(Last weekend we celebrated fifteen years of Fairhaven School with various activities on campus, including an open Microphone. Parent Lisa Speigner, who was out of town, wanted to share the following piece. Look for more posts from the evening soon!)
Although writing has always been a relatively effortless outlet for my creative expression, for some reason, whenever I try to write about the impact Fairhaven has had on me I find myself with a serious case of writer’s block. I have found it hard to put into words events that have so profoundly changed me in such unexpected ways. However, with Fairhaven School’s 15th anniversary coming, I was determined to get something on paper to share. I hope I can do it justice.
Aside from the positive changes Fairhaven and the Sudbury model of education has had on my daughter, I continue to be amazed at how it has changed ME. From my first school meeting, I began to realize that Fairhaven isn’t just about kids, a lack of homework, JC, the freedom to cuss if you want to, or some academic discussion about what education is or isn’t. It is about people, acceptance, individuality, and learning to find joy in “being” rather than doing.
Even though, initially, Fairhaven was about finding a safe place for my daughter, it has become an oasis of peace for me. As a black woman in America, I had come to expect to be judged harshly and treated unfairly because of stereotypical portrayals of what women who fit my profile are supposed to be. Sitting in my first Fairhaven meeting, where I happened to be the only black person in the room at the time, I was acutely aware of a strange sensation…the feeling that no one was judging me. I sensed that I was being observed ... Read More
As usual, Fairhaven School students (and staff) got into the Halloween spirit this year. Check out this slideshow.
Fairhaven School celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. With it will come a fun-filled celebration sure to have something for everyone on November 23rd. Amongst other things, we are planning to dedicate a new tree in the Circle Garden, collaborate on participatory art installations, and have a Words in the Woods reading with alumni novelist Max Neely-Cohen.
To commemorate the occasion a new T-shirt is here!!!
I created the graphic on the T-shirt on a website called Wordle.net, which allows you to make visual “word clouds” out of any text you enter. Words vary in size from smallest to largest (and therefore importance) according to the amount of times they were used in the text that was entered. Wordle allows for some manipulation of font, color, etc. (or you can let the computer randomly choose those elements) but after that you just keep pushing “return”, allowing the site to create various combinations until you get a cloud you like. It’s fun, addictive, and is a little like playing a slot machine and ending up with some weird refrigerator Magnetic Poetry!
This graphic was created by using the text from the “about” page on the Fairhaven School website, with the exception of names, which were removed, and the addition of “15years” entered MANY times so it would both stay together as one item and appear largest. I then played with it until things like School Meeting and Fairhaven School ended up together.
With the final touches of the school logo of the Old Building porch with a student in the rafters, and fall colors (the green shirt was a unanimous choice as being “very Fairhaven” by all students and staff polled), the graphic was complete! We hope you will consider purchasing one (or more) of these unique T’s to show your school pride. ... Read More
As an arts educator and alumni parent of Fairhaven School, I have experienced instances
where I have had to validate to friends, parents, colleagues, etc. why I felt a Sudbury
model education was preferable over a traditional public school one. While the Sudbury
philosophy is not new, it goes against the paradigm formed during the industrial
revolution. Often when talking about Fairhaven School and the Sudbury model, I use the same
talking points that Sir Ken used in this video.
(Fairhaven School parent Renee Switzer wrote the following post for her educational blog. Enjoy!)
I’m so excited to finally meet Peter Gray! He’s coming to speak at my oldest daughter’s school, Fairhaven School, which is the oldest Sudbury school in Maryland. We are lucky to live near it, since there are only a few democratic schools in the world, although there are the most in the U.S (according to the list of Sudbury schools on Wikipedia).
When I first heard about the democratic school model, I didn’t give it more than a passing thought. I didn’t take it more seriously until I met Barbara Dewey’s granddaughter, and I realized the KIND of people who come out of a democratic school environment. This articulate, compassionate, bright young woman was simply a phenomenal individual!
So I began to research the model and was particularly interested in it for the middle school years. My school subscribes to the American Journal of Play, which is a wonderful peer-reviewed journal, and is available in print or free online. This was where I discovered Peter Gray.
Dr. Peter Gray does his research on the value of play in education, and uses Sudbury schools as the venue for his research. They are valuable schools for this type of research because the self-directed model allows for time in the day for play, and the mixed age framework (ages 5-18 at our nearby school) allows for interesting research in the quality of play among mixed ages. The first article of his that I read was Play as a Foundation for Hunter-Gatherer Social Existence. Intrigued, I read more of his work. I liked The Special Value of Child’s Mixed-Age Play, but Playing in the Zone of Proximal Development: Qualities of Self- Directed Age Mixing between Adolescents and Young ... Read More
I spend many hours here on campus alone, working nights and weekends, manning the office in the summer. My colleagues and I always marvel at how much more we can get done when Fairhaven School is empty. We make jokes about it: this place is so much better without the students.
Then one older student enters the office to pick up a work release form. Or maybe a younger student comes in with a parent, looking for a lost phone. No matter the purpose, each time a student breaks the silence of the quiet school, they animate the emptiness and remind me why these fifteen years have mattered. When she does ask for the form, she looks up and perfectly balances familiarity with respect. When he does ask for his phone, he can deal with the setback if it’s not in the office. He can even handle his upset dad. We may check in on school issues, or we may banter back and forth about his Orioles and my Nationals. We have brief interactions, then they leave, and the silence returns, save for the sound of fingers on a keyboard.
Still, memories move around the buildings like shadows, and imagination takes over. Here come the young boys, walk-running down the hall so as not to be written up in JC. A much older student follows, saying the definition of running is when both feet are simultaneously not touching the floor. They all pass the girls in the Quiet Room, reading the Harry Potter series. Again! Maybe the mind travels to the Old Building, where the boy who’s searching for Bigfoot is showing his evidence photos, finally not caring if people make fun. In the Art Room, others cluster around their tiny clay worlds ... Read More
Winding my way through the woods on the first day of school, I am greeted by the first few red and yellow leaves of fall. It’s hard to miss that undeniable crispness in the air. I know when I was a kid, these age-old hallmarks of the fall signaled the end of the freedom of summer. For our students, it’s a whole different ballgame. The start of school isn’t an end to their freedom here; rather, it’s an invitation to dig back in to that challenging Sudbury dance of freedom and responsibility.
Those of you who are familiar with Apples to Apples will be able to appreciate the sentiment in the photo. During the game, one person is the judge and plays a green card. Everyone else has a hand of red cards and carefully chooses the card from their hand that they think the judge will pick as being a perfect fit for the green card. In this instance, from a game of Apples to Apples this week, one student choose to play “The First Day of School” in an attempt to win the green “Glorious” card. Now, usually, when the judge turns over all the red cards that players have put down as considerations for their green card, there’s a bit of hemming and hawing. One may expect a show while the judge carefully narrows it down to the best two and then, much to their audience’s anticipation, unhurriedly makes their final decision. In this case, “The First Day of School” was an instant winner. What interests me most about this is that both students had the same idea- that there is something undeniably “Glorious,” “magnificent,” “delightful,” and “splendid” about the first day of school at Fairhaven!
It’s the end of the second week now and there’s so much ... Read More
Fifteen summers ago. Anyone who remembers the very hot, humid and rain-less summer of 1998 might be surprised to find out how a group of energized people chose to spend their time that year. Instead of vacations or lazy summer days at the beach, the founders and their friends and neighbors gathered to help build Fairhaven School. On any given day, between ten and fifty people would show up on this lovely piece of property in Prince George’s County to dig, hammer, pound, paint, or hoist. With the guidance of founder Romey Pittman, who wore many hats that year, including project manager, building designer, volunteer coordinator and permit runner, as well as two hired contractors, Gary Stiewing and Bambi Tran, volunteers worked day in and day out to create what is now fondly called the Old Building.
Sudbury Valley Board Member Alan White spent the entire summer here; Sam Droege milled much of the timber used for the building, designed the front porch (which became our logo) and designed and built the beautiful Circle Room floor; Beth Stone and Jim and Jancey Reitmulder from the Circle School in Harrisburg, PA also pitched in. Joe Jackson handled all things financial and spent countless hours building; Ray Hartjen, author and supporter of the Sudbury philosophy, videotaped the process. Lindsey Dodson, Alice Wells, Tony Koppers, Linda Jackson, Marty Perkins, Amina Re, Fred Tutman, Joe Boerckel, Gayle Friedman, Niel Rosen, Jim Meyer, Dan Luczak, Bernie Gregory, Jane Gregory, the Banes, the Stewarts, the Autrys, the Fizdales, the Grusky-Foleys, the Bennetts, the Umsteads, as well as twenty members of the Single Volunteers of D.C., and many, many others worked tirelessly throughout that long, hot summer to get the job done. To quote an article written by founder Romey Pittman in the Fairhaven School News that ... Read More
Summer is almost over, and that’s good news for Fairhaven students.
Fairhaven is a school kids can’t wait to get back to!
Fairhaven opens September 3rd.
Since the end of the school year, I have been busy with my building clerkship. My summer routine begins with thorough cleaning of both buildings during which time I make a list of what needs fixing. When school starts up again in 6 weeks, here are some changes that folks will see (or not see):
1. The hole (fist size) in the Lounge no longer exists.
2. Several of the walls in both buildings have fresh coats of paint.
3. New door stops and repairs to doors that always seem to opened and closed by humans with
4. New stairs in the New Building (NB). When the carpet was removed, the cracks in the risers
5. At the time of this post, a new door is being installed in the NB by the computer room.
I am constantly amazed by how these physical structures endure the love and abuse that occur day inand day out of the school year. Additionally, I am aware of the reactions of School Meeting Members (SMMs) to change. The big changes (stairs and doors) had been discussed and approved by SM. Still, I thought a “heads-up” was in order. When we begin the next school year and celebrate our 15th year, I hope that these improvements will help the buildings to serve as a the wonderful learning environment that is and have been Fairhaven School.
Building Maintenance Clerk
What an amazing year! It flew by with so much fun, learning, hard work, friendship, and more. The school is now officially closed and once again, we extend huge thanks to all of you who have supported the school with your interest, time, talent, and resources. We had three spectacular graduates this year who showed us all just what is possible with a self-directed education—confidence, passion, skills, and preparedness to move out into the world and succeed. It has been a wonderful adventure to share this learning community together, an experience to treasure forever.
—all of us at Rising Tide School