- 500 Words On...Technology and Parenting in the Era of COVID-19
- 500 Words On...College Counseling Boot Camp
- 500 Words On...Social/Emotional Learning
- 500 Words On...Interim Week
- 500 Words On...How North Shore Prepares Graduates for College
- 500 Words On..."Live and Serve"
- 500 Words On...Science Olympiad
- 500 Words On...Strategic Planning
- 500 Words On...Performing Arts
- 500 Words On...Philanthropy
- 500 Words On...Partnerships
- 500 Words On...Why North Shore?
- 500 Words On...Play
Directory of Educational Technology
June 26, 2020
Once upon a time, I grew up on the North Shore in an era where free-range parenting was not a “thing.” It was more a way of life. Along with friends, I was allowed to roam the woods, ravines, beaches and parks near Lake Michigan where I grew up. We rode bikes uptown for ice cream, built forts in the woods, hunted for sea glass at the beach, and became familiar with trillium and other flora commonly found in my neighborhood. From what I recall, my after-school life, too, was not particularly programmed. My parents encouraged my participation in a variety of activities. Still, specialization in the arts and sports typically didn’t happen until high school, and even then, most kids were able to pursue multiple interests.
Our children’s lives are much different today. As parents, we are vividly aware of the world and are generally more cautious about letting children play outside unsupervised. Families are more scheduled for a variety of reasons, and sometimes there is little time for kids to play and daydream. Technology is omnipresent, and while access to information has been transformational, devices can be viewed as distractions and barriers to interaction. Compounding these shifts today is the coronavirus, which has isolated us even further. What do we do? Do we lament life as we knew it in our childhoods? Or, do we try to make sense of these shifts and figure out what best works for our family?
I hope the latter is the chosen approach in this era. Families need to be mindful of active versus passive use of technology, set appropriate limits for technology use and find ways to engage further. It’s easy to retreat behind devices; it’s much more challenging to have conversations and plan activities with intentionality that includes everyone in a family. Some resources that can help you figure out what’s best for your situation include NAEYC’s guidance on technology and media, Common Sense Media (specifically check out their research and family media toolkit), and the Pew Center’s collection of articles and research on teens and technology.
At North Shore, we believe the active use of technology can support the experiential learning philosophy core to our educational program. First and foremost, we want to see students use technology to foster communication, creativity, collaboration, curiosity and critical thinking. We also hope students become producers of content, not just consumers of it. As parents, you can support these goals by encouraging active uses of technology; here are some curated suggestions for working with your child. Consider spending time together this summer playing Pokemon Go, going on a photo walk or listening to audiobooks of stories related to a location where you are traveling. Screen time certainly is a concern, particularly when children are passively using technology (watching videos, for example). However, given this day and age, we are relying on technology more than we did in our pre-coronavirus lives, and experts say it’s okay to let go a bit and consider the context. I encourage you to review how you can leverage shared digital experiences to serve as springboards for learning and exploration this summer!
Director of College Counseling & Institutional Research
June 9, 2020
After beginning the college research process in November, each June, North Shore rising seniors participate in College Counseling Boot Camp, a series of events and activities designed to begin the college application preparation process. A rite of passage that has existed for over a decade, Boot Camp provides students an opportunity to learn more about the college application review process directly from college admission representatives, and begin to apply that knowledge to their own applications. Strategically scheduled for the very first days of summer break, Boot Camp sends students off into the summer with all the tools they need to maximize their summer hours and return to school in August with significant portions of their college applications already complete. This year, during the very first virtual Boot Camp, June 1-5, students participated in informational webinars, college essay brainstorming, writing and revising sessions, Common Application overviews and mock admissions interviews.
Serving as the primary faculty for the program were four current admission officers:
Greg Moyer, Assistant Vice President and Director of Admissions Recruitment, Dickinson College
Sydney Gabourel Ezzedine, Assistant Director of Admission, Fordham University
Megan Lakatos, Illinois Regional Admissions Recruitment Coordinator, University of Michigan
Tom Nicholas, Associate Director of Admission, Richmond College
These college admission experts offered families insights on the current state of college admission, changes to the process and expectations related to the pandemic, and provided strategies on how students should prepare their applications to effectively communicate their strengths to college admission committees. Parents and students also had the opportunity to ask the admission representatives their own questions. In addition, students each met one-on-one for a mock admission interview with one of the admission representatives and received detailed feedback on how to be best prepared for upcoming interviews.
