The Value of Conversation

Beth Anne Brennan
Lower School Head

This Thanksgiving, after a vivacious and delicious meal, my friend Steve pulled me aside in the kitchen.  He smiled and said how reminiscent this holiday had been to his own childhood.  He delighted in hearing my father tell the family stories of past holiday celebrations, including the details of the “cast of characters” sitting around the table and the shows we put on as children for our very proud parents and relatives. 

“Hmm?” I thought. Nice to hear, of course, but I never really saw it this way.  For Steve, our lively discussion around the Thanksgiving table was a treasure. For me, time spent talking was a typical occurrence in our household.  As a family we have grown used to joining my father in the living room, sitting on the couches, engaging in conversation.  And my father is a pro:  he instinctively knows the right questions to ask and listens with genuine concern to all of the details and topics of interest in our lives.  He offers advice, shares a story from his life experience that adds substance and meaning to the conversation, and makes positive observations that encourages us all to want to stay engaged. 

Now, not everyone’s like my father, I realize.  He’s had years of practice.  Yet, given the time to reflect upon the festivities of this past weekend, the heartwarming union of family and friends, I think Steve has the right perspective.  Conversation is a treasure.  In this regard I consider myself lucky.  I grew up in a household that valued conversation and made it a priority.  Now, today, it is easy for me to see the gains of having parents who wanted to talk with me as a child.

You may be thinking “that was then,” right?  After all, these days it seems it’s tough to find the time.  Most of us have very scheduled and hectic lives, along with family-wide access to the various media channels that draw our attention.  It is a facet of the era in which we live, but we have to keep in mind that the time we spend disconnected or disengaged with the members of our family, with our children in particular, we not only miss those moments that enrich our lives and allow us to bond with our kids, we also lose the opportunities to develop their character through conversation.

Engaging your children in conversation not only expresses your love by showing interest in who they are and what they have to say, it also provides them with a model for listening, speaking, and asking.  Among other things, conversations also teach children to absorb or form opinions, frame perspectives, and develop empathy.  Although it may not be easy to initially connect with your children, perhaps provide them with a topic of mutual interest and encourage them to carry on lively discussions by sharing their ideas or asking questions.  And stick with it; try not to give in to any initial grumblings or indifference.  Try not to succumb to the “easy way” by handing/allowing them a device when they jump in the car or sit down for dinner. As an educator and as a mom, I can’t stress this enough: conversation is a critical social skill and part of child’s development that requires adult patience, modeling and practice.  So the next time you sit down for a holiday meal, or any meal in fact, seek to find this treasure.  I assure you, it’s worth it.

Cooking in the Curriculum @EMS: 7 Good Reasons

Cooking? Are you serious?  Yep!  Here's why:

A child putting the steps to make "The Besto Pesto"
 in sequential order. (later followed up as an
independent activity to make a mini "recipe book."
1.  Sequencing - Cooking helps children in understanding procedure and ordering events to reach desired outcomes.

2.  Leadership - Cooking is a simple/low-stress means for children to direct their peers through assigning duties (as part of the recipe) to other children and overseeing the production of the final product.

3. Followership: Cooking allows children to understand the responsibility of teamwork, of being an effective part of a group working toward a specific goal.  Also, once given a "job," a student then must follow both spoken and written direction to fulfill their assigned task.

4. Math:  calibrating required ingredients introduces units of measure (amounts and temperatures) and an understanding of proportion.

5.  Gross/Fine Motor Skills:  chopping, measuring, stirring, peeling (under careful supervision) all works on the large and small muscle groups along arm, as well as developing hand dexterity.  

Middle School Cooking Club:  often featuring guest chefs
and the exploration of culture through cuisine.
6.  Tangible Results:  completion of a recipe offers a tangible and real result for the children.  Engagement is usually there as well, as the children get to eat the tasty results.

7.  Eating Right:  learning to cook introduces children to healthier food options.  Plus, at EMS, we often cook with our own vegetables (grown on campus), and children are more likely to try new foods if they've participated in growing them.

