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From Maharishi School to Princeton

 

Yenet’s Road to Princeton

Yenet Tafeese graduated from Maharishi School, six feet apart from her friends in the summer of 2020. What is she doing now you might ask? Well, she’s currently in the process of taking her mid-terms at Princeton, one of 12 Ivy League universities in the United States. I was lucky enough to steal a few moments of Yenet’s time to find out her story.

Can you tell me a little bit about growing up in Ethiopia?

While I was in Ethiopia I went to an international school so I was able to learn some English however I obviously didn’t know much. When I was younger I really liked jumping rope, even when I moved here I would jump rope a lot. Some specific memories that stand out in Fairfield were breaking my leg about 2 weeks into 5th grade. I had just moved here and I was trying to make friends and I ended up breaking my leg. Honestly, I was really scared about making friends especially after I broke my leg but I realized that through that I was able to meet the people that I am friends with now.

How has Maharishi School helped you on your journey to Princeton?

Maharishi School had helped shape a lot of what I think and it has cultivated my personal thought on a lot of things. Because of programs like project-based learning and consciousness-based education during my time at Maharishi School I was taught to think for myself and try my best to accept others and meet different people. The international environment and the home-like community at Maharishi School gave me a safe space to learn both academically and just general life skills. 

What was your first reaction to being accepted at Princeton? 

I was extremely surprised I got accepted to Princeton. Princeton was one of those schools that I applied to as a why-not school. The school that I just wanted to apply to for fun. So I was surprised to finish my application let alone get accepted!  I went through the Questbridge application process so I applied to almost all of my reach schools through that. In that process, I applied to WashU, Northwestern, UPenn, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Duke, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth, and Rice. My plan had been to finish my Questbridge application then depending on how it goes I would have applied to some of my “match” and “safe” schools through the common application. 

What is life currently like for you at Princeton?

My life at college has already started and I am currently taking my midterms. It is very odd to think that it had been a year since I started this process. I think college is very different than what people say it is; but, it is also exactly what people say it is. To further elaborate, college is really based on what you make of it. There is a lot of freedom so discipline and time management are very necessary. There is also the aspect of college that is non-academic and for that time you really have to get yourself out there! 

A lot of the things I do here has been based on me making an active decision. This might be obvious but I didn’t fully grasp this concept until I came here and understood that every decision that I make is up to me and I have to be the one managing things. 

We want to thank Yenet for taking the time to talk to us and congratulate her on this incredible accomplishment! The Maharishi School community is so proud of you, we cannot wait to see what more you will conquer in your life!

 

To learn more about our academics or to contact a member of our admissions staff, click here.

Find out about our school events and student life, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Day In the Life at the Children’s House

Watch a Day In the Life at Maharishi Preschool

Preschoolers develop responsibility through routine

maharishi preschoolAt Maharishi Preschool we are cultivating within each child a sense of independence and capability.  When the children enter into the gates of our playground carrying their lunch and wearing their backpack, a sense of responsibility, independence, and capability is enlivened in them. They know where to put their belongings and they know where they are when they need them or when it is time to go home. During their time at school, they make many choices and their sense of capability grows each day. They are following their internal drive to master skills, grow, and learn, and by allowing them to be responsible for their own belongings, these qualities will continue to be reinforced.  The sense of pride when children feel responsible in these small but significant ways is such a beautiful thing to witness!

Taking precautions in the preschool

children house preschool montessori

When entering the school area all children will get their temperature taken, temperatures at 100 degrees or higher will be sent home.

Masks

Teachers will be required to wear masks while inside, or while down on children’s level outside. Face shields are


Hand washing
 recommended, especially for toddler teachers. Masks will be required while inside for all children 3+. Masks will not be required for children under 3.

Children will wash hands upon arrival, before and after eating, when entering from outside, when seen with hands in mouth/nose, and a minimum of every 2 hours. Washing is completed with soap and water for 20 seconds.