In addition to their work with the college admissions representatives, the rising seniors participated in an essay workshop, and worked independently on brainstorming, drafting and revising a draft of their college personal statement. They also collaborated with North Shore College Counseling staff to begin to fill out their Common Applications. These crucial pieces will serve as the building blocks of the applications students will ultimately submit to colleges this fall.
By the end of the busy week, rising seniors officially began their summer break having completed drafts of essays and applications, received interview feedback, and resolved questions about how to best express themselves through their applications. Using this new knowledge and the skills they developed over the course of the week, our North Shore students will not only be well-prepared for the application submission process, but will be able to turn their summer attention beyond the college application work required of them, and the freedom to pursue other interests and passions.
Director of Counseling
March 6, 2018
When I started working at NSCDS in 1996, a woman named Sharon Cooper was one of my mentors. Sharon and I worked as colleagues in College Counseling, and her insight and wisdom about absolutely everything knew no bounds. As a young, twenty-something aspiring therapist, I welcomed every story—every bit of life experience—that she was willing to share. Since we spent hours together, face-to-face by virtue of the placement of our desks, we knew each other well, and no subject went untouched.
One afternoon, as we discussed women’s lives and mental health, Sharon said something that I remember to this day, “A well woman is a connected woman.” She wasn’t referring to women’s professional connections but, rather, to the way in which bonds of friendship and community naturally and powerfully support women’s mental health.
This message was echoed, more recently, during a wellness training I attended in 2016 through the Center for Mind Body Medicine. This five-day workshop brought together therapists, medical doctors, naturopaths, and every variety of healer from across the country and around the world to learn about facilitating people’s emotional wellness. As this incredibly diverse group of people engaged in hours of educational lectures, as well as intense group experiences, one of the primary messages of the training was amplified: Community is both one of the oldest facilitators of wellness and one of the most effective forms of intervention.
As this idea pertains to the wellness of students, the implications are clear—community is a keystone of mental health, an essential protective factor that promotes resilience. In other words, what North Shore Country Day School is as a community—what any school is as a community—is as relevant to students’ wellness as is the presence of a counseling staff or wellness-oriented programming.
Given what we know—that social-emotional health challenges can compromise students’ interest in learning and their ability to learn; that distressed students are distracted students; that compromised mental health impacts attention, retention and one’s ability to collaborate—the relevance of community in the life of a child cannot be overstated.
What we also know is that, when young people are given the tools to “struggle well” through such challenges within the supportive context of a deep-rooted, richly enacted community, they learn to grow beyond their struggles and acquire tools that bear gifts for a lifetime.
So, as Director of Counseling at North Shore Country Day School, while I’m proud that our wellness programming focuses on everything from kindness and empathy to digital citizenship to stress management, depression and the transition to college, I am even prouder that who we are serves kids’ wellness as much as, if not more than, what we teach to enhance it.
Lots of schools have Buddy Benches, but, at our school, a lonely kid can sit on it and actually find a buddy.
Through our service projects, our traditions and our relationships with one another, together, we create mental health.
Student from the Class of 2018
November 14, 2017
When the beginning of November comes, students are itching to break out of their routines and we all become antsy, fidgety and unfocused. With the first quarter over, we take advantage of our flexible block schedule and cure this phenomena with Interim Week—an entire week dedicated to experiential education, immersive learning and getting outside of your comfort zone. Interim gets kids moving, thinking and rejuvenated.
While the Upper School is buzzing all year round with students giving back, Interim Week is also one way we bring our motto “Live and Serve” to life. Half of the Interims offered are service based and range from volunteering at an animal shelter to sewing clothes for children in need. While not all Interims are focused on service learning, many still incorporate these principles. In my three years of Interim experiences, I have worked on building a home through Habitat for Humanity, helped out in a local bilingual classroom and traveled to Cuba to take part in a service and cultural exchange.
Two years ago, just as the Chicago winter was starting to kick in and the school routine was getting old, 12 students, three teachers and I visited Cuba to sightsee, connect with locals and do service. During our week in Cuba, we toured Havana, visiting museums, schools and neighborhood art projects and traveled to Viñales, exploring caves, farms and small towns. While in Havana, we worked with a program that supports young artists, getting our hands dirty, creative juices flowing and lending a hand to paint walls, later painted with murals to brighten up the low-income community. Later in the week, we helped a neighborhood fix their sidewalks, gardens and community spaces. At the end of the day, we were dirty and tired but were energized after seeing our work enjoyed by the community.
Before our trip, we worked with the History Department to learn about Cuban-American relations and Cuban history. After, we met with Spanish teachers to learn Cuban songs, dances and brush up on our Spanish. Once in Cuba, we used these skills to chat with locals about their lives, views of America and passions. We read books to little kids in an orphanage, sharing smiles and giggles. Everywhere we went we were met with warm welcomes and enthusiasm to connect America and Cuba through conversation.
My local Interims may not have been as remarkable in terms of experiencing cultural differences, but each year, our groups grew close as we faced new situations, challenges and joys. While tutoring, we compared notes on how to best work with rowdy kids, and with Habitat for Humanity we taught each other how to hammer in nails and keep our goggles from fogging up. In all cases, Interim brought a chance to mix students across friend groups, grades and backgrounds through shared experiences.
I am thankful for the emphasis our school puts on community engagement and service, and for the opportunity to take part in meaningful learning experiences on and off campus.
Alumnae Class of 2009
May 15, 2017
My mom was apprehensive about my transition to college. It was hard for her to imagine that a small school in Winnetka and my 42 classmates could have really prepared me for an Ivy-League university and a class of 2,500. I had been a big fish in a small pond, but could I make it in the ocean?
North Shore prepared me better than she could have imagined. And it was the two things that I valued most about North Shore: building meaningful relationships and the School’s motto, “Live and Serve,” that made my college experience successful.
I arrived on campus a few days before college started to participate in PennCORP, the community-service pre-orientation program. I knew I wanted an experience that would help me ease into college, after all, my mom wasn’t the only one worried about transitioning to a class of 2,500. My North Shore experience formed around the idea of “Live and Serve,” from our 7th grade service-learning project collecting and refurbishing computers to my senior-service project at Cook County Hospital, I learned the most about myself and the world around me through service. I am still struck by the Cesar Chavez quote outside of the Hall Library, “The end of all education should surely be service to others.” PennCORP was a touch point that allowed me to learn about the relationship between the University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia and get involved in student organizations focused on social and racial justice.
What I didn’t know was that on my first day of PennCORP I would meet my best friends, my academic advisor and my professional mentors. North Shore’s emphasis on community and relationship building meant that I crafted small spaces in a large university. Socially, I used the student organizations I was involved in to craft a tight-knit circle of friends that made my college experience feel smaller. Academically, I expected to build relationships with professors in a lecture hall of 200 students the same way I expected to build relationships in my North Shore classrooms of 15. More to the point, it made me seek out smaller academic spaces so that my average class size across four years of college was closer to my class sizes at North Shore. Professionally, I made connections with my peers and university staff that helped me see ways to turn my academic journey into a life after college. In a university known for producing CEOs, I was affirmed in my belief that what impact I make matters more to me than how much I make.
My parents arrived on campus a few days before graduation to see me receive the James Brister Society’s Senior Service Award for service to the university. This was the appropriate bookend to my college experience. I felt I had come full circle. It was North Shore that focused me on meaningful, transformational relationships and service to society. At this point, my mom understood I could make it in the ocean.
Director Live+Serve Lab
Upper School English and Social Studies Teacher
October 15, 2019
What does “Live and Serve” mean to you?
When you ask what is important at North Shore—what’s at our core—many people will say “Live and Serve.” But not everyone who gives that answer can say exactly what they mean by it. Perhaps you are one of those people. I know that for me, the idea of “Live and Serve” is constantly evolving and sometimes hard to pin down.
As I prepared for the opening of North Shore’s new Live+Serve Laboratory this fall, I read a lot, even going back to John Dewey, who influenced Perry Dunlap Smith (PDS) as he started this school. “Live and Serve” hones in on Smith’s core philosophy of educating for democracy. Smith firmly believed that school was not preparation for real life: it was real life. “Live and Serve” is about that real-worldexperience; it means that our experiences are transformative when our actions have a meaningful impact on the world. I wrote pages of dense text about these ideas, quoting from educational theorists like PDS and Ken Robinson, trying to articulate the idea of “Live and Serve” in its most essential form.
I was ready to talk about how service, in its widest sense, is best when it connects action and learning. Whether service is inside the classroom as “service learning”—service that is connected to curriculum—or outside the classroom as projects, students are learning about the world, building empathy, being empowered to make decisions that matter and reflecting on their impact. I prepared myself to present complicated words and high ideals to my accustomed audience: high schoolers and adults.
My first visitors to the Live+Serve Lab came. They were 1st graders.
While I panicked may be too dramatic, it’s true that as those students walked in, I quickly realized that I wasn’t ready for this audience. So I resorted to a strategy teachers can always rely on: I asked questions.
“We’re in the Live+Serve Lab,” I started. “What do those words—’Live and Serve’—mean to you?”
You will not be surprised that the 1st graders GOT IT, as did every other Lower School class that came in that day. They told me that “Live and Serve” meant being with each other (community), working together (collaboration) and doing things for other people (service). They also knew that a laboratory was where you did experiments (and maybe blew things up). So while we don’t plan on any literal explosions, the Live+Serve Lab—a center for all our service at North Shore—allows us to collaborate, experiment, create and connect to our wider community.
I am grateful to those students for giving us even more language with which to talk about service. Listening to—and learning from—everyone we encounter: This, too, is core to “Live and Serve” at North Shore.
Founder & Coach of NSCDS Science Olympiad Team
Middle School Science Teacher
March 9, 2017
Nineteen years ago, I began the Science Olympiad Program at North Shore. I learned about it while attending a conference where I saw a student demonstrate an event involving complex engineering. At the time, I thought to myself, “Why can’t our Middle Schoolers do this?”
Science Olympiad blends three things I am passionate about—education, competition and fun. Each year, Middle School students on our team participate in 23 different events covering all areas of science with an emphasis on design and engineering. They are challenged to think outside the box and problem solve. Unlike a science fair where students work independently, students work collaboratively to solve problems, competing as school teams.
Over the years, more than 600 North Shore students, including about a third of our current students, have participated in Science Olympiad. There have also been dozens of volunteer coaches—teachers, current parents, parents of alumni and Upper School students—who have graciously dedicated their time and energy to make North Shore’s Science Olympiad teams among the best in the state, year after year.
The outcomes of this program are many. Science Olympiad capitalizes on students’ curiosity about how and why things work, turning kids onto science who otherwise might not be. They also benefit from the teamwork, social interactions and brainstorming. As a result of the mix of coaches, the connections and relationships that form are quite unique and memorable.
Former North Shore Olympians have attributed their career paths as entomologists, engineers and medical professionals to their time in Science Olympiad. Avery Russell ’07, a research scientist at the University of Pittsburgh writes, “Science Olympiad pushed me to interact with younger and older schoolmates, and appreciate the wealth of knowledge the faculty and parents of NSCDS had to offer. As a postdoctoral scientist, I mentor undergraduate and graduate students, and form research collaborations with professors. Science Olympiad gave me firsthand experience in understanding what it takes to be a good teammate, and to clearly and effectively communicate my ideas.”
Saachi Shah ’09 started Science Olympiad as a 6th grader at North Shore. “I was immediately drawn to the use of creativity and analytics within certain events. I continued with Science Olympiad through high school. It taught me to look at science from a practical perspective and encouraged me to pursue engineering at the University of Illinois. While the knowledge I gained was immense, my favorite part was developing great relationships with my coaches. Thank you Mr. Skalinder and Mr. Jessen for educating me and giving me direction for my future!”
Science Olympiad at North Shore has been extremely successful. We have qualified for the state finals 19 years in a row! Out of the 45 teams that qualify for the state finals, we have finished in the top 10 in the state 11 times and as high as 4th place four times. Not bad for one of the smallest participating schools in Illinois. This year, our North Shore Olympians won their regional competition and are headed to the state finals on April 29, 2017. Go Raiders!!!
Molly Shotwell Oelerich ’87
Vice Chair of the Board and former President of the Alumni Board
November 18, 2017
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
North Shore Country Day has a discipline, going back to the early 1980s, of regularly writing strategic plans. I have had the honor of participating in four strategic plans during my tenure on the Board of Trustees, including serving as Chair of the plan committee in 2002. It is a process that is challenging, thoughtful and full of aspiration.
