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Brookwood School Eighth Grade Reflections

2016 class on courtyard

In this commencement season of reminiscing and celebration, we asked our graduating eighth graders to reflect on their years at Brookwood by answering a few questions.  Their responses were thoughtful and heartwarming, and we share a sampling of the anonymous reflections below. Thank you and good luck to the Class of 2016!

What I will miss about Brookwood . . .

. . . the warm, welcoming community. From the first time I walked through the doors in fifth grade, to the day I walk out, there is always a teacher or a student saying hello to me. I can’t go one step in the halls of Brookwood without saying “hi” to somebody.

. . . my friends and teachers. The teachers at Brookwood genuinely care about each and every student, and I think that is what sets Brookwood apart from other schools. Also Brookwood shapes its students to be accepting to people’s’ differences.

. . . the phenomenal group of both faculty and students all of whom get to know you at a personal level. I will always remember that warm, encouraging, and inviting feeling you get when you walk into and out of the school.

. . . the community. At Brookwood we are all taught that we need to take care and look out for one another and I believe that this is an important thing to be able to do. Being kind is the biggest rule here and it is definitely the most important thing to be able to do throughout life.

. . .  the teachers’ attitude toward helping students be prepared for the future. They are funny, energetic and they approach me if things aren’t going all that well.

. . . the community feel at Brookwood. Everybody at Brookwood likes you and wants you to succeed. I feel more prepared to take on the real world now.

. . . no matter what time of day it is you can always hear music coming from the rooms –  whether guitars or steel drums it’s always there.

Class-of-2016SFWSkills I have learned at Brookwood . . .

. . .   teamwork and leadership. A lot of times at Brookwood, I would be put in groups with people I don’t know and how to work together regardless of that. I also learned leadership from the sports at Brookwood.

. . .  take risks. So what if you don’t succeed? That makes you stronger.

. . .  speaking with confidence in front of large crowds. Brookwood has provided me with the skills to stand tall, project my voice, and make eye contact with whoever is standing in front of me. That is a skill I know I’ll carry though my whole life.

. . . ability to feel comfortable talking with my teachers, whether it is about homework or something social. Another skill that I have learned is being able to keep organized and prepared for my future life.

. . . it’s “cool” to be smart. Nobody thinks it’s “cool” to get bad grades or not try. Also, I have learned that communicating with teachers is a huge help. Nobody knows how to help you better than they do.

Values I have gained  at Brookwood. . .

. . .  enthusiasm is important to me. Hundreds of School Meetings and an eighth grade play have molded me into an enthusiastic person.

. . .  be yourself. At Brookwood, I learned that everyone supports you and just wants you to excel. This taught me to want the best for others, also.

. . .  expand your circle of friends. School is so much more fun when everyone is like a big family.

. . .  respect others. Always hold others as highly as you hold yourself and be kind and respectful to everyone. Lastly, work hard. If you work hard and focus on what you want to accomplish, you can do whatever you set your mind to.

. . . be myself and not pretend that I am someone that I am not. I have also learned to not care what people think of me (somewhat). Doing this has gained me great friendships that will last for a lifetime.

Surf and Turf Day, Plus a Launch for the Record Books

Adding a new twist to a favorite spring tradition (Field Day), Middle School celebrated this school year’s end with Surf and Turf Day. The day and its activities were created by Physical Education teacher Mike Wellington and Middle School teachers who developed a plethora of ideas to reflect the division’s year-long maritime-themed work and boat building project.

s-and-t-5sfws and t 9Grades 4 and 5 participated in many of the usual turf events, Tchoukball, four-goal soccer, and relays, but in addition the group faced off in challenges with a “nautical” twist. These included things like Knot Races, Dress Like a Pirate, Shipwreck, and Empty the Bilge.

Especially fun was the Semaphore Signaling in which students used nautical flags to send coded messages to each other from one end of campus, across the two athletic fields, to the other. The challenge: correctly decode the other group’s message. Practice for this began the week before, across the lunchroom, much to many diners’ surprise. The kids also really enjoyed Swab the Decks, a new take on Pillow-Polo, always a favorite.

