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We feel it is our calling to bring our students back to the great outdoors.


Schools Use the Great Outdoors to Enhance Education BY KAREN FINUCAN CLARKSON


2 Private Schools | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | August 2014



A student from the Montessori School of Northern Virginia’s Valleybrook campus in Falls Church takes a moment to water flowers.

ost kids love to come home dirty, which isn’t a bad thing when nature becomes the classroom. Recognizing that the natural world presents innumerable and unique opportunities for learning, private schools in Fairfax County are using their campuses as learning labs, teaching lessons that are academic, societal and spiritual in nature. “Our students are living in a time in history that is moving at an incredible pace,” said Mary Anne Duffus, executive director of Brooksfield School in McLean. “We have more technology, more scheduled events and less time to prepare meals at home. This is leaving less time to relax, daydream, spend time outside and just be in nature. We feel it is our calling to bring our students back to the great outdoors and to be more in sync with what nature can teach us.” “Our classrooms do not end at the walls of our building,” said Mat Tonti, a rabbi and head of Gesher Green, an environmental studies program at Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax. Nature is incorporated into both the general and Judaic curricula at Gesher. Each grade, kindergarten through eighth, has a habitat—such as wetland, meadow or bird sanctuary—to study and protect and a garden bed to tend. “When our third graders study Native Americans, they grow the three sisters —corn, beans and squash,” said Lisa Stern, Gesher’s director of admissions and marketing. “Our second graders grow spices that go into a spice box that’s part of a [religious] service that our parents attend.” The wooded campus also allows students to commune with nature. The daily prayer, or tefillah, for middle school students often takes place in the woods, where the children sit on log benches surrounded by trees that they have wrapped in blankets. “It’s most profound when you have prayer

outside in nature, which is imbued with spirituality and ideal for reflection,” said Tonti. Students take to heart the school’s commitment to tikkun olam, or healing the world, said Stern. And it stays with them after they leave Gesher. The school owes its compost facility to a former student, who built it as his Eagle Scout project. Each day, middle school students take leftovers from the dining hall to compost. A waste-free lunch is among several initiatives that are making “green” a way of life at Montessori School of Northern Virginia (MSNV), which has two campuses—Hillbrook in Annandale and Valleybrook in Falls Church. “We encourage families to send in lunches where everything can be repurposed and reused, not trashed,” said Ariadne Autor, MSNV’s director of development and alumni relations. “The average student throws away 67 pounds of discarded lunch waste a year.” To further reduce waste, children use washable plates, utensils and glassware instead of paper or plastic for their daily snack and cloth towels, rather than paper ones, in the classrooms. One of the first schools in the area to be certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat, MSNV provides clean water and shelter to animals and uses sustainable gardening practices such as mulching and composting. Rain barrels collect water, which students use to water plants. In the garden sheds, students find child-sized tools and self-directed lesson boxes. They can learn about worms and soil, or sun and shade, among other

ABOVE: The Montessori School of Northern Virginia’s Valleybrook campus in Falls Church has natural playscapes for students, such as this one. LEFT: A primary teacher and students work outdoors at the Montessori School of Northern Virginia’s Hillbrook campus in Annandale.

See NATURE, 17


August 2014 | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | Private Schools


Hallmarks of the Private School Experience BY KAREN FINUCAN CLARKSON


hey bind students to people, places and ideas, instilling in them a sense of belonging and providing memories that last a lifetime. Traditions at local private schools take many forms—embracing the arts, academics, athletics or culture—and occur at different levels, school-wide or grade-level. While some remain true to their roots, others evolve over time. The reasons traditions exist are as diverse as the educational institutions themselves. “Our traditions are integrated into all we do as human beings and all aspects of life,” said Jennifer Page, faculty chairwoman at Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda, Md. “They provide a rhythm to the year, giving us things to look forward to, experience, and reflect on.” “Traditions bring people closer together and foster relationships,” said Connie Shaffer Mitchell, director of marketing and communications at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda. “They enrich our environment and help us build a community grounded in Christian values.” “Our traditions help build community and leadership. They connect our students to the past while preparing them for the


Scenes from the 2013 Michaelmas festival and fall bazaar at Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda.