Strategic planning is essential to any successful business or organization and North Shore is no exception. It provides an opportunity to look past the day-to-day and focus on the future, setting broad directions and goals for the School to pursue. Most important, it helps us to reflect regularly so that we continue to improve rather than becoming complacent.
At North Shore, these plans have traditionally covered a four-year span, focusing our attention in specific places and holding us accountable. Topics addressed in the past have included curriculum development, diversity, community, finance, student life, global awareness and faculty growth. It should come as no surprise that many of these themes appear in multiple plans, though with different goals or areas of investigation. North Shore is extremely disciplined about this critical process and we have benefitted as a result.
If you walk through the halls of North Shore on any given day, you will see the fruits of past strategic plans. They may be in the classroom—Mandarin Chinese and other curricular expansion are examples of our push toward global citizenry and awareness. Alternatively, they could be our campus itself—the Louis Conant Science Center, renovated Upper School, renovated Auditorium and Arts Center, and Lower and Middle School upgrades—were all the result of strategic plans identifying our facilities as targets for renewal. Lastly, our exemplary faculty is the result of an intentional push for hiring excellence. All strategic plans have also included elements of fiscal planning and fundraising—key drivers in achieving our lofty goals.
This year, led by the Board of Trustees, North Shore embarks upon another round of strategic planning. The Board manages the process, beginning with in-depth discussions of best practices in education, areas for improvement and ongoing institutional needs. Committees of trustees, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and students will take a “deep dive” into a particular area, gathering and sharing data, and ultimately providing recommendations for a final plan to be approved by the Board in the spring of 2017. That plan will be communicated to the School community, serve as a blueprint for the next four years of North Shore’s growth, and take us through the School’s Centennial in 2019-2020.
Each strategic plan is a great opportunity to look at North Shore with fresh eyes and ensure future success. It's exciting work—after 97 years, we are just getting started!
Performing Arts Department Chair & Upper School Theatre Teacher
March 9, 2016
"Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets."—Ludwig Van Beethoven
In high school, I agreed to have a 15-minute lunch. It was my choice since I wanted to take orchestra, chorus and theatre courses. I was fully aware of missing the social atmosphere that occurs during the lunch period, but instead I knew I would be delving into my passions with my Performing Arts family.
Anytime you are involved in a Performing Art, everyone speaks of process vs. final performance. Here at North Shore, we create the family I mentioned above in all of our offerings and build it through process. Performing Arts students gain the important experience of observing each other grow, compete, fail, emote and even demonstrate their most vulnerable state at times. We have seen the leadership of older students guiding younger students through the process, giving them tips and proving that owning the process is your individual responsibility.
Practice is the main vein of Performing Arts preparation and process. From Lower School students rehearsing songs for an upcoming concert, to Middle School dance students leading their own physical warm-up to review a number, practice takes discipline. During last year’s Spring Musical, many principal actors came to our first blocking rehearsal completely memorized. The bar was set and was a visible and tangible goal for the younger students to strive for since they sensed this positive pressure. There was a professional tone that followed through the very last performance.
Similarly, the Middle School instrumental ensemble had the opportunity to perform with the Upper School instrumental ensemble playing side-by-side on the same pieces. The experience inspired a drive in the Middle School students to take on the responsibility of challenging themselves during their practice. They came to their next rehearsal energized and inspired by the guidance of their older peers.
Fifteen minutes before a performance is a time of reflection when each musician, actor, dancer or performer reflects on the process; they go through final preparations and consider the growth and challenges that have occurred. There is a brief moment when this needs to be pushed aside, and the focus and breathing take over. The family that was created supports the performance—all members doing their part and pushing themselves individually and for the whole. Confidence and risk-taking sets in because now is the time you expose the audience to what is inside you, and it is time to share the human condition and a story through song, dance or words.
Both the process and performance are equally as important and, across our divisions, we guide from start to finish.
Molly Ingram McDowell '80
Director of Development
November 19, 2015
I really like schools because of the dynamic of our students and teachers. I really like my job because I believe in North Shore. There’s a commitment to growth and an energy that’s a part of all—students, teachers, faculty, staff, parents and alumni—wanting to advance student growth and development. It’s very motivating.