Day_162_Jun_8The excitement of Surf and Turf Day was followed two days later with the launch of the M.S.S. Brookwood, a MacIntosh Canvas rowboat that the students and teachers have been building for this entire year.

After months of work and collaboration, the seaworthiness of the vessel was put to the test on the Cutler Pond. Prior to launch, Admiral Caron led the first-ever Water Bottle Christening, wishing the vessel good luck and a fair weather journey, and read a dedication poem.

Fifth grader Isabella B. took to the helm, and the entire Middle School gathered on the shore in hopeful expectation. Was it seaworthy? Would it float? Would it take on water … maybe even sink? Would our rowers be swimming back to shore? Watch a time-lapse (by clicking on the image below) and find out!

MS Boat Launch

Learn more about the thought and planning that went into this intensive year-long project.

– Sven Holch,
Grade 5 teacher

A Reflection Upon Retirement from Brookwood

FOX-MarthasfwThis week an email pinged through: “Brookwood did great good for me. My life has been transformed by the school.” That message came from an exchange educator 7000 miles away in Rwanda, but it echoes the words our teachers often hear from former students, some of whom are now parents in the carpool line. How exciting that our reach is broadening as well as remaining deep.

These days, I am keenly aware of all kinds of forward movement that is firmly rooted in the values and aspirations of our mission. After nearly a quarter of a century at Brookwood, on the threshold of retirement, my annual year-end reflection feels particularly poignant and my observation especially focused.

Each day, I notice Brookwood teachers making educational buzzwords meaningful, visible, and tangible. As I move through the school, I see project-based learning, research-based teaching, and intentional social curricula at work. Just look at children huddling in tinker spaces that integrate science, design, and collaboration. See them use math and metacognition to build a boat. Watch them gather at a table to share leveled texts in small groups or curl up alone in a corner to immerse in a magical tale. Go to a game and note how they practice sportsmanship alongside passing skills. If you’re like me, you’ll wipe away a few surprise tears at the courage of a solo at School Meeting, the discovery of a new favorite food at lunch, or the kind inclusion of a classmate in recess four square.

marthaandvictorsfwThe new part of Brookwood is a leading-edge space that is integrated with the old carriage house. The building’s appeal is architectural, but its life comes from cut-paper and pastels, mosaics, and sculpture. Tulips and chickens, forsythia and bunnies. Colorful interactive morning messages and push-pinned poems. Brookwood has a heartbeat: African drum rhythms, bounce of basketballs, and footsteps in the halls.

How fortunate I am that my own two kids had the privilege of a Brookwood education. Before their time and ever since, Brookwood teachers have been “teaching with fire” and igniting the curiosity and interests of their students. How thankful I am to have lived and learned for so long among those teachers and the families who are their partners. And how grateful I am to leave this community with hopeful confidence. I know that Brookwood will continue to grow and change and remain the same at its core – a school that dearly loves its children and empowers them with the skills and the will to do great good in this miraculous and hurting world.

– Martha Fox
AISNE Accreditation Coordinator,
Former Director of Global Initiatives
and Head of the Dodge Writing Center

(Pictured top, Martha Fox; Pictured above, Martha with 2016 Exchange Educator Victor Gakwaya)

Brookwood School says farewell to Exchange Educator Victor Gakwaya


Victor Gakwaya, Head of School at APAPEC-IREBERO in Kigali, Rwanda, has been at Brookwood for the past two weeks as our 2016 Exchange Educator.

APAPEC-IREBERO is an independent primary school (Nursery through Grade 6) with 1,114 students. Victor spent most of his time in our Lower School classrooms but also took part in Middle and Upper School classes.

In his farewell message at School Meeting, Victor spoke movingly about his visit, sharing observations about the students. Below is Victor’s speech as well as overviews from each division head about the time Victor spent with their students.

Victor Gakwaya’s Farewell to Broowkood, School Meeting, May 19

I take this opportunity to thank the Brookwood community. Since my first day here, you have all helped me to feel comfortable. During my visit, Brookwood took the place of my family, making me feel welcomed.

What I saw during my time with you has inspired me. I especially noticed that Brookwood develops academic excellence, and each child is treated as unique through the method you use known as “child centered” