Introducing the Founding Director for the Scott Center for Social Entrepreneurship

We are excited to announce that we have hired Annie Makela as the founding Director for the Scott Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Annie combines deep experience in the world of social entrepreneurship, serving as a founding team member for two different collegiate centers for social entrepreneurship, with a passion and commitment to teaching children. In her cover letter, Annie wrote, “this has been the job I have been describing to friends, mentors and colleagues for the past five years as my dream job,” and yet, she noted, until now, the job had not existed at any JK-8 school. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Shannon and Kevin Scott and with the creation of the Scott Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Annie has found her new home.

A graduate of Middlebury College with a BA in English and Spanish, Annie has earned distinction as one of Middlebury’s most innovative alums under 30. While an undergraduate, she found her passion for social entrepreneurship, serving as an Assistant to the Director of the Middlebury Center for Social Entrepreneurship and supporting the center’s launch during the 2011-12 school year. Following college, she spent two years at Greenwich Country Day School as a 2nd grade assistant teacher. In addition to her core responsibilities, she organized a TEDx for the Middle School students and taught an after-school class, “Design, Engineering, and Wonder.” In 2014, she was invited back to Middlebury to be part of the founding team of the Middlebury Center for Social Impact Learning, a new graduate program located at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey. During the past three years, she has served as the Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives, focusing in particular on the Ambassador Corps, a program connecting college students to the frontlines of social entrepreneurship in emerging market countries.

Annie was selected from a field of more than 50 candidates, including 15 semi-finalist candidates who met with members of the hiring committee, and three finalists who had full day visits to campus. References noted Annie’s unique ability to both think entrepreneurially and execute on ideas. As one reference explained, she is able to be a leader and key voice in strategic sessions, and then is not afraid to roll up her sleeves and get things done. Another reference described her as an active relationship builder – curious, collaborative, accessible, and personable. Perhaps most importantly, each person noted Annie’s genuine passion for children and her desire to combine her love for social entrepreneurship with education.

We look forward to welcoming Annie to Hillbrook when she starts in July 2017.

The Scott Center for Social Entrepreneurship is a dynamic new program focused on integrating design thinking, making, project-based learning, and community partnerships in order to help students and faculty make a difference in the world. Social entrepreneurship – the application of an intentional and entrepreneurial approach to prototyping innovative solutions to social problems – fosters innovation and problem-solving skills, while challenging students and faculty to reach beyond the Hillbrook campus to contribute to the greater good. The Scott Center for Social Entrepreneurship is named for philanthropists Shannon Hunt-Scott and Kevin Scott. Through their non-profit, The Scott Foundation, the Scott family focuses on hunger and education projects, aspiring to empower Bay Area children to achieve their personal best.

Hillbrook CTE Podcast: MS Student Reflect on Social Entrepreneurship Field Trip

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Listen in iTunes or click to download.)

Created by Director of Technology Bill Selak, this podcast shares a recent field trip that took a group of middle school students, their teachers, and administrators to WeWork in San Jose, where students were able to interview real-life entrepreneurs and ask them questions about what they do everyday. The students were able to reflect and connected the lessons shared by these professionals to the learning experiences they dive into at Hillbrook.

Hillbrook Moments

Contributed by Mark Silver, Head of School

As Flag ended a few weeks ago, I paused momentarily and thought to myself, “Yep, another Hillbrook moment.”

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself increasingly reflective about the abundance of quintessential moments that capture the spirit of our school. These moments – usually serendipitous –  bring to life our core values, reflecting in important ways how we are truly living our vision and mission as a school.

At this particular Flag, we saw students speaking about the importance of reaching beyond themselves to make a difference in the world, including two children, inspired by their own family’s lived experience, who chose to spearhead a drive to support the International Rescue Committee. We saw an 8th grade student share a personal reflection about her Hillbrook experience and how she valued this community and the opportunity to be part of it. We heard a brief account of the recent Middle School trip to Ecuador, a trip that included a service component where students dug a 50 meter portion of a trench to lay pipe for a new water system that will deliver filtered/treated river water to 82 families living nearby. We heard students young and old share jokes, including one kindergartner who bravely joined his grandfather to share his first joke in front of the school.

In just a 15-minute time span, we saw strong evidence of the values that define our school –  a belief in creating spaces for students to take risks, be themselves, and publicly share ideas and passions, a commitment to reaching beyond ourselves to make a difference in the world, and an appreciation for the importance of humor.

