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Hershey Montessori Students Hold Multi-School Election Conference

Hershey Montessori Students Hold Multi-School Election Conference

Hershey Montessori’s Upper School students recently held an Election Conference as part of their Humanities project. The conference brought students and experts together, virtually, to discuss issues around elections, specifically, reforming the election process and governance.

The students, led by Hershey guides John Buzzard and Jennifer Snead, connected with several adult experts, including Diane Silver from FairVote, an organization that champions electoral reforms to give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans; Cyndi Lucas of Citizen Congress, an app that lets users send their views to federal representatives and vote on bills, nominations, and questions introduced in Congress; Drez Jennings, a writer and expert on politics and media; and a former student of Buzzard, Sara Abdul-Rahim, Associate Director of Development at Georgetown University.

Students from Oak Farm Montessori in Indiana, Montessori School of Winston-Salem in North Carolina, and Beacon Academy in Illinois joined Hershey students and these professionals to discuss several areas of interest. Topics included election reform, ranked-choice voting, immigrant voting, felon disenfranchisement and vote by mail.

The conference was a collaborative effort that brought forth several issues that students were able to give voice to and engage in a critical thinking process that allowed them to express their ideas and concerns over the election process and governance.

Students were afforded the opportunity to give presentations that were followed by a question and answer session. A student action panel made up of students from all the schools also discussed how to take action and get their voices heard – a conversation that was facilitated by expert Cyndi Lucas and by Hershey student Kylie Golden-Appleton.

“We were thrilled with the turnout of students from other schools and the passion that they brought. The student action panel allowed the students to connect around their political ideas, and to find a community of young people eager to take political action. It felt like a way to take one of our responses to the COVID pandemic – working virtually – and make it a strength,” said Buzzard.

Hershey is pleased to provide students with experiential education opportunities that provide real-life skills and insights.

Both the students and experts gained better insight into these important, relevant topics and what our next generation of voters can do to improve them.

Hershey Launches Reopening Plan

Hershey Launches Reopening Plan

Staff eager to welcome new and returning students to campus

Much of Hershey Montessori School’s staff and faculty spent the summer redesigning their campuses, classrooms, and education platforms. Their goal has been to ensure Hershey’s high-quality programs continue to serve students, staff, and families’ needs, while still maintaining an authentic Montessori approach.

Hershey is slated to reopen both campuses later this month with a redesigned face-to-face learning experience for all students. An enhanced remote learning option is also being offered to adolescent students. The on-campus designs are centered around small cohorts of students and implementing all recommended health practices, while enhancing the experience by availing of as much education in our outdoor environments as possible.

“The aspects we learned from last spring’s unexpected launching of remote learning created the opportunity to greatly enhance our remote learning experience,” said Head of School, Paula Leigh-Doyle. “Significant purchases of new technologies will allow for greater engagement and a more interactive experience for our students.” 

The school recently released its Healthy Reopening Family Manual that provides insight to its plans and protocols for each educational level of the school. The manual also outlines health and safety protocols and various measures that have been implemented to ensure the well-being of Hershey students, staff and community. The highly-detailed plan is the result of collective input from faculty, staff, students, and parents through surveys and feedback, as well as the collaboration of Hershey’s Contingency Planning Team. The manual, already on it’s second edition, will evolve as new information and recommendations are brought to light.

Ohio’s governor is set to provide additional school guidelines on August 13th. Hershey will make an announcement to its school community on August 14th regarding any changes or additional information that needs to be communicated based on the outcome of the governor’s press conference.

We recognize the the state of uncertainty that we all have endured since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many families are still seeking school options. Hershey is still accepting applications for fall enrollment. We are prepared, and we are excited to safely welcome new and returning students this fall!

Farm News –  Holy Pumpkins!

Farm News – Holy Pumpkins!

By Joyce Cole, Hershey Montessori School Farm Manager

 

Happy Summer! With this past week’s deluge of rain, I found myself with a little extra time to collect thoughts and pictures and announcements from the farm. I have been eager to share with you.

