On Monday the faculty had an amazing planning day, thanks to the generosity and talent of Anne Leo, who organized a fantastic day of learning on the theme of Mardi Gras for our students, and freed up the teachers to spend the day working and developing programs together.
We met at the beautiful Common House at Sunward Co-Housing, a space that was provided by George Albercook, who lives in the co-housing community. (More about George in a minute.) The common house is a lovely space, buttery yellow inside with a sense of sunshine everywhere. We spent the morning refreshing and revitalizing our collective understanding of what project-based learning looks like; how it works, what it does, how students engage with it, what our goals are, and how it develops from kindergarten up to the programs we are building at middle school level. The afternoon was spent designing sample interdisciplinary projects. In between we talked excitedly over lunch and returned to find the amazing Jesse, not content with being a brilliant math teacher, dancer and singer, playing the piano in a side room. So a few minutes there just to listen and enjoy the sweetness.
The whole process of designing the middle school curriculum (and consequently revisiting the elementary curriculum and ensuring that the two truly enrich each other) has been an exercise in inspiration for me. I have been having more fun than I can describe. The experience with the faculty on Monday was pure joy. I went home at the end of the day just melty with gratitude that I am able to work with these brilliant, dedicated, adventurous people. The energy and wisdom they brought to the process was phenomenal. Listening to Ruth, Jan and Elaine throwing ideas around for an approach to Reflections Night that takes it to a whole new level of student involvement and ownership, watching Renata, Shan and Imogen synthesizing the beauty and history of language with a scientific approach to physical activity, hearing George Albercook and guest Monique Sluymers expound with passion on the subject of progressive education and the constructive, powerful ways we can implement and assess it, engaging the students actively at every level - all these experiences left me amazed at the good fortune that brought all these people together.
It was an enormously productive day. I want to thank everyone who was a part of it: the fabulous team led by Anne Leo that made it possible by providing a great day of activities for the students; the brilliant faculty who poured their ideas and energy into it; and all the network of people (from EMU faculty to other heads of school to parents to students to alumni to professional consultants) who have been helping me envision, design, think through, develop and probe the details of our new middle school programs. I am grateful to all of you for the gifts you bring.