Earlier this week, faculty and staff received an invitation from Camilla W. (‘17). The event? A bookbinding class she is leading for students and teachers that will focus on “Coptic bookbinding, tools or makeshift and easily accessible substitutions to use and materials used to make hardcover books.” Camilla’s class is a part of her 8th grade capstone project, in which she has taken her passion and self-taught expertise in bookbinding and extended herself by learning how to teach the skill to others of all ages. It was yet another Hillbrook moment, as I marveled at the many things that Camilla’s project, and the 8th grade capstone more generally, reflect about our program – the ability to pursue an independent passion project, the value of making, artistic expression, design, and production, and the confidence to share your knowledge with learners of all ages. How inspiring that one of our students is inviting us to participate in a multi-day workshop imagined, created, and run by herself. This is just one of the myriad projects our students are pursuing. I encourage you to join us at NUMU, the New Museum of Los Gatos, on Thursday, June 1 from 5 – 7 pm to learn more about Camilla’s work and that of her many talented peers.

And lest we think that Hillbrook moments are limited to current Hillbrook students, I have recently been inspired by several of our recent alums.

Maya Wilcox (‘13) and Natasha Brown (‘13), seniors at Thacher School, organized the first-ever diversity conference for the school as part of their Senior Project. What’s more? They invited our own Diversity and Inclusivity Coordinator Jules Greene to be the keynote speaker. Inspired by their participation in the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference two years ago, these two dynamic seniors created an experience for high school students from several different schools. And then there’s recent alum Alex Nickel (‘16). While at Hillbrook, Alex started creating educational videos and then quickly turned it into his own YouTube channel, Technicality. Recently, Technicality was trending on Reddit’s YouTube page and also was recently highlighted on Mashable. With over 20,000 subscribers, Alex’s playful and educational explorations into subjects including science, math, pop culture, and music are drawing national, or probably international, attention.

Seeing these stories on Facebook, I was so proud of the efforts these young people are making to reach beyond themselves to make a difference in their community and in the world. I was inspired by their willingness to take risks, and the confidence they had to share their stories and teach peers and people of all ages. And, thinking back to the recent Flag, I’m confident that at least some of their ability to do this has its roots in their Hillbrook experience.

Hillbrook moments. Once you start looking for them, you will find them everywhere. I hope you’ll share some of your favorites with me.

Conversations in History: Empathy, Listening, and & Global Perspective

By Jenn Gingery, 7th & 8th Grade History Teacher

Before spring break, our school assembly about the IRC (the International Rescue Committee), helped our entire student body understand that it was not just ancestors who were internationally displaced, but also young people from all walks of life. When asked to share their thoughts, here were some of our students’ thoughts:

“This was really important because some of us (students at Hillbrook) are exposed to other cultures and experiences more than others.”

“We need to know that there are still refugee camps in the twentieth century”

“This is real life. Some of us can forget what real life is like.”

The ability of our young learners to make connections to what we’re learning in class and what they see in the world around them is essential. Our 7th graders explore world geography, immerse themselves into different cultures, and learn more about religion around the world. Through the lively, thought-provoking, candid, and engaged storytelling, question-asking, and discussion that blossomed after each unit, our students learned that history is not just something to look back on and reflect on through the pages of a book or collections of photos, but it is actually happening here and now, everyday.

As our students connected their families’ personal journeys and stories to their lessons, we took special intention to support the diversity in our own student population. Our current students and their families represent many faiths, for instance – Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic and others. When we learned about the ancient polytheist beliefs in the Middle East, then Judaism, Christianity and the origins of Islam in the middle ages, students first observed and then questioned, ‘Why was the Middle East so sacred to so many people and so many faiths over time?’ They then started to make ties about how modern dynamics of different religions and cultures co-existing in a space are affecting their lives today.  

As they dove more deeply into the way in which ancient history as well as today’s happenings tell profound cultural stories, the students reflected on the ebbs and flows of their own ancestors’ experiences from around the world and throughout time. For instance, they shared stories about the conflicts their grandparents faced during times of great change, such as European experience during World War II or Indian and Pakistani experience during Partition. They reflected about the sacrifices their families made, like enduring family separation and property loss. Meanwhile, they also acknowledged the kindness of others across cultures and continents. Some of the more memorable stories featured a Christian neighbor who supported a Russian Jewish child, a Palestinian refugee who was able to seek asylum in Jordan before making her way to America, a grandfather who survived almost a decade in an Asian refugee camp before resettlement in Europe, a Polish immigrant who began a new life on the distant continent of Australia, and south Asian victim of religious persecution who was able to find safety in a neighboring country.