Social distancing

Drop off times are arranged by class so that there are no traffic jams between parents and children. Transitions into the school house for class will be staggered to avoid congestion in the hallways.

Changes to the environment

preschool environmentThe children each have a cubby where they can store their shoes and backpacks. Cubbies will be outside of the classrooms in the hallways so children do not enter the classroom with outside shoes and backpacks. There is only one child per table in all classrooms, unless the table is very large. The classrooms with ages 3 and up will have sanitizing stations for the children to clean their own work, under adult supervision as needed. Water and soap will be used for plastic, metal, and glass materials and natural disinfectant spray for wooden materials. When a toddler completes a work, they will return it to a special shelf to be cleaned between use. A teacher will sanitize the work items and return them to the shelves with available work.

The protocol for Maharishi School’s Children’s House was created with reference to DHS requirements and CDC recommendations, and with approval from IDPH

If you would like to learn more about the Children’s House, click here.

To learn more about our academics or to contact a member of our admissions staff, click here.

Find out about our school events and student life, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Meet Our New Teachers: Michael Fitzgerald

Meet our new teacher

micehal fitzgerald computer teacherMichael Fitzgerald came to Fairfield in 2012 to attend MIU for his Bachelors in math with a computer science track and finished in 2016. Over the next several years he worked for a digital marketing company and went back to school to get a masters degree in software development. Michael saw that Maharishi School was looking for someone in tech support, however as soon as his skills became evident to the administration, we realized he was overly competent for the job. He was asked to teach a computer course, which he has now introduced to the middle school students as Technological and Digital Literacy 101.

 

What is Technological and Digital Literacy?

This is not your traditional computer science course. Technological and Digital Literacy focuses less on why computers do what they do but how to computer lab at schooluse and manipulate what’s in them for efficacy in learning. TDL is a class that teaches students how to interact in the tech world and use what’s already available in order to become fluent in technology. This is so important as we go further into schooling entirely online. Michael explains, “this course will prepare you for life. I look at this course as a woodworking, or home economics class, because once you learn that skill you will have it for the rest of your life. The more tech literate you become, the more you will understand new technologies with ease.”

 

To learn more about our academics or to contact a member of our admissions staff, click here.

Find out about our school events and student life, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Why is STEM education important?

What is STEM

Why is STEM important?

STEM education helps break the traditional gender roles by increasing the amount of women and minorities that are able to access STEM-related careers.

“In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past.” –National Science Foundation

STEM at Maharishi School

I got to speak with Kaye Jacob who is both a teacher and academic director of the Middle and High school students here at Maharishi School. Her thoughts on STEM skills are that they need to be seen as ends in themselves but for most students they are means to an end.  In other words, knowing how to use technology to access information and incorporate it into your life and work is essential to any student.

kaye jacobs talks about STEM

Kaye Jacob

“The S in STEM is apparent when the 7th graders drop containers out of windows to see if the egg inside will break or not–and equally when the upper school rocketry students send a rocket up into the air with the same objective–to protect the “payload” (an egg) which actually represents a human being in space travel.
I am writing this in my English class as three students are collaborating from their homes (one of them in Ecuador) in a Zoom break-out room and the rest are working in small groups on presentations for class tomorrow. They are sharing documents and resources related to a literature topic (Transcendentalism) but updating it with videos and powerpoint presentations.  To me, that is the T in STEM applied to my subject area.
I also like to emphasize that STEM should actually be STEAM, because the A needs to represent Art.  This year, we are offering traditional studio art with Susan Metrican to our Upper school students and also a more technical course in digital photography with Camille Morehead, who has a graphic design background.  We are hoping to combine forces with various applications of technology and art design in the future.”
To learn more about our academics or to contact a member of our admissions staff, click here.

Find out about our school events and student life, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Meet Our New Teachers: Uma Henderson

new teacher at maharishi preschool

Uma Henderson co-leads in the Preschool.

