It’s hard for me to talk about tradition without thinking of “Fiddler on the Roof” and Topol’s deep voice belting out the song, “Tradition!” The song rings true in that when we have similar experiences to celebrate and pass down it creates a feeling of belonging and “roots.” Those of you who have been part of the Park Maitland “family” for any length of time are familiar with the many honored traditions established here in each grade level and as an entire school. Some of these traditions give way to new
traditions so that they are still relevant and meaningful. Nonetheless, they are one of the things that make Park Maitland School such a special place to be!
As I write this week’s message we are at the tail end of our annual 5th grade Williamsburg, VA trip! I have had the pleasure of spending this past week with this tremendous group exploring and “living” the traditions of the Colonial days and their impact on the development of our country. This Park Maitland tradition allows our students and their parents time to share special memories while engaging in spellbinding reenactments and historical lessons.
Back at home, our 3rd graders are preparing for one of their special annual highlights…the Native American Festival. After spending weeks learning about the traditions and culture of Native Americans, the children will spend a day celebrating and honoring these great people with reenactment of songs, dances, games, and most exciting, enjoying a visit from Jim Sawgrass, a Florida Native American. This entire process is as authentic and close to the “real” thing as it comes!
Ms. Cindy Dawson shared this about the “famous” tipi that she (with help from a few of our staff) erected last week: It is a traditional Sioux tipi from the plains tribes who followed the buffalo across the central plains of our nation several thousand years ago, right up until the early 1800’s. It is made to the exact specifications of that particular tribe, and it is 18 feet tall! The poles themselves are from a Lodge Pole Pine, a rare tree found in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. In the 1700’s, the cover would have been made from large buffalo hides stitched together with sinew and softened with the juice of the bison brain! One family would live in each tipi, and the actual dwelling was “owned” by the mother. It could be put up in 20 minutes by just two braves and taken down in half that time, which is why it was a perfect home for the plains tribes, who were mobile and followed the buffalo year-round, even in the snow.
This tipi was made by a very famous Montana man named Don Ellis, who owned White Buffalo Lodges in Livingston, Montana. His family can trace their people back to some of the first who settled in Montana. Anyone who is lucky enough to own one of Don’s tipis is very lucky, indeed. He is world-famous. Each tipi is made completely by hand, and the wait for one can be up to one year due to the planning and strategizing to obtain and strip the amazing and beautiful poles. Each pole is a single tree! This particular tipi has found it s home in the Bell Garden of Park Maitland School for the past 16 years and is beloved by all. Our 3rd graders have just learned the history and “story” of this tipi, and, each year, students from each grade are invited to go inside!
In the midst of the Native American excitement, our 1st grade students are eagerly anticipating their “Harvest Festival” this year with a new twist. Students and parents will spend the day exploring about our early settlers and their first celebration of Thanksgiving. They will create jewelry, make butter, and explore and learn together with their families and friends.
It is the common values, morals, customs, and general culture that help bond members of a school family. These highly anticipated traditions bring students, teachers and parents together to celebrate learning in a relevant, fun and engaging way! How can they possibly be forgotten!
Each year, more and more Park Maitland alums send their own children to our school. One of the things that we are delighted to do is celebrate these much loved traditions with their children! They are always so happy to hear that we have held on to these celebrations. They are also relieved and pleased to see that the “old fashioned” values so important to our founder, Nell Cohen, such as good manners, morals, and character are as important as always!
I think that one of the problems plaguing our fast paced and ever-changing society today is the “rootlessness” of so many people and the lack of common values. It is very important for families, schools, and the workplace to establish traditions and values that allow for a coming together of all to reflect, learn, connect, and celebrate!
On that note, I hope that each Park Maitland family enjoys your family traditions next week as you gather together on Thanksgiving! We have much to be thankful for!
Happy Thanksgiving, all!
Head of School