As we carried our studies around the world, our students started to weave America’s story into this global timeline. Students unpacked differences between terms such as refugee, immigrant and naturalized citizen. Several individuals shared what the green card meant, “It’s my LIFE!” offered one girl, reflecting on how challenging it was for her family to obtain and how it affected her personally. “My mother had a difficult pregnancy with me, and because she was able to get specialized medical treatment here in America, we both survived. She would not be alive if she had stayed in her home country.” “I have a green card too,” offered another girl who made connections about what it was like to attend schools in different countries. “I was helping my grandmother study for her citizenship test in another country last December,” shared a third individual. Another student was able to retrieve his expired card from his backpack when his family lived in overseas. From there, students discussed different types of visas, which precede green card eligibility. “My mom was helping a friend study for the exam last month and those questions were hard. My mom didn’t even know the answers to them!” Students of different races and nationalities were able to relate to shared experiences. The compassion of others who helped people’s’ transitions also resonated in the global microcosm of our classroom with twenty students and the history of ‘us’ unfolded through their narratives.

By learning to listen to –  and value – the collective stories and the journeys of our school’s community members our students also learn cultural competency skills and ensure their own connections to our increasingly diverse world. Through their shared voices, as well as their collective efforts and donations, our students are determined to make a difference in their world while learning about history and each other.

A Place Where Each Child – and Each Family – is Known and Valued

By Leila Johansson, Parent of the Classes of ‘21 and ‘22

Last Monday morning at Flag, my son and daughter stood up in front of the entire school to share their story and an idea:

“Hi, my name is Sebastian & this is my sister Soraya. One night we were talking at dinner about recent events going on in the world and our mom said, instead of complaining about the things that are upsetting us, we should think about how we can help. That while we might not have the power to change certain things, we did have the power to make something good come out of a bad situation.

We both immediately decided we wanted to help refugees. A refugee is a person forced to leave their country to escape war, persecution or natural disaster. When our mom was a baby, she & our grandparents fled the Islamic Revolution in Iran & came to the United States. They came with one suitcase expecting to go back when things returned to normal. But never did. We’re glad our mom got to live in a free country.

We have decided to support International Rescue Committee (IRC) to help Refugees who have just arrived in the US.  We are collecting money for bus passes, and also collecting bikes, helmets & bike locks to help newly resettled refugees get to places like IRC for english classes, or school or work. $70 buys a one-month bus pass!”

I was born in Tehran, Iran when mass demonstrations against the Shah began mobilizing. As the strikes and demonstrations escalated into what we now know as the Islamic Revolution, my Father managed to get two plane tickets for my Mom and Grandmother to flee to the United States with my brother and I, and- literally- a single suitcase. In my parent’s mind, this was a temporary move and we would return home to Iran when the political climate settled. As we now know, the newly formed Islamic Republic was in Iran to stay, more than a handful of our family’s close friends were executed, and so the US was to become our new home- for good.

My parents assimilated… as best they could. As a child, I admittedly had no understanding for why my mom insisted on packing my school lunch bag with our rather strong smelling but delicious kabobs wrapped in lavash, tossed in a brown paper bag, while my blonde, blue-eyed “American” friends enjoyed less fragrant PB&J sandwiches on white bread, packed in cute Strawberry Shortcake lunch boxes- mind you, this all in a pre-Top Chef, pre ‘ethnic food is cool’ era. As a parent, I now realize how challenging indeed it must have been for my parents to carry all the responsibilities naturally associated with raising children, but with the added complexity of a culture, country, and language that was completely foreign to them. Add to this the unnerving uncertainty of their life and family in Iran, and I can now appreciate that packing “American” style snacks was not exactly a priority. Save for the 1980’s when the Iranian Hostage Crisis brought the now highly unoriginal but at the time novel (read, I had no good comeback) “camel-jockey” and “unibrow” insults to my brother and I on the school playgrounds, I have never taken for granted how fortunate we are to have been allowed into the United States.

In the video that IRC played at Flag – which I hope you will watch, Madeline Albright talks about how her own experience as a refugee has shown her “how grateful a refugee is and how important it is to be able to fit into some other communities.” This statement resonates strongly. Even as a young teen, I was well aware that had we not been allowed into America I would have never enjoyed the educational or personal opportunities afforded us by this truly great country- not to mention the freedom of speech and religion that we hold so sacred here. I have profound respect and deep compassion for my parents, and all refugees and immigrants, that leave everything they know to come to the US or another country for a safer, better life for their families.

