May 2019 Newsletter

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Nature Deficit Disorder

Last week I took my boys Sam (3) and James (2) for the day, all to myself, from 7 am – 5 pm. If it sounds like I'm congratulating myself, then you've never spent a full day supervising two small children.

There’s a lot about that day I could write about, including the fact that their “meals” consisted of donuts and Easter candy.

But it was my impulsive decision to take them to the woods that stuck with me.

I had no plan, really. No bag of toys, no books, no snacks, no diapers or wipes. I just threw them in the van. "Boys, we're going into nature" I said, triumphantly.

When we arrived, I started meandering down the path while Sam and James toddled behind. Pretty quickly they were picking up sticks, pretending to chop down trees, throwing “spears” at imaginary animals, climbing over fallen trees, using branches as balance beams, and kicking up leaves.

The deeper we foraged, the more a feeling of calm washed over me; as if someone had silenced the ever-present buzz of “on-edge-ness” that comes with minding small children. There was no remote to fight about, no cars whizzing past while they chased a ball into the street, no parent to feel awkward in front of because my kid was walking up the slide. No toys. No media. Just three guys in the woods.

We arrived at a meadow with a house of branches, and I found a place to sit and watch my boys just…be. They mostly explored the woods alone, occasionally coming together to discuss, in the innocent way only small kids can, the size of an ant or the softness of the moss. They were just two organisms at home in their original habitat. In Eduspeak, this is called "experiential play-based learning." I just call it goofing off in the woods.

And it occurred to me that we don’t do this enough. Much of what I do is try to think of something to keep them engaged--a new toy, a new show, a new book, a new game.

Maybe I’m trying too hard. Maybe what they need more than anything is more contact with the very source from which they came. We forget that our kids have more in common with a tree than with a superhero, more in common with a beetle than with a toy truck. My boys constantly fight over plastic stuff in the house; in the woods, there are plenty of sticks to go around.

The benefits of time in nature—real nature (soccer fields don’t count!) is well-documented.

Thoreau wrote about it in Walden, his manifesto on the simple life:

“We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

Anyone who has slept under the stars or sat around a campfire by the river knows what Thoreau is talking about.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder writes:

“Progress does not have to be patented to be worthwhile. Progress can also be measured by our interactions with nature and its preservation. Can we teach children to look at a flower and see all the things it represents: beauty, the health of an ecosystem, and the potential for healing? ”

We spent a couple of hours in those woods, and for the last hour, James had a full, stinky diaper. (another benefit to the woods: no one can smell it). As we walked back toward the van, it struck me that, without meaning it, I had shared with my children something transcendent. Maybe that decision to go to the woods was not impulsive. Maybe it was instinctive.

Let’s consider that more tutoring, more practice, more lessons, more tools, more (fill-in-the-blank) might not always be what our kids need. Sometimes a walk in the woods might be enough.

-Mr. Hughes


100% of proceeds go toward Eagle Scholars Award winners' college education. Awards will be presented at Honors Night. These are students who have gone above and beyond the requirements of the program. This is a tax-deductible donation.

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Thurston Updates

Important Dates:

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5/8: Buffalo Wild Wings Fundraiser (6 Mile in Livonia) Details here.

5/22: U of M Ann Arbor Visit (Freshmen)

5/23: Honors Dinner

5/28: U of M Dearborn Visit (Sophomores)

5/30: Kalamazoo College visit (Juniors)

5/30: Honors Night

6/3: Eagle Scholars Program Orientation

6/3: AP Kickoff night

8/5 - 8/8: College Application Boot Camp

Acceptance letters are in for our seniors from Penn State, Kalamazoo College, Howard University, U of M Ann Arbor, Michigan State, Pratt, Leiden, Wayne State, EMU, CMU, Northern Michigan, University of Findlay, Ohio Northern, and many others.

The Eagle Scholars Award application will be available in February for qualifying seniors. Last year we disbursed over $2000.

You/your child should be thinking about what AP course(s) to take next year. AP courses for 10th graders: AP Government, AP Psychology, AP World History. Remember that all students must take AP Lang in either 11th or 12th grade.

Thursday study sessions are now in the cafeteria (2:45 - 3:45)

Tutoring runs Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday in the Media Center from 2:45 - 3:45.

Albion College Visit

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Pierce Updates

Important Dates:

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5/29 - 5/31: 8th Grade Philadelphia Trip

6/3: Eagle Scholars Program Orientation

6/5: 8th grade Honors Night

6th graders did an amazing job on their U of M visit for Place Out of Time, where they showcased their skills in creativity, argument, analysis, and synthesis alongside U of M students and professors as well as a group of students from Ann Arbor's Open School. The scholars in a three-month-long simulation in which they took on the role of a character from history and engaged in an international mock trial. Students also got an insider's tour of campus so they can start thinking about what it will take to attend school at U of M Ann Arbor in 2025!

Wednesday study sessions are back in full swing with some interesting twists. We've started an epic, semester-long game of Team Trivia, in which ESP middle schoolers demonstrate their knowledge on a variety of subjects while Mr. Hughes demonstrates how old and out of touch he is. This, of course, only happens once we've gotten in some solid study time, often using the Pomodoro technique. We're also experimenting with other activities, such as "The Riddle Game" and going outside to play football, run around, and just be kids!

We're also looking forward to welcoming a fantastic group of Eagle Scholars for next year in grades 6 through 9. To be sure, many of our current seniors didn't enter the program until after 6th grade. This underscores the importance of providing students the opportunity to access the program when they are ready, willing, and able.

If you see these students, please welcome them!






























































Place out of Time at U of M Ann Arbor

“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” ― Richard Rohr

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