News Round Up for March 4

Middle School Robotics

Seventh graders Sean Miller and Michael Sparks recently competed in the2015 State Championship for the VEX IQ Challenge Highrise, a two-day robotics event that teams must qualify for by participating in a local or regional competition.

Twenty-three middle school teams from around the state competed to go on to the VEX IQ World Championships.

Wakefield group fundraises for Indian school, leaves for India/Nepal

A group of Wakefield students will be traveling to India during spring break. While there, they will be visiting Deepalaya School just outside of Delhi, a school that is home to the Father and Daughter Alliance — an enterprise supported by the Robert Duvall Children’s Fund. While still at school, senior Caitlin Wagner arranged a bake sale to raise funds for the school. The sale raised $215, but with additional donations from other sources, it have raised $760. This sum has been split between buying and shipping books directly to the Deepalaya School and a donation to the charity.

Wakefield Athletic Department pairs with George Mason

Wakefield’s Athletic Department will pair with Shane Caswell, director of George Mason’s graduate program in Sports Medicine, in his concussion research. This program is funded by US Lacrosse and provides impact monitoring technology for both our boys and girls teams.

The program involves placing sensors on Wakefield players (in the helmet for boys and behind the ear of the female players). The sensors collect data daily which is analyzed by students in the George Mason Sports Medicine program. Our players are monitored as well, and saliva swabs are taken from them on a regular basis. Finally, all practices and games for both teams are filmed. In the event one of our athletes suffers a concussion they are also monitored during their recovery.

George Mason medical researchers have developed particles that can programmed to attract certain enzymes in a persons blood stream. The hypothesis being tested is that, when a person is concussed, as a result of the injury and its subsequent healing there are minute traces of spinal fluid or other tissues in the blood and saliva of the injured person.

Wakefield students are going to benefit from being directly involved in the scientific process with firsthand observation of data collection, receiving additional attention from trained personnel during away games that are away, and building relationships with faculty from a neighboring university. Our coaches will be able to watch film and improve our players technique so they are playing more safely.

Wakefield School Participates In If You Learned Here

If You Learned Here is a global collaboration and authoring project for students in Pre-K through 8th grade. Inspired by the book If You Lived Here: Houses of the World, this project will engage students in a global dialogue about their learning communities. Each school will generate pages for an eBook that we will write and publish together. This project has three phases: 1) Explore & Share – Using FlipGrid and Padlet, each school participates in 4 weeks of video and image sharing around 4 focus questions. 2) Write & Publish – Each school uses Book Creator to make 2 pages for the global eBook. 3) Reflect & Celebrate! – Together, the schools and students share learning and celebrate the experience as authors, learners, and friends.

Women in Leadership Travels to International Global Womens Summit

Four Wakefield students (Rachel Tyeryar, Eryn Peters, Corryn Siegel and Kelsey Winick) will be attending the International Global Womens Summit in Washington, D. C. The student will be sitting at the co-hosts table as invited guests.

Speaking at the Summit this year are: Fumbi Chima, Chief Information Officer, Walmart Asia; Jon Clifton, Managing Director, Gallup World Poll, Gallup; Joyce Banda, President of Malawi (2012-2014); Dr. Jorida Tabaku, Member of Parliament, Republic of Albania; Wafa Bani Mustafa, Member of the House of Representatives, Jordan; Amina Ali, Ambassador of the African Union to the United States; Erdenechimeg Luvsan, Member of Parliament, Mongolia; Selima Ahmad, Founder, Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Honored at the Summit are: Tarja Halonen, President of Finland (2000-2012); Oyun Sanjaasuren, Member of Parliament, Minister of Environment (2012-2014), Mongolia.

