Second Chance

This past week was a whirlwind of activity at school with focus on the sixth graders’ Washington, D.C. trip highlights; Science Expo “conclusions;” U.S. presidents; black activists and famous black figures; Valentine’s Day celebrations, and much more!IMG_1845-S I ended my week having a remarkable ‘Morning Meeting’ with a first grade class. I say remarkable because it once again reminded me of the amazing virtues even our youngest can understand and practice!

I was immediately struck by the discussion students were having as I joined the circle on the floor. They began reading me the “message of the day” which included a quote from Gandhi — “Where there is love, there is life.”  They eagerly took turns to tell me who Gandhi was and how he was a man of “peace” and, in their own poignant way, what they thought he meant by these words. This led to a discussion on living loving lives of “peace,” and students gave examples of how we can live each day in a peaceful and caring way. You could see their little minds swimming with thoughts and ideas! They feel that “all people should” live peacefully and with kindness towards others.

We then began to “practice peace.” The students excitedly showed off their collaboratively created greeting which consisted of a series of special hand motions, eye to eye contact, 2015-02-12-102336_(_DSC9795)-X3and a warm “Hello”…each “greeting” causing warm, toothless smiles of acceptance, belonging, and affection towards one another.

After this, they were eager to teach me a game requiring concentration, silence, eye contact, and deep awareness of those around you. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I made a mistake when it was my turn. According to the rules, I should have been “out!” The moment that I called the next “incorrect” person, my fatal flaw, there was a deafening silence; everyone was visibly worried for me. Within seconds, a brave little girl, as if calling a summit at the Pentagon, called out, “Why don’t we give her a second chance?”

As we continued the game, me included, a few more children also made a similar mistake, which ALWAYS meant they were out for the game. However, today, the peace activists of 1 Purple declared was “Second Chance Day!” As I glanced around the circle, I was struck by the fact that this was true synergy. There was true inclusivity — despite their diverse DSC_6772-Scultural backgrounds and varied skin colors, this little group was learning to work together to practice empathy, solve problems, and create solutions.

As I said my goodbyes and left the classroom, I realized I had just missed (lucky for the 5th graders) the 5th grade yoga morning where the entire class gathered in the gym for reflection, meditation, relaxation, and peace building. As I walked through the campus several 4th graders stopped me to share their “wearable technology” (rings, sunglasses, etc.) that they created (by trial and error) from electronic textiles that are sewn with conductive threads to create electricity! They have been practicing 21st Century Skills — collaborative problem solving — all year in Smart Tech and all their other classes. Now, they were putting their skills to work to independently design.

As I struggled to stay awake that evening, reading the last pages of chapter 2 from The Lincolns in the White House by Jerrold M. Packard, I had flashbacks from my discussions with 6th graders just one week earlier as they stood in awe at the Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. memorials. They so eloquently shared their views on the great contributions that these men made for equal rights. I remembered the sadness in their eyes when hearing the story of “David,” the fictional boy at the Holocaust Museum.1%20Yellow-S When I see these same students and students in other grades in class working together to solve problems — fictional or real world problems — or when I read their sophisticated and articulate essays on social justice, current events, and/or analyses of historical happenings, I have a renewed hope for the future.

Our world desperately needs leadership in achieving sustainable social justice, not simply learning the answer to a test question. Future generations will be called upon to solve some of the most challenging problems ever created and faced by man: renewable energy, world hunger, climate change, and, ultimately, the design of a better world. They must also possess the compassion to recognize the rising human population and create a world that is inclusive, rather than exclusive.

Although this month, Black History Month, was mainly established to celebrate and honor the work of African Americans, it signifies unity and recognition cutting across racial and geographical barriers.2015-02-12-113452_(_DSC0160)-X3 It therefore holds a very special position and significance in today’s world where the importance of highlighting the work and effort of every single citizen of the nation, irrespective of his regional or national identity, is honored and celebrated. It brings to light that, despite our skin color, religious, cultural, or economic background, or despite the mistakes we may have made, we all need a “second chance!”

“If we wish to create a lasting peace, we must begin with the children.”  –Mahatma Gandhi

The above quote, I truly believe! On that note, have a fantastic week!

Cindy Moon

Head of School


From the jack o’ lantern contest in October to the “big sixth grade show” at the end of the year, traditions have long been a mainstay of the Park Maitland experience. Traditions are everywhere in the culture of our school, including the curriculum itself. As the sixth grade English teacher, I love teaching diagramming, which has been a part of the curriculum since I was a student at Park Maitland myself 26 years ago. I fondly recall diagramming with my 5th and 6th grade ESW teacher, Mrs. Rolph, and I am so proud to carry on the tradition with my own students.

For some people, however, who did not grow up learning how to diagram, the practice can seem enigmatic. Oftentimes I have parents or new students ask me what the purpose is.  What indeed?

Well, I believe diagramming sentences is one of the most valuable tools I have for teaching grammar. It allows students to see sentences in a different way—as a picture made up of parts that create the whole. For visual learners, especially, it just makes sense. I teach diagramming in conjunction with lessons on nouns, compound sentences, and subordinate clauses, and when students see how the words literally fit together, their understanding of grammar deepens.erica2

Moreover, to make a simple analogy, diagramming is the map for someone who is lost and needs directions. Though some individuals prefer written directions — turn left onto 50, then right at Mills — others prefer seeing a picture. I try to provide my students with both ways of arriving at a destination by having them copy and practice grammar rules and also diagram sentences. By teaching the two in conjunction, students have a stronger foundation upon which to build their understanding of the English language. Their sentence structure improves as does their writing. It is simple and effective.

