From Caterpillar Journeys to Social-Emotional Learning: Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten Life at High Meadows
Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten students love to go on nature discovery hikes throughout campus and observe creatures of all kinds in their habitats.
Recording a caterpillar's journey to become a butterfly; learning to write your name with items found on nature walks; feeding and playing with campus farm animals; exploring transportation methods around the world; watching how changing seasons affect our pond habitat... these fun, engaging activities are what Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten learning looks like at High Meadows! Each day, our campus inspires students to engage in joyful discovery and develop respectful connections to the natural environment.
 
"Children get to experience true exploration at High Meadows," said Laura Nicholson, Director of Admission. "We encourage them to learn about the world by experimenting with it, tinkering with items in classrooms and nature, and interacting with one another. During their play, they practice important helping, problem solving, communication, and social skills, and begin their academic learning."
 
Student Inquiries Drive Learning
Students' questions drive class learning, which is a different approach than following pre-set learning agendas.
 
Students used their imaginations to do different things each day with the materials they found at home and on nature walks. 
"We start with a central idea or provocation to get kids thinking about a topic," said Gail Albert, a Preschool/Pre-Kindergarten teacher. "The kids' questions guide our learning, which helps build critical academic skills they will use in later grades. For example, they learn science skills as they hypothesize solutions to questions and make charts about what class members think are possible answers."
 
Earlier this year, students explored the central idea that everything is made of materials that have distinct properties. The lines of inquiry they explored were the use of different materials, how materials can be changed and/or combined, and the composition and physical properties of different materials. Students looked at items  they found at home and on nature walks, sorting them by type and how they might be use. Then, they measured them and sorted them again.

"We do a lot of math and literacy learning that looks like play," Albert said. "We encouraged kids to use their minds and imaginations to do different things each day with the same materials. Some made ramps from their materials, while others explored how magnets work."

Connections Classes Enrich Learning Opportunities
In addition to play-based learning, Preschoolers and Pre-Kindergarteners go to Nature, PE, Music, Library, Ponies/Animal Care, and Spanish classes as well as tend to class gardens and cook. Jennifer Lott teaches the Nature classes. This is her 37th year teaching at the school, and her 39th year working at High Meadows Camp.
 
Students found red leaves on a nature walk.
"In Nature class, we go on discovery hikes in the woods and explore special places on campus like Merlin's Pond, the Water Garden, and the Grandfather Tree," she said. "We identify all kinds of creatures, including salamanders, stink bugs, katydids, snails, caterpillars, and snakes - whatever I can catch," she said. "We look at what they eat, how they live, their habitats, and how they impact our environment."
 
She noted they also explore farm, zoo, sea, and domestic animals and learn to identify venomous and stinging creatures. The students love playing games like animal tic-tac-toe and Pictionary.
 
"I love it when students get used to walking around the woods and gain independence and confidence. They go from hugging my legs to being leaders and share facts they've learned on our walks," Lott shared.
 
Emphasis on Social-Emotional Development
Beginning in Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten, High Meadows teaches social and emotional skills along with core academic subjects, a combination that provides the foundation students need for long-term academic success and personal growth. At the beginning of each year, teachers guide students to create classroom agreements emphasizing kindness and respect.
 
"Our goals are to help children develop individually, be self-reliant, and have a loving space. Everything we do is with that in mind," Albert said. " We hold class meetings where we acknowledge good things others have done. We also talk about how to be a communicator or risk taker as well as reflective, caring, and principled, behaviors that are part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program's Learner Profiles. These are the habits that students build upon each year at High Meadows."

Also, students have rotating jobs each week, such as Mathematician to count kids as they move to different classes, Electrician who turns on and off classroom lights, Chair Stacker, and Snack Helper. Kids take these responsibilities seriously, she noted.
 
Parents Reflect on Preschool Program
Tameka Phillips, mom of Jackson, a Kindergartener, and Penelope, a Preschooler, shared that  her favorite parts of High Meadows' Preschool program are the time children spend outside, the community feel of the school, and the emphasis on social-emotional growth. She noted that her son really enjoys Forest Fridays, and her daughter is developing a love for animals based on her school experiences.
 
"High Meadows focuses on the individual child, meeting them where they are and seeing what they need," Phillips said. "We love the emphasis on helping kids navigate their 
Daniela loves High Meadows Pre-Kindergarten.
social environment and their emotions. Teachers model how to resolve conflict, helping them figure out how to handle issues. They build on the natural strength of each child."
 
Olga Thomas is mom to Daniela, a Pre-Kindergarten student. She and her husband toured High Meadows when Daniela was not yet one year old and loved it .
 
"We knew right away it was the school for her because it felt like home," she said. "I feel so blessed to have Daniela there, and we are applying our son Nicolas to attend next year. The care and support from teachers are just wonderful. They celebrate each child's differences, and we see how that positively impacts our daughter."
Focus on High Meadows' Guiding Principle: Childhood Learning

Childhood is a distinct stage of life marked by a compelling drive to learn. We promote children's engagement with the world through discovery, conversation, and play.

Middle Years Debate Program Builds Students' Research and Presentation Skills

Eighth Grader Allison M. likes Debate because it gives her the chance to meet people from other schools and learn about real-world problems.
High Meadows has an amazing Debate program for  students in 6th - 8th grades. Debaters learn and practice their skills during two mini-courses, one at the novice level as well as an advanced course.

"Debate provides a fantastic opportunity for our students to learn about a new topic each year, practice debating multiple sides of different issues, and engage in constructive dialogue with peers at High Meadows and in the larger debate community," said coach Issac Wolf.
 
High Meadows students learn policy debate which deals with questions of change in government policy. Each year, a debate topic is chosen for the entire country and lasts through the school year. It's called the resolution, as it is formatted as a proposal for change. Debaters receive a large packet of "evidence" - articles from which they will draw material to support or oppose the resolution.
 
Debaters go to tournaments with a partner. Each debate round consists of a two-person team debating another two-person team from a different school. One team argues for the resolution - the affirmative. The other argues against it - the negative. Each team usually competes in four hour-long rounds, sometimes debating as the affirmative and other times as the negative.
 
The HMS Fall 2018 Debate team at their most recent tournament, one of seven each year.
Between 200 - 500 students from different schools attend a tournament, so students learn to work with and respect a diverse community of debaters who all work with the same evidence and debate the same topic. They learn from their peers and develop mentors in older debaters and high school or college-age judges. During their time in debate, many students get to know their opponents and find a larger group of friends in the community of debaters.
 
Fast Facts About the High Meadows Debate Program
  • Started in 2003
  • On average, 50 students take debate at some point throughout each school year
  • About 30-35 students participate in weekend tournaments
  • HMS participates in seven debate tournaments each year
  • The school's teams have won 17 total championships, with a streak of 13 years in a row of state championships that ended in 2017
  • Most recently, HMS debaters were runners-up in the state varsity division
  • Some HMS varsity debaters serve as teaching assistant in the novice debate class
  • HMS Debate alums often serve as mentors in team prep sessions and as judges at tournaments
  • Many HMS debaters continue debating in high school and college
Graduates Share Fond Memories of HMS Debate Program

Saya Abney, Class of 2014, participated in Debate in 7th and 8th grade. She restarted the debate program at her high school, modeling it after what she learned at High Meadows. She is now a freshman at the University of California Berkeley. 

"I learned how to articulate positions (most of the time) without devolving into shouting matches. I discovered a love of research and digging through the treasure trove that is Google
Saya Abney (right) helped restart her high school's debate program after enjoying debate at HMS. Here she is giving a speech at the Tournament of Champions earlier this year with debate partner Julia Dias (left). 
Scholar, and I fine-tuned the critical thinking skills that carried me through most of high school.  I also learned about debate, which was useful when restarting my high school debate program without a coach. I debated all four years of high school. 
 
"Fun fact: I never actually finished a practice debate at High Meadows. Especially by 8th grade, my partner and I would always be debating some of our good friends, and the round would either devolve into chaos because someone was making faces at the opposing team or because someone made a novice mistake and we would spend the rest of practice laughing over it.  Another great memory is the bus rides to tournaments, where my friends and I would share music and swap funny stories. You could really feel how much of a family we all were.
 
"Middle school debate is wonderful because you can start to learn and develop skills that will help for the rest of your life, without most of the drama and the excessive commitment level necessary for high school or college debate. Having Mr. Wolf and such a supportive and caring group of students to accompany you through that is another part of what makes the HMS debate team a wonderful experience." 

David Hauser, Class of 2015, was a debater in 6th-8th grades. Since graduating, he has volunteered as a debate judge at HMS. He also debates at Chattahoochee high school where he is a senior. 

"Joining the HMS Debate team was one of the best decisions I ever made. In debate, you develop so many different skills and learn so much about the world around you that it's tough to describe it all. I'd say I learned public speaking skills, confidence, charisma, how to  come up with and answer questions quickly, how to find trustworthy evidence, how to evaluate quality evidence, how to create an argument, how to analyze different pieces of evidence from different sources and come up with a conclusion, research skills that compete with many college students and possibly even some of my teachers, and I've learned about global warming, high level international relations theory, all kinds of philosophy from Plato to Heidegger, how the government functions, American hegemony, American-Cuban relations, American-Chinese relations, many different elections across the world, different effects of major policy proposals like the Iran Deal or tax reform, and much more. 
Former students Avi Arora (left) and David Hauser (right) debated at HMS a few years ago.