4 Private Schools | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | August 2014

future,” said Kathleen Smith, assistant head of school at The Langley School in McLean. Traditions also fill a void. “There’s nothing quite like the Morley Games,” said Bim Schauffler, a faculty member at Sandy Spring Friends School in Sandy Spring, Md. This tradition got its start in the early 1960s, shortly after the school’s founding, because the Quaker school was too small to field interscholastic teams. Team sports—with names reminiscent of a J.K. Rowling novel, such as friedelfrappe, frazleerham, brindledorph, hoop-a-doop and nurdleybawl—allowed both the accomplished and novice athlete to enjoy some off-beat recreation. “Brindledorph, for example, is a game with brooms best played in the snow— somewhat akin to field hockey,” said Schauffler. The games were so unique that they caught the attention of Sports Illustrated, which did a piece on them in the 1970s, according to Schauffler. Now that the school fields several interscholastic teams, these sports are played in the upper school as intramurals during winter and across all grades during the school’s annual Community Day. “The camaraderie that results from the Morley See TRADITIONS, 18


As part of the Medieval Banquet, students come dressed as personas from the 5th through 15th century. The event caps the eighth-grade history curriculum at Trinity School at Meadow View in Falls Church.


August 2014 | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | Private Schools



GLOBAL CITIZENS Beginning in preschool, students at Feynman School in Bethesda, Md., receive daily instruction in Spanish, primarily through songs and games. Classrooms are also labeled in both English and Spanish.


Private Schools Use Language as a Window to the World BY KAREN FINUCAN CLARKSON


e try hard to think about the world we live in and that as global citizens our students will need to be interconnected and able to collaborate in the world arena,” said Sheena Hall, lower school director at Flint Hill School in Oakton. “We want our students to approach the world with empathy, optimism and an appreciation of diversity.” Recognizing that foreign language proficiency is critical to achieving those goals, Flint Hill and many private schools in Fairfax and Montgomery counties are introducing second languages to students in elementary grades—even preschool grades.

“If we want students to develop some higher level of proficiency, they need an early start,” said Jill Moore, chairwoman of Flint Hill’s modern language department. Children who wait until high school may learn the language but are less likely to sound like a native speaker. “Older students may struggle with accent and intonation whereas young learners pick it up naturally,” Moore said. Susan Gold, director of Feynman School in Bethesda, Md., said young children are ripe for language learning. “They are fearless about using the language and accept mistakes as a part of life. Teenagers and adults are more self-conscious,” Gold said. “And learning a foreign language early gives children a better grasp of their own language, which helps them academically later on.”

6 Private Schools | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | August 2014

There are a multitude of benefits for children who eventually become fluent in at least two languages, according to Robert Gold, Feynman’s executive director. Enhanced creativity, improved career opportunities and a delay in the possible onset of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s have been linked to bilingualism, he said. Bilingual education enhances cognitive development, including the ability for abstraction, conceptualization and problem solving, according to the website for Lycée Rochambeau, which has campuses in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, Md. By the time students graduate from the French International School, many are trilingual, said Agnès Finucan, the admissions officer. Children, some of whom begin school at

age 2, are immersed in French. It is the language used during class, at lunch and on the playground. It doesn’t take long before students grasp the nuances of moving between languages. In previous years, children who were not proficient in French could enter Lycée Rochambeau only through its Maternalle, a preschool-kindergarten program. That will change with the coming school year. “We are starting an immersion program for kids in first, second and third grades who don’t speak French,” said Finucan. The new students will be taught separately until they become proficient. Then they will join the traditional classroom for their grade. Third graders in the traditional classroom at Lycée Rochambeau are introduced to Spanish. By middle school,


At Flint Hill School in Oakton, Spanish begins in transitional kindergarten and continues through sixth grade.

students study a third language–Arabic, Spanish or German. Latin is available as an elective. Math, science, history and geography are taught in French but, outside the classroom, the school is a mosaic of languages. Students hail from 55 countries, creating a unique multicultural community, what teacher Tesa Conlin referred to as “a mini United Nations.” Academics at Feynman School take place in English, but children are expected to use Spanish throughout the day– especially during snack, at lunch and on the playground. “Language learning should be authentic and allow for casual conversation,” said Susan Gold. Students are encouraged to ask for things–such as a pencil or permission to use the bathroom– in Spanish. “If they ask in English, we’ll reply to them in Spanish,” she said.

Beginning in preschool, Feynman students receive daily instruction in Spanish, primarily through songs and games, and classrooms are labeled in both English and Spanish. “In kindergarten, the morning message is written in Spanish and during morning meeting we do the calendar and weather in Spanish. Our older students have started reading and interpreting Scholastic News in Spanish,” she said. The emphasis, however, is on conversation. “From early on, we want them to have fun and be enthusiastic second language learners,” said Robert Gold. “We don’t expect them to read novels in Spanish but to have a significant vocabulary and be comfortable using the language conversationally.”


