favorite end-of-year events approach. Two of them are Grade 3’s State Fair next week and Grade 4’s Wax Museum in early June. There are many similarities between them. Each student chooses a state (in the case of Grade 3) or a famous person (for our Grade 4 students), and does a deep research dive on their topic. After weeks of work, both events culminate with an event in the Multipurpose Room where each student presents for approximately two hours. All of that time is spent explaining their state or person to a series of students and parents who are invited to tour through. There is no telling what sort of question may arise from an inquisitive attendee, so our students have to be well-versed in their subject.
The students gain confidence when they have a depth of knowledge in what they are presenting. In order to give them the best opportunity to acquire this knowledge, both of these projects are what we call “cross-curricular”. This means that multiple areas of our program work together during this preparation period to help the students deepen their learning about the state or the person.
For instance, in art class, the Grade 3 students have each crafted and painted a model of their chosen state’s bird to display. In both grades, students use social studies and geography to locate either the birthplace of their person or the location of their state and investigate the economy of the location, its major industries, its natural resources, and its connection with neighboring states or countries. Library class time is used to help the students do research and understand the difference between primary and secondary sources. Technology comes into play, too, because all students are expected to use the iPads to create a slide show or iMovie to illustrate key facts about their chosen state or person.
This approach is important to helping deepen the understanding of the subject of their research and allows the children to make connections. “Students gain such pride in their state and begin to identify with it. We often hear, ‘Oh look what I found!’ as the students get very excited when these connections come to light during their State Fair research,” says Anne Craig, Grade 3 co-teacher.
The learning goes beyond what our program normally covers as well. It has become traditional for Grade 3 students to augment their display with a traditional or famous food from their state. This leads to delicious learning by all the State Fair attendees who may enjoy Texas chili, Maine blueberries, or Hawaiian pineapple slices. Our Grade 4 students fashion costumes which mirror the clothing of the era in which their famous person lived, and they use their performing arts skills to assume their subject’s persona in this living Wax Museum.
Be sure to mark your calendars to attend both of these events and celebrate the deep cross-curriculum connections these young students have made. The Grade 3 State Fair is on Tuesday, May 23 at 9:30 a.m. and Grade 4’s Wax Museum is on June 1 at 1:30 p.m.