"My partner, Foster Ellis, and I became incredible friends due to the debate team. We argued every day about different arguments to use which ironically made us super close friends that I still talk with and see to this day. In addition, all of the inside jokes that we had on the debate team were great, and Isaac Wolf is an incredible teacher and debate coach who made the experience incredibly interesting and really enjoyable. The actual debates were always super fun, and I always enjoyed that stress/excitement right before the award ceremony. 

"I currently debate at Chattahoochee High School, and if everything goes well, I want to keep debating in college. I've won both first and second year state for Georgia, got fifth at second year nationals, and hopefully I'll be able to add more to that list." 
Apply Now for 2019-2020 School Year

High Meadows is accepting applications for the 2019-2020 school year. For information about the school and admission process, visit www.highmeadows.org  or contact Director of Admission Laura Nicholson at  lnicholson@highmeadows.org  or 678-507-1170. 

Seventh Graders Travel to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia


Each Fall, our seventh-grade class travels to Virginia to explore various historic periods represented in the Williamsburg area at Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, and Yorktown Victory Center. Students see on-going results of scientific and historical research related to the area and journal about their experiences throughout the trip. 
Come Visit Us!
Explore What Makes High Meadows Special

As you begin the journey of exploring schools for your family, we invite you to start with a tour of our beautiful grounds and facilities. Take a walk with us and observe our students at work and play across our 42 acres of woods and meadows. Our office hosts events, informational meetings, weekly tours, and visit days for prospective families throughout the year. Below are some upcoming events to help you learn more about High Meadows. Check out our website for information about how to RSVP for these get togethers.

Fall Open House - Sunday, Nov. 11, 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Our Fall Open House will give you an introduction to High Meadows School's educational philosophies, campus, and classrooms. We look forward to sharing our campus and community with you! This two-hour program is geared towards a parent audience, so plan to join us for the entire event. 
 
4th-8th Grade Open House - Monday, Nov. 27, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m.
Observe our 4th-8th grade classes in action, meet students and parent ambassadors, ask questions of our principals, and meet our teachers.

Kindergarten/1st Open House - Thursday, Nov.  30, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m.
We are opening the doors to our K/1 classes. See our classrooms in action, meet students and parent ambassadors, ask questions of our principals, and meet our teachers.

Family Farm to Forest Tour - Saturday, Dec. 1, 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Join us at this child/family-centered introduction to our beautiful outdoor campus, showcasing locations including our tipi, gardens, tire swing, and animals. All family members are welcome. We will meet at the flagpole (top of the driveway by parking area) and head out to tour from there shortly after 10. Feel free bring a picnic style snack to enjoy on the meadow following the tour.

Preschool & Pre-Kindergarten Preview - Thursday, Dec. 13, 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.

Come spend time in our Pre-K classrooms (ages 3, 4, and young 5). Observe classes in action, meet parent ambassadors, ask questions of our principals and meet our teachers. This event is geared towards a parent audience.
Upcoming Events
Free Parent Survival Guide to the Digital World: Nov. 8

Parents: Learn what you should know
about successful parenting in the Digital World. RSVP to join us on 
Nov. 8 from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. to  hear Alan November, an international leader in education technology, present about:
  • Critical Thinking on the Internet
  • Managing and Learning From Social Media
  • When Parents Should Say "No" and "Yes"
  • Turning Digital Fear and Anxiety Into Digital Hope and Excitement
  • Creating a Safe and Creative Digital Learning Environment
  • How the Digital World Improves Learning
November has been a director of an alternative high school, computer coordin ator, techno logy consultant, and university lecturer.  His areas of expertise include planni ng across curriculum, staff develop ment, new school design, community building , and leadership development.  
Find Out How High Meadows Assesses Learning on Nov. 13

Parents often ask how High Meadows measures learning growth, how to know how their children are doing, if they are getting what they need, and how they are being prepared for what comes next. Join us Nov. 13 for an Assessing Learning conversation as part of the  Family and Community Partnership Series which will be offered from 9-10:30 a.m. and 6:30-8:00 p.m.
OUR MISSION

The High Meadows community celebrates and perpetuates each individual's quest for knowledge and skill, sense of wonder, and connection to the natural environment. We empower each to be a compassionate, responsible, and active global citizen.

(770) 993-2940 | www.highmeadows.org
Connect with High Meadows!