Sebastian and Soraya are well aware of how my family got here. My parents and I have shared with them the aforementioned lighthearted stories, which I can comfortably include on my children’s school blog. We have also shared with them the deliberately omitted heavy-hearted stories, which I’m neither comfortable nor able to include on my children’s school blog. They know that the circumstances under which we came to the US, and stayed in the US, was relatively fortunate. They also know that the circumstances under which many refugees- ranging from Syria to Somalia- are seeking to flee their countries are not simply less fortunate but harrowing. Between their Persian mom’s personal experience and their Swedish father’s indirect but relevant experience coming from a country that has accepted more refugees per capita than any other European country (something visibly noticeable and something we discuss on our annual visits to see their grandparents), I can’t say I was surprised when Sebastian and Soraya decided that night at dinner that they want to help Refugees.

From developing their powerpoint proposal to Student Council as to why Hillbrook should support refugees, choosing the best IRC video to share at Flag, rehearsing their announcement and making posters during Spring Break to place around campus, I have watched Sebastian and Soraya dedicate themselves to this Refugee Support effort in a way that has surprised me. Throughout this process- as throughout their time at Hillbrook – they have felt known, respected and valued as individuals.  It has been so encouraging to see them come home excited as the Hillbrook community has rallied around them and supported them in making a difference. They have felt empowered to be advocates for refugees and know that instead of complaining about the problem, they are actually making a difference by having their voices heard through practical help. This process has reminded me of those early years in the US and makes me so grateful to be part of a community that is helping the next generation of refugees feel welcome in a foreign place. Five years ago, when we chose Hillbrook School as the school for our children, we were captured by the vision statement to “inspire students to achieve their dreams and reach beyond themselves to make a difference in the world”.  I can honestly say that vision is becoming a reality for our children, and we are so very grateful to Hillbrook.


Experiences Workshopping To Kill A Mockingbird

Contributed by Julia Rubin, Middle School English Teacher, Jules Greene, Middle School History Teacher and Diversity & Inclusivity Coordinator, Jenn Gingery, Middle School History Teacher, Yanelly De La Rosa, Resident Teacher, History

To this day, Harper Lee’s famous novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, is one of the most widely read novels in the United States, and continues to be studied in schools. The 2015 publication of Lee’s Go Set a Watchman both fueled readership of Mockingbird and brought to light questions about one of our great heroes of literary fiction, Atticus Finch, particularly in relationship to his views about race and the importance of racial equality. Here at Hillbrook, To Kill a Mockingbird has been a part of the eighth grade curriculum for many years. As teachers, we take pride in our ability to ask why, to reflect on our own teaching practice, and to provide for our students the most meaningful learning experience that we can. So we asked ourselves, how can we continue to make To Kill a Mockingbird relevant to our students’ lives today?

This year, as we approached Mockingbird Season, history and English teachers, Jenn Gingery, Jules Greene, Yanelly De La Rosa, Julia Rubin, and Head of School, Mark Silver, came together to design a series of conference-style learning experiences that would bring Mockingbird to life.

In order to reach those goals, the 8th grade class participated in three two-hour workshops on varying topics related to race, gender, class, and intersectionality. The first workshop in the series, entitled, Legacies of Reconstruction & the Current State of Race for Blacks and Whites in the United States, served as a deep dive into the history of race in the United States in order to better understand the way in which this historical dynamic shows its presence in our social climate today. For example, students studied the impact of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, vagrancy and Jim Crow laws, alongside current-day resistance movements like Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. With this historiographical deep dive under their belts, the novel provided an impactful launching point for students to connect personally with the characters and think about Harper Lee in the context of her time, intently exploring her strengths as well as wonder about her biases as a writer.

The next workshop in the series, An Introduction to the Culture of Poverty: The Current-Day Impact of the Moynihan Report, focused on ideas around class and socioeconomic status, and provided an introduction to the social theory called the Culture of Poverty, attributed in part to Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1965 report called The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, written during his tenure as Assistant Secretary of Labor under President Lyndon Johnson. Alongside an investigation of the Moynihan Report, students looked closely at Harper Lee’s construction of the Ewell family from To Kill a Mockingbird, the antagonists of the novel who are responsible for causing the death of another character, Tim Robinson. It is compelling that, unlike other marginalized groups in the novel, Lee does not encourage her reader to “walk in another man’s shoes” as Atticus from Mockingbird urges. Instead, she uses her authority as storyteller to regard the Ewells as “trash.” The Ewell family embody much of what The Moynihan Report described about impoverished people — not only are they impoverished, but they also have “poor” values. Looking at class and socioeconomic status in Mockingbird allowed students to “read against the grain”, or look at the ways in which the novel leads readers toward certain biases, with a deeper goal that encourages cultivating awareness and empathy for marginalized groups – even the most difficult ones –  which is one of the central tenets in building cultural competency.