I hear stories of how the pandemic has afforded a new hobby, or a lifestyle change… Here on the farm, the pandemic has afforded preparation. Everything from the Animal Barn to the Wood Shop to the Bioshelter is experiencing a thorough going-over. The farm and facilities staff have poured their hearts into maintaining, reorganizing and reinvigorating our farm environments for the betterment of our adolescents. Here are just a few happenings on the farm.

 

The Bioshelter

This school year will mark the beginning of a regrowth and revision of our bioshelter. Now over 15 years old, our bioshelter was designed to be an energy-efficient, thriving greenhouse and classroom. It is an amazing resource for our students to learn about the inter-connectedness of life within an ecosystem. After thriving in this way over many years, the time has come to assess the whole system to determine what’s working, what needs improved, and what can be remembered about our original intentions for the bioshelter. We’ll start with rebuilding and realigning its structures – from the panels to the gutters to the raised beds within the greenhouse – bringing the bioshelter ecosystem back to thriving from its very foundation.

 

The Pastures and Barns

Some would say that our barns are pretty empty these days. In my past year as Farm Manager, we lost Harley the pony, and Bart, Tomas, and Tiger Bite – three of our farm cats. We let Ernest the buck go because it was time to mix in new genetics. We raised and harvested chickens to feed our community and refresh our laying hen population. Now we have one horse and six goats sharing a barn and pasture, and two large pigs in the Goat Barn! Well, as with the bioshelter, sometimes we need to take a step back and think about how to move forward. This summer we replanted and electrified the inner horse pasture. When students return, they will have the opportunity to help with wiring the fences for ease of pasture management and animal movement, extending the horse pasture, and repairing the cow stall. We are also implementing new pasture management plans that include taking regular soil samples, fertilizing, and overseeding when needed.

San Marzano tomatoes and Genovese basil

 

The Farm Garden and Market

Finally, I want to take a moment to tell you about our summer gardens. You may remember the huge success of our online plant sale this year. Students started and grew a variety of vegetable plants to outfit our entire community’s gardens. With the long, cool and rainy spring, getting those plants into the gardens on the farm was painfully slow for me and the plants. Well, they finally got planted and though they took a bit of time to recover from being pot-bound, harassed by white flies, cold, and thoroughly drenched, the gardens are now in their full glory! We have so many tomatoes coming in, and just at the stage that is optimal for our students. These are their plants, and they will return to find them ready to harvest.

Musquee de Provence Pumpkin, friend and foe – honeybee + cucumber beetle, eggplant, okra flower, and watermelon

 

You can shop from the Hershey Microeconomy at Adam McKinney’s family farm stand at 12831 Auburn Road in Chardon, Ohio. The Farm Stand will be open from 4 p.m. till dusk on Friday’s, and 9 a.m. till dusk on Saturday’s. There will be lettuce and greens, eggplant, zucchini, and basil available for sale – with complimentary recipes for pesto and fritters, care of Hershey alumna, Makenna Venaleck. Watch for peppers and a few tomatoes coming soon. Please spread the word! If you have a chance to visit the farm, be sure to check out the two large pumpkin patches already bearing loads of fruit. We timed them to be done by Harvest Festival, so picture a pumpkin patch with happy children picking out their favorite jack-o-lantern.

Our market stand and Makenna’s recipe cards 

 

There are two more important points I’d like to mention. One, we couldn’t do what we do without our dedicated residential staff who keep a constant eye on things and happily pitch in with the work of the farm. Sharyn, Joy, Paul, and Stella have all been rotating evening and weekend feed shifts, but they also muck stalls, help in the gardens, and landscape. I mentioned Makenna working on the farm this summer, but I am also extremely grateful for Daniel Jolly, Stella’s husband. Both of them have done everything from muckimg stalls to harvesting chickens to weeding garden beds. 

I am excited to add students to the mix of daily camaraderie, discussion, and steady practical farm work. Our adolescents bring fresh perspective, enthusiasm, and ideas. As a relatively new employee who is still catching my stride, I have been grateful for this time to learn and ponder. I am ready and excited – we all are – to put our students back at the fulcrum of our farm.