See LANGUAGE, 16 August 2014 | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | Private Schools



Private Schools Strive to Celebrate Differences BY KAREN FINUCAN CLARKSON


t enhances learning, builds community, and equips students to navigate an increasingly global world. Diversity—no longer solely defined by gender, race and religion—does more than change the appearance of a private school’s student body, it positively influences the cognitive and social-emotional development of all students on campus. “When various skill sets, approaches and backgrounds come together, we have better outcomes,”saidJohnDeMarchi, head of school at Evergreen School in Silver Spring, Md. This concept is shared with students, some as young as 2, in different ways. “Our classrooms are highly collaborative, and children realize that we’re not all the same and that working together is the best way to get things done … .They learn to bring out the best in each other.” Nearly a third of Evergreen’s 85 students have at least one foreign-born parent. Nineteen countries are represented among the school’s student body, and 18 percent of students are African American. “We are fortunate to be in an area where so many families come from other places and have so much to share.” Now in its 50th year, Evergreen has always considered diversity a part of its mission. “That, perhaps, made us more unique in the ’60s,” DeMarchi said. The first racially integrated school in Montgomery County, according to the school’s website, Green Acres in North Bethesda, Md., was founded in 1934. “We strive to have a community that is welcoming and accepting, and that allows students to be themselves,” said Neal Brown, head of school.


Green Acres—which had 298 students in 2011-12, according to the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES)— estimates that about a third of its student body meets minority status in at least one of the markers used by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) to indicate diversity. The NAIS list—which initially consisted of ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status—recently was expanded to include body image, educational

8 Private Schools | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | August 2014

background, academic/social achievement, family of origin/family make up, geographic/ regional background, language, learning style, beliefs (political, social, religious) and globalism/internationalism. “We speak of diversity in a multifaceted way, with a blind eye to race, religion, and other social identifiers,” said Jocelyn Johnson, Green Acres’ diversity coordinator. The concept of diversity is explored at every grade level, in age-appropriate ways “People often measure the success of

an institution, when it comes to diversity, by numbers,” Brown said. “That’s valid, but not sufficient. It’s also about what a school is doing to influence people’s behavior and thinking.” Green Acres has two SEED (seeking educational equity and diversity) groups— one for parents and one for staff—that advise the school’s administration and board of directors. Leaders from both groups have undergone training at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, home to The National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum. Last year, gay and lesbian teens and adults spoke to middle school students. “The idea was not to recruit anyone to homosexuality but to engender respect and allow our students to hear a perspective that is valuable,” said Brown. “What is most unique and inspiring about Green Acres is that everyone—whether from Kensington, Bethesda, Uganda or England— understands that we all have something special to bring to the table and they learn to appreciate that,” said Johnson. “They can talk openly about and celebrate their differences.”

Such openness is a benefit when, on occasion, cultural misunderstandings or conflicts arise. “Students learn that despite differing opinions, we can come to the table and agree to disagree,” Johnson said. Private schools are realizing the richness that diversity brings to the world—be it culture, religion, gender or sexual orientation, said Timothy Simpson, director of admission and financial aid at Bullis School in Potomac, Md.“We go further, including


Teachers at Temple Baptist School in Herndon host several events school-wide, including International Day.

diversity of thought, diversity in curriculum, diversity of learners and diversity among faculty,” he said. Bullis has a strong, student Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), which last year sponsored Think Before You Speak Week and a Genderbread assembly explaining the components that comprise a person’s gender identity. The students created and led the inaugural Metro GSA Student Summit. “More than 100 students from different independent schools came together for workshops and to talk about the challenges they face and how they can work together,” said Susie Zimmermann, Bullis’ director of communications. Bullis—with 649 students in 2011-12, according to NCES—considers its student body to be diverse. Students of color comprise 37 percent of the total enrollment. That figure includes foreign-born students, many from China, who make up 9 percent of students in grades three to 12, according to Zimmerman. Socioeconomic diversity is a challenge for many private schools, Simpson and Brown said. Because private schools rely heavily on tuition to fund the bulk of their budgets, financial support for families in need is limited. At Bullis, 27 percent of students receive aid, and at Green Acres the number is 23 percent. “For some families that aid may be within a few hundred [dollars] of full tuition, for others it may be a few thousand [dollars] to help them bridge that gap,” said Simpson, noting that more families have found themselves in need these past few years due to economic conditions. “I wish we had unlimited funds and could support those families with a talented kid in need.”