In our third and final workshop, students were introduced to a concept coined by Civil Rights Advocate Kimberle Crenshaw, called intersectionality. Intersectionality argues that people who have more than one social identifier that places them in a minority group will likely encounter greater degrees of difficulty in achieving equal representation in the eyes of the law. Harper Lee’s novel includes several characters who are “standing at the intersection” and these characters allowed students to dig deeply into the issues, substantiating their claims using evidence from the novel.

Students deepened their understanding of intersectionality and privilege by engaging in a dramatic simulation. “Stepping into the shoes” of characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, students, as these literary characters, stood at a starting mark on the ground, and then were asked a series of questions that allowed them to reflect upon  the characters’ experiences in the novel. Examples of reflections included, “If your character can see a doctor whenever you feel the need, take one step forward” or, “If your character were ever discouraged from an activity because of race, class, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation, take one step back.” After responding to the questions from this fictional perspective, the student-as-characters who arrive at the front of the line are the ones with the “most privilege.” Through this hands-on experience, our class decided together that the character they perceived as possessing the most privilege was Atticus Finch.

The culminating assignment for eighth graders upon completion of Mockingbird was to write a sourced “This I Believe” speech, in which they were given the choice to bring their own voice to their investigations on  race, class, gender, or intersectionality. They also supported their personal claim with textual evidence from Mockingbird as well as multiple sources of scholarly research in these areas of study today.

Finally, they read their essays for their classmates, an opportunity to share their work and their individual reflections with each other. In one eighth grader’s speech she stated, “Privilege is an advantage given by certain identities. For example, I am extremely privileged. I have grown up in a financially stable home, I am able bodied, I have an education and I have grown up in a very stable and safe community. However, I am also a female and am Asian. Even though I have so many more privileges than disadvantages, I think about my disadvantages so much more than my privileges.” Another of her classmates wrote, I believe that now, more than ever before, we as Americans must climb into the skin those who are in need. We must see things from their point of view and be able to understand that stereotypes, while easy to believe in and use, do nothing but hurt the people who they depict. If we all manage to take Atticus’s advice, we will be able to truly make America the land of the free, and through empathy and courage, the home of the brave.”

In our efforts to fulfill our goals for Vision 2020, students were provided with dynamic experiences created by teachers that “enhance cultural competency and prepare our students to be leaders in an increasingly diverse and connected world.” Returning to our initial essential question, Is reading To Kill a Mockingbird still relevant today? We respond, indeed!

How do we keep privilege from becoming entitlement?

Contributed by Mark Silver, Head of School

I had the opportunity to hear Brené Brown at the recent NAIS National Conference in Baltimore. Author of several books, including bestsellers Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, Brown has garnered a great deal of attention by speaking to the powerful role that shame and vulnerability play in our lives, and how we need to understand and lean into those feelings if we are ever going to be able to be courageous and do great things.

Brown is a gifted and humorous speaker, and she managed to be simultaneously disarming, funny, and thought-provoking, as she challenged each of us to think about how our fear of being vulnerable leads to misunderstanding. It takes courage to speak our truth, particularly to those closest to us, she noted. She told a story of a morning swim with her husband that quickly devolved into a fight when the two of them failed to understand what the other was thinking. She encouraged us to develop facility with the phrase, “The story I am telling in my head…,” as a way to open conversation with another person and help them understand what you are thinking and, in the process, often help to reveal the misunderstanding at the core of the conflict.

I quickly thought of the many misunderstandings I had with people, especially my own family members, as I leapt up the ladder of inference and became frustrated, judgmental, and angry instead of opening myself up to a real conversation and a search for understanding. I thought of a recent situation in which one of my children came to me to ask if we could get a subscription to Adobe Photoshop. I looked up from my computer, and immediately, angrily, and, let’s be clear, irrationally launched into a mini-tirade about how all my children ever do is ask for things and want more. I was tired of their sense of entitlement and their never-ending need for things. I then turned back to what I was doing, shutting the conversation down.

Later, with the benefit of time and perspective, I went back to said child and asked them to tell me more. It turns out, that this child had already figured out a way to pay for this service by canceling another service we had, and was not simply asking for something more. I sheepishly listened and we worked out an arrangement that, in the end, actually highlighted the importance of financial management and this child’s growing awareness that “money does not grow on trees.”