Alumni teaching at our school

Did you know Maharishi School Alumni Uma Henderson is a co-lead teacher in the Children’s House? Uma grew up in Fairfield and attended Maharishi School from K-12th grade. After graduating she moved to Boulder, Colorado to study holistic nutrition and natural medicine. Uma worked in the field of health and healing for many years. Her work allowed her to travel around the world to Thailand, Indonesia, and Hawaii.

After her traveling days came to an end, she wanted to reestablish a home base. That’s when Uma and her partner moved back to Fairfield and had their daughter, Prayma.

Maharishi School community

I asked Uma how she feels about growing up in the same community that she’s raising her daughter in and she said,

“I have to say that I had the sweetest childhood here in Fairfield. It was such a nourishing place to grow up and I am thankful everyday for the friends, teachers, and community that helped raise me and (to this day) still show their love and support.”

maharishi preschool

Uma’s daughter Prayma.

“I always felt that I wanted to return to Fairfield to settle down. For me, at the end of the day, it came down to the human connection and like-minded community that cultivated a true sense of happiness. This made it pretty clear to me where I wanted to raise my own children. My daughter was born here and now she is almost three. The support that I experienced from this community during my pregnancy, and through the first years of motherhood is more than I could have asked for. Returning here has been a really positive experience for many reasons, but a significant one is my opportunity to work at Maharishi School and have my daughter attend the Children’s House. I love being able to see her each day at school and I also immensely appreciate all of the parenting tools I have become familiar with being in this atmosphere.”

Teaching with covid-19

I also asked Uma what her thoughts are about teaching preschool during a pandemic. She responded,

“I had my concerns about returning to teaching at the preschool during the pandemic. Of course the obvious concern of being exposed to the virus, but also I was concerned about how the mask wearing and social distancing would affect the children socially and emotionally. For this reason, this year we have really prioritized their outdoor play time, where they can safely play mask free and also build strong connections with one another and the teachers. Cultivating these connections is key in helping them adapt and feel comfortable when we do have to be inside wearing a mask.”

alumni daughter prayma

Prayma

“The work that we do at the Children’s House very much involves assisting the children in cultivating emotional intelligence. We help them to learn how to identify the emotions that they are feeling and voice them, so as to allow them to process their feelings and experiences in a healthy way. I believe that the emphasis we put on the emotional body allows the children to feel seen and heard. So although I did have initial concerns around the mask wearing, so far, I do believe that the children are handling it quite well, perhaps as a result of the emotionally nurturing environment we have provided.”

Being an alumni

I also asked Uma what it’s like to be teaching at the school where she is also an alumni, and what plans she has as a co-lead teacher this year.

“Returning to Maharishi School has honestly been such a sweet experience for me. Because I spent twelve years here growing up, it definitely feels surreal at times that life has come full circle over a decade later. It amazes me that now I am taking my daughter’s picture in the same place where my mother took mine each year on the first day of school.”

“I feel that it’s such an honor and privilege to be a teacher in the Children’s House at Maharishi School. Although sometimes I

teacher maharishi school alumni uma

Uma

 feel that the students are really teaching me! I believe that each child has a well of innate knowledge and I believe that it’s my job to help nurture that as well as each child’s own inner intelligence and curiosity of the world around them. I have grown so much as a person as I’ve learned to embody the teachings of Montessori, as well as Positive Discipline, and Maharishi’s Science of Creative Intelligence. These three philosophies are what we follow in the Children’s House and they work harmoniously together to create such a smooth and enriching experience for the students and teachers.”

“Teaching children, for me, has been one of the most growth provoking, soul enriching, and heart warming experiences I have ever had. I am thrilled to be guiding these blossoming souls and am so excited to continue for years to come!”

If you would like to learn more about the Children’s House, click here.

To learn more about our academics or to contact a member of our admissions staff, click here.