The Story Of Our New Sleeping Mats

by Beth Brennan, Lower School Head and Tricia Eickelberg, Director of Early Childhood

The Elisabeth Morrow School is a community of students, administrators, staff, parents, students and alumni, all of whom value an excellent education as fundamental in the lives of children and the adults they will become. The “4 C’s” Cooperation, Consideration, Compassion and Courtesy form the foundation of the school’s character education. This year an amazing example of how we, as a community, brought these values to life is worth sharing with all of you.

In the fall of 2011, I shared an idea with EMS parent Karen Toback, who at the time was the Little School PA representative for the year. We scheduled a time to chat and she eagerly came to my office ready to help. I told her a story about how a parent, some twenty years ago, volunteered to create resting mats for the youngest students here at EMS. They were still in use but they were all very worn. The children, however, still loved resting on them. She took one look at the old (but loved) sample and committed to help the children in Chilton House acquire new mats.  Thus, a yearlong joint partnership between “home” and “school” began.

A completion deadline for this fall had Mrs. Toback quickly out shopping for prints of fabrics that would work for both girls and boys. After sharing samples, we all agreed upon a bright and interesting print. Next, a flyer inviting all interested quilters to help with this project was sent out to our community. The call was answered and group met regularly throughout the spring. They cut and packaged fabrics and borders to distribute to all of the volunteer quilters. Much like an old fashioned quilting bee, they worked during the summer to complete all 100 mats for all six classrooms in Chilton House.

Our caring community is our strength; deeds such as this, and the people who work steadfastly to bring them to fruition, are what brings vitality and integrity to our school’s mission. To acknowledge this gift, the children in Chilton House designed their own quilt patches, which were hung together in our lobby as a symbolic way to pass along our thanks to all of our quilting volunteers. As well, at a recent sing-a-long, the children sang a thank you song (below). We hope the joining of children’s voices and words of thanks are inspirational for all of you to hear and enjoy.

Thank you… Karen Toback (head seamstress),  Georgia Silverman (Ella and Kara’s Grandmother),  Laura Cohen, Donna LoBue, Kim Kachakian, J. Grace Kim, Lily Reidel, Adela Skinner, Maria Staphos, Lily Lou, Tricia Eickelberg, Jen Cordover Family.

Thank You EMS Book Fair Chairs and Volunteers

2012 Book Fair Chairs – Adrienne Anderson and Karen Toback
What a week this has been!  I want to thank you and express my admiration for your work in making the Book Fair a great success.  Your hours of volunteered time, your good cheer, your donations of cafĂ© food and gift books, and your participation in the event – often despite not having power or with the snow pelting down outside – have played an enormous role in reminding us all of the power and depth of the Elisabeth Morrow community.  

I would like to extend special thanks to Adrienne Anderson and Karen Toback, who planned and executed a wonderful event despite the extenuating circumstances.  From setting up in the cold and dark the Thursday before the Fair to being among the last to leave the night of the snow storm, their leadership and perseverance serve as an excellent example to us all – and to our children.

Aaron Cooper
Head of School

A Visit from Gabriel Bol Deng

Gabriel Bol Deng, Hope for Ariang
The Elisabeth Morrow School welcomed Gabriel Bol Deng, executive director and founder of Hope for Ariang.  Gabriel shared his harrowing story about his flight from the Sudanese civil war in 1987, the life-threatening challenges he faced along the way, and his steadfast determination to hang on to hope.  In two assemblies, Gabriel spoke to both the Middle and Lower School, telling them that few things are more important than hope and education; he and Hope for Ariang have made it their mission "to make education accessible for all children and adults in Southern Sudan by removing cultural and socio-economic barriers with a special focus on girls' education–one village at a time."  Currently, Hope for Ariang is working toward the sustainability of the Ariang school.  To read about Gabriel's incredible exodus from Sudan to Ethiopia , follow this LINK.