I hope you are enjoying the beautiful weekend. We kicked it off with a spectacular lower school concert, led by our extraordinary choir teacher, Donna Deininger. The theme of the concert involved gardens and growing, an apt theme for the lower school, where we see such tremendous growth in our students each day. The final song of the evening was “Let It Grow,” a song from the wonderful movie (based on the wonderful book), The Lorax. As I watched our students joyfully singing (one kindergartner told me afterwards, “I was screaming at the top of my lungs!”), I felt such warmth for all of them and for our amazing teachers who care so deeply for each of them. And, in line with the garden theme, I reflected on how much they have all grown over the course of the year.
Looking back to the first week of school, I remember meeting the new kindergartners. As I sat with them early on, I could tell that they were cautiously checking out their surroundings, not quite sure what to make of their new environment. Many of them relied on their caregivers to walk them into class, still needing that extra boost of comfort before beginning their day. My, how things have changed! The other day when I stood out at drop off (on a rather rainy day, I might add), I was happy to see those same kindergartners popping out of their cars and zooming into school, backpacks on their backs and big smiles on their faces. Later in the week, when I sat and read with them, I saw that same confidence and independence again, as they engaged in the story and made connections of their own.
With our first graders, I have been going in once a week to do personal reading, and I am blown away by the growth that our students have shown. I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity to be in their regularly and thus see these leaps and bounds over time. And not only are they all active readers, they are interested and engaged in their learning.
With the older students, it has been so fun to see their growth, not only over the course of this year but over the course of the time that I have known them. To see these students really come into their own, whether presenting on a passion project, giving a tour of the rainforest, or advocating for a volleyball net on the lower school playground, they are growing into thoughtful, kind, passionate citizens of the school and of the world. And our faculty are truly master gardeners, recognizing each “plant” for its strengths and challenges and devising just the right growth plan for each individual.
And so we return (if we ever left?) to the garden theme. Each year in the Middle School, we create a wall of appreciation, where every student and teacher has an appreciation written about them by other students. And each year, the wall has a theme. One year, it was a “School of Fish,” another year we were planets and stars. This year, the theme is a garden, and so the students and teachers are leaves and flowers. When we decided to create a similar wall in the Lower School, we thought it would be a good idea to continue the theme, and so the lower school students are seeds.
Last week, fourth grade students worked with kindergartners to help, and all students in the Lower School wrote appreciations for one another so that each student has a “seed” of appreciation. At first, the plan was to cut pieces of paper into the shapes of seeds, but then Lower School Assistant Director, Amy Criswell, had the ingenious idea to actually have students write the appreciations on seed paper. This way, when we create a new wall of appreciation next year and take this one down, we can give students their appreciation to read and then to plant. This way, the growth that they are experiencing at Dawson, and the connections they have created with other students and teachers, are symbolically represented in the plants that will grow from their seed paper.
We will be putting up our garden wall of appreciation this week. Please take a moment to stop by and read what our students have said about each other. The love, care, and support that they give by appreciating one another help to grow our community of students and faculty into a wonderful garden of lifelong learners.