 

About the Author: Joyce Cole serves as Farm Manager at Hershey’s Adolescent Campus in Huntsburg, Ohio. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Hiram College as well as a post-baccalaureate certification in secondary education from Cleveland State University. For the past 15 years, Joyce has lived with her husband, Tom, and their two children, Ella and Tommy, in rural dwellings outside of Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio. Inspired by a deep curiosity to live sustainably on the land and a long-standing dream to farm, she studied herbalism, worked on farms, and fed her family locally-grown and foraged foods. Joyce is honored to share her passion for farming with Hershey Montessori students and school community.

The Healing Power of Nature

The Healing Power of Nature

By Cheryl McGovern, Outdoor and Physical Education Coordinator

 

We’ve heard about the studies that show us that our brain on nature is its best self and now with so many places unavailable to us, so many are heading to natural areas as a safe refuge to walk with their families.  It is my hope that they are experiencing what so many have put to pen over the whole of human experience, that of the healing power of nature.

“Nature itself is the best physician.”  Hippocrates

“I go to nature to be soothed, healed and have my senses put in order.” John Burroughs

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” John Muir

“Nature has the power to heal because it is where we are from, it is where we belong and it belongs to us as an essential part of our health and our survival.” Nooshin Razani, Director, Center for Nature and Health at University of California

There must be provision for the child to have contact with nature; to understand and appreciate the order, the harmony and the beauty in nature.” Maria Montessori

“When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strength.” Maria Montessori

“It is also necessary for the psychical life to place the soul of the child in contact with creation, in order that he may lay up for himself treasure from the directly educating forces of living nature.” Maria Montessori

My own solace that very first week of school closing was a local park. They were not yet crowded at that point. Having a quiet trail to ourselves, I soon felt such relieve and normalcy. The things of the woods had not changed. The stream was still flowing, a small waterfall rolling, the trees standing, the trails hills and valleys proved good for the legs, the heart and the soul. There is something foundational and solid about being in nature, which I find ironic as by its very nature, nature is in a constant state of change. However, it must be the patterns that follow a path that give me this feeling of stability. You can see the change and the patterns each day just outside your window. As spring has begun, taking a close look at any one plant each day will show you the change in growth, the flower buds open into flowers, the flowers in turn becoming seed. I’ve also noticed the habits of the local wildlife as I sit and work near a window. I observe the pair of house finch that visit the same bush at the same time each day, the robin that sings in the tree closest to the house that wakes me each morning, a Carolina Wren who sits and sings on my back deck rail each afternoon just before dinner. Again, that pattern that nature follows without instruction, without interruption as spring flows to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter, and winter to another year. Perhaps it is this forward motion that brings such ease, a reminder that our present day is just that and it, too, will transform as time progresses. I like to do as William Wordsworth wrote and “come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher.” I, again, have learned so much during one walk in the woods.

Nature is resilient. We are resilient. A tree subjected to storms makes adaptations to survive and within a forest community is both buffered, and a buffer, for the trees around it. I see this as the work of the guides and students has continued so beautifully, taking on a new look yet moving forward. I recognize it in the parents, managing work and home all at once! I see the creativity that has been sparked in the way we communicate and continue in our work. It is far from ideal, but we have adapted like a tree continually pushed by the wind. New, stronger roots and connections and growth – different, and yet again still moving forward – resilient.

Studies have shown that even looking out a window onto a natural area reduces stress hormones, however I think full immersion is the best!  Take time to breathe and move outdoors. And while you may be tired of your own home and yard at this point, try looking in a different way. Nature up close is amazing! Use a macro lens on your camera to catch some up close action, peer through a magnifying glass and be amazed. In fact, just look up close through a leaf on a sunny day and tell me that’s not a stunning view. Get down on your hands and knees or lay on a blanket and just study, really study, the small patch of yard in front of you.  What about sounds? We often tune out the sounds around us so try sitting quietly, with eyes closed, focusing on sound. I am blessed to have time alone outdoors at the campus going to and from the chicken barn or other errands and often hear, when the ground is wet, the water being drawn into the soil. Who knew!  Another idea is to let nature be your inspiration for creative expression, a painting, sketch, story or poem. Perhaps your own nature quote will be added to the expansive list!