Advancing North Shore, as in all independent schools, requires a commitment to philanthropy—“the practice of giving money and time to help make life better for other people.” We have a responsibility to model philanthropy—for each other and for our students—providing a deep understanding of what it means to be productive, contributing members of society along with acts of caring, supporting and giving to others.
North Shore is committed to building on our strong foundation of philanthropy established by a legacy of supporters. In honoring our school community’s philanthropic spirit, we respect past supporters and leaders as good stewards, and expand our commitment of strong philanthropic support of the School—for students and teachers today and for the years to come.
People often ask, why the need for fundraising at North Shore? The reality of an independent school model is that tuition only covers approximately 75% of the cost of educating our students. We depend on contributions to Annual Giving, endowment support and other annual gifts to balance the budget. Yes, it’s challenging, but it offers an opportunity to talk with donors—alumni, parents, grandparents and friends of the School—about the incredible programs, teachers, student accomplishments, opportunities and plans for growth, and development.
By emphasizing not just the amount of the gift but the act of participating, we make a difference in the lives of our students today and the impact our students will have in the world.
Inspiring anecdotes come out of these conversations:
A 1940 alumnus sees greater impact at North Shore than at his college and grad school alma maters. “My gift to North Shore makes a meaningful impact every day and I can see it.”
A college student felt valued and appreciated, and assured her 5-year pledge for $4.02 a year (equaling her graduation year for a total gift of $20.10) made a difference, after receiving a letter from Head of School Tom Doar.
A new faculty member felt part of something distinctive by joining colleagues who, for 7 straight years, have shown unified support with 100% participation in Annual Giving.
A parent believes through his contributions, our school will support all students in preparing them to become impactful global citizens.
Fundamentally, strong philanthropic participation in our school reflects commitment, engagement and involvement of all. I believe that supporting North Shore directly impacts our students and teachers to make the world better by their commitment to education, understanding of each other and those in need. It is reflective of positive role modeling not only for our students but for each other.
Academic Dean and Assistant Head of School
September 29, 2015
Partnerships are central to North Shore Country Day School. They always have been. For 96 years, our students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, volunteers and distinguished visitors have shared their lives and our school in partnership. Today, these partnerships are constantly visible as I make my way around campus.
- A 1st grade reading group walking hand-in-hand with their teachers into the world of reading
- Students crafting the latest edition of a third grade audio recording
- Middle School Science Olympians working with their teammates and coaches to study, build and gain both knowledge and skills in advance of their next competition
- Student athletes – no matter what grade level or sport – learning and relearning foundational skills
- A 9th grader redrafting a paper with the guidance of a peer editor and then her teacher
- The cast of the musical coming together around a common goal
- A senior working to identify his next educational home with his college counselors
Through these partnerships, we all learn and grow. Our faculty will tell you—sometimes with a twinkle in their eyes—that they learn from their students every day. For our students, however, these partnerships are central to their North Shore experience, moving them forward as thinkers, writers, and speakers, and uncovering the passions and self-understandings that will carry them into their adult lives.
The current Strategic Plan calls for the development of a Chicago Community Partners Program that will open the door to a new range of partnerships and enable our students and teachers to better utilize Chicago as a laboratory for learning. As we begin work to launch the program, we expect the roster of partners will include some of Chicago’s community-based organizations, cultural and scientific institutions, companies, individuals as well as other educational communities. Some may well be marquee names while others will link us with emerging voices and take us into new neighborhoods.
Some partnerships will solidify already existing relationships, and others will be brand new. While some partnerships will link directly to our established academic program, there will be some that build avenues to new and otherwise impossible-to-achieve curriculum. They will enable our students to put what they have learned on campus to the test and to bring their experiences back to the classroom. They will enable our students to get their hands dirty, to become entrepreneurial in their outlook, and to gain a sense of the multiplicity of perspectives that exist in the world. Our students will have new opportunities to Live and Serve. We hope and expect that our students will see additional models of adulthood and that their imaginations will be sparked regarding who they can become, what they can do with their lives, and how they want to live.
The Chicago Community Partners Program is ambitious and daunting and exciting. It will be built one partnership at a time. There is a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m confident we are collectively up to the task. I have no doubt the rewards for our students will be immense.