At Temple Baptist School, just over a third of the students are white, according to Samuel W. Dalton, a minister and administrator at the Herndon school. The school— with 205 students in 2011-12, according to NCES—has a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds: African-American, Hispanic, mixed-race and international. “That fits with our Christian philosophy of reaching out to people throughout the world,” he said. Prospective parents find the diverse student body comforting. “When they walk in and look at pictures on the walls and students in the halls, they see the world is represented here,” Dalton said. Teachers at Temple Baptist often take advantage of the different heritages to supplement the curriculum, inviting parents to share customs. Several events—International Day in particular—are school-wide cultural celebrations. “Diversity gives a rich texture to the fabric of our community,” Dalton said. The United Nations Day festival each October at Oneness-Family School is the largest of its kind in the Washington, D.C. area, according to Andrew Kutt, head of school. “Last year over 60 dignitaries, including ambassadors from 15 countries, attended the celebration,” he said. Multilingual greetings and a procession of flags from over 50 countries kick off a day of multicultural presentations and demonstrations. Nearly 60 percent of the Chevy Chase, Md. school’s 139 students are from families with at least one foreign-born member. Six continents are represented among the student body, with Europe comprising See DIVERSITY, 17


August 2014 | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | Private Schools




10 useful apps for students BY KRISTEN CASTILLO



10 Private Schools | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | August 2014

cents. It’s compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It has high ratings, too, including “Best Kids App for iPad” from Best App Ever Awards.

hese days, so much learning is done online, especially on smartphones and tablets. While educators and parents want to limit screen time, kids are going to be using these tech devices, so at least they can challenge themselves and learn in the process. Need help with note taking? Trying to learn more about geography? Want to build your vocabulary? Study the solar system? Understand more about the Common Core? Chances are there’s an app for that. Read on for a rundown of some of the most useful apps for students.

Grammaropolis Teach kids grammar with this app, which comes free with the “Noun” neighborhood. You can buy the other parts of speech, such as verbs and prepositions, in-app. The National Parenting Center gave Grammaropolis, which has quizzes, videos and animated shorts, its 2012 Seal of Approval. The app is available for Android devices, as well as iPhone, iPad and iPad Touch.

Stack the States Students will learn state capitals, flags, nicknames and more state information with this fun and educational app from Freecloud Design Inc. that retails for 99

Math Bingo More than 1 million players use this fun-with-math app. The goal is to get a pattern of five “Bingo Bugs” in a row, all by correctly solving math problems.

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Many apps help kids have fun and learn at the same time, including “Loot Pursuit: Pompeii,” which teaches kids math.

Made for kids ages 6 to 8, the app works with iPhone, iPad and iTouch. It sells for 99 cents. Duolingo Ready to learn French? Master Spanish? Tackle German? Check out this free app, which is available for Android and Apple devices. Students learning a new language or brushing up on one they already know benefit from it, as it has on-the-spot translations and the ability to test a child’s language skills in a duel with their friends. Google Play named Duolingo “Best of the Best” for 2013, and Apple named it the “2013 App of the Year.” Loot Pursuit: Pompeii Challenge sixth- and seventh-grade kids with Common Core-aligned math problems that use algebra, geometry, ratios, fractions and more to protect 75 genuine artifacts stolen from the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. This iPad app, which costs $3.99, has 25 levels, can be played timed or untimed and has crosscurriculum content in social studies, math and language arts. Pizza Party Kids learn fractions so party guests can get a piece of cake or a slice of pizza. This free SylvanPlay network app, by Educate Inc., works on iPad and iPhone devices. It’s designed to help children ages 6 to 9 practice math problems in a very practical way. Notability Need an app to help your child organize

schoolwork? This one, by Ginger Labs, sells for $2.99 and lets them track their notes any way they take them, including recording audio, annotating documents, filling out worksheets or typing an assignment. They can draw, too, using a variety of “pens” and “papers.”


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Cultiwords Enhance your child’s vocabulary with this word-of-the-day app. Middle-school students can learn new words and review ones they’ve memorized. The app, which retails for 99 cents, is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iTouch. The app starts with 40 words, and you can buy additional sets within it. Star Walk - 5 Stars Astronomy Guide Science students, especially budding stargazers, will love this app, which sells for $2.99 and works with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Simply point your device at the night sky to see a star map that tells you exactly what you’re looking at, including stars, planets, constellations and satellites. The app has more than 8 million users and won the Apple Design Award for 2010. The Official SAT Question of the Day Is your student prepping for the SAT? Get a daily quiz with this app from College Board. It’s is free and challenges test taking ability with actual SAT questions. It only works in portrait mode but is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. -Creators.com


August 2014 | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | Private Schools



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12 Private Schools | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | August 2014



ith kids of all ages assigned so much homework, you’ll certainly want to help them do it as efficiently as possible. This often begins with creating an official “homework spot.” In a recent study conducted by Houzz, a website for home decorating and design, 52 percent of respondents said the designated homework spot in their house is the

either kitchen or dining room table. When asked why, respondents frequently said: “to keep an eye on progress.” “In addition to parental supervision, creating the right study space within the home will not only help kids get their homework finished, but can also help them learn more effectively,” according to Houzz. The study noted 13 percent of parents report their kids’ chosen homework spot is “sprawled on the couch or family room rug.”

