Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Commencement 2017 By Commencement Speaker, Merna Hecht

The Beginning students welcome the graduates with a ribbon arch.

Thank you to Merna Hecht for her many years of storytelling and support at Lake and Park.  This year it was an honor to listen to Merna share her remarks with our community during the graduation celebration on June 9, 2017.  
Merna, seated in the sanctuary.
I am so deeply honored that Camille invited me to speak at the June 9, 2017 graduation. She is truly a visionary thinker and educator. I could have easily gone on at length about this extraordinary woman and the privilege of witnessing how her initial dream of establishing a unique learning community became today’s flourishing Lake and Park School. I truly think that the School’s motto should state,” If we can imagine it, we can create it.”
This brings me to thoughts about creativity and what it means to educate our children to become the kind of citizens who are motivated to create a more humane and just world. In part, a tool they must have is the ability to imagine possibilities. And this comes only with the kind of schooling that nurtures children’s abilities to play, because in play young children begin to imagine possibilities. To create from engagement in play without the imposition of expectations or evaluation in an environment that understands play as an aspect essential to learning for all children is a necessity too often overlooked. So I want to add yet another shout out to Camille and all of the Lake and Park teachers for understanding that play exalts possibilities and begins to equip children to imagine a better world.
Watching the slide show from the 2016-17 Lake and Park School year confirmed just how real, relevant and rewarding learning can be. It was thrilling to see how  natural science learning was embedded in and extended from a school-wide field trip connected to the study of mushrooms. And, I was heartened by hearing young children sing the songs of the civil rights movement knowing that they learned about non-violent movements for social justice by marching and picketing with signs they made themselves!
I left the graduation ceremony uplifted and filled with hope and gratitude. Hope because I know that the Lake and Park students are supported to the fullest in developing respectful compassion for others who are different from them. I know they are on their way to becoming creative and critical thinkers who will want to find peaceful solutions toward caretaking the earth and all who live on it. And gratitude because of the rich and layered gifts of learning that build community and engage the whole child that are provided by the Lake and Park teachers and staff and embraced by a wonderful group of parents, families and supportive community members and friends.
The four graduates, Iris, Roham, Rees, and Max.
 Here Merna's talk begins:

"First a shout out to the four graduates of Lake and Park School…it’s your day! It is an honor that Camille has asked me to speak for this special occasion and it is an honor to claim a long affiliation and affection for the Lake and Park School. I’ve had the distinct privilege of knowing Camille for many years, long before Lake Park was first a vision and then a wonderful thriving reality. That in itself is a story. And, speaking of stories, I think that each Lake and Park group to whom I’ve told stories knows that they are the best listeners I have encountered. Yes?   And here’s another story. Some seventy plus years ago and some seven thousand plus miles from Seattle, in New Zealand, there lived an amazing woman named Sylvia Ashton Warner, though for my story I will simply call her Sylvia. She was both an artist and a teacher who delved deeply into the art of teaching and she was a woman before her times, pushing through with ideas about schooling that some thought shocking. Before our use of the word organic as in kale, or milk, or eggs, or chicken, Sylvia brought this word to pertain to education. She said, in education an organic approach means that we bring light and nourishment to what is strongest in each child.  I’m sure you understand I mention Sylvia and her thinking about what organic really means—to bring light and nourishment to what is strongest in each child because of the influence she has had on Camille’s thinking and the other amazing, world traveling, award winning teachers at Lake and Park.
Sylvia also insisted that learning must be real, relevant and rewarding—three things that are clearly a cornerstone of the Lake and Park School. Real, relevant and rewarding. These three “r’s”are very different from the “old school” three r’s of “reading, writing and arithmetic and far more essential to learning.
I want to say a few words about rewards by going back to storytelling—think about a main character in a story you love who must go forth to overcome challenges and obstacles. In almost every story like this, when the young hero or heroine sets forth on a challenging quest small gifts are given along the way before the end goal is reached. These small treasures often have magical powers to help the story’s main character succeed. On each difficult journey these little rewards keep the young person going forward and support him or her on their quest.          This story pattern reflects a process similar to how the best of learning takes place. In these teaching stories the goal really isn’t about gaining bags of gold, or the right to inherit the kingdom, or, in terms of schooling, for the A+, or the high test score, but, it is rather to grow surer of oneself, wiser, more knowledgeable and confident in one’s strength and finest abilities. Each step and each small reward for keeping on becomes an integral part of a journey toward wholeness which is one reason why this pattern within stories is repeated and used as a time-honored teaching tool in cultures worldwide in schools like Lake and Park that remain connected to the deep roots of holistic learning with the many meaningful and small rewards inherent in learning along the way.
If you’ve visited the school of late and viewed the community effort from the youngest to the oldest student, you can see the way that imaginative possibilities and a fully integrated curriculum and community endeavor are brought to life.    When I was here telling Silk Road stories just a few weeks ago I told a tale of a magic garden that came into being for several main reasons. One was the generosity of two old friends who had mutual respect for each other and for the land they shared. When gold was discovered on the land they had their first argument—each wanting the other to keep the treasure. And so, they went to the wise man. There they heard a young boy talk of his dream of using the gold, not for profit or gain, but to plant a lavish garden that all could enjoy—young and old, animals and birds, where beauty and nourishment would flourish. How many of you remember what happened when the young boy went to the great Silk Road marketplace to buy seeds for the garden he dreamed of using the gold with which he had been entrusted? Anyone? Yes, he saw birds in captivity and instead of buying seeds he bought the birds in order to free them. In time out of gratitude for his compassion and the many risks he took to free them, the birds carried exotic seeds from afar to the garden and using wing and beak and claws planted the garden themselves. So the garden was a result not only of generosity and respect, but of compassion and risk taking. 