Find out about our school events and student life, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Maharishi School Children’s House

preschool childrens house elyse soaresDid you know the preschool incorporates Montessori & Positive Discipline?

Welcome to the Maharishi School Children’s House! In this blog you will find some basic information as well as new and updated protocols regarding preventative measures against Covid-19 in the preschool.

The preschool offers multi-age classrooms consistent with the Montessori pedagogy. The toddler class consists of children who are 18 months to 3 years old. The 3-5 class includes children aged three to six which include Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten.

The cornerstone of your child’s social-emotional growth focuses on supporting each child in becoming self-aware, autonomous, contributing members of our world. The Montessori Method and Positive Discipline go hand-in-hand in developing these important skills in our school community. In the Children’s House and also in grades Kindergarten through 2 in the lower school, Positive Discipline is practiced by all teachers. The building blocks of Positive Discipline are:

  1. Mutual respect
  2. Understanding the belief behind the behaviorpreschool children's house montessori
  3. Effective communication
  4. Understanding a child’s world
  5. Discipline that teaches rather than punishes
  6. Focusing on solutions rather than punishment
  7. Encouragement
  8. Children do better when they feel better
  9. Connection before correction
  10. Contribution

Lynn Shirai is the Director of the Children’s House as well as the Lower school. In her monthly newsletter to the parents Lynn comments, “As the new Children’s House director I am happy to report that all is running smoothly. The children are happy, mask-wearing, Montessori learners that are finding joy in being with their friends and teacher-guides every day. Dr. Beall, our school co-head, visited the classrooms last week and was so impressed with the children as they were very naturally wearing masks indoors while busy with their Montessori activities.”

Taking precautions in the preschool

When entering the school area all children will get their temperature taken, temperatures at 100 degrees or higher will be sent home.

mask wearing children maharishi schoolMasks

Teachers will be required to wear masks while inside, or while down on children’s level outside. Face shields are recommended, especially for toddler teachers. Masks will be required while inside for all children 3+. Masks will not be required for children under 3.

Hand washing 

hand washing maharishi school coronavirus

Child size bathrooms in the preschool.

Children will wash hands upon arrival, before and after eating, when entering from outside, when seen with hands in mouth/nose, and a minimum of every 2 hours. Washing is completed with soap and water for 20 seconds.

Social distancing

Drop off times are arranged by class so that there are no traffic jams between parents and children. Transitions into the school house for class will be staggered to avoid congestion in the hallways.

Changes to the environment

The children each have a cubby where they can store their shoes and backpacks. Cubbies will be outside of the classrooms in the hallways so children do not enter the classroom with outside shoes and backpacks. There is only one child per table in all classrooms, unless the table is very large. The classrooms with ages 3 and up will have sanitizing stations for the children to clean their own work, under adult supervision as needed. Water and soap will be used for plastic, metal, and glass materials and natural disinfectant spray for wooden materials. When a toddler completes a work, they will return it to a special shelf to be cleaned between use. A teacher will sanitize the work items and return them to the shelves with available work.

maharishi school montessoriThe protocol for Maharishi School’s Children’s House was created with reference to DHS requirements and CDC recommendations, and with approval from IDPH

To find out how more about the Children’s House, click here.

Please contact admissions@maharishischool.org immediately to get started on your application and schedule an interview today!

Meet Our New Teachers: Camille Morehead

new teacher alumni camille morehead

Camille Morehead with artwork that’s been here since she was a student!

The school would like to welcome our new art teacher Camille Morehead! Camille is a Maharishi School Alumni (she graduated in 2008) and was voted by her fellow classmates with the Art and Creativity award which recognizes her outstanding artistic abilities. She graduated with a BFA in graphic design from Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She’s also currently a practicing artist in the Fairfield community. She has experience as a teaching assistant at Montessori school for Preschool and Kindergarten as well.

