Looked at your children recently? I don’t mean just the standard quick glance to see if they brushed their hair or remembered to tie their shoes. I mean the “take a step back, pause and really look at them” moment. I did it the other day with my three children and I did a literal triple-take. Three things struck me. 1) They have grown a lot since September, 2) They have all matured as learners and people in significant ways, and 3) I wish that I could find a way to slow down time.
This is the time of year on campus where we, as educators, find ourselves taking a step back and reflecting on each child. We are inspired by how much growth we have seen in each student over the year, as scientists, as writers, as problem solvers, as artists, as thinkers, and as people. There is a bittersweet quality to the experience, as we realize that the end of the year – and the impending transitions to a new grade or, in the case of our 8th graders, to high school – are right around the corner.
One of the ways in which this growth is made visible is through public demonstrations of learning. The recent Art Show*, for example, provided an opportunity to view the work of our students across all grades. We saw the beautiful drawings and creations of our youngest students, the elaborate designs on the totem poles and the ceramic tables of our 4th and 5th grade students, the exquisite busts of our 6th graders, and the sophisticated and impressive creations of our oldest students. As a parent, you hopefully had a chance to have your children tour you through the exhibits, hearing them describe what they learned in the process of creating these showcase pieces.
Other events have provided opportunities for students to show their work, demonstrating what they have learned over the course of the year. In just this past week, for example, 5th graders shared their learning and their creativity with peers and makers from around the Bay Area when they took their HERstory installations on the road to MakerFaire in San Mateo.
They also impressed parents and peers with their Heritage projects, showcasing their research and writing skills as they created detailed stories about ancestors. 3rd graders performed on the amphitheater stage*, entertaining and amusing us with their renditions of several well-known Greek tales. The performance capped an extended study of Greek myths and provided a visible example of each child’s growing confidence on stage and in the classroom. And, just today, 1st and 2nd graders read their own original illustrated books to friends and family at the Author’s Walkabout, showing all of us how much they have grown as writers, illustrators, and readers.
Tomorrow, a group of our 8th graders will be sharing their results with parents, faculty, and students from the school’s first-ever round of capstone projects. This pilot program, nicknamed the “ultimate elective,” offered students an opportunity to pursue a passion of their choice and then share their work with the community. Some projects were analytical in nature – How does stress and anxiety impact 8th graders at Hillbrook? What makes a book emotionally compelling? How does caffeine impact sleep?. Other projects involved creating something – a series of videos to support STEM education in under-resourced schools, graphically designed t-shirts, or a montage of sports clips that integrated a passion for sports and film editing. Tomorrow, each of these students will deliver a 5-7 minute presentation to their peers and all interested community members. I am excited to see how much each of the students who participated in this pilot program has grown and learned through this process.
As adults, we also have our own “show your work” moments. This past year, as a community, we took a step back, paused, and really took a look at where we have been, where we are, and where we are going as a school. The result will be an ambitious and forward-looking strategic plan – 2020 Vision – that we will be sharing at the start of the 2016-17 school year. Eighty years after our founding, we continue to grow and evolve, always remaining focused on meeting our vision as a school – to inspire students to achieve their dreams and reach beyond themselves to make a difference in the world. We do it each and every day, one child at a time. Thank you for entrusting us to partner with you in this extraordinary journey.
*Please note: This link points to internal content that requires a Hillbrook Portal login and password.