Newsletter for September, 2019
Here's what we're doing together this September:
Recorders were sent to the SDA Primary School in Port Elizabeth, and Paget Farm Elementary . The shipments were stranded for a time in Puerto Rico thanks to hurricane Dorian, though they ultimately made it through unscathed. Felicia Frederick, principal of the SDA Primary (pictured in blue with Donnet Simmons and students) writes "We are want to say a BIGGGG THANK YOU. ... we are eternally grateful for the first set of instruments to start a program at our school. ... The children were extremely excited to see them. Listen out for the next project from us!!" We look forward to working further with her and other partners on island and beyond—including the Hub in Port Elizabeth—to grow opportunities to participate in music at the primary, elementary, and secondary levels. Related to that, if you know a teacher who is keen and able to develop a ukulele program at the middle school level, please let us know by responding to this email. Other ideas? By all means, let us know those as well.

Thanks to recent donations, Chromebooks have arrived this past week at the Learning Center . A further donation will help us bring the Chromebook program to other island schools in the coming months. These will allow us to continue to scale the pilot project, being led by Tylisha Miller, using the devices as a component in delivery of levelled literacy and numeracy programs. With support, we hope to one day bring this initiative to all island schools. Next up is the Lower Bay School which, fingers crossed, we'll be able to supply with a few devices in the next month or so, this at the request of Devvy King. Devices aren't a panacea of course, though we believe, when used to advantage, will help deliver curriculum while supporting student engagement.

The We Choose program has begun, with the goal of raising awareness about gendered abuse and violence. This is a joint project funded in part by Marion House and the Grenadines Initiative. Sessions have been delivered at SDA Secondary and Paradise Primary School . In the weeks ahead the program will reach out to Bequia Anglican , Paget Farm Primary School and Bequia Government School .

We are preparing a Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) grant application to apply for funding to address the management of sargassum on Bequia's beaches. This is a joint project between th e Grenadines Initiative, Action Bequia, and the Community Foundation for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Why do we go to school?
The most important reasons aren't always the ones you think of first

by Glen Herbert

“It’s very Harry Potter,” says Michael Simmonds, chuckling a bit as he does. I was speaking to him about what Havergal College does best, a school in Toronto where he is vice principal. Havergal is one of the foremost girls' schools in Canada, and regularly ranks among the top schools in the nation. It really does have ivy-covered walls, and the fact that he's comparing it to a fictional school for wizards feels a bit wilting. Hence the chuckle. He continues, “But, you know, I’m serious. Harry Potter lived in a closet, hid his special powers, knew he was different, and had to go to Hogwarts to be empowered. There’s a lot to be said for bringing a group of like people together … It’s a culture of empowerment.”

For everything that Havergal does—its list of alumni reads like a list of Canadian who’s who—it’s interesting that, when asked about the quality of the school, he doesn't talk about outcomes, he talks about the culture and the learning environment. We too often think about education in terms of the stuff we find there: desks, books, curriculum, lessons. We also, I think wrongly, too often think of education in transactional terms: do this now, so that you can do something else later, such as get a job, or enter post-secondary studies.

The lesson of Harry Potter is that the real strength of successful schools community. The best educational environments are personal, relational. Karrie Weinstock says that “no child learns math before she learns the connection with her teacher. If the connection isn’t there, she’s never going to learn as well. This is the enduring value of connection and community.” Weinstock is a long-time educator, and currently vice-principal at Branksome Hall, another prominent private school in Toronto. Like Simmons, for her the strength the school isn't the buildings or the books, but the relationships that for them. When I asked her what makes a school a great school, she said “it’s a million small conversations” namely those between students, faculty, and peers. "I believe every girl comes to school every day wanting to be the best she can be. And then to meet adults and peers in that environment who are similarly aspiring—that's a very good mix. That to me is a good school.” 

" ... the place where citizens prevail ... "

The Learning Center was formed in 2003 to be that kind of environment, even if the founders perhaps didn’t think of it explicitly in those terms. Tylisha Miller, a teacher and director at The Learning Center in Port Elizabeth is like Simmonds in that she doesn't see her work as simply teaching, or tutoring. She sees her role as one of listening, and supporting, and recognizing their special powers: the skills, talents, and personalities that students bring with them into the classroom. She describes it as an environment “where they don't feel pressured but instead feel safe, loved and cared for.”
"For me it was not employment," says Miller of finding a role at the center, "it was my new found family, my home." It’s a place where, says Miller, kids are "are given the attention needed to excel." It’s a community in the way that John McKnight, director of the Community Studies Program at the Center for Urban Affairs at Northwestern University
defines it: “the place where citizens prevail.”

Why we do what we do
The support that we give, through the Grenadines Initiative, is in the service of those larger goals. That’s why we listen to teachers, first, before sending stuff—they know best what their students need, and we want to help them deliver it.
Because, ultimately, the real value of school is the people you find there. People like Morrie Hercules, who inspired other people, through example, to join the effort, including Felicia Frederick. People like Devvy King, who think about best practices, and are as open to their students as they are to new ideas. Or Jan Providence, who is excited about raising chickens with her students. She should be excited. It’s great work.

Because it’s not really about chickens, of course, it’s about the quality of the relationships that hands-on learning can engender. That’s why kids go to school: to grow those kinds of relationships. To grow their sense of who they are and gain a confidence in bringing their talents to bear in their communities. To enter a space where people laugh at their jokes, and ache in the same places. A space where they know, without question: these are my friends, this is my school. 

“We live in an
inquiry-based world,
where curiosity reigns.”

—Leslie Anne Dexter,
Head of Junior School,
Havergal College

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