A Bilingual Brain is a Beautiful Thing – 7 Ways Parents Can Help


MOLLY DONNELLY, US SPANISH TEACHER, WORLD LANGUAGES DEPARTMENT CHAIR: The bilingual brain has a considerable edge over the monolingual brain in work and in life. Numerous neurological studies point to the increased academic and social advantages offered to young students who are working towards proficiency in a second language.

The bilingual brain has a considerable edge over the monolingual brain in work and in life.

“Bilinguals show higher test scores, better problem solving skills, sharper mental perceptions, and access to richer social networks,” says Rebecca Callahan, an Associate Professor of Bilingual/Bicultural Education and author of numerous research studies for the University of Texas, Austin.

Research also links bilingualism to improved intellectual focus, decreased chance of early onset dementia, and the development of greater empathy. With all these benefits, parents should be doing all they can to reinforce the journey to bilingualism in the home.

Though students will not graduate the Peck School fully bilingual by Grade 8, The Peck School offers Spanish language instruction beginning in Kindergarten (once a week Spanish language immersion during lunch) through Grade 8, with French and Latin options added in the Upper School.

We encourage our parents to actively support their children’s path towards bilingualism at Peck and in the future by adopting some simple practices in the home and attempting new habits. Here are some quick tips to embrace language learning with your child from the Peck World Language Department:

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“The New Scourge” in Youth Sports


The new player emerging in youth sports
is the overuse injury.

So often we hear the refrain, “No pain, no gain,” specifically as it relates to athletics. Coaches want their athletes to work hard and are likely to encourage, motivate, and in some cases even push their charges to run faster, hit harder, or throw greater distances.

As children increasingly become specialized in certain sports, they are likely to undertake repetitive skill training. They may “drill” at a certain task over and over again – often for hours on end. What they may not realize is they are about to meet an increasingly visible and insidious new player in the sports arena.

The new player emerging in youth sports is the overuse injury, and it is making its presence known with younger and younger athletes. The overuse injury, once the provenance of adults and professional athletes is showing up on a national scale and is concerning the medical profession enough that it has become the subject of recent articles and special reports.

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Entrepreneur: At the Crossroad of STEAM and Empathy


ANDREW SCHNEIDER, DIRECTOR OF FINANCE AND OPERATIONSWe’ve all experienced the feeling of “getting in the zone” at some point, that heightened sense of focus, a blissful tunnel vision that drives us when creating something that we’re passionate about. It’s a wonderful feeling. But it’s this same passion that blinds us from how our creations might be received by the world around us. 

We must strive not just to teach STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) in our school curricula, but STEAM with empathic social awareness.

I feel like I’ve seen it a hundred times on Shark Tank, an inventor, so entrenched and myopic after thousands of hours drumming up his or her invention, unable to comprehend why “the sharks” simply cannot recognize the genius in the creation that is being presented to them. So often the final hurdle to clear when turning an idea into a business is empathy, putting yourself in the shoes of others in order to help solve their problem, not your problem.

For that reason, we must strive not just to teach STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) in our school curricula, but STEAM with empathic social awareness. More specifically, we need to teach our students to be entrepreneurs.  Engineers solve problems, but entrepreneurs go a step further, solving problems for others. Entrepreneurship is the convergence of engineering and empathy, and teaching it through a STEAM curriculum offers our students an opportunity to have an immense impact on the world around them.

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All I Really Need to Know I Learned in the Woodshop


MARK MORTENSEN, ARTS DEPARTMENT CHAIR: Thirty years ago, American minister and author Robert Fulghum published a book of short essays, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. His credo would become a New York Times bestseller: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours and so on. Simple advice from kindergarten to help steer complicated adult lives.

In my quarter century in Peck’s woodshop, I’d learned a lesson or two from my experiences there.

Countless parodies followed extolling lessons learned from pets, trees, the Internet, Star Trek, and even zombies. It occurred to me that, in my quarter century in Peck’s woodshop, I’d learned a lesson or two from my experiences there.


All I Really Need to Know I Learned in the Woodshop

  1. Be squareI spend a fair amount of time maintaining Peck’s woodshop power equipment. One thing I check often is the “square” of a tool. Blades, miter gauges, drill bits, and sanding disks at 90° angles to fences and tables will help create projects that are plumb and level. Square corners make for tidy, stable, and aesthetically pleasing construction.Being square also means being fair and honest. Fair to oneself, honest in all one does, ethical in one’s dealings with others. It’s not always easy, but being square makes for tidy, stable, and pleasing relationships.

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Coming to Terms with Failure


Have you noticed that as parents we are reluctant to allow our children to fail? If they forget their sports uniform, we will travel to school and drop it off to save them from missing sports in the afternoon. We check their backpacks to make sure they included all of their assignments to save them from a late homework grade. When we receive a report from school that they were engaged in inconsiderate behavior toward a classmate, we defend them and doubt the validity of the claim. We tend to take many teachable moments and turn them into “saves”.

We tend to take many teachable moments and turn them into “saves”.

Sometimes I wonder whom it is we are saving. Is it really our children? Or are we actually saving ourselves from what we see as our failure as parents? If my child doesn’t play in today’s game, how will that reflect on me as the parent who failed to send her son to school with his uniform? If my child loses points in class for homework not handed in, am I worried what a disinterested/incompetent parent I will appear to the teacher?