Wakefield Owlstars Take Third

On Saturday, Feb. 28, the Middle School Battle of the Books team competed against 15 other schools in the Piedmont Open. More than 42 teams from 15 schools participated in this tournament. The competition consisted of a multiple choice test, 5 rounds of questions, and a “quotes” round. In addition to taking third, one of our players was recognized at the awards ceremony for earning the highest score on the multiple choice test out of any of the players from any of the schools. The OWLstars will continue to train and prepare for their final competition on April 25.

Australia Student Leadership Development Program Announced

Wakefield School students have been invited to participate in a student leadership development program this summer in Australia. St. Stephen’s College in Coomera, Australia, has invited up to 10 of our students to participate in their program dedicated to leadership and personal development in both large-and-small group settings. Much of the program will take place off campus in the nearby Bunya Mountains, with students living in chalets. They will select a series of electives (still to be determined by St. Stephen’s) around a host of topics dedicated to leadership development.

St. Stephen’s College is an Anglican high school that was founded in 1996 and is located in Queensland, near Brisbane and on Australia’s Gold Coast. Following the leadership program, students will spend a few days visiting St. Stephen’s College learning about Australian education and culture. The visit will include homestays with Australian families.

The program is open to current freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. The program will run from July 13 to 20, with students departing on July 10 and returning on July 24. If you would like to learn more about this opportunity, please contact David Colónby March 19 for more information.  There will be an informational meeting for parents and students on Thursday, March 19, 6-7 p.m.

Harvard Model Congress Awards

Eleven students represented Wakefield School at the Harvard Model Congress in Boston and, building on their successes last year returned with four coveted Delegate Awards. Nearly 1,500 high school students attended this year’s Harvard Model Congress in Boston and only 133 individual awards are given out. The award recognition is not just for the performance while at the conference, it also reflects work prior to the  conference in the preparation of position papers, knowledge of the committee topics and research into the background of the “real world” delegate they are representing.

Anthony Del Rosso earned Outstanding Delegate SP Lobbyist Committee; Lani Wolf earned Outstanding Delegate Committee; Ben Weimer earned Outstanding Delegate SP Lobbyist Committee; and James Wroe earned Outstanding Delegate House Appropriations Committee.

Before the event all delegates completed position papers for their chosen committees. During the event bills were drafted and presented to both committees and the full House and Senate. Ben and James were successful in having their bill to remove the overlap between Medicaid and Medicare signed into law by the President. Lani presented a number of bills. Mary Clubb worked to resolve a crisis in east Europe. Anthony lobbied on behalf of defense companies.

Delegates were Alexandra Boarts, Mary Clubb, Maddie Dargis, Anthony Del Rosso, Janice Lee, Corryn Siegel, Sam Seo, Ben Weimer, Kelsey Winick, Leilani Wolf, and James Wroe. All the students are members of Wakefield’s Model UN club which meets weekly.

History Day Awards

Middle School Technology

1st: Gabriella Hanford and Brianna Handford, “VMI”

2nd: Michael Neff and Lorenzo Solari, “The Evolution of Technology”

Sixth Grade

1st: Chandler Brown, Jacolby Lacy and Robert Guiney, “The Tuskegee Airmen”

2nd: Clay Sailor and Sydney Butler, “Evolution of Medicine”

Seventh Grade

1st: Michael Sparks and Max Schaefer, “The Evolution of Military Aircraft”

2nd: Maura Thompson and Claire Thompson, “The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall”

Eighth Grade

1st: Daniel McLinden, “The Sandwich that Changed the World”

2nd: Audrey Brown, ‘A Case History Unical To Miniscule”

Ninth Grade

T-1st: Nora Ferrante, “Wilmington Remembered”

T-1st: Sadie Bushara, “The Beatles”

Tenth Grade

T-1st: Priya Tran, “The Impact of Technology on World War II”

T-1st: Andrew Sparks and Tim Boyer, “The Impact of Dynamite”

Research Paper

1st: Doria Gilburg, “Ray Kroc’s Revolution on the Fast-Food Industry and its Impact on American Society”

2nd: Jason Mabry, “Alexander Fleming’s Powerful Penicillin”