I asked Camille how she feels about returning to Maharishi School and she said,

 “Coming back to the school where I’m an alumni is certainly an interesting experience for me. Many things have changed in the school and it gives me an interesting perspective of being “on the other side” of the classroom experience.”

 

“I really appreciate how friendly and warm everybody is during these unprecedented times when teaching hybrid could be really stressful. However everyone is really onboard with everything and they’re taking it all head on which makes it more enjoyable for me.”

new teacher alumni camille morehead

Camille teaching art to the 1st and 2nd grades.

Camille has customized different materials for the hybrid learning conditions. For example students that are in person will be working with clay while students at home will be focusing more on conceptual ideas. Each grade will start with the foundations of art making; line, shape, form, space, texture and color. In the Middle School the focus will be on drawing, painting, color theory, mixed media and sculpture.

cal martin doing art project with mask

Cal Martin (1st grade) making art.

Camille will also be teaching a Digital Photography course of the project period in the Upper School.They will begin with everyone going out and taking photos, then coming together to do group critique. The content of these photos will then be created into a photo-book, which includes   an understanding and usage of Photoshop and other editing techniques.

Camille concludes, “I’m really excited to see how the kids grow and develop in the way they think about art. It’s fun for me to see the different stages of development expressed through their ability to work with the materials and mark making. I feel very fulfilled to be a teacher at Maharishi School!”

 

To learn more about our academics or to contact a member of our admissions staff, click here.

Find out about our school events and student life, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Interviewing Susan Harper the New K-2 Grade Montessori Teacher

Have you met Susan Harper?

I had the great honor of interviewing a new teacher at Maharishi School, Susan Harper. Read this blog to

montessori teacher at maharishi school susan harper

Susan Harper
Montessori Teacher

get to know her and find out how she’s invigorating the Kindergarten through second grade program at our school!

“Susan, can you tell us about your background in Montessori ?”

I began working as classroom assistant in a Montessori school in 1995. My younger son was enrolled in the infant room. After a year, I was invited by the director to take my teacher training. I trained with Dr. Feland Meadows, Director of the Pan American Montessori Society. Shortly after that, I was hired to teach in an upper elementary (9-12) classroom at Athens Montessori School (AMS) in Athens, GA.

I took my Elementary training with Ceres York, Director of North Carolina Center for Montessori Teacher Education (retired). I was at AMS for 11 years. During that time, in addition to teaching, I was the administrator and a teacher trainer for MTI, Montessori Teacher Institute, working in Georgia and South Carolina.

My family then moved to Auburn, AL. I took a job at an independent school where I helped them become a Montessori school. I then worked with a group of parents to open a Montessori (farm) school in Montgomery, AL. All students spent time working with and learning from a group of urban farmers. I took a position at a small Montessori preschool back in Auburn and served there for the last 7 years as lead teacher.

My husband and I planned to move to Fairfield when he retired. I sent a letter of inquiry about whether there were any positions open at Maharishi School and here I am!

Bringing Montessori to Maharishi School

“What makes Montessori special in Kindergarten through second grade?”

Actually, it is unusual. Kindergarten is traditionally part of the Primary (preschool) program in Montessori. Dr. Montessori describes the Planes of Development in/as 3 year increments/cycles. That is why the classes are multiage groups. Each child is given the opportunity to be the novice, the worker bee, the leader. We are going to include Kindergarten with the lower elementary students this year.

The shift will take a little time and each child will find his/her place in the class. This is part of what we call the “normalization” process. The initial orientation, establishment of routine, understanding of expectations, taking on responsibility, development of self control and skillful focus and concentration. Settling in and relaxing in the prepared environment created just for them and getting to work!

“For those who have never heard of Montessori, how is it different from traditional school?”

Montessori is different from traditional educational methods in many ways. Montessori focuses on the whole child and respects each child’s individuality. When they arrive that first day in the preschool class at 3 years of age they are shown how we do things. Slowly they are given more lessons and more choices. It is not a free-for-all; quite the contrary, it is a carefully designed environment that is stocked with real life objects and tasks that encourage the child to follow their natural instincts to prepare themselves for life, to become independent, to rely on themselves and to be self sufficient.

