The Importance of Balance

We all seek balance in our lives. Balance provides us with satisfaction and sustenance. It supports the cycle of action and renewal. And, most importantly, it keeps us sane.
At High Meadows, we provide children with a balanced program that teaches them the value of both skills and knowledge, of working hard and resting quietly, of taking the lead and following the lead of others.
We teach social and emotional skills along with core academic subjects, a combination that provides the foundation students need for both long-term academic success and personal growth.  At the beginning of each year, we set this foundation in all classrooms by guiding students to create essential agreements which fundamentally emphasize kindness and respect.
We also provide continued learning opportunities for teachers, carefully balancing their time between focusing on classroom planning and pondering big-picture educational themes and approaches. Over the summer, we read Ron Ritchhart's C reating Cultures of Thinking, a book that contends that the balance between listening and thinking strengthens both classroom and school culture [NOTE: Ron Ritchhart will be coming to High Meadows as a part of the Center for Progressive Learning's annual speaker serie s.]
Our Center for Progressive Learning hosts speakers, workshops, and book discussions that are about learning and growth--for all of us as well as our children. I hope you will join us as we continue together on the joyful journey of seeking balance in all that we do.

Take care,
Jay's signature
Jay Underwood
Head of School
Panel Teaches Educators and Families About Social Justice

The High Meadows Center for Progressive Learning recently hosted a panel to help educators and families understand the role schools play in addressing social justice issues. Distinguished panelists addressed the importance of pre paring students for active participation in a democratic society and how to foster that learning in classrooms. They  shared their definitions of social justice, which were similar yet di fferent based on their life experiences.
Panelists Address Audience Questions
  • Andrew Aydin: Social justice is the institutionalization of love in our society. It's the active advocacy for one another no matter who they are or what they need.
  • Dr. Tiffany Green-Abdullah: Social justice is about speaking up about what's right and allowing others to have a voice. We need to prepare our students and teach them how to act on that.
  • Dr. Roberta Price Gardner: Social justice is about transformation. It's about changing things that weren't correct or fair in the past.
  • Jay Underwood: Social justice is not a political ideology. As educators, we want to be an ally to teaching social justice and making it real to our students. 
  • Brian Anthony Williams: Social justice is the process and pursuit of fair treatment, distribution of resources, and access to good quality education.
When asked what school leaders can do to help educators teach about social justice, the panelists discussed the importance of providing support and resources to teachers and the need to talk with students about what's happening in the world.  To help students learn to care about social justice and their role in it, the panelists discussed the importance of connecting. "Find ways to connect kids' culture to what's happening," said Dr. Price Gardner. Aydin shared that opinion. "We tend to talk to kids versus listening to them," he said. "Put a little love in there. If we don't experience other people from where they're from, we can't connect."  
What Are the Goals of Social Justice Learning?
Teaching social justice within the context of the whole-child and honoring their evolving understanding means engaging students in social justice projects with an awareness of their developmental stage.  The goals of social justice learning are three-fold:
  1. Help students develop the critical thinking, collaboration, and self-reflection skills required to foster a better society
  2. Help students recognize patterns of inequality, bigotry, or discrimination and exploring possible solutions to the problems they have identified
  3. Empower students to voice their concerns and question unjust situations in their lives or in the lives of those around them
*Adapted and excerpted from Loving Learning by Tom Little and Teaching Social Justice in Theory and Practice by Caitrin Blake

Read more about social justice learning.
Teachers Foster Their Summer Learning in Unique Ways

A key philosophy at High Meadows is fostering continued learning and growth. This past summer, some of our teachers broadened their learning in unique ways.  
Rebecca Drage's teaching in action 
In June, Kindergarten/First Grade Teacher Rebecca Drage was one of 75 tea chers worldwide that participated in Columbia University's two-week Klingenstein Summer Institute for Teachers. The program provides early career teachers an opportunity to learn  from top professors, master teachers, and fellow educators in an atmosphere of intellectual  rigor, self-reflective disc overy, and collegial support. Attendees explore teaching styles, educational philosophies, and educational issues.
"We met in small groups each day to discuss whole-school initiatives such as div ersity and social justice and how to apply them in classrooms," Drage said. "We also learned from specialists about the cognitive science behind teaching methods, or why we do what we do when we teach. We explored our own teaching philosophy and worked with our discipline groups to explore specific elements of our teaching such as backwards design, project-based assessment, and experiential learning."
One of the benefits of the program was the connections Drage made with other educators. "This conference will have an impact on me for the rest of my career," she shared. "It was interesting to share ideas and resources. I found that High Meadows is doing many of the areas presented or is actively addressing them. I walked away with lots of ideas and a personal charge of how to be more involved with our school's initiatives."
While Drage participated in a formal learning program, Fourth/Fifth Grade teachers Melissa Casorio and Jennifer Hannah traveled to Ecuador where Casorio lived for three years.