Outstanding Middle Project

Michael Sparks and Max Schaffer, “The Evolution of Military Aircraft”

Outstanding Upper School Project

Doria Gilberg, “Ray Kroc’s Revolution on the Fast-Food Industry and its Impact on American Society”

Science Fair Recognitions

Middle School

Zeena Joseph, Brianna Handford, Bobby Guiney, Clay Sailor, Chandler Brown, Kevin Dwelly, Ben Anderson, Sandro D’Agostino, Chris Gilchrist, Michael Neff, Max Schaefer, Lorenzo Solari, Rowan Fuchs, Garrett Campos, Laurie Swede, Allie Adrian, Chloe Osborn, Zachary Aykoff

Upper School
Murray Re, Nada Ismael, Sadie Bushara, Allegra Solari, Catherine Zontine, Charles McElroy, Mackie Rich, Sean Zhou, Eloise Colón, Amy Kim, Emma Pol, Henry Holtslander, Peter Ohrstrom, Matt Reid, Ethan Lewe, Isaiah Sharp, Tim Boyer, Sam Seo, Anya Parks, Libby Rensin, Jakob Zontine

Wakefield’s Lower School Completes African American Read-In

picstitch_(27)In the Lower School, we have just completed our African American Read-In!

The African American Read-In is sponsored by the National Council of English Teachers. Schools and communities all around the country participate. The goal is to read as many books written by African American Authors to as many people possible throughout the month of February.

Every Lower School class participated, reading a total of 27 books – a total of 452 participants. As our culminating event, Ms. Peachie Robinson read Precious and the Boo Hag by Patricia C. McKissack, a fun tale reminding all of us to “mind our Mamas.” Ms. Robinson was the guest reader at our assembly this month. It was a perfect ending to our focus on African American authors. The students at assembly then shared their favorite book of the month, and the message it represented.

Teagen represented First Grade. She enjoyed My Best Friend by Mary Ann Rodman, about a girl looking for acceptance by older girls, and finally realizing she could be herself and most comfortable with a girlfriend her own age.

Fourth and Fifth grades expanded on the dialog which began while celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr., and studied the poet Langston Hughes as their African American Read-In focus. This provided an anchor for discussion about equal rights, freedom, and compassion. A total of 15 poems were reviewed. Fourth Grade reflected on these ideas and values and wrote their own poems – two of which you can read here: poems_for_flash_2-27. Fifth Grade connected their study of Langston Hughes to a novel study of The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine. Here are their thoughts about what they learned from this piece of historical fiction.

 Looking for opportunities to instill a joy of reading in our students is a high priority for us in the Lower School. For the past two weeks, our English teachers have met to discuss our professional practice in the area of literacy. We want our students to learn about the world through books. This month was a perfect opportunity to do so.

We will be looking for more opportunities to celebrate reading, so stay tuned. In fact, Monday, March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’ birthday, as well as the day of the nationwide event, “Read Across America” – read more. There are a number of reading activities planned for Junior Kindergarten through First Grade during the week. Mr. Colon and I are excited to read our favorite Dr. Seuss book to the Kindergarten class.

–Dr. Margo Isabel, Head of Lower School

Wakefield senior James Wroe named NMSC Finalist

WroeWakefield School senior James Wroe has been named a Finalist in the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program based on his results from the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Qualifying Test.

Wroe is one of only 15,000 students nationwide who have qualified as Finalists.

About 1.4 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2015 scholarship competition by taking the 2013 PSAT; finalists represent less than one percent of those high school seniors.

In February, some 15,000 Semifinalists are notified by mail at their home addresses that they have advanced to Finalist standing.

About 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth around $33 million will be awarded later in the spring.

James is the son of Gerard and Sandra Wroe of Ashburn.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955.

6th Annual Wakefield School Art Exhibit opens Feb. 26


Thursday, February 26 from 5-7 p.m.