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CHOOSE THE PERFECT homework spot. It might be a desk in a child’s bedroom or a kid-sized desk in your home office—a station set up specifically for homework—with everything the child needs in easy reach. Keep school supplies in desk drawers so children don’t become distracted getting up to look for these items.


ENSURE PRIVACY. Make it a rule in your household that when kids are at their homework spots, they’re not to be interrupted. Questions can wait until after they’ve finished their homework, and requests to play will also not be allowed. Set a specific time span and perhaps hang a sign on the door to the room with the homework spot displaying when the session will end.



DECIDE WHETHER KIDS should do homework together or alone. If they can’t share a space without distracting one another, set up homework stations for each in different rooms, dividing all necessary supplies they have everything they need in their areas. THINK ABOUT COMFORT. A chair with a cushion can make it easy for kids to stay still and focus on work intended for a desk, like math and writing. A setting like a comfy chair may be more conducive to reading. Houzz experts said a separate chair also provides a welcome change of scenery for kids.




KEEP COMPUTERS OUT in the open. Positioning a computer so the screen is visible to you keeps kids on the Web pages where they should be and discourages distracting online browsing or messaging with friends, Houzz experts said. MAKE IT EASY FOR KIDS to be organized. When kids have a designated spot for their backpacks and then an inbox for important papers that need to be signed by you, efficiency is improved. The Houzz experts also recommended mounting a bulletin board for tacking up important papers and allowing kids to decorate it with inspiring photos and quotes. Storage bins and inexpensive plastic tubs keep kids’ supplies orderly, and a label-maker helps them personalize their storage containers.


INVOLVE KIDS IN decorating their homework spots. When they have a say in such decor options as the color and pattern of their desk chair cushion, their computer skin and other elements of their homework station, they have a sense of ownership over the space and may be more likely to spend time there.


ADD A PERSONAL TOUCH of your own. Every now and then, leave a note on your child’s desk expressing how proud you are her. These notes in your handwriting are very meaningful to kids.

IF YOUR CHILD ALREADY works in her bedroom at a desk, assess it for distractions. You might want to set a rule banning mobile devices from the workspace, or instruct your child to declutter the space for better working conditions. With a personalized and organized homework spot, children can complete their homework each day with greater ease, focus and learning.

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Distractions are the real culprit. If kids can see the television from the dining room table, which occurs often in an open home layout, they will surely be distracted by whatever is on the screen, even if it’s the evening news. Kids may not watch any programming that’s on, but the sounds from it can prevent them from focusing fully on their homework questions or reading. To create a fully functional, efficient homework station, try these tips:

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August 2014 | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | Private Schools




AFTER SCHOOL How to manage your child’s activities outside the classroom BY SHARON NAYLOR

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14 Private Schools | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | August 2014

occer, cheerleading, science club, marching band, karate. That might be just one child’s weekly schedule. According to “All Work and No Play? Listening to What Kids and Parents Really Want from Out-of-School Time,” a recent study by the nonpartisan opinion research organization Public Agenda, 79 percent of America’s middle and high school students regularly participate in activities both after school and on weekends, and 57 percent have some kind of non-school activity

nearly every day. The study also reported that 85 percent of young people say that their after-school activities are enormously important to them. As the school year approaches, you’re likely thinking about which activities your child can comfortably handle after school. The experts at KidsHealth, a property of the Nemours Foundation, said that even well-intentioned parents can sometimes over schedule their kids, thinking that a variety of activities is good for self-confidence, socialization and those dreaded college applications.


Those after-school activities can have an impact, on your child and on you. As you think about registering your child for multiple sports and activities, also think about the stress from over scheduling. According to KidsHealth, top signs that kids are too busy are complaints of headaches and stomachaches due to stress, missed meals, lack of sleep, falling behind on schoolwork, underperforming on tests, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Therefore, it is important to create a realistic schedule each season. Set limits. Here are ways to help manage your child’s after-school activities: l



CHOOSE ACTIVITIES based on your child’s age, interest level, abilities and temperament. “If something’s too advanced, the experience is likely to be frustrating,” according to KidsHealth. “If it isn’t engaging, kids will be bored. And when kids do something only to please their parents, it defeats the whole purpose.” START SLOWLY. Begin with only a single sport per season, choosing one that doesn’t have a practice or game schedule every day. CHECK IN WITH SCHOOL organizers or coaches to get a realistic view of the required time commitment before you sign up your child. Create a plan with your partner, parents or other loved ones for driving and attending the activities.