Ecuador travelers Melissa Casorio and Jennifer Hannah

"I really connect with the people and culture in Ecuador," Casorio said. "It's like a piece of my heart is always there. I learn so much every time I go back, and the bonus is that I can share it with my students."
She noted that Ecuador is about the size of Colorado and is a very bio-diverse country with beaches, volcanoes, hot springs, jungles, a tundra, and valleys with eternal spring weather in the city of Quito. "I love that I can experience multiple seasons in one day there," she said. "I also love the importance the culture places on people and community. It's all about the relationships you make."
Back at High Meadows, Casorio enjoys sharing her knowledge of Ecuador's geography and culture with students. "The kids love to hear about the Ecuadorian people and Incan traditions, which ties in well when we study ancient cultures. I share food, tell stories, and sometimes speak Spanish to the kids. Having these authentic touches makes learning that much more fun."
Teachers Will Lead SEED Equity and Inclusion Group

During the summer, two High Meadows teachers participated in the highly-regarded SEED equity and inclusion program offered through Wellesley College. Paula Williams, Music co-teacher, and Danielle Wright, Theatre Arts co-teacher, attended New Leaders Week sessions which helps participants use their experiences and those of their students, children, and colleagues to widen and deepen school curricula and make communities more inclusive.
Theatre Arts Co-Teacher Danielle Wright (kneeling in center) will co-lead SEED training
Williams  and Wright each joined approximately 60 educators from publ ic and private schools, colleges, and universities to engage in personal reflection and testimony, interactive exercises, and conversations about diversity, oppression, and privilege. 
"I was hoping the program would be awesome, and it was," Williams said. "It challenges you to look at your life and the impact of your memories. We worked on ourselves and learned through doing and connecti ng with other people and hearing their stories."
Wright noted that the work was deep and personal. "The training emphasizes that everyone walks in the door with their own stories. The power is in listening to stories people are sharing to understand them and be better able to create a fair playing space for everyone."
Wright and Williams will use their training to lead 15-18 High Meadows colleagues on a similar learning journey this school year. They will host nine three-hour sessions to guide participants through thought-provoking individual and group work to gain awareness of themselves, learn about equity and inclusion, and better equip them to guide students when those topics come up in classrooms.
"I made a commitment at SEED to help my colleagues on their journey to learn about these topics," Wright said. "We have to do our work so we can help our students do theirs."
The teachers get support and information to help them lead the sessions. "High Meadows committed to this program and what we need to lead these sessions," Williams said. "SEED provides leaders excellent resources and helps with challenges. We share ideas, network, and get support throug h an online community and have quick access to SEED directors."
Music Co-Teacher Paula Williams will co-lead SEED training sessions for High Meadows colleagues
Wright said that SEED's "Shelves and Selves" series of videos with first-person perspectives and powerful stories was very impactful to her as was a list of 8 - 10 books to help broaden understanding of equity and inclusion issues. SEED also helped her and Williams learn how to approach difficult conversations and encourage participants to do self-care during discussions.
Both teachers look forward to leading colleagues on their journeys. "At the end of the year, I hope that people have been personally impacted and that we have built more connectivity, broadened understanding, and provided the tools and resources for teachers to use in their classes," Williams said.
STEAM Initiative Kicks Off from Goizueta Foundation Grant

In 2016, High Meadows received a $360,000 grant from the Goizueta Foundation in part to support a comprehensive STEAM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) initiative over three years. As part of the initiative kickoff, Kirsten Fournier (Fourth/Fifth grade teacher), Margaret Jones (Associate Head of School and Lower Years Principal), Brenda Major (Co-Art teacher), and Lynn Williams (Co-Art teacher) attended the Project Zero Perspectives conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania offered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. 

Founded in 1967, Project Zero hosts professional education institutes that introduce participants to learning frameworks and opportunities to explore ways to deepen student engagement, encourage learners to think critically and creatively, and make learning and thinking visible.

In pre-conference sessions, the group visited the Maker's Space at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and a local school to see kindergarten students learn about electricity through hands-on activities. The conference included workshops held at the Carnegie Mellon museum, the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning, and Quaker Valley Middle School, a leader in the Pittsburgh area in implementing Project Zero practices across the pre-school to high school continuum. These visits and workshops reinforced the importance of creating effective learning environments where students learn by doing and have opportunities to develop thinking skills through authentic first-hand experiences. Frameworks explored include:
  • Cultures of Thinking - A framework that leverages key cultural forces to transform classrooms into places where thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted. It is designed to bring out the best in students, take learning to the next level, allow for great discoveries, and propel the individual and the group forward into a lifetime of learning.
  • Agency by Design - A framework for maker-centered learning that includes three core maker capacities: looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity. These skills are at the heart of real world problem solving and innovation.
Overview of Agency by Design Framework
While High Meadows already uses many of the strategies inherent in these frameworks, the group will share their learning to reinforce and enhance teachers' ability to capitalize on children's natural curiosity to figure things out and encourage them to be deeper thinkers. 
#HoustonStrong: Students Help Hurricane Victims

After Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston, Texas area in late August, second and third  grade students in the Beacham/Lababidi class made a banner and video to send a message of hope to the people affected by the storm. 
Stories From Around the World Enthrall K/1 Students

Local storyteller Barry Stewart Mann thrilled K/1 students earlier this month when he told them four stories from around the world. His visit coincided with the How We Express Ourselves unit of study in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program that High Meadows follows. 

The students learned how folk tales are passed down from generation to generation and how stories can teach universal values. After listening to the stories, the students reflected on which stories they liked and what they learned from them.  Check out some of the students' reflections. 
Eighth Graders Bond and Set Goals at Annual Retreat

At the beginning of each year, the eighth-grade class gathers for a three-day retreat on the Lower Meadow. Through activities like camp set-up, meal preparation, swimming, rock climbing, and games, the students bond as a group and set goals for the year. 
Upcoming Events
Application Process Opens Oct. 1 for 2018-2019 Admission

On October 1, High Meadows will begin accepting applications for the 2018 - 2019 school year. Have questions about the admission process? Visit or contact Director of Admission Laura Nicholson at or 678-507-1170. 
Learn About Progressive Education Via October Book Study

Curious about what makes progressive education learning environments different from traditional educational environments? Join the High Meadows Center for Progressive Learning for a free book study of Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America's Schools by Tom Little. Visit to register. Book discussions will be held Oct. 2, 16 and 30.

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.

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