The candles of Hanukkah and Advent are lit as is the sense of wonder and anticipation of children everywhere. Diwali and its candles in the Festival of Lights glowed in mid-October this year, much to the enjoyment of many children around the globe and right here. In our fervent efforts to be thoughtful and correct, we have almost ceased wishing each other anything but “Happy Holidays”.
What is important is that families here and everywhere have traditions and ceremonies to mark their most special and important celebrations and holidays. Passing those traditions down generation to generation creates the substance of who we are and how we fit together in our families and with each other. Growing up in a coal mining town in Pennsylvania, I remember visiting Bonnie Lieberman’s home each December to celebrate Hanukkah with her family and wishing I could be Jewish. I also wanted to be Catholic on Ash Wednesday, Greek Orthodox on Epiphany and in the children’s choir of the African Methodist Church near my hometown. Why? Because it was special, unique, happy, yummy, and full of joy.
My wish for you this December is simply joy and light. Joy does the body good as well as the soul. Light brightens the shorter days of winter and warms us within and without. Whatever brings you joy and light, may it fill this month and the coming year to the rim. If you are hard-pressed to find it on any day, just stop by Wood Acres and listen to the joyous sounds of children playing and learning, laughing and growing. It will light up your day. It does mine!
Let’s face it. Most of us know more about the Super Bowl Championship and the Academy Awards than we do about the Nobel Prize. I was certainly in that category until I had the awesome opportunity to visit the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. Since night comes early in Sweden in late October, my entrance into this beautiful 18th century building was enveloped in an oncoming fog and an unsettling early darkness. The Square that fronts the Museum was quite deserted and I felt I heard the hooves of horses pulling carriages in a strange mix of IKEA and Dickens.
As my eyes adjusted to the interior lighting of the museum, I realized I was in for a wonderful learning experience and an unexpected personal and professional “aha”! The Swedes really know how to blend the architecture of divergent centuries as well as the history and relevance of Nobel, the man and the award. I walked a timeline of the award and met all the Laureates as their bios flowed overhead on an amazing cableway circulating at the roof level throughout the museum. Modern technology allowed me to “talk” with Laureates and learn about their diverse lives and their own personal “ahas”. My “quick” visit developed into hours as I visited and re-visited exhibit areas and slowly became a Nobel groupie! I think the docents were ready to offer me a job or have me arrested as a museum stalker. And, of course, I completed my visit at the Nobel bookstore purchasing books and literature that are now here for everyone at school to read, learn, and enjoy. The seeds of an exciting new endeavor for the Woods were planted and I was already dreaming of what could be.
As with sports championships, theater awards, and other social recognitions of achievements existing in all countries, the Nobel Prizes are the only internationally recognized awards in any categories, much less in the areas of academic achievement and research that improve the lives of the world’s inhabitants. There is so much to learn at any age from Nobel, the man and the award. There is even more to learn as older students learn of the lives, trials, challenges, and successes of the Nobel Laureates. And there is enough intrigue, drama, mystery, and media gossip surrounding the annual awards to intrigue everyone, too!
I have spent almost a year researching and collecting materials for Wood Acres’ faculty to integrate into their teaching and student learning to elevate awareness of the Nobel Prizes and its timeless relevance to helping mankind solve problems and improve lives.
The results of this labor of love and learning is that each teacher, in age appropriate ways, can incorporate learning about Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prizes into your teaching especially each December. The annual Nobel Award Concert and Banquet are held each year in Stockholm on December 10. As you can imagine it is a grand and royal event. My hope is that in a few years we can incorporate our December WA Band concert into a Nobel concert format and have a most royal reception afterwards surrounded by a suspended poster display of present and past Nobel Laureates (created by our students of course) just like in the Stockholm Museum. My creative juices are on high alert to all the possibilities. We can turn this dream into a reality! Good Morning America, here we come! What an exquisite way to celebrate the highest levels of learning from an international global perspective. WOW!!!
The Noble Prize for me now is much more that the facts, history, and stories that first caught my interest in Stockholm that foggy evening in 2015. My learning has evolved to embrace the process, the people, and character that these men and women displayed that make this award worthy of our study, learning, admiration, and awe. Noble Nobel for certain!
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
On this rainy soggy October morning with our students nestled safely in their classrooms learning, sharing, laughing, studying, snacking, playing and thinking I am overcome by profound joy and deep sadness. I am so privileged to work in a place of hope with the joy of children surrounding me each and every day of my decades long career. I then must cross back into the harsh panful realities of what children, families, schools, towns, cities, states, and countries are dealing with- be it natural disasters or man made disasters- but disasters all the same. Children with no family, no food, no homes, no hope are reflected in haunting photos online or on the news each day. Children hurt, wounded or worse through no other circumstance other than the neighborhood they live in or the health care they yearn for are deep seated signs of a sick and selfish society that is anesthetized to the horrors right here at home.
I wish I had the silver bullet cure for this melancholy up my sleeve, but perhaps the metaphor is a part of a simple doable solution. Up your sleeve is your arm! Put it to good use for both treasuring your own family and reaching out to others who desperately need your hand and heart. Simple, sustained, focused caring and sharing will slowly create a tsunami that can help others envision a better tomorrow thanks to your reaching out.
You did an amazing start on this very quest with the wonderfully generous donations that sent hundreds of new backpacks to students of a flooded and damaged school and community. And it made us feel good, too! Let’s keep that spirit alive and well @ the Woods all year as we continue to learn, share, laugh, study, snack, play and think.
Listen. Can you hear the sound?
Hearts beating all the world around.
Down in the valley, out on the plain,
Everywhere around the world a heartbeat sounds the same.
Black or white. Red or tan,
It’s the heart of the family of man… beating away, beating away, beating away.
-Red Grammer from his award winning CD “Teaching Peace”
Wisdom begins in wonder.” -Socrates
Wonder abounds at Wood Acres and it is never more evident than at the start to a new school year, especially this one. Children wonder who their teacher will be. They wonder when recess and lunch will happen. They wonder if someone will play with them. They wonder when they will learn to ready, divide, and write cursive. They wonder if they will do well in class, have much homework, or make new friends. Wonder does abound.
This year the wonder of our planet, its place in the solar system, and the rare occurrence of a total eclipse had us in awe and wonder as hundreds of Wood Acres students and families filled the campus plaza and Quad, donned viewing glasses and were properly awed by this “wonder”ful event. Now that is how to kick off a school year! Wonder did abound.
Our goal each school year @ the Woods is to remain steadfast in seeing that each child experiences wonder in each classroom, each grade, and each program. As the cadence of our school year begins to hum, routines established, and the initial wonders subsides Wood Acres does not disappoint. In a school for all seasons, the natural wonder of butterflies, caterpillars, and graceful sidewalk shadows reminds all of us that wonder does abound! Join us often this year to find the child in each of you and the wonder that is discovered every day at the Woods!
Happy New Year to all!
Graduation Day for our 8th graders and the Honors Assembly for all students have come and gone and the campus is quickly transforming into a fun, sun filled summer camp for two months. And while bidding farewell to students, some of whom has been here since they were two years old is bitter sweet, the students’ speeches at graduation about the importance of Wood Acres in their lives brought tears to our eyes and an overwhelming sense of pride for our school. We matter! We impact lives! We mold the future! We model what we preach and walk the talk of teaching, learning, and caring each and every day! Just listen to the words of our graduates to confirm these amazing feelings!