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Why Everyone Should Be Literate in Technology


BRUCE SCHWARTZ, UPPER SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATOR: My phone rang on a recent Sunday morning. It was my 82-year-old father wanting to know the best way to transfer content from his old computer to the new one he had just purchased. He said, “I think I have too much for a USB drive, so should I buy an external hard drive?” “Should I upload everything to the cloud?” “Is there software that makes this easy?” Great questions obviously predicated on prior knowledge.

This is an octogenarian who grew up listening to Orson Welles and Red Skelton on the radio…

Without further inquiry, my father told me that he had 73.5GB and that most of the content was JPEGs and AVI files. Being a Technology Integrator, I could not resist asking if he even knew what a GB is or what JPEG and AVI mean in terms of file types.

This is an octogenarian who grew up listening to Orson Welles and Red Skelton on the radio; a man who has never been particularly interested in math or science or engineering…or, technology. However, this is a man who recognized 12 years ago that computerization was causing the world to change at a faster rate than at any point in his lifetime.

At the age of 70, my father had embraced the use of email and Skype to stay connected with family and friends. He used the World Wide Web to learn about the cancer that my mother was battling. Likewise, he embraced the importance of learning how and why technology works and how it can be used in this rapidly changing world. He is my father, so I may be a bit biased – but that’s pretty darn impressive!

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We are at our best when we are timeless


DAISY SAVAGE, HEAD OF UPPER SCHOOL: We humans have an interesting relationship with time. The way we view time and its passage depends very much upon our age. The same is true for our embrace of tradition. For those of us in the business of adolescence, we know that, for them, time can not move fast enough: our young students rush to embrace the newness and challenge of each new stage, in search of both a license to drive and in search of a license to live.

We humans have an interesting relationship with time.

We urge them to slow down, seize the moment, and they scoff and strive forward, pressing hard against the traces of our rules and traditions. They seek their own truth and their own way. Tradition belongs to someone else’s vision… Until suddenly, they see their own legacy in the wake they leave behind. And then the nature of time changes.

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Encouraging Mindful Transitions


DR. ZAN STRUEBING, SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST: Transitions – we experience them continually. Sometimes they happen smoothly and seamlessly; we hardly know they are occurring. In other instances, they are rocky, disruptive, and the cause of utter discontent.

If you have the sense of being a little “off,” chances are, once you pause to reflect, you’ll have that “aha” moment that you are in the throes of a transition. Even as I write, I am still basking in the glow of a lovely trip that allowed me to spend time with my daughter in Chicago. I am left with the task of adapting once again to day-to-day life without her. Ah yes, transitioning again.

Students may not have access to the same coping strategies that adults have developed with time and experience.

For our children, transitions are no less significant. Students, though, may not have access to the same coping strategies that adults have developed with time and experience. As we watch a group of students transitioning from home to school, from one class to another, or from unstructured to structured activities, it is strikingly apparent that some children transition more fluidly than others.

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Seize the Opportunity: Spontaneous Learning


NINA SHARMA, HEAD OF LOWER SCHOOL: Learning happens anywhere, any time. In school, learning is mostly driven by curriculum that has been thoughtfully planned and designed to appropriately align with pedagogy. Foundations are laid and every year skill sets are built upon this scaffolding, resulting in productive learning and academic excellence.

Learning happens anywhere, any time.

Typically, students are inspired to learn because of an immediate desire to know how to do something, or understand a topic, and teachers are there to provide them with the resources and to give them guidance. This formal method of teaching provides the outcome desired, and students acquire the necessary skills to take them to the next level of competency. However, the power of ‘informal’ learning or ‘spontaneous’ learning should not be underestimated. Informal learning is what keeps young minds vibrant, mentally active, and interested in the world around us.

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Opening the Door to Happy Discoveries: Student-centered Learning


CHRIS WEAVER, DIRECTOR OF CURRICULUM & FACULTY DEVELOPMENT:  The phrase student-centered learning has been around awhile. Most people understand the idea, at least in a broad sense. Student-centered means shifting the focus of instruction from the teacher to the student – and by doing so, giving students more choice, agency, and ownership.

At its root, the phrase is a reaction to another kind of classroom, one that is usually termed teacher-centered. Here the image is most often of a lecture. The teacher is at the front and shovels the content to the students who eagerly (or not so eagerly) take it in.

On a gut level, these two opposites – student-centered and teacher-centered – are attractive because they are simple and direct; you can grasp them in an instant. They aren’t, however, particularly actionable. You can put students at the front and provide lots of choice, but that doesn’t instantly translate to a rich learning experience.

The other danger of clinging too tightly to these opposing views is that they often put teachers on the defensive. After all, it’s not very pleasant to have your meaningful and important work, in all its daily nuance and complexity, so narrowly reduced.

So what is an actionable approach to student-centered learning? How we can bring teachers into the work in a way that is genuine and meaningful? What are the opportunities to bring students more fully into the process of their own learning? How can we leverage these opportunities to help students become better problem solvers, as well as more agile and independent learners?

Here are three approaches that I’ve found helpful…

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