 

About the Author: Cheryl McGovern is in her ninth year at Hershey Montessori School as the Outdoor and Physical Education Coordinator. Her favorite part of her work is sharing her love of nature with the Concord students on their beautiful school campus. She is continually being encouraged and inspired by the natural curiosity of her students. Prior to coming to Hershey, Cheryl worked for more than 20 years at Lake Metroparks. When not on campus, Cheryl is likely to be found wandering trails with her husband and her son, who is a 7th year student at Hershey Montessori School.

Resilience, Through a Mother’s Eyes

Resilience, Through a Mother’s Eyes

By Leslie Minotti, Hershey Montessori School Parent

As I have been perusing articles on how to support my child during these stressful, ever-changing days, I can’t help but notice how often I see the words, “resilience” and “adaptability,”  “courage” and “confidence” used to describe the qualities that will carry our children through this unprecedented time. So now as a parent, I ask myself how I can help foster these qualities? Is this something that is in my power to provide for my children? When I observe my children’s reactions to the updates they hear, or the new protocol we now have to follow to protect ourselves, I think about how I can help them adapt.

This daunting, overwhelming task that seems to be a mountain-like obstacle is quickly reduced when I remember the old adage, “It takes a village.”  My family’s village, or community as we call it, has gifted us with stability, peace, and overwhelming support. The Hershey Montessori family has been a beacon through these stormy waters. The quick response to the online schooling and the support in maintaining the Montessori values, such as freedom of choice, hands-on learning with homemade materials, and respecting the child’s individuality,  has shone through. Is this style of online learning ideal? In my daughter’s words,”I’ve realized that distance learning is not the best, but I can get through it.” All three of my children are handling it beautifully. The presence and commitment of their teachers has been overwhelming. They are there for them with answers to their questions, regular check-ins to help them manage their stress, and quick messages to say “we miss you.” All this while balancing their own families, and their own stress. The teacher’s listening ear that recognizes my children’s frustrations has created a beautiful sounding board.

Like other students and families, we have experienced many disappointments from missing anticipated life events. Some of these moments have already been lost, while others are yet to be. However, my children have been given the freedom to mourn these. They’ve also been challenged to create the best “lemonade” possible.

I see resilience, adaptability, courage and confidence in my children because they have absorbed these qualities from the ones who guide them, the ones who have nurtured this growth. I am inspired by the close relationship I observe between my children and their Hershey Montessori School guides, and I strive to mirror their efforts, both for myself and my children.

The waters may continue to be rocky for some time, but knowing we have a solid team on our side makes the journey possible.

Thank you, Hershey Community!

Leslie Minotti

 

About the Author: Leslie Minotti was introduced to Hershey Montessori School 18 years ago when she attended a Parent-Infant class with her daughter, Abriella. Abriella, now a senior at Hershey Montessori Upper School, graduates this spring. Leslie’s other two children, Alessandra, a ninth year student at the Middle School, and Aurelio, a first year student at Hershey’s Concord Campus, have happily enjoyed their education journey where their love of learning continues to be fostered, and their growth to their true potential is honored. Leslie has worked as a staff member in Hershey’s Children’s House and Young Child Community for 10 years. She enjoys observing and guiding young children as they create who they are in a loving environment filled with mutual respect.

Wellbeing and Adolescents

Wellbeing and Adolescents

By Judy Kline-Venaleck, Associate Head of School and Huntsburg Campus Director

Well-being, balance, peace, attitude, emotional health … we have been inundated with messages of how to maintain our well-being during this global crisis. And as we all recognize the significance of prioritizing our physical and mental health at this time, we may often neglect to consider that our adult interpretation of wellbeing may differ from that of our adolescents.

World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental wellbeing as “a state in which every individual realizes his or her own potential and can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” But that definition emphasizes normal stresses of life. How does the adolescent maintain his or her former sense of wellbeing while perhaps enhancing it during these challenging times? As we know, if an adolescent has a high level of mental wellbeing — which is emphasized in a Montessori education — they are more likely to flourish later in life.

The New Economics Foundation (NEF) developed a framework that outlines strategies that have a positive effect on mental wellbeing. They are: connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give. I love these strategies as they can appeal to everyone; they are simple, clear, and can provide a whole host of opportunities. So, please, while you have this time at home, take the opportunity to sit with your adolescent, share these tips, explore them together and be well!

Download a copy of NEF Five Ways to Wellbeing.