13 Oct

Introducing the Planeeters!

The Planeteers is a Lower School environmental group for fourth and fifth grade students.  This group learns more about environmental issues, how to make positive change and how to teach others about issues of our food, our health and our world.  It is a strong social group where children are engaged in projects on campus. Children create artwork, teach younger children about healthy choices and speak about issues of the environment to other classes; sometimes in Middle or Upper School!

Over the years, students who have participated in Planeteers have been instrumental in the composting and garden programs at the Lower School.  As they have moved on to the other divisions at D-E, their ideas and energy helped to begin the garden in the Middle and Upper School.

This year the Planeteers are already talking about projects they would like to pursue such as using non-toxic disinfectants in the lunchroom and reinstating the composting program.  They have watched short videos of other children who have spoken at the United Nations about the environment and who have given TedTalks for inspiration.  Some of our new Planeteers are thinking of ways they could give a talk to other classes on aspects of the environment.

From one year to the next each Planeteer group is different.  This creates new and interesting opportunities for the group to pursue.  We look forward to seeing where this young group of young people decide to put their energy!

21 Apr

Lower School Ping Pong Lessons!

By fourth grade students, Melissa and Alia

This year the third and fourth grade students were lucky enough to have special ping pong lessons. These lessons were sponsored by the Chinese Affinity Group. We were so lucky that the parents who are part of this group arranged for Cheng Wang, a member of the 2008 US Olympic team and Jason Yutian Wang, the 2016 Table Tennis US Open Champion to come to the Lower School each week for 8 weeks to provide this experience. Third graders met on Wednesday during recess and fourth graders met on Fridays. We learned how to hold a ping pong racquet, the different rules and techniques and got to play ping pong for the whole recess! Georgia, a fourth grader, said “The teachers were very kind.” Maddy, another fourth grader, added, “I liked playing and watching.” and Amanda, a third grader said,” Ping pong was the best thing that happened to me.” We want to thank the parents for arranging this amazing experience, and also for donating a ping pong table to the Lower School. We are so happy and excited we get to keep playing here at the Lower School!

17 Mar

“We Sing America!” – Annual Spring Concert

There is never a shortage of memorable moments from the annual Lower School spring concert, and this year was no exception. In fact, it had its own special charm, focusing on music celebrating the spirit of America and showcasing this country and the Lower School as places of inclusion, diversity and progress.

Our young performers sang, danced and played music reflecting the hopes and dreams this country aspires towards. Memorable moments included the fourth grade singing This Land is Your Land  in two-part harmony… the third grade singing and dancing to Bandstand…  and the charm of our second graders as they took to the main stage for the first time. The night was chilly, but our hearts were warmed by our young performers.

Despite losing two rehearsal days due to Winter Storm Stella, music teachers Mary Heveran and Lisa Dove led our performers through with poise and grace.

The beautiful artwork by our second, third and fourth grade students made a lovely display and showed all the talent that exists in the Lower School student body. Thank you to Lower School art teacher, Elisa Garcia.

We wish you a happy and safe spring vacation.

01 Mar

4th Grade U.N. Trip

Submitted by Ms. Sowa and Mr. Rodenbush

As a follow up to our completion of the World Peace Game, the entire 4th grade recently visited the United Nations. During the World Peace Game process, the children had the opportunity to collaborate and negotiate on behalf of their country or institution in pursuit not only of self-interest, but also for the greater good of the international community.  During the trip to the United Nations, the children had a chance to see how those negotiations are done in real life.

During our tour of the United Nations, arranged by a parent of one of our 4th grade students, we were able to see the spaces where the General Assembly and Security Council meet.  We were also able to view various gifts to the U.N. from member countries and to see and read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After seeing the General Assembly Hall, one student remarked, “You get to see how calm the meetings are and how the delegates react to the problems.”

We learned about the beginnings of the United Nations following World War II, and how it’s membership has grown to just over 190 member countries. One fourth grade student commented that, “The U.N. showed us that it doesn’t matter how large or small your country is or how much money you have, because everyone has a voice at the U.N.”

27 Jan

The 4th Graders Take the Lead – Lower School’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Assembly

Submitted by Mary Heveran and Grade 4 Students

“Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired non-violent protest for civil rights.  What does it mean to be non-violent? Why was this approach important then and now?”

This prompt was given to the 4th grade students as a way of generating ideas for the MLK Assembly. What I got back from them was quite amazing.  They quickly began working on ways of translating their written responses into formats that could be shared with the full Lower School during the assembly.

Their responses ranged from essays, posters, skits, and dance routines and even a rewrite of the song It’s Quiet Uptown from the Broadway play Hamilton, which a student changed the title to It’s a Riot Uptown.