KNOW THE EXPENSES involved. Some teams require equipment and uniforms, and some clubs require dues.


CREATE A SCHEDULE for before and after all after-school activities to keep kids in balance. If, for example, basketball practice begins at 7 p.m., then kids will have to do at least some homework from 4 to 5 p.m.


CREATE A PLAN for equipment and uniform cleaning and maintenance. Teach younger kids to deliver their uniforms to the laundry room after every practice and game, and teach older kids how to remove grass stains from their uniforms so that they can handle their own laundry needs. Set out shoe brushes and a mat for muddy cleats at a specialized cleaning station, and designate storage spots for other equipment.


PLAN TO SPEND equal time with all of your children, regardless of whether they are involved in activities.


KEEP A CALENDAR to stay organized. Display it on your refrigerator or elsewhere in plain sight so that you’re always in-the-know about timing and can arrange transportation easily.


SET PRIORITIES. Schoolwork comes first, followed by family commitments. If the activity cuts into either of those, the child may need to drop it.


ALLOW FOR DOWNTIME. Everyone in the family needs time to unwind and relax.

You may worry that allowing your child to quit after-school activities will create a negative habit. David Elkind, author of “The Hurried Child,” said the evidence he has seen does not indicate that because your child quits soccer he’ll grow up to quit every job he has. Elkind also said that children in preschool “may learn to put their toys away after playing in a classroom, but we know from research that it doesn’t transfer over to their house!” Therefore, you should consider having your child quit when an activity isn’t fun anymore or if it hurts your child’s self-esteem. -Creators.com


August 2014 | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | Private Schools



School officials at Flint Hill School in Oakton said that students need an early start to language learning if they want to develop higher proficiency.

LANGUAGE, continued from 7 Feynman recently added an after school class in Mandarin. “We’re seeing a real rise in interest in Chinese,” said Marty Abbott, executive director of the Alexandria-based American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. “As a nation, there’s a history of wanting to learn the language of our economic competitors. In the ’50s, it was Russian; in the ’80s, Japanese. Now it’s Chinese.” By the time they have a chance to choose Chinese in middle school, students at Flint Hill have been studying Spanish for several years. The Spanish program begins in transitional kindergarten and goes through sixth grade. “We’re not an immersion program,” said Moore about the lower school program. “Our focus is on conversational competency and cultural awareness.” To make the language more relevant and meaningful to Flint Hill’s young students, Spanish teacher Wanda Ocasio incorpo-

rates some of what children are learning in their academic classes. Second graders, for example, study monarch butterflies, tracking their migration and using vocabulary to compare and contrast the human body with that of the milkweed-eating insect. Her students also study the cultures of Spanish-speaking countries: Mexico in second grade, Guatemala in third grade, and several others, such as Argentina or Chile, in fourth grade. Ocasio arranges celebrations, including a Cinco de Mayo festival, and special activities to complement those studies. “We have a sister school in Guatemala and our students exchange letters about three times during the year. They get so excited about getting to know someone in another country,” she said. For students at Green Acres School in North Bethesda, Md., having some exposure to Spanish is of benefit. Green Acres School, which has an exchange program with a Peruvian school, has been phasing in Spanish studies over the past several years. “This was the first year we

16 Private Schools | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | August 2014

“We have a sister school in Guatemala and our students exchange letters about three times during the year. They get so excited about getting to know someone in another country.” -Wanda Ocasio, Spanish teacher at Flint Hill

offered it throughout the entire school,” said Neal Brown, head of school. “Our philosophy is to use language as a window into other cultures. We approach Spanish in an interdisciplinary manner. We don’t just tack it on.” The approach to language learning is hands on at Nysmith School for the Gifted Inc. in Herndon, according to Ken Nysmith, head of school. “If we’re talking

about food, we’re eating the food,” he said. French is the language of choice for students from preschool to sixth grade. Students explore the language and cultures of French-speaking countries through puppetry, music, dance, art and a variety of hands-on projects. “Studies show that learning a language early helps build different parts of the brain, allowing students to pick up additional languages,” he said. Starting in seventh grade, Nysmith students may choose between high school French, Spanish and Latin. There’s no disputing the social, cultural and cognitive benefits that are associated with bilingualism, says Ellen Johnson Serafini, an assistant professor of Spanish language education at George Mason University in Fairfax. “We are living in a world that is increasingly global and, especially in our own country, quite multicultural. Being bilingual gives kids greater opportunities and a competitive edge.” That opinion is shared by many at area private schools.