The exhibit is open to the entire Wakefield Community including students, parents, grandparents, and special friends. The Opening Reception is at 6 p.m. in the Arts and Music Building. The show will be on display until March 17th.

Come to the reception and stay for opening night of Oklahoma!

There is NO FEE to participate!


Monday, February 16: Registration forms due

Monday, February 23 and Tuesday, February 24 from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.: Art drop-off in Art & Music Building

Thursday February 26 at 5 pm: Show opens in the Art & Music Building

February 26 at 6 p.m.: Opening Reception

Friday February 27, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Exhibit open

Saturday, February 28 from noon to 1 p.m.:Exhibit open

Tuesday March 17: All art must be picked up by 4 p.m.


We will be accepting art pieces in any of the mediums listed below.

PAINTING – includes oils, watercolors, and acrylics


PRINT – includes lithographs, silk screens, monotypes, woodcuts, and intaglio methods

MIXED MEDIA – includes collages


PHOTOGRAPHY – color, B&W, and digital

ARTISAN CRAFTS/FUNCTIONAL ART – includes mosaics, fiber, basket weaving, wood, and quilting



  • Art can be offered for sale. 30 percent of purchase price will go to Wakefield School to be used for the purchase of permanent art display equipment by the Wakefield Art Department.

  •   All 2D work must be framed and wired for hanging.  Only work properly prepared for hanging will be accepted! NO SAW TOOTH HOOKS OR TABLE TOP FRAMES PLEASE! Please call Ms. Duke or Mr. Genther if you have any questions about framing.

  •   Should size of frames and/or extremities of 3D work exceed 30”x40,” please make special arrangements for delivery and installation by contacting Art Department Chair Christine Mulligan or one of the Fine Arts faculty.

  •   All entries are to have one registration form per person. Please print and deliver or fax (540-253-5422) the completed form to the contacts below.

  •   Each piece of artwork must have one of the registration tags attached to the artwork.  Please use one of the two attached registration tags.

Contact Information:

All registration forms should be delivered to Mrs. Danielle Curtis, Ms. Teresa Duke, or Mr. Gary Genther.

Danielle Curtis –

Gary Genther –

Teresa Duke –

Chris Mulligan –

6th Annual Wakefield School Art Exhibit

Registration Form

Name: ___________________________________________________________________

Grade or affiliation:___________________________________________________

Address: ___________________________________________________________________


Phone/Cell: ___________________________________________________________________

E-Mail: ___________________________________________________________________

Artwork #1

Title __________________________________________________________________________

Medium  ______________________________________________________________________

Size __________________________________________________________________________

  • Not for sale ❑ For sale If for sale,  $_____________

Artwork #2

Title __________________________________________________________________________

Medium  ______________________________________________________________________

Size __________________________________________________________________________

Not for sale ❑ For sale If for sale,  $_____________

Artwork #1

Title __________________________________________________________________________

Medium  ______________________________________________________________________

Size __________________________________________________________________________

  • Not for sale ❑ For sale If for sale,  $_____________


Artwork #2

Title __________________________________________________________________________

Medium  ______________________________________________________________________

Size __________________________________________________________________________

  • Not for sale ❑ For sale If for sale,  $_____________

Please attach these extra copies to the back of the artwork.  ALL work must be labeled.

MLK Day in the Lower School

Engagement in learning for Lower School students always requires making connections between the students’ lives and surroundings and the information that we are trying to teach them. Purposeful, multi-faceted exposure to an idea, concept, or (in the case of our study of Dr. Martin Luther King’s message) historical account will provide a meaningful experience that will likely resonate and “stick” in the mind of the student.

In January throughout the Lower School, we took time to reflect upon Dr. Martin Luther King’s ideals and contribution to our society. The students focused on these points during morning meetings and English classes. Each class was given an excerpt of Dr. King’s inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech. After reflecting on the meaning of their excerpt, students then used the ideas to create their own “We Have a Dream” class commitment. These class-generated commitments show the students’ original and heartfelt thoughts about how we can incorporate them into our everyday lives as a community, both here at Wakefield School and wherever we are. The class commitments are outstanding.