Hi, Mrs. Keckley,

I hope everything is good at Park Maitland. I miss   you so much! Lunch is so boring without you. Thanks to you, I’m acing English (with an 100 average right now!!!). I miss the daily diagrams. I will come visit soon!


Alexis H.

Class of 2014

Plus, it’s fun. In my class students diagram a sentence every day from the Smartboard. Through constant repetition, they begin to recognize prepositional phrases, appositives, and possessive pronouns. When students diagram a sentence correctly, they shoot a basket. The first time students make a basket, they take a victory lap around the classroom, high-fiving their classmates and basking in their achievement. It is a definite highlight!erica1

I love that Park Maitland is constantly improving upon its curriculum with technology and the inclusion of current research on best teaching practices, and I am also glad that they value tradition and maintaining tried and true methods that have been taught forever. Here’s to many more years of diagramming!

By Erica Keckley

Grade 6 English, Spelling, and Writing Teacher

Learning Acceptance and Appreciation

We are halfway through “Hispanic Heritage Month” and students have been learning about culture, traditions, and even a few famous or noteworthy Hispanic people.  Our    own Hispanic students are being given a chance to share speciBlog7Bal things about their heritage through the month. They also led our Hispanic Heritage” assembly this past week!

Last week, a 4th grade girl shared details about her Indian heritage with her classmates during morning meeting.  She brought in her Quran and showed with great pride the Arabic words on the page while giving explanations of their meaning.  She also gave each of her classmates a handmade bookmark that she inscribed with their name written in Arabic.   A few Jewish students recently brought artifacts to school and gave a “mini” lesson on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  Their classmates were delighted to hear how their friends recognized these important religious traditions and were eager to share the traditions that related to their own heritage and or religion.

At Park Maitland, diversity is celebrated and appreciated by all!  We make a concerted effort to teach students traditions and cultures of many nationalities and religions.  Most importantly, we take the time to teach our students to respect and appreciate the many different ethnicitieBlog7Ds that make up our student body, our communities, and our world. Your child will learn about other cultures, both past and present in the classroom. At home, you can use these lessons as an excellent opportunity to emphasize and value racial and cultural diversity. This is an excellent topic to teach elementary school-age children.  They are forming lots of opinions about themselves and the people around them. This is when their natural curiosity about differences in appearance and cultural backgrounds really begin to come into play.

We find that we don’t have to teach tolerance. Here’s the beautiful thing about kids: Most are born with a natural sense of justice and fairness. Unless they are taught to be hurtful and cruel, children know that it’s wrong to attack others either physically or with words. All we have to do is nurture this natural love of people and get out of their way. If you are uneasy or uncomfortable around people of different backgrounds, your child wBlog7Cill pick up on it. Consider the way you talk about people. Do you describe someone by his/her race or physical appearance rather than other characteristics first? What messages are you sending for your child to pick up?

See the broader value of teaching acceptance. Learning to appreciate and respect all kinds of differences — not just racial and cultural but differences in socioeconomic levels, gender, and even disabilities — is an important skill in today’s diverse society. A child who is taught to devalue others based upon differences will face a tough and lonely road ahead.

Today, our neighborhoods and communities tend to be more diverse, giving children a chance to interact with children from other cultures and backgrounds. There’s no doubt that we still have a long way to go, but it’s a great time to be an American. And as an American, I am proud of the fact that celebration of differences is what makes our country and our school so special and great!Blog7A


Cindy Moon

Head of School


Founder’s Day 2012!

December 4th marks the birthday of the school’s founder, Ms. Nell Cohen, and typically marks the celebration of Founder’s Day at Park Maitland School.  Founder’s Day has become an annual tradition wherein students and staff gather at an assembly to remember the school’s origin and it’s wonderful, innovative originator.  Ms. Cohen’s legacy is a treasure that is preserved by her three daughters; Mary Margaret Bowen, Carolyn Fritch, and Elisabeth Kleppin, and is continued by the newest generation of students each year.

Bill and Nell Cohen with their three daughters Mary Margaret Bowen, Carolyn Fritch, and Liz Kleppin and their families.

Bill and Nell Cohen with their three daughters Mary Margaret Bowen, Carolyn Fritch, and Liz Kleppin and their families.

This year marks the school’s 45th year and, combined with the 2012-2013 school year theme of “Gratitude,” was celebrated in a unique way as Park Maitland alums who currently have children enrolled returned to show their gratitude.  Nearly 40 returning graduates and their children took the stage eager to share their favorite memories of field trips, exemplary teachers, life-long friendships, and even, their most memorable trips to the office.  They attributed their own elementary experience, their early love of learning, and character building as reasons to return to Park Maitland years later as the parents of a new generation of “Parkie’s.”  Tears of appreciation filled the eyes of many who could not deny being touched by such sweet sentiments.

It is easy to say that an education at Park Maitland is far more than textbooks and academics; it’s a foundation of character, a comradery, and a family tradition for those who lead the school and certainly for those who’ve attended.