Nina and Sun Yoo
January 20, 2017
“Perhaps North Shore?” was a question that popped up when we started our search for a new community for our daughter who was transitioning into middle school. She had been at a small gifted school since the age of four and was excelling in every subject and more than happy with her small group of friends. But the school only went up to 8th grade, and we were faced with the difficult task of moving to a new school.
On our first tour of North Shore, we were immediately struck by a strong sense of community. We saw students on the field taking various team-sport pictures (it might have been picture day); we witnessed high school students with their younger “buddies” working on an art project; we walked through the cafeteria and saw parents volunteering. The JK-12 community that is North Shore felt special to us, and the multi-age relationships that children develop are unique to North Shore. We felt the nuance of this community as I was holding a coffee cup in one hand and a North Shore welcome folder in the other and struggling with a door—though they were probably rushed to get to classes, students held open doors, students smiled, students looked happy. We felt welcome and at home.
Now in our second year in the North Shore community, we still get asked “Why North Shore?” and it is a subject that we are happy to discuss. Our child has not only adjusted well to her new school, she has become a vital part of her community. She plays a team sport, she participates in various and challenging extracurricular activities, she gets to know each and every one of her classmates. Academically, teachers address her weaknesses and help her to advance her strengths. When there are issues to be addressed, the lines of communication are open and teachers are willing to listen to our concerns. We don’t feel shut out of our child’s education. The many areas where we as parents have been able to get involved (Sun is a Science Olympiad coach and I am on the Benefit Board) has helped us to feel engaged and a part of the community—not just a “new family.”
Academic rigor can look different depending on the perspective, but we have come to appreciate that the hands-on learning approach North Shore embraces makes learning much more fun for our child. She plants seedlings and watches them grow…and eats them in a salad! She builds bridges and towers. She pitches her own tent at an outdoor-ed trip with her classmates. This is immersive learning. It’s the kind of education that feels right for our family. It’s not a “one size fits all” mentality. In a sense, it feels very customized for our child and for us.
“Why North Shore?” There is no one answer that comes to mind. But, at the end of every school day, we are assured it was the right choice when we see our daughter come home happy and excited for the next school day.
Director of the Early Childhood Program and
Junior Kindergarten Teacher
For us, play is a respite from our labors. But watch the children. Play is their labor. As we watch them, it is hard to imagine that play is serious business, but it is how they grow, develop and learn.
In fact, play is about learning. Children mature socially and develop essential skills through play. Their brains are on fire as they investigate, think, socialize, question, create and problem-solve. Certainly these are all skills they will need in our rapidly changing world. Through play, children develop healthy, meaningful relationships. Children learn the social skills of sharing, cooperating, negotiating and compromising. Children “work” at the give-and-take, back-and-forth, sharing of ideas and feelings. They learn to manage strong emotions and impulses, and to navigate the often messy unpredictable circumstances they face in life with one another. Learning to risk, to trust and to ask for help are valuable life skills that they learn through play. And, through this play, they learn to step outside of their wants and needs, and take on the perspective of others.
Through various forms of guided play, children acquire literacy, mathematical, scientific and creative skills. Step into the senior kindergarten class at NSCD during their unit on homes and you will find young engineers at “play.” Small groups of children build shelters about which they have learned through fiction and nonfiction, through videos, and through the rich discussions these types of materials generate. One group designs homes using cardboard boxes, all sizes and shapes; another uses wooden blocks; the water table group plays with sand, driftwood, water and paper leaves; other children drape long tables in sheets of paper using huge amounts of tape; small heads bend over drawings, busy hands create blueprint designs for their dream shelters. You hear young voices sharing creative ideas and negotiating exciting outcomes. And after the play, you witness a whole group discussion on what turns a shelter into a home leading to strong opinions on what is a “need” versus a “want.”
All play, guided or not, stimulates the imagination, stimulates engagement in make-believe, stimulates discovery of the world around them. We see evidence all around us. Under trees on the playground, sticks, leaves, bark, mud and pedals have been carefully arranged by kindergarteners—a fairy kingdom left for a new group of adventurers. In the house corner of the classroom, children dress in costumes “trying on” identities and collaborate to set the table for an animal party. Cars and trucks zoom around as children work to design and build a city out of cardboard tubes and bottle caps. The results: vibrant, imaginative stories.
All children are born to labor at play. And, play creates happiness and balance in life for all of their days. In play, they discover who they really are.