It was definitely a low point as a parent, and one that I’m not proud of in the least. I could make a number of excuses, but if I’m being brutally honest (ie, fully vulnerable) and if I play out “the story in my head”, the question triggered complex feelings from my own childhood about money, an underlying fear that careless expenditures of money would have long-term consequences, coupled with shame about any type of conspicuous consumption. The latter undoubtedly traces all the way back to a purchase in 7th grade of an expensive pair of Vuarnet sunglasses with money I had earned through yard work and babysitting, a purchase that my parents viewed with a combination of disgust and disappointment. In retrospect, I now recognize their feeling – it was discomfort with the privilege I had (the ability to purchase a pair of Vuarnet sunglasses) combined with a larger fear that I would not recognize my privilege and would simply become entitled.

Brené Brown beautifully addressed this concept when she talked about her own efforts to ensure her children were not entitled. She distinguished between privilege – unearned access to resources  – and entitlement – expectations of access to resources. The key to keeping the one – privilege – from becoming the other – entitlement? Understanding and gratitude.

As a parent, how do we do this? I think it is important to explicitly name the privileges your children have, as well as helping them see how privilege varies across different communities. It is important for children to recognize, for example, that within the Hillbrook community, different families have different types of privilege, whether due to differences in socioeconomic status, race, or ethnicity. At the same time, even with those differences, it is helpful for our children to recognize the privilege that all Hillbrook children have simply by being students at the school, namely, access to an educational experience that the vast majority of children throughout the Bay Area and around the world do not have.

And how do we teach gratitude? To my mind, the best way to teach that is by modeling it for your own children and by showing your own gratitude for the things and experiences you find valuable. I regularly tell my children about how grateful I am to be part of this community, how grateful I am to live in such an extraordinarily beautiful area, and how grateful I am to have the freedom and the opportunities that I have had throughout my life.

For additional exploration  you might check out the following:

3rd Grade Sound Project: Sharing Original Poetry

As a part of the 3rd Grade Sound Project, a cross-disciplinary exploration incorporating the study of sound, music, art, and creative writing, students built a unique found object instrument, composed and performed original music with their instrument, and brought to life a story surrounding a theme of their choosing. They also wrote original poetry to perform before their performance pieces that helped set the scene of their stories.

Here are their spoken poetry works:

“Crazy Cooks”

Sound Project Group: Yara, Delia, Josh, and Emma

Poem by Yara and Emma

Pans and pots
Leading drops
Sweeping mops
Sweeping up some tater tots

Plates and bowls
Lots of holes
Water leaking from the bowls
Who knew there were so much holes So we had to paste the bowl

Spoons and forks Chopping pork Making more
For our customers

Sound Project Group: Ryker, David, Lily and Soraya

Poem by David

Knifes near the spoons
Ice in the freezer
Time on the wall
Cloth on the table
House kitchen
Eggs in the carton
Nuts in the box

Poem by Soraya

Knife cutting objects
Ice blending in an ice machine
Cutting board smacking down on a counter
Hot toast burning in a toaster
Electric mixer blending fruit
Napkins getting slipped off a table
Dishwasher making a difference on a dish

“Ocean/Coral Reef ”
Sound Project Group: Addie, Greta, Ethan and Oliver

Poem by Greta

Gentle waves hit the shore
Beach balls splash the water
Mermaid fins whip the wind
As they dive down under
Coral reefs and colorful fish
Blur by in a flash

The speckled rays of the sun
Penetrate the waves
The mermaids swim in the deep blue
Talking with their friends
The ocean is a magical place
Take from me for you will know
When you see the sparkling blue waters

Poem by Oliver

I am a ocean
I am part of all the waves
There are a bunch of surfers
I am in everything in the ocean

Poem by Ethan

I am a shark biting off a surfer’s head
I feel bad for the surfer
Sometimes I have to eat food
The water is glowing from the reflection of the sun
Soon it will be another day

I go down to the coral reef
The stars in the sky are shinning
I see a shooting star
I make a wish
And if I tell you it won’t be a secret

Sound Project Group: Tyler, Emery, Martin and Alicia

Poem by Alicia and Emery

Cold air all around us
Animals roaming around
Marshmallows on the fire
Playing in the river
Inside a cave there is a bear
Night time in the camp
Go light the fire
I want a marshmallow

“Haunted Mansion”
Sound Project Group: Imani, Lyla, Maya, Evan and Quinn

Poem by Maya

Witches and ghost moving through corridors
Humans getting spooked and scared
Guards banging against the doors

