I spoke with two of our third-grade students on the playground on Tuesday morning. “What have you learned so far this year?” I asked. One of them placed her index finger on her chin and gazed skyward, reflecting. “I really like learning cursive,” offered her friend. “Oh yes, me too!” said the first student, relieving her chin and finger of their contemplation. “But ‘H’ is really hard.” I agreed that a cursive “H” is no picnic. “‘C’ is probably the easiest one,” said the second student. “Yeah, ‘C’ is easiest,” agreed the first. “It’s just a big”—and here she made a wide arcing motion with her hand—“kinda swoosh.” It was a fine conversation, and it left me wondering how other MICDS students might respond to the same question: “What have you learned so far this year?” Over the next two days, I reached out to several of them at random to find out.
Annie and Mac, two other third graders, have had fun learning cursive, too, and they have also delighted in sketching and painting 3-D ice cream and sharing it on Seesaw. Alex in JK is a big fan of using the iPad to play Moose Math, and building with Mrs. Wallace’s giant blocks, and hurtling down slides on the playground, while Abel in first grade loves playing mystery animal in morning meeting. Science comes in for a lot of praise in Beasley. Cooper, a second-grade student, exclaimed to me, “I didn’t know so many bugs lived on milkweed!” and Charlie in first grade has been fascinated with “seeing my class’s radishes grow.” Charlie is also a big fan of her art class. “I liked doing my self-portrait because I learned how to make a braid,” she told me.
Jimmy in fourth grade enjoyed creating his self-portrait as well, because it glows in the dark, and second-grader Edie had a great time learning about geometric shapes in her art class. Annika, an SK student, seemed to touch all the bases in her “what have you learned so far” response, from computer class (“I like the math game where we get to work with colorful shapes”) to Spanish (“my teacher taught us that ‘azul’ is the word for ‘blue,’ and it’s fun to say”) to science (“we learned what living things need to stay healthy”) to music (“we learned to sing America the Beautiful, and Dr. Nichols taught us about sequoia trees”).
Izzie, a fifth grader, had a great story to tell about a recent triumph in her science class. “We had to make a heat shield out of a square of foil, hex bolts, washers, copper wire, and foil mesh,” she told me. “We had to keep a piece of glue from melting faster than four seconds. The catch was that there was a bolt and a wooden stick attached together, but we couldn’t let the materials touch the glue or the wood. My team project lasted 30.5 seconds against a blow torch before the glue melted.” Vishinsky in eighth grade has enjoyed his history class thoroughly. “We have been talking about the Middle East all the way back to 1300 B.C. The discussions about the information are interesting because you get to hear different perspectives from different people about the topic at hand.”
Catherine, also in eighth grade, said that “the most exciting thing I have learned so far is how different elements react to each other,” noting that “the alkali metals are highly reactive, and will combust when they come in contact with any disagreeable element.” (There is poetry in her word “disagreeable,” I think. English meets science!) Catherine also reports that “I am involved in the tennis and volleyball club, and it is very exciting to finally get back onto the courts and play against friends!”
Upper School students who answered my “what have you learned so far” question provided a variety of responses, including “chemical reactions,” “trigonometry,” “the turn of the twentieth century in world history,” and “how to connect COVID-19 to the 1918 pandemic.” Max in ninth grade has enjoyed “the process of simplifying, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing radicals” in his math class. Charlie, a sophomore, took advantage of a research project in his history class to “focus on the controversy regarding the push for nationwide COVID vaccine mandates.” George in eleventh grade has really enjoyed his History of St. Louis class, and I also heard from a senior who is thriving in his Advanced Topics in Computer Programming class. “Learning new languages is interesting to me in general,” he said, “because it is so imperative to present-day life, and it’s always exciting to gain a new perspective on the world.”
The English novelist Hugh Walpole once declared that “the whole secret of life is to be interested in one thing profoundly and a thousand other things well.” I am constantly amazed at both the singular phenomena that interest our MICDS students profoundly and the thousand other phenomena that interest them well. It is a great privilege and inspiration to be in their midst every day.
Always reason, always compassion, always courage. I wish you a very happy Labor Day weekend with your loved ones.
Head of School