The lessons for the 3-6 year old are designed to prepare the child for the work ahead in math and written language. For example each movement of a table-scrubbing lesson, is preparing that 3 year old for writing, moving from left to right, top to bottom. The scrubbing motion is strengthening the muscles needed to hold and wield a pencil. And then there is “freedom” of movement. Children need to move, just as they need to rest. Dr. Montessori observed that children are not meant to sit in a desk all day, especially if that desk does not fit the child’s body.

The 6-9 year old group that I will be working with is moving into the next plane of development. These students are ready to learn! They want to know everything and they demand justice and fairness.

Explore maharishi preschool

The Elementary curriculum is research driven. This is the best employment for this age child. They learn and want to share what they know. They are very social. For the next 5-6 years they will be internalizing a great deal of information, developing and following interests, and growing. These are the years of loose teeth, leaner, rangier bodies, rapid growth spurts.

There are no letter grades in the Montessori classroom. Children work at their own pace and personal level. Work is evaluated by both the teacher and the student. Dues dates are given to help the student develop good time management and organizational skills that will prepare the student for real-life expectations and experiences. There is little homework in the Montessori classroom. Students ideally have intensive, uninterrupted work cycles where they are able to focus and complete more than adequate amounts of work.

The students govern themselves for the most part. Teachers facilitate group meetings where they can sort out issues, problems, or develop plans for a future event or project. Students learn to be an active and respectful community member, taking responsibility for their words, actions and deeds.
There is freedom in the classroom. With freedom comes responsibility. If a student is having difficulty making good choices or is overly distracted, a teacher might make suggestions to assist that student in getting back on track. This is generally enough to help a child redirect his/her focus and get back to purposeful work.

“I’ve noticed that the afternoon teachings are Montessori and not the mornings. Why is Montessori not incorporated into the morning structure of reading writing and phonics?”

Maharishi School has been using The Lucy Calkins phonics, reading and writing program for the last few years and have found it very successful. I have not trained to use this program (yet) and will be using traditional Montessori materials for phonics, reading and writing with the Kindergarteners. The Preschool will continue to use traditional materials as well. In fact, this year cursive writing will be introduced in the preschool and I will be doing cursive with K-1 students too!

Goals for teaching this year

“What are some goals you have for this year as well as in the long term for teaching Montessori at Maharishi School?”

Covid-19 has changed a lot of our plans. I am flexible. That is part of being a Montessori teacher. Rather than be a grumpy rock in the stream fighting the water that will flow regardless of what I do, I go with the flow. My goal this year is to be a stable presence in the classroom for my students. I want to do my job, which is facilitating student learning, encouraging independence and self control, inspiring students, opening “doors and windows,” honing skills, and encouraging exploration. My goal is to make our classroom a place where we all want to be: peaceful, exciting, studious and playful.

My long term goals are to expand the program over time to include the entire Elementary and perhaps Middle School one day.

To learn more about our academics or to contact a member of our admissions staff, click here.

To learn more about school events and student life, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Summer Ideas & Activities from the Lower School

Looking for things to do with your kids this summer? Lynn Shirai, the Director of the Lower summer School, has provided a list of ideas that can appeal to everyone. Check it out!