4th grader Alan shared, “Cooperation was key to correct positioning of the skits.”

Below are some excerpts from the skits and presentations:

“To be non-violent means to not harm or kill.  It means to be peaceful and comes from the belief that hurting people or the environment is unnecessary to achieve a result. This approach was important then and now because it is about holding love for everyone, even those who disagree with us.”

“ I believe that you can show your support or disapproval of something without being violent and you can use methods like speeches, marching, art, and peaceful protests.”

“Race should not matter.  The only things that should matter are your beliefs.  Dr. King understood that violence only leads to fear and hatred.  Engaging in non-violent protest is extremely difficult when the other side’s response is to hurt you.  However, when non-violent protests are successful they can bring a nation together in wanting to do the right thing.”

“We still are struggling with racism and prejudice.  Non-violent protest should continue against injustice now.  Violent protest does not solve problems.  It will start conflicts and eventually erupt into a war that will move the human race further away from peace on planet earth.”

The assembly ended with the entire 4th grade singing and dancing to the song We Stood Up, a rap song about Rosa Parks and the Greensboro 4.  They reminded us all to stand up for what we believe: liberty, peace, justice, creativity, love, acceptance, fairness, equality, humanity, and kindness.

In the words of 4th grader Guy, “It was a powerful assembly.  I think the final song really blew the audience away.”

4th Grader Nikka shared, “What I really liked about the Martin Luther King, Jr. assembly is that it put our minds together to work as a team.  It also let us learn a lot more about his life.  We learned about his deepest thoughts and the inspiration that he has given to others.”

28 Sep

Bringing the River to Life!

Submitted by Beth Lemire, Lower School Science Teacher

On Wednesday, September 21st, the fourth-grade classes took a trip on the Clearwater Sloop.  The sloop, a replica of those that sailed the Hudson River in the 18th and 19th centuries, was the work of (the late) Pete Seeger, musician and activist and his friends.

As we embarked on our Clearwater Sloop adventure, the excitement of the children was contagious!  We sailed from the dock in Cold Spring, New York, and slid quietly up the river a bit before starting the many lessons that were planned for us.  The children learned about turbidity of the water, fish species, art, and yes, they even learned some sea shanties!  They helped hoist the large sail and learned about living on the sloop from the onboard educators.

The purpose of this trip was not only to gain information about the Hudson River but also to allow students to experience the beauty and majesty of the river – to deepen their ecological consciousness.  It is hoped that this personal experience will eventually translate and transform them into adults with a profound understanding and connection to the river and the environment, being both skill-ready and heart-ready to be stewards of the earth.

According to the Children and Nature Network, A Report on the Movement to Reconnect Children to the Natural World,  (Charles, Lou, Bordner, Guns 2008),

Studies show that, almost to a person, conservationists or any adults with environmental awareness had some transcendent experience in nature when they were children. For some, the epiphanies took place in a national park; for others, in the clump of trees at the end of the cul-de-sac. But if experiences in nature are radically reduced for future generations, where will stewards of the Earth come from?

Perhaps for some the transcendent experience was our trip out on the Clearwater Sloop on a beautiful fall day!  Thank you, Pete Seeger, for having the forethought to look after our children and our planet.

Here’s what some of our 4th graders had to say about this experience:

“The first thing we did was pull up a 3,000 pound sail! I didn’t expect it to be that heavy!” – Lisa

“I’m glad I got to go to the Hudson River. I loved how free and adventurous we got to be and the view was divine! I got to see the beautiful mountains. It looked like they were in the clouds. Just to top it off the sun was so bright that it reflected on the river, and the river shimmered with joy!”  – Nikka

“I really feel very different about the Hudson River. I used to think the river was a trashy and dirty river, but now after the trip I think that the river is a beauty to see.” – Brandon

“My favorite part of the trip was when we tested the water for turbidity.” – Rik

“I think everybody should care about how clean the Hudson River is.” – Alia

15 May

Mindfulness

This year the Dwight-Englewood community has been focusing on various pathways to well-being. There have been a variety of student assemblies, evening programs for families, and professional development opportunities for faculty that have focused on topics such as happiness, nutrition, and listening in a time of technology.

Mindfulness is another pathway to well-being that has been explored this year across the school. According to Psychology Today, “mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present”. Please take a look at how some Lower School teachers incorporate mindfulness in their work with the children each day.

4th Grade Science: Beth Lemire

When studying the Hudson River this year fourth graders were asked to consider many aspects of the river. They were to look not only from a scientific-environmental viewpoint but also through cultural and personal lenses as well. Albert Einstein once said “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Using mindful practices to do just that brought new depth and understanding to the children’s thinking that I would not have been able to witness in any other way.