Class CommitmentsOur Lower School assembly time gave us the opportunity to gather together, to share our Dreams and to publicly commit to them. It was also a time to experience through song and recitation some of the important influences of the Civil Rights movement. As we entered the gym for the assembly Mrs. Mulligan, our Lower School music teacher and Arts Chair, played We Shall Overcome. Third Grade then guided us through the singing of Swing Low Sweet Chariot, an African-American Spiritual. Mrs. Mulligan first provided a local historical context by helping students imagine slaves singing and working at a nearby plantation owned by Lord Fairfax in nearby Millwood, Virginia.

“Lord Fairfax, a well-known name in this area and a wealthy land owner of the early 1800s, owned George Washington surveyed land beginning just northwest of Wakefield School in the Millwood, Virginia area. He purchased a number of slaves to assist him in tending his land and household. As they worked to turn expansive farms and plantations into productive property for their owners, or to build roads or lay track for the new railroads in the south, they dreamed of a happier life ahead. While working the plantations, often the leader of a group of slaves would begin singing to establish a rhythm of effort to sustain productivity, and to keep the slaves working together. The call and response style of these spirituals was an excellent means for the slave boss to establish the rhythm of work that would keep his fellow slaves working at an acceptable pace and out of trouble. Collections of spirituals tell a rich history of the slavery movement. In addition to drawing strength from freedom songs, some were used as a clever means of communication. Discovery of an escape plan meant severe punishment, so directions of a path to freedom were often disguised in song. While all accounts of Lord Fairfax I’ve read describe him as a kind and good man, he could not have known that this early beginning of the slave movement would turn into one of the darkest chapters of our American history.”

Mrs. Mulligan continued by explaining that these African-American spirituals have remained to this day, and continue to be sung to reflect the principles of the Civil Rights Movement, and to promote equality for all. First Grade concluded our assembly by reciting Langston Hughes’ famous poem, “Dreams.”

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.

Our Martin Luther King assembly was a moving experience for all.

In the Lower School, we dedicate time to help our students realize their Dreams!

Many thanks to all my colleagues who took the time to reflect and work with our students on this meaningful project, and to Megen Evans for producing the video.

—Dr. Margo Isabel, Head of Lower School

Women in Leadership Group Going Strong

_DSC1745The Women in Leadership (WIL) group at Wakefield School is going strong. This year, two seniors – Rachel Tyeryar and Eryn Peters – stepped into the leadership role of defining the 2014/15 group goals and program agenda. Most recently, they invited four successful women to share their stories during the WIL Lunch Bunch program. Each story was vastly different but all had common themes of: personal & family sacrifice, professional courage, hard work, intense dedication and focus, resiliency in the face of adversity, and some “fun” along the way.

Dr. Pam Garner, a Wakefield parent to junior Chris and alum Jayson and a developmental psychologist and professor at George Mason University, talked about having a plan – both personally and professionally – and the balance between career, family, raising her two sons, and being passionate about her area of research and teaching. Dr. Garner teaches courses at George Mason and conducts research in the areas of developmental and educational psychology. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, a master’s degree from the University of Houston, and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. Dr. Garner shared many insights into her career and stated that, “When I started listening to my own voice and aligning my work to my own values and not those that were defined by others, I became a much more successful researcher and I published more of my work than I ever had.  You don’t have to wait for someone to designate you as a leader, be in charge of your own life and live according to your own values.”