Outdoor Ideas

  •  Road Trip: Pack food and drinks, camping gear and head out to a spot away from it all
    where kids can explore and learn on their own. Teach them how to build a fire, set-up a
    tent, etc.
  • Creek stomping in Jefferson County Park: so many creatures and beautiful rocks and
    fossils to find.
  •  Animal track creations: Bring a water bottle, small sack of plaster of paris, paper cup
    and popsicle stick. Go out to the woods and find tracks as you walk. Mix up the plaster
    with water and pour a little into the tracks. Continue walking and finding tracks. Make a
    loop around and return to your first track and pop out of the ground. Make it a game to
    find your other tracks. At home, rinse molded tracks off and identify them. Best tracks:
    raccoons and opossums.
  • Bike around the Loop Trail (helmets, water, snacks and sunscreen a must).
  •  Older kids can help an elderly neighbor with lawn mowing, weeding and other yard work.
  •  Painting rocks; one year my daughter painted rocks to look like small strawberries to
    keep the birds away from the strawberry patch. It worked! One peck on the faux
    strawberry and they never returned.
  •  Create a fairy garden in your backyard. Use sticks and branches, rocks and other
    materials from nature and hot glue or tie with pliable branches and create furniture, tiny
    houses, swings, etc. Plant flowers around the garden.
  •  Planting: Start a flower or vegetable garden and care for it throughout summer. If you
    plant perennials you can keep adding to the garden every year. Lots of memories.
  • Take walks with friends while you social distance. Just getting out and having social
    experiences like this helps.
  • Make a BINGO card of activities for your kids. Have them fill it in and
    get a special prize.
  •  Organize a small group to meet at the park. Bring empty pizza boxes, a
    clip, paper and drawing materials. Use the boxes as an easel. Enjoy the outdoors with
    friends while social distancing and creating artwork.

feministsClick here for a great list of PE type activities you can do easily at home with your kids!

Other Ideas

Click on some of these links to find even more great ideas for summer fun!

https://wideopenschool.org/
https://campkinda.org/welcome
https://www.artcamp504.org/
https://www.pbs.org/parents/
https://jeffersoncountyconservation.com/events/

 

 

To learn more about why Maharishi School would be good for your kids, click here.

Want to know how Maharishi School responded to the coronavirus, click here.

Top 10 Tips for Creating a Balanced Teenager, click here.

Maharishi School in the Southeast Iowa Union 4/30/20

Classes have continued over Zoom for Fairfield’s private school

FAIRFIELD — While most schools in Iowa have opted for voluntary distance education during this quarantine, Maharishi School has not. The private school in Fairfield specializing in consciousness-based education has made its coursework mandatory.

That means the school can do everything it would during a normal school year, like give grades, which schools doing voluntary learning have offered options of giving students a “P” for passing instead of typical letter grades.

Maharishi School Head Dr. Richard Beall

Dr. Richard Beall, Maharishi School Head

Richard Beall, co-head of the school, said there were a number of reasons Maharishi School chose to make its classes mandatory, one of which was that administrators believed the students would benefit from sustained structure to their days. But first, the school had to determine whether its students had access to internet and devices to allow for online learning.

“We had to troubleshoot solutions for some families, and there are still instances where signal strength or other problems occur,” Beall said. “But generally our students and families have been able to connect and adjust to this different type of learning.”

Beall said most students strongly prefer the traditional, in-person style of education. Some students actually prefer the online model, while others are struggling with it.

“That is definitely a downside to this, but we’re trying to make adjustments — in collaboration with our teachers, students, and parents — to help these students succeed,” Beall said.

Parental investment

Another reason that Maharishi School is requiring participation is that parents have made a financial commitment to the school, and the school wants to fulfill its responsibility by finishing the academic year to the best of its ability. Academic director Kaye Jacob said a number of parents from other countries have sent their children to Maharishi School to prepare them for entry into U.S. colleges and universities.

“They have entrusted their children to our care and we want to provide them the best support we can, from keeping them safe in the dormitory on campus to offering them a full academic experience even under these circumstances,” Jacob said. “For those students who went home early, that even means setting up synchronous tutorial sessions for them when it is evening here and morning there, just to be sure they are able to keep up with their classes.”

Kaye Jacob, Academic Director, Maharishi School

Kaye Jacob, Academic Director, Maharishi School

The school’s enrollment director Carol Chesnutt said those boarding students who returned home to China or Korea last month are expected to complete their work just like everybody else.