This story is real and relevant and rewarding for our times and it holds the timeless values on which education should be founded, because if we do not instill compassion for others, love for and experience of the natural world, and awareness and respect for different cultures, different viewpoints and ways of life our relevance, our sense of reality will become clouded, and the rewards of living in the embrace of vibrant communities of goodwill might be at risk. Before I close,  I want to thank all who are part of the Lake and Park School community for living and teaching these values.
 To today’s four graduates celebrating their passage on to other schools I know you will keep the lively experience and the relevance of what your learning community at The Lake and Park School has instilled in you; and I know you will keep the joy of learning, the richness of imagining other times and lives, and the ability to imagine what you will become and  to believe in yourself and  then walk forward bearing the gifts you have to give."
~Merna Hecht, June 9, 2017

Monday, May 15, 2017

Lake & Park Teacher Receives World Educator Award

World Educator Speech 05/02/17

On Tuesday, May 2nd our World Educator of 2016-2017, Eileen Hynes, joined us at Hamilton International Middle School to accept her award. Eileen gave a heartfelt speech that described the impact that learning about different peoples and perspectives can have on young students; genuinely exploring difference changes the way that young people engage with the world. Eileen said: “Today’s youth need more than ever to view themselves in partnership with youth everywhere, to listen to diverse ideas, and to collaborate to solve problems that are shared around the world.”
The World Affairs Council strongly believes in educating for global competency in order to build a more peaceful, more connected world. Our Global Classroom program promotes this goal by working with teachers and students across the state, and providing opportunities for international engagement and dialogue. In her speech on Tuesday night, Eileen Hynes expressed this mission with the clarity and conviction of someone who has been teaching in classrooms for more than 30 years and fully understands the significance of educating for a better future. Many in the audience requested copies of her speech; it is an honor for us to share World Educator Eileen Hynes’ full speech below.