Poem by Imani

Care for your loved ones, while they’re alive
Rest in peace
Peace after you’re dead
Yeah, you’re dead

Poem by Quinn

Boiling a creepy brew
Loving to celebrate alone
Ahhhh, I’m gonna get outta here
Cook mealworms, mosquitos in your brew
Kill the trespassers if you see them passing by

“Runaway Cats” 
Sound Project Group: Sonia, Anatta, Brady and Cindy

Poem by Brady

Cats in cages
Reading pages
Runaway cats
Followed by bats
Very young in age
The smell of sage
Helped by wolves
Without bowls
Back to their owner at last
Very fast

“Rock Band” 
Sound Project Group: Tess, Will & Xander

Poem by Tess

Rock band is our theme
And a rock band is our dream
Our rock band is the best
Better than the rest

Sound Project Group: Emerson, Estelle, Jane, and Jack

Poem by Emerson

High in the sky
Ever so loud propellor
I love to fly
Copters go high
Oh wow!
Propellers spin
Top of the clouds
Everyone shouts
Remember our fly in the sky

Uniquely Ours: the Hillbrook Experience

“The Hillbrook Way at Home”
Contributed by Anne-Marie Strohman, Hillbrook Parent, Classes of 2019 and 2021; Hillbrook Parent Ambassador

When I give campus tours in my role as a volunteer Parent Ambassador, many prospective parents are impressed by the students’ curiosity, ownership of their learning, and autonomy. We’ve come to describe this learning process as “The Hillbrook Way”: with students’ choice and engagement at the center of their learning experiences, they ask questions, start testing ideas, collaborate to work toward an answer, and show what they’ve discovered.

While I’m grateful to see this process in action during Wednesday tours, the most powerful experiences for me are when my kids bring this process home.

On tours, I love showing prospective parents the “Mistakes” poster in Susie Heeter’s JK-2 Art room. It has five or six different suggestions for what to do when you make a mistake on an art project, including the final option: recycle and try again. She reads the kids Barney Saltzberg’s Beautiful Oops, a delightful picture book about creating beauty out of mistakes. And when kids make a mistake, the class all sings, “Ce-le-brate mis-takes!” It’s a small picture of what happens in classrooms all across campus. Students can take a risk and start because if it doesn’t work out, they can always start again. And they will have learned something in the process of trying.

For my daughter Natalie, who is in 4th grade, baking and crafting provide her ample opportunities to engage in taking risks without fear. She is a self-proclaimed “experimental baker” and rarely wants to use a recipe. Instead, she starts before she has a complete plan, consults with me during the process to ask for suggestions, and shares her “technically edible” creations. She’s had a few successes, but her failures are what I’m most encouraged by. When one of her creations doesn’t taste that great, she shrugs and talks about what she might try next time.

With prospective parents, I often highlight that students share what they’ve learned in many different ways, from 1st and 2nd grade Author’s Walkabouts to the Winter and Spring Concerts, from sharing with partners in Reader’s Workshop to working out tough math problems on the whiteboard in Mr. Sears’s math classes. But I didn’t really understand how infused into students’ learning the “Show” piece of the Hillbrook Way is until my son asked to post videos on YouTube.

After my initial, “No way!” I asked what he wanted to do and why. Evan, then in 5th grade, now in 6th, explained that he wanted to make Minecraft videos with tips and tricks for kids just starting to play the game. He had recently created a video using Scratch programming to share with his science class and assumed that sharing what he had learned was the natural next step. Ultimately, our family worked out a family YouTube policy that balances the values of sharing widely and preserving privacy, and both kids have created some videos they’re really proud of. Once I realized that Evan wanted to share what he had learned–a natural extension of his experience at Hillbrook–I wanted to encourage him.

I share with prospective parents that the Hillbrook Way is not just a process taught to students. It’s a process teachers and administrators go through as well. From subject area audits to teachers speaking at conferences and publishing articles, faculty and administrators are engaged in learning about how to best serve our students. Student learning is still at the center, and what the adults at Hillbrook ask, start, and collaborate on is shared with the larger educational community.

I’m proud to be a part of an educational community that models and teaches a process that affects not only our students, but the learning of students around the world. And I’m most touched when I see it in action at home.