DIVERSITY, continued from 9 nearly half of international families and South America accounting for a fifth. Oneness-Family middle school students participate in the Montessori Model United Nations every third year and will be participating in New York this fall. “They debate real-world issues with 900 other students from around the world and prepare a white paper that gets delivered to the Secretary General’s office,” said Kutt. Oneness-Family’s Council on Diversity & Inclusion, a parent committee, was instrumental in creating a lesson that compares and contrasts people’s differences and similarities. One of the outcomes is a mural created by students in first through third grades. “It shows each student as a leaf on a tree, with his own personality but part of something larger,” said Kutt. The school’s emphasis on diversity bears fruit in many ways. Kutt pointed to an incident last year in a middle school class. “They watched a film that had been used forever in school to teach about the fundamentals of how economies are built. What they saw were a number of racial and gender stereotypes and biases in the film,” said Kutt. “So they decided to remake the film on an incredibly limited budget to eliminate them.”

NATURE, continued from 3 things. Older students, who study botany, often sit outdoors, sketchbook in hand, observing nature’s wonders. Playhouses on both campuses have green roofs. A partially green roof can be found at the newer Valleybrook campus school along with a natural playground that features native plants, a rain garden, a stream, bridges, built-in slides and sand pits. Fallen trees at Valleybrook were repurposed to create a walking path. “At our insect camp, children lift up the wooden coins on the path and explore


Nearly two-thirds of the students at Temple Baptist are foreign-born or are considered racial or ethnic minorities, according to school administrators.

underneath to see what’s living there,” said Autor. The gardens, replete with herbs and cone flowers, are designed to attract bees and butterflies. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds can be found in abundance in the sensory garden at Brooksfield School. “The garden allows children to grow, stimulate and explore with their five senses,” said Duffus. There is a student-made birdbath with mosaic tiles, as well as a birdhouse, flowering plants and herbs. An organic vegetable garden gives children insight into the rhythm of the earth. “In each season, whether we are planting, harvesting, laying dormant

or preparing the soil with nutrients, we are engaged in the classroom and in the gardens,” said Duffus. “We also work with a local organic chef who comes in and cooks with us.” School lunches emphasize organic, local and in-season ingredients, according to Duffus. “It is music to our ears to hear children ask for whole foods instead of junk or processed foods,” she said. “We teach that our health depends on eating clean, whole foods that are full of vitamins and minerals, and [we] explain how each food group energizes our mind, body and spirit.” Just as energizing is time spent outdoors, said Duffus.

In his 2008 book, “Last Child in the Woods,” Richard Louv coined the term “nature-deficit disorder.” He argued that schools can eliminate the malady and improve health—both physical and psychological—and learning by reintroducing students to the natural world. “The activities at our school ground children and connect them to a calmer way of living,” Duffus said. Rekindling a child’s relationship with nature ignites curiosity and enhances learning. It also instills a sense of connectedness and guardianship. That, she said, benefits not just the individual student but society as a whole.

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Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Md., hosted a congé in celebration of the Feast Day of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, the founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart, which first established Sacred Heart schools in America in 1818.

TRADITIONS, continued from 5 Games is terrific. And, because they are so inclusive, everyone enjoys them.” The annual Quest at Trinity School at Meadow View in Falls Church pits each grade against the five others. “It’s a yearlong series of spirit events that involves academic and physical competitions and builds community,” said Stephanie Justen, the school’s director of community relations. Among the activities are a knockout competition, a derivative of basketball; pingpong tournament; a quiz bowl called Metaphysical Pursuit; and a chili cook-off, which raises funds for charity. Classes compile points throughout the year, and the winning grade receives an oar. The award is rooted in Homer’s “The Odyssey.” “The oar is a symbol of finality, triumph and reconciliation,” said Justen. The culminating event of Trinity’s eighth-grade history curriculum, the Medieval Banquet, allows students to live what they have studied, according to Justen. Students research a persona—be it royalty, peasant, merchant, cleric—popular between the 5th and 15th centuries and attend the banquet in period attire. There’s always a buzz as the dinner approach-

es and students put together elaborate costumes—some homemade, some borrowed and others handed down from student to student. The celebratory event brings together parents—two of whom serve as king and queen and others who take on supporting roles—students and faculty in a day of merriment that includes medieval music, sword play, jousting, archery and other games. Begun by Trinity’s sister school in South Bend, Ind., in the 1980s, the Medieval Banquet has been a tradition at Meadow View since the school’s inception 16 years ago. Traditions serve to unify the three campuses, the other being in Minneapolis. “If one of our students were to run into someone from another campus, they could easily relate, having shared this common experience,” said Justen. Similarly, many of the traditions at Stone Ridge, an all-girls school in Bethesda, are tied to its identity as one of 22 Sacred Heart schools, founded in 19th-century France by the sister of a Jesuit priest, according to Mitchell. Congés, play days that build community and school spirit, and goûter, special snacks, give the students an opportunity interact with peers and teachers in a more relaxed manner, which

