CHRIS WEAVER, DIRECTOR OF CURRICULUM AND FACULTY DEVELOPMENT:
Here’s a question — if you gave an eighth grader a chance to design a class, something individually meaningful and big enough to stretch across a year, what would happen? How would it turn out?
We asked this question here at Peck, and it resonated immediately with a couple of things that we feel strongly about.
It’s a time in life that seems to call out for trying something big.
The first is that eighth graders can do more than most people expect. As a K-8 school, these are our oldest students, the ones we’ve watched grow up, and the ones we depend on now to be our school leaders. Probably we’re a little biased, but to us there is something special about eighth grade — a time that contains so many of the parts of being a kid and so many of the parts of being an adult, all swirled together. It’s a time in life that seems to call out for trying something big.
The second has to do with growth. We want our students to be self-starters and problem-solvers, we want them to have a sense of agency around their future, and a sense of grit in pursuing their passions. But to develop these skills, to grow into them, we also know that our students need meaningful opportunities to practice, to try and fail, and to find their own way forward.
So, here’s what we did.
JENNIFER GARVEY, LOWER SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATOR: Most children today are considered digital natives. They seem to be born knowing how to operate a smartphone. Many of them have likely FaceTimed with long-distance relatives before they could walk. Their coloring books often pair with apps that bring their pictures to life. With the ubiquitous nature of mobile technology, children are connected like never before.
Does all of this technology create a void in empathy?
But, we worry about the impact of screen time and social media on our children and we have many questions. How much screen time is too much? What is the right age to give a cell phone? Should I allow my child access to social media? Are they getting enough face-to-face time to develop appropriate social skills? Does all of this technology create a void in empathy?
CHRIS STARR, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH: Sometimes it seems that much of what we historically associate with primary school education is on the wane. The majority of U.S. States have now adopted the Common Core standards for education, and its curricular dictates are driving many school districts to scale-down or abandon traditional subjects. Music, fine and industrial arts, and cursive handwriting classes are being abandoned. In some parts of the country, schools are also abolishing recess.
Sometimes it seems that much of what we historically associate with primary school education is on the wane.
Quite to the contrary, new brain science is illuminating the direct cognitive benefits of these jettisoned pastimes. Scientists and researchers are offering strong evidence to support the power of play, and the brain-activating effects of disciplines that require fine motor control—such as practicing cursive.
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:
DON DIEBOLD, DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS:
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.
ANDREW SCHNEIDER, DIRECTOR OF FINANCE AND OPERATIONS: We’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.
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
- Be square. I 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.
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?
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!
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.