“Of course, we don’t expect them to stay up until 4 a.m. to attend all the classes but they do need to arrange a separate time to meet with the teacher during the early morning or evening,” Chesnutt said. “This has stretched the workload for many of our high school teachers, but we do what we have to do to get these students ready for college.”

Maharishi School students will receive a full semester’s credit for their work, and most importantly, Jacob said, they will be ready for their next adventure. The school’s seniors have gained admittance to demanding colleges such as Oberlin, Sarah Lawrence, Princeton, Agnes Scott, the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.

“A significant number of our students are taking AP exams in a total of 11 different courses this spring and of course we want them to be fully prepared for those exams also,” Jacob said.

Jacob said the school has worked with families to set them up for distance education, whether by helping them get internet connectivity and even dropping off resources at their homes.

“For us, there really has not been a disadvantage to making school mandatory,” Jacob said. “I think our parents appreciate it also, as their kids are productively occupied all day long.”

Getting ready

In March, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that classes would be suspended beginning March 16 to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Even before this announcement, Maharishi School was busy preparing for distance learning. It used a professional development day to make a plan, and rolled it out two days before the school’s scheduled Spring Break. The school and its students took that break as planned, from March 23-27, during which time its teachers were preparing for online courses once the break ended.

Explore maharishi preschool“The next big reality check was when we knew this wasn’t a stopgap but would be our mode of instruction the rest of the school year,” Jacob said. “That called for some additional changes and adaptations, especially in preschool and Lower School.”

Online learning

Chesnutt is teaching an AP economics course to upper school students, and she’s found plenty of material on the internet for her students to study. She said she has made use of the “flipped” classroom model, whereby students are asked to watch a video or read an article at home, and then she will recap the concept and discuss the more obtuse issues during class time.

“Because I only have seven students in my class, I can easily attend to each student and be mindful of who is leaning out rather than leaning in,” Chesnutt said. “In Zoom, you can read a student’s face or expressions much more readily than in a physical classroom. As some students are digesting a new concept, they lean in to the screen, tilt their head, and within seconds they are raising their hand with a question. This close-up view on the learning process is a thrill to me.”

Laurie Eyre teaches two mathematics courses in the upper school. The classes last just 30 minutes each, which means Eyre must be “well organized and efficient.”

“Every minute counts,” she said.

Maharishi School Screenwriting project- online learningThe students meet once a day, five days a week. Eyre said she’s fortunate that her classes are relatively small, which makes it easier to interact and communicate with all the students.

“Zoom has wonderful features like ‘chat’ where I can send a message to all students, a few or one,” she said. “The breakout room feature allows for group work or private meeting time with one or more students without disturbing the others.”

In addition to being head of middle and upper schools, Jacob teaches an 11th grade English class. Her students are working on a literary analysis paper, a major assignment, and that means she often holds video conferences with each student individually as well as in a group.

The school’s physical education teachers are assigning homework, too, in the form of a scheduled fitness regimen. Zara Colazio, who teaches PE along with health and math, remarked “While they are doing their fitness routines on Zoom, I can mute their moans and groans if I want to and just watch the workout.”

Lower school

Lynn Shirai is director of the lower school, covering grades 1-6, and she also teaches third-grade writing. The lower school began its distance education using learning packets from March 18 through April 10, but since then has transitioned to remote online learning through Zoom like the other grades.

The students are receiving instruction in reading, writing, science, social studies, math, physical education, art, and the Science of Creative Intelligence. Shirai said the school is

Lower School student makes bird feeder at home learningtrying to keep parent-assisted homework to a minimum since so many parents are also working at home.

Shirai said teachers are constantly coming up with innovative ways to incorporate hands-on activities with the students, something that is not easy when they can’t meet in person. For instance, many of the grades performed hands-on projects for Earth Day. Second-graders made their own bird feeders.

 

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