World Educator Speech, by Eileen Hynes, delivered May 2nd, 2017 at Hamilton International Middle School
As we reflect this evening on the power of travel to change lives, I would like to begin with a blessing, On Meeting a Stranger by the Irish poet, John O’Donohue, On Meeting a Stranger: With respect and reverence, that the unknown between us might flower into discovery, and lead us beyond the familiar field, blind with the weed of weariness, and the old walls, of habit.
Thank you, Jackie and the World Affairs Council, Ryan and Maggie and the Global Classroom. I am honored to accept the World Educator award this year. I also want to thank Camille Hayward and all the teachers at Lake and Park. It is a privilege to work with teachers who share and inspire creativity, intellectual curiosity and honesty in the work we do with children and parents every day.
Camille often says, “It is not the extraordinary, but the ordinary”. Children need time and space, to discover for themselves, which is how we truly learn. It is how children learn the ways the world works, and how they move from the shelter of their families into the world, with a strong sense of self that permits them to move forward with eyes and heart wide open. And filled with curiosity and compassion, and an understanding of themselves as part of a much larger world. Curiosity encourages a mindset that questions the interconnectedness of all things, not if they are connected but how things are connected. We don’t need to doubt that there are connections to be found. Growing up with an awareness of multiple perspectives, children develop the habit of looking for another’s point of view. They expect their own view to be challenged, and develop flexibility in thinking and an appreciation for diversity of thought when working with others to solve problems.
My own journey down this path began with a class I took at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington.
The opportunity came about because of a new professional development initiative at the school where I was working at the time. I was a young teacher with no credentials, but that didn’t stop the board of directors and the head of the school from trusting me and the rest of the faculty, and showing the faith they had in us, by providing unrestricted funds for teachers to craft our own professional development plan. I chose to take a class at the university. This was not a class in the education department. It was not a class that would teach me how to teach reading better or how to manage a group of children – The class was called State-Society Relations in Third World Countries, and it was taught by Rasat Kasaba. This was almost 30 years ago. Many of you know Professor Kasaba, as a global thinker and a gifted educator. He went on to become the Director of the Jackson School, where he is today. He profoundly altered how I would focus my energy as a teacher of young children. Rasat’s class opened the world to me in a new way. It required me to seek an understanding of the interconnectedness of life on this planet. In class that spring, Rasat guided our exploration of different regions of the world, identifying the influence of world powers on indigenous cultures and the potential globalization had to affect the world. This was six years before the World Trade Organization even existed. Professor Kasaba encouraged us to view the complexities of each region of the world, and every situation, from the point of view of the people living there first, and then to understand the effect of the actions world powers were imposing in these places. It woke me up.
I understood from this point on that social studies was the lens I wanted to use to teach young children about the world. Now, my view of social studies is broad, encompassing the interconnected systems we use to make sense of things. It includes literature, the arts, and the sciences. I want students to look for patterns, make connections and take note of similarities and uniqueness. By developing attitudes and skills and building knowledge about the world, young children can learn about wonderfully complex topics – evolution, climate change, physics – all the while developing habits of openness, curiosity and compassion.
I want to return to the reason I took the class, this was one of my first professional development opportunities, and I was filled with gratitude, that I was given this chance to return to the classroom as a student. I was fortunate that I selected a class with one of the finest teachers in the country, and when I entered his classroom he took me on a journey to distant places and asked me to consider my impact, as a privileged citizen of the US. Since then I have never doubted the value of life-long learning, ongoing professional development, and the value of travel, both real and virtual. The World Affairs Council Global Classroom continues to play a significant role in providing teachers with accessible professional development, that invites us to virtually travel around the globe in three hour chunks of time, to Egypt during the Arab Spring, or to Kenya when we read City of Thorns together in a Global Classroom book club. The World Affairs Council also acts as a bridge, it has connected me and many other teachers over the years, to opportunities for real travel. Through association with the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia I traveled to China, and with the Turkish Cultural Foundation, I traveled to Turkey. I was sharing the Turkish Art of Ebru just today with students as we marbled paper as part of our current study of the Silk Road.
Never underestimate the value of professional development for teachers. And when you have an opportunity to support it, please do. I would like to thank Katherine Cheng and Expedia for their support of educators and students, here supporting the essay contest, and by helping maintain the National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellows program. Global travel for teachers inspires us to bring the world into our classrooms. Today’s youth need more than ever to view themselves in partnership with youth everywhere, to listen to diverse ideas, and to collaborate to solve problems that are shared around the world.
Curiosity, not arrogance, compassion, not fear, and cooperation, not competitiveness are the attitudes to cultivate in educating the globally competent child. Thank you.
Jackie Miller, President and CEO of the World Affairs Council Spoke to parents at Lake and Park School in April.

Jackie Miller presented the World Educator Award  to Eileen
Read more about the World Educator Award here.