18 Private Schools | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | August 2014

Mitchell said is valuable in today’s technology-driven culture. Two other traditions—Primes and Ring Day—steep students in the history of Sacred Heart schools and help them bond with their teachers and peers. Each Monday morning, students in the first through fourth grades assemble with their teachers and the head of school to recognize the achievements of their peers. As the nominee is announced, a citation is read aloud acknowledging her accomplishments. Each nominee steps forward to accept her medal and a Très Bien card— très bien means “very good” in French— with the citation printed on it. Of particular note is the pebble medal, which Mitchell said relates to the metaphor of the ripple effect when a pebble is thrown. “Each week, in this simple private ceremony, we reestablish a connection to our heritage and recommit ourselves to education at the Sacred Heart,” Mitchell said. Former students also remember Ring Day, when high school juniors receive school rings from the seniors. “It’s something that is as special to the presenter as it is to the recipient,” Mitchell said. The gift of a rose signifies the beginning and end of the final year for seniors, who

present roses to incoming first graders during a formal fall ceremony at Washington Waldorf School. “There is talk of new beginnings and the start of a new journey,” Page said. “A teacher tells a story to welcome the first graders into the community. For the seniors, it is the start of the end of their time here and an opportunity to look to the past, when they first started. During the year, these two classes do certain things together.” At year’s end, the reverse happens. “Our first graders give roses to the seniors, thanking them for being here for us and wishing them all the best on their journey out into the world,” she said. Deeply rooted in culture and connected with the cycles of nature, seasonal festivals— such as the Michaelmas celebration—at Waldorf present opportunities for fun and learning. “With younger children, we note the changing of the seasons. But, higher up in grades, we talk about why such customs developed and why so many cultures have them,” said Page. “We can explore diversity—what makes a group unique—while appreciating that there is this common thread that connects us, as human beings, with each other and nature.”


Trinity School’s Medieval Banquet was started by Trinity’s sister school in Indiana during the 1980s. “If one of our students were to run into someone from another campus, they could easily relate, having shared this common experience,” said Stephanie Justen, the school’s director of community relations.

Michaelmas occurs on a Friday in late September. “It is tied to the ancient idea, at the autumnal equinox, of light against dark, good against evil,” said Page. “Looking toward the winter months, we now must carry the light inside of us.” The festival includes an assembly, where second graders perform a version of the story of Michael—a powerful angelic figure in Judaic, Christian and Islamic traditions— and the dragon. Students march behind their class banners and meet outside, where seventh graders perform a sword dance from the Middle Ages, which is connected to their academic studies, according to Page. The dragon is brought to life by students and teachers who wind along the black top under a costume that extends roughly 30 feet. As the trumpet sounds, Michael appears and subdues the dragon. “Then there are games, and feats of talent and skill … . It ends with an all-school, four-quadrant tug-of-war,” she said. At Merritt Academy in Fairfax, traditions are referred to as hallmarks and are tied to the curriculum, giving a memorable break from the classroom routine, according to Amy Pernick, the school’s director of admissions. “They enrich and support our character education program, which

underlies all that we do here,” she said. In kindergarten, the Fairy Tale Ball is the culminating activity for the students’ lessons on fable-based literature. Fourth- and fifthgrade students, as part of their studies, depict the past during Colonial Day, gaining an appreciation of the challenges faced by colonists in 18th-century America. Grandparents and other special friends join students at The Langley School each fall for a day of performances and classroom activities, according to Kathleen Smith. It is no coincidence that this event occurs just days before Thanksgiving. “It’s a beautiful and memorable day,” said Smith. “Students enjoy sharing the day with their grandparents and the grandparents love seeing the remarkable things that their grandchildren are doing here at Langley.” Last year’s Grandparents and Special Friends Day attracted 350 people, some who traveled from as far as Korea and South Africa to attend. Traditions are more than just fun and games, according to Page, with Washington Waldorf. They are a private school’s gift to its students, families, faculty and, on occasion, the greater community.


August 2014 | Special supplement to The Fairfax County Times | Private Schools


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