After learning how to focus on relaxing their bodies and breathing, the children were able to visualize being on top of Mount Marcy where the Hudson River begins. Some beautifully vivid guided imagery stories were born from this activity about the journey of this great river from the top of Mount Marcy all the way to the North Atlantic including descriptions of sights and sounds along the way.

Art: Elisa Garcia
Our Mindfulness Journey in the Studio and Experiencing a Glimpse of Enlightenment

“All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.”

~ Swami Vivekananda

After developing a dedicated practice of yoga, tai chi, meditation and mindfulness in my personal life as well as immersing myself in nature, I have a deep appreciation for stillness.  With a silent mind, it is easy to observe, recognize and let go of resistance in all forms.  This practice that has also informed my artwork, relationships with individuals, and with animals has allowed me to gain deeper insight into the meaning of life.

Children naturally vibrate at higher frequencies than most as they generally know no burdens to weigh their perfect minds down.  While contemplating deepening our practice in visual art as a community of learners for the approaching school year, I signed up for an in-house mindfulness workshop organized by our own Dr. Sherronda Brown in the fall of 2014.  I can truly say it was one of the most profound educational workshops that I have attended.  It was carefully crafted for the exposure of mindfulness in a learning community and provided ample participation as to lend itself to true future practice for myself & the other attendees.  My Dwight-Englewood colleagues and I left the workshop exhilarated with the anticipation of using what we had learned that day.

During the workshop, the instructor shared multiple techniques for introducing mindfulness to children of all ages.  Each technique had a different point of interest.  The one that struck me the most and that I chose to incorporate was teaching children to focus on their breath in order to improve attention.  Each day classes ranging from kindergarten through fourth grade would come to art and use the first few minutes to focus their attention on their breathing, allowing their minds to be still and create a deep quiet space, in which they could center themselves.  Naturally, some children struggled with this initially, but there were others who quickly gave themselves over to the concept of stillness.  In time, they each began to experience the benefits of creating a quiet mind and space.

Over the course of several weeks, I witnessed children coming into the studio requesting to lead or guide our focused sessions.  The students would keep track of who was next to lead, thus fostering independence.  Each child initiated his or her own style of mindfulness while verbally guiding the other children in relaxing the mind and focusing attention on breathing from their core.  I began to notice that dedicating a few minutes at the beginning of each session gave meaning to our entire class.  Children were more focused, intentional, and confident.

This soon grew to, “Ms. Garcia, today I really need it, I need at least four minutes, I need five minutes!” Ms.  Garcia, “I can’t wait! Can I lead our mindfulness right away?”  Children began negotiating with me and with one another to demonstrate what mindfulness looks like and sounds like in a learning community.  The children began sharing their own personal stories about how mindfulness has improved their quality of life.  Children started reporting that they felt more tranquil, more peaceful inside; they no longer worried.  At night when one student used to have trouble falling asleep, he practiced his deep breathing and found that he could experience deeper rest.  There has been a flood of appreciation for our practice and journey together.   Children looked forward to exchanging their experiences on a daily basis.

5th Grade: Submitted by Erik Swanson

As part of our school-wide health and wellness initiative, the fifth grade team attended a mindfulness workshop led by Bonnie Levine in October. Several years ago, Mrs. Levine decided to incorporate mindfulness practices into her classes. During the October workshop, she shared some of her personal recollections of those experiences. She also taught us various mindfulness practices that we could include in our daily routines with our students.

One of the main ideas that we learned about mindfulness is not about clearing the mind, but about being present. Too many times throughout the day, we are distracted by thinking about what happened in the past or what we are going to do in the future. If our brains are emotionally overwhelmed or stressed, it is difficult to make clear decisions and act thoughtfully. Practicing mindfulness and having the awareness of being in the moment strengthens concentration, attention and supports “readiness to learn”. The advantage of mindfulness is that it can be practiced by anyone at any time and is a great aid to the educational process.

As a grade, we have been practicing mindfulness by taking part in several activities in the morning and periodically throughout the day. Mindful breathing, listening, eating and walking are several of the practices we have focused on. These activities take only a few minutes; however, they have become an integral part of our day.

I asked my students how they felt about our mindfulness practices and these were some of their responses:

“I learned that I never really listened. Also, I learned I always thought about the past or future, never the present.”

“The mindfulness practice makes me feel positive and peaceful.”

“I like the mindfulness practices because you get some time to reflect. I learned that in such a high-tech world it is sometimes hard to connect or reflect.”

“Mindfulness helps with calmness and relaxation.”

“Mindfulness helps me connect with myself.”

Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, boost working memory and increase self-reflection. These mindfulness practices are methods or tools our students can use and benefit from each day.