Debi Alexander, a Wakefield parent to senior Ashley and alum Alex and the Executive Director of Rainbow Therapeutic Riding Center, shared her experiences from childhood aspirations, through college and law school, and finally finding her passion as the head of a non-profit organization. Prior to joining the Rainbow Center in 2006, she had a long career in government relations and public affairs spanning 25 years. She shared four qualities that, in her view, determine a successful woman. 1) Be true to yourself, don’t follow someone else’s dream or path, follow your heart,  2) Always say “yes” to opportunities to achieve goals – never fail to act out of fear. Stay focused on solutions, not problems,  3) Keep your professional and family life in balance.  To achieve these goals be willing to revise plans when they don’t work or need tweaking, understand that there are things you just can’t control, so let those things go, eat healthy, sleep thoroughly and exercise every day, and no matter what, keep a sense of humor, and 4) Last, but not least, cook homemade, real food as a family.

Alba Aleman, a parent to Wakefield alum Alex and the CEO and founder of Citizant, shared her story about challenges from her childhood which fueled her strong desire for a great education and her passion for taking on big challenges.   As CEO of Citizant, Ms. Aleman oversees the firm’s strategy, corporate growth and ongoing quality initiatives.  She holds a Federal Enterprise Architect Certification and is actively engaged with the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce in mentoring entrepreneurial women looking to start and grow their own businesses. Ms. Aleman suggested that, “Very few things in life come with an instruction manual or a plan.  Don’t worry if you haven’t figured it all out just yet.  I’m 47 and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.  So long as you keep an open mind, act in good faith, and do things that matter or make a difference… you will always be rewarded and fulfilled.”

Susan Lewis, a parent to Wakefield alum Brent and Wakefield School’s Chairman of the Board, is a retired Executive Vice President and Chief Real Estate Investment Officer for Citigroup’s Alternative Investment Group. She shared her rather underwhelming ambitions in high school. After graduating with a B.A. in Finance, she began her career in banking. She retired in 2005 after a 25-year career traveling extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe. She shared a story of one trip to Japan, where it was assumed that she was the lowest ranking person in a meeting because she was a woman. The only other women in the business meetings in Japan were responsible for pouring tea. Ms. Lewis never had a female boss in her 25-year career at Citigroup. She is passionate about helping young women succeed and was one of the catalysts for starting the WIL program at Wakefield. She shared a few parting thoughts with the group that included “Never be afraid of what you don’t know. Always say “yes” to opportunities to stretch yourself and learn new areas. Surround yourself with excellent people and remember that being a great leader has virtually nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with how you respect and treat others and inspire people to work together toward a common goal. Lastly, always give every task you undertake your best effort. Passion, hard work, a positive attitude, and persevering through challenges will be rewarded.”

Next up on the Women in Leadership agenda is a Lunch Bunch with a successful female Veterinarian and two Physicians. For Discovery Week, the WIL Group will be offering a two-day program in D.C. meeting with women congressman, senators or high ranking staffers.

Hour of Coding in Lower School

codingI must say I wondered for a bit what all the hype was regarding “coding,” especially in the lower school classroom. However, as someone who relies on my relationships within my PLN (Personal Learning Network, which includes educational leaders around the world) to stay up to date and communicate about educational realities, the talk about coding was everywhere! I read, as did Headmaster David Colón, a number of articles that stressed its importance. This is what grabbed my attention and pushed me to look beyond my daily blog and Twitter browsing and to make a case for exploring coding in the Lower School:

“…it’s worth pointing out that this push towards helping our students learn the ideas of coding is not simply getting them to write computer programs. It’s about helping them to think clearly; identify and analyse problems; come up with creative, innovative solutions; and ultimately, help make the world a better place. The thing about coding is that it’s far more about learning to think clearly and creatively than it is about doing nerdy computer stuff. Put simply, good coders are good thinkers.”

I strongly encourage you to read the entire article by this Australian Educator.

I know how much we want our Wakefield students to be good thinkers and problem solvers, as well as articulate communicators — and coding can help them get there!  So I talked with Simon Sjogren, who made the coding program “Scratch Jr.” available on our new iPads, and the fun began!  And, I must admit, the second graders beat me to the chase. I was up to par at getting my cat to talk and cross the street, but I just couldn’t get the cat to jump out of the road. I wandered around the second grade classroom, and luckily some enthusiastic student “coders” helped me!