“Hillbrook Works for Us”
Contributed by Imma Calvo, Hillbrook Parent, Class of 2025, and Hillbrook Parent Ambassador

With both myself and Victor having gone through primary and secondary education in Europe, when it came to choosing a school for Max, we had to, as it were, start from scratch. We, of course, started by drafting an A-type matrix of pros and cons covering all the schools in the area, ready to embark on a journey of checking boxes and making informed decisions. The reality is however, that although we weren’t sure what to expect, we knew “us”, our family. We knew when and where we were the happiest, and what we valued the most. And with that, our first visit to Hillbrook’s Open House resonated with just that — a lot of “us”. Max and his brother Kai felt immediately at ease, I loved the energy of the teachers, the kindness of the administrators, and frankly, I saw a vibrant community of parents who seemed like a lot of fun to hang out with and people from whom I could learn.

After the open house, I was “sold” on the Hillbrook experience for our family. Victor brought me back to our matrix of pros and cons, but I trusted my instinct that  Hillbrook would work for us, too. I wanted a place that would embrace Max’s energy, curiosity, and extroverted personality. I wished for a space where teachers that would welcome all of who he is and channel all of it to help him meet his fullest potential. I hoped for, a place where we all could forge and foster deep friendships hi that would bring us new experiences, introduce us to new cultures, and add a ton of fun and great memories into  our already active lives. I also wanted a place that would recognize the pace-of-life of dual working parents with demanding work and travel schedules, and would allow me to engage when and where I could, with no pressure. After our first 6 months as a Hillbrook family and I can honestly say, whatever the future brings, our instinct was right–Hillbrook works for us.

Choosing Hillbrook

Contributed by Nikki Butts, Director of Admission

What I enjoy most about being a member of Hillbrook’s Admission team is that I get to be a part of every new family’s journey to Hillbrook. It’s a privilege and responsibility that fill my days here with excitement, awe, and tremendous personal fulfillment as we continue to build a diverse and thriving community that I am also honored to call my own.

It isn’t at all surprising to me that I often draw upon my own experiences as a parent here when talking with prospective families. After all, choosing Hillbrook is a decision we can all relate to. Having just completed Hillbrook’s re-enrollment process for my own children, I realize that Hillbrook is an ongoing choice we all make, not a one-time decision that is made when first admitted to our school. As each one of us continues to choose Hillbrook, it shows that Hillbrook is a decision we feel good about making. Looking beyond just our own parent community, our faculty, staff, and even our alumni also continue to choose Hillbrook, as they, too, decide to come back and to give back on an ongoing basis.

As I continue to choose Hillbrook for my children and for my own community and workplace, I want to share with you what choosing Hillbrook means to me. 

Choosing Hillbrook means…

  • my family is greeted by name every morning when we arrive on campus and everywhere we go on campus throughout the day. We are known and supported as members of a broader Hillbrook family that feels incredibly personal and powerful. This is an extended family we choose to be a part of and we are glad that we do.
  • our journey here is full of self-discovery. We take risks, tell jokes together at Flag, engage in service learning experiences, and explore every inch of this beautiful 14-acre campus to make new discoveries right in our own backyard. We challenge ourselves and each other to be our best – and we become better people because of it.
  • my children love learning. As a parent, I partner with incredible teachers who are not just experts at what they do, but who feel like experts on my own children. They know and understand my children’s friendships, personalities, learning styles, strengths, and challenges. I continue to feel deeply grateful for them.
  • we get to experience the very forefront of education, including innovation, advancements, and improvements still to come. We are now enjoying a new playground and outdoor amphitheater. Moving forward we will imagine a new MakerSpace. Choosing Hillbrook means gaining a leading-edge education for my children that is continuously forward-thinking and full of “new.”
  • we build meaningful friendships bound by the experiences we have here each and every day.
  • our voices are heard and our ideas are welcome. Hillbrook is an inclusive community and one that draws strength from its own diversity.
  • when it comes time for my children to look towards high school, college, and life beyond, they will be well prepared academically, emotionally, and socially. They will be supported and empowered to choose a path that feels right for them and I will feel confident they will continue to thrive.
  • my children will look back on their time here one day and remember it as one of the most treasured experiences of their lives. They will grow up here. They will embrace the core values of the school as their own personal values and they will believe that they can – and they should – reach beyond themselves to make a difference in the world.

In a very short time, choosing Hillbrook has become a natural next step for my family that continues to feel “right” everyday.

I am so grateful to be a part of this community and feel excited for all that lies ahead in my family’s journey at Hillbrook. Thank you for choosing Hillbrook for your family, for the many ways you strengthen our school and community, and for sharing your Hillbrook journey with new and prospective families who want to join us in choosing Hillbrook!

What does choosing Hillbrook mean for your and your family?