Monday, November 28, 2016

Inclusion, Attention, and Social Growth: A Guest Blog by Erica Tiedemann

My husband, Bill, and I have made the Lake & Park School a priority in our charitable contributions for several years. As parents, we have had to develop new giving priorities with respect to our role in the community of families. Two basic principles guide us in our response to many of the appeals that we receive:
  1. We support the people and the programs that are important to our children.
  2. We are lucky to have access to excellent schooling and extracurricular activities. We give with the desire to make those programs stronger and available to more children.
After reminding ourselves of these principles, we find it easy to identify programs that deserve our support because we benefit by our own involvement with them year after year.

These principles alone do not explain why Lake & Park is a priority to us. Certainly, the children spend more time there than in other activities and that is a consideration. Lake & Park has become a priority because the school stands out in our experience for the personalized attention that each child receives.

Children in the multi-age classrooms have individual strengths in markedly different areas. Lake & Park teachers work deliberately to create a culture of social inclusion. They respond to all of their students and draw them to a common purpose.

The process is not always easy. Our graduate, Delphine once said, “You better try to get along because you have to go back and see those people every day.” Although you may read some frustration in these words, they also show Delphine’s growing understanding of the practice of getting along. It isn’t a gift, or magic, or luck -- getting along requires some trying every day in anticipation of the next day. She and her entire class spent good years at Lake & Park learning how to cultivate long-term relationships.   

Our current Lake & Park student, Ted, can be found at school running with the roiling swarm of 8-10 year old boys. Unlike Delphine, he had the good fortune to belong to a Lake & Park family when it came time for kindergarten. From day one, he adored Camille. To his great satisfaction, he logged hundreds of hours with the wooden blocks.

Halfway through that year, Ted had a medical setback that put him in intensive care for a week. He came back to school with new medication and a cloud of uncertainty hanging over him. We had no idea whether we were managing the problem well or if we might expect his body to continue to fail him.

Camille welcomed Ted back to school without fuss. She put his new emergency medication in a wallet on a string and wore it around her neck. Some weeks later she confided to me, “I don’t make anything of it, but I keep him close. That way I know how he is.”  

Camille’s actions helped to turn my attention from worry to my responsibilities as a caregiver. I built a small kit with instructions and medications that I could carry in my purse and hand off to supervising adults. A clear envelope containing Ted’s Emergency Care Instructions and seven days’ medication is the second generation of Camille’s neck wallet.

Today, Ted has gone more than four years without incident. We are still monitoring. We still keep him close. We are grateful every day that Ted is known so well at school.

The long-term relationships that were such a benefit for Delphine’s social growth give us a feeling of security with Ted. His teachers know and attend to him as they do all their students. We don’t have to worry that he might go quiet and get lost in a corner one busy day. Everyone at Lake & Park is working, or trying to work, together toward a common cause.

Lake & Park has become a priority for us among all the organizations where we are involved because we have benefitted so much from the culture of the place. With our continued support for the Annual Fund, want to help ensure the stability of the organization and we want other families to benefit as we have.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Inspiration to Give in our own Special Way: A Guest Blog by Young-Bean Song

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m still emotionally spent from the last election.  I’ve been avoiding the news and social media.  What used to be lively political discussions with my friends have turned short and worrisome.   The political climate in our country is full of anger and divisiveness, and the last election cycle made that abundantly clear to everyone including our kids.  Who in their right minds would launch into a civics curriculum with a bunch of elementary students, whose parents most likely supported the losing side?  Lake and Park.

It takes a lot of courage to teach civics amidst the last presidential election.  But classically, Lake and Park went for it.  In the school’s highly curated way, they started with the birth of Western democracy in ancient Greece and reviewed historical milestones like the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.  They learned songs which Teague proudly displayed when he stood up at a recent dinner and sang us “Which way America”.   They’ve conducted live votes and opinion polls on global human rights and local issues like the expansion of Light Rail in Seattle.  They marched to promote everyone to vote on election day.  And they even talked about taxes! (I kid you not.)

The lessons haven’t all been rosy. Kelly and I have been surprised to get questions about race and gender, regarding historic eras when minorities and women didn’t have the right to vote or go to certain schools. How racism, although illegal now, still occurs in our society.  We’ve had to answer awkward questions about the difference between public and private schools, why some people don’t vote, and why we’ve been so stressed about the election.

As uncomfortable as some of these family discussions have been, they also make me proud.  I’m proud of my kids and proud of what they are learning at school.  Lake and Park’s fearless approach to learning took on a difficult yet fundamentally important aspect of our society, and did it during an especially controversial and emotionally charged time.  They’ve enriched my family dialogue, and have given me a spark of hope in these anxious times.

There are a lot of things to love about Lake and Park: the time spent outside, teacher-to-student ratio, progressive
philosophy, quality teachers, the small handcrafted feel, the value placed on play… these are some of the reasons why we chose the school.  But what’s less talked about is the uncommon courageous spirit of the teachers and curriculum.  There is an undying confidence that our kids will find inspiration no matter how complex the topic (e.g. Is there anything more complex than fungi?).  I’m sure there was some trepidation on the timing of their civics course, but they dove into it anyway, whole hog.  

It is perhaps this underlying vibe that makes the school most unique.  Culturally, our schools have evolved to become more careful, standardized, planned and scaled.  Lake and Park goes against that grain.  That’s not an easy thing to do, especially the way Lake and Park does it.  Simply put, going against the grain requires extra funding.  The General Fund allows our teachers to approach topics with the depth and bravery they deserve.  On any given subject, somehow the school crams in: field studies, a science fair, expert lectures, homemade videos, poetry, visual arts, music, sometimes even a celebratory feast, all about the same topic.  It bewilders me sometimes, but always in a sanguine way.  Like the elections, I hope everyone chooses to participate in the Annual Fund.  Family budgets are daunting and complex, but like our children, I hope we all find some inspiration to give in our own special way.

Monday, November 14, 2016

From a Student's Perspective

Lake & Park is the best school ever! 

 I’ve been at Lake & Park for three years and I’ll be very sad to leave at the end of this year.  The teachers are great and it’s really fun.  A few of the great things about Lake & Park are:
·       Long recess

·       Great teachers

·       Great units

          Students have some say

·       Not too strict

·       Good books

·       Lots of time to read

·       A lot of support from teachers 

·       Varying schedules

These are just a few of the great things about Lake & Park.  Because it is such an amazing place I am going to donate some of my own money to the annual fund. I hope you will too.

Max Buchsbaum, North Room

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Why I Support the Annual Fund by Sacha Vignieri

                                          Let nature be your teacher” William Wordsworth

I am a biologist, more specifically; I am an ecologist, as is my husband. We ecologists study how species in nature interact with other species and their environment. Though ecology has many important scientific and societal impacts, most ecologists became such due to a love of nature. When Griffin was born we initiated him into this life, from working in the garden with him strapped into a baby wrap days after he was born, to carrying him in a back-pack during field work on beaches in Florida, to teaching him how to identify chanterelles and pick huckleberries, to catching spiders, lizards, snakes, frogs, mice and whatever else we can get our hands on. This interaction with nature, and learning what it has to teach us, through experience, is fundamental to our lives.
My own educational experience was grounded firmly in public schools and I had always believed the same would be true for my son. When we began the process of searching for schools, it became clear to me that schools are not the same as they were when I was a child. I was disheartened by the limited time children spent outside and expectations that they suppress their natural urge to learn through movement, play, and interaction.
Creating music to accompany a poem.
Lake and Park became known to us almost by accident, but I can’t have imagined a better fit for Griffin and our family. The school’s own focus on learning through experience, time in nature, and play has not only allowed Griffin to blossom, but has allowed a community of children to blossom and carry these profound experiences with them. The approaches employed by the school, to develop minds and foster learning, produces children that are engaged, confident, curious, resilient, and compassionate.  One only has to listen to the speeches of any of the graduates in the past few years to understand the gift this school is to the children, parents, and community. I regularly feel grateful that we were lucky enough to find it; it is a truly unique and wonderful place.
Exploring electricity during a study of physics.
Falling in love with an independent school is not the same as being able to pay for one. Tuition costs can represent a significant portion of a family’s income, and for all families it is a serious commitment. Given that we all pay tuition, the question often arises, why contribute to the Annual Fund as well? There are many reasons why Annual Fund contributions aren’t just added to tuition. The most important one, in my opinion, is our school’s commitment to maintaining tuition at a below-market, broadly accessible rate. This fosters economic diversity and emphasizes the fact that parent’s choose Lake and Park for its child centered, experiential focus, not an elite status.  Despite the fact that it remains separate for this, and other, reasons, money that comes in as part of the Annual Fund is essential to the learning experiences our children engage in every day. For example, these funds support providing teachers with benefits and professional development, allow for the purchase of quality classroom materials which support the thematic studies, and allow the school to invite artists and experts to extend and enrich the studies. Most importantly to our family, they help to facilitate the maintenance of nature exploration as a fundamental component of the curriculum. 

Salmon release at Issaquah Creek.

“[What is the] the extinction of a condor to a child who has never seen a wren” Robert Michael Pyle

Whale watching trip to Port Townsend.

As a part of my current position as an editor for a scientific journal, I am regularly faced with sad news about our environment and the species with which we share the planet. Similar statements could be made about human conditions across the globe. The only way to ultimately tackle these concerns is through education of our children. Our school is producing humans that are not only well educated in the traditional sense, but who care about the natural world and social justice. I contribute to the Annual Fund because, to me, Lake and Park represents the best of this education and I am fully committed to supporting its mission to prepare our children to be the future.
Running and play on the boulevard.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Professional Development for Educators: Gratitude for Those Who Make It Possible

I returned to Lake & Park this fall filled with gratitude for the professional opportunities the contributions to the annual fund have allowed me over the past year.

In April, I traveled to Finland for two weeks to study the globally recognized success of their education system. Many of you had an opportunity to attend my presentation during which I shared my experiences in the Scandinavian country last May. While there are countless aspects of the Finnish philosophy of education that I observed and admired, what I found most inspirational was their holistic approach to education. This approach, which aims to educate and nurture the whole child, rather than just the intellectual, academic side, has been an aspect that I've worked to integrate mindfully into curriculum planning at Lake & Park School.

While I've had many opportunities to share my experiences and thoughts with Lake & Park teachers, I was chosen to present my findings on Finland at the Northwest Association of Independent Schools Annual Fall Conference in October. My audience was large and varied and I left with a sense that a bit of the wisdom of Finland had trickled into the minds of educators from around our region and will hopefully find implementation in their schools and classrooms.

While exploring the schools of Finland was inspirational beyond any expectation I had, I was fortunate to also be accepted in the Harvard Graduate School's summer institute: Passion Driven Learning Through the Arts. While there, I worked alongside international music artists Yo Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble. Glynn Macdonald, the movement director at the Globe Theater in London, as well as Carlina Rinaldi, who worked side by side with Loris Malaguzzi to develop the Reggio Emilia approach to education, were also members of the institute's faculty. The focusing questions that guided our discussions during the half-week experience were, "What does it mean to truly listen?" "How can we create environments in which students are able to listen to themselves?" And, "What is the role that passion plays in education?" We explored possibilities for integrating the arts into academic subjects, as the arts have a unique ability to inspire passion and invite connection.

To learn more about my experience and the role passion plays in education, you can listen to an interview with the Director of the Graduate School of Education and leader of the Passion-Driven Learning Institute I attended.

If you're not familiar with Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with with their wisdom and view their most recent documentary, The Music of Strangers.

Again, it was with the contributions to the annual fund that I could afford to accept their invitation and work alongside some of the world's greatest artists at Harvard. I returned to Lake & Park this fall with a newfound wonder for the power of music, movement and other art forms to instill passion in learners. I also returned eager to implement my discoveries at Harvard and share my experiences with my colleagues. It is important for educators to continue learning and remain curious and passionate about their work. When educators are inspired, passion, wonder and joy fill their classrooms.