— Dr. Margo Isabel, Head of Lower School

On December 8th, 2014, the Hour of Code began in classrooms at all grade levels across the world. This is an annual event where schools participate and help their students learn coding in a whole new way. During the same time, Wakefield School’s first, second, and third graders also began their one hour of coding in Mr. Sjogren’s technology classes using iPads and the application “Scratch Jr.”

For many students, this was their first experience with coding. The ability to learn coding has been around for many years, although not until recently was coding actually this much fun! Using the new Lower School iPads, the students were able to write lines of code and create programs that moved objects from one side of the screen to another in less than an hour’s time. The students were left excited about the work they had done and the new skill they had just learned.

The ability to code is a skill that has become more widely used in “jobs of the future” and with the ever-changing landscape of technology, the need for such a skill exists – and the students at Wakefield now have the chance to broaden their technical skills into become possible programmers of the future!

–Simon Sjogren, Director of Technology Integration

Class of 2015 Recent College Acceptances

Our Class of 2015 Owls have already racked up an impressive list of college acceptances — with more to come!

College of Charlcollege counselingeston

College of William and Mary

East Carolina University

Georgetown University

Immaculata University

Longwood University

Louisiana State University

Ohio University

Princeton University

United States Naval Academy

University of Delaware

University of Pennsylvania

University of Pittsburgh

University of Vermont

Utah State University

Virginia Tech

Virginia Wesleyan College

Weber State University

West Virginia University

Dr. Margo Isabel on Lower School “Text-to-World” Connections

smile trainAs an educator, I have no greater sense of satisfaction than seeing the “stars align” through a student-led, authentic, collaborative and compassionate service project that sprang from a conversation between a grandson and his grandmother about the challenges and complexities of our world poverty, friendship, and the need to serve humanity. Pair that with encouraging teachers who appreciated this student’s interest and were willing to support him through lunch, recess and after school work sessions. The end result was that this authentic project, a Lower School bake sale, earned $873 to be donated to The Smile Train organization.

Fifth grader Andrew Renz and his grandmother were having a conversation about poverty in our world – which led to a conversation about the main character, August Pullman, in the Fifth Grade Literature book, Wonder, by R.J. Palacios. August was born with extreme facial deformities. Because of constant surgeries, he was homeschooled for much of his life, but thereafter was fortunate enough to attend a school much like Wakefield. Accepting him was difficult for some of his classmates. As you might imagine, August’s story has stimulated multiple important conversations in our fifth grade about empathy, kindness and inclusion.

Andrew quickly made a text-to-world connection between children in less developed countries – born with cleft palate and unable to pay for surgery due to their impoverished background.  At that moment, he decided to put aside his upcoming Christmas money to donate to the Smile Train organization, an organization that sends trained doctors to different countries to perform this relatively simple surgery – for free.

That was not enough for Andrew, however. He wanted to do more. In Andrew’s words, “Sometimes, the little things we can do to show one another kindness and support are the most important. To help a young child, the same age as the kids right here in our Lower School, have a pretty smile instead of living a whole lifetime with a crooked, incomplete smile is a kindness I would like to share.”

With the support of his teachers, Mrs. Bates and Mrs. Williams, off he went to talk with his classmates to organize a two-day bake sale that was held over six lunch periods. He divided and conquered – forming an advertising committee to make posters and announcements at our assemblies, a set-up and sales committee, a baking committee, and a committee to count the profits and announce the result – $873.25 for Smile Train!

Andrew and the fifth grade know the true meaning of the holiday season – a time of togetherness, empathy, joy and service to others. These are the values that we all, families and teachers in partnership, work to instill in our children. We do this by providing students with opportunities to collaborate, problem-solve and serve the greater community – there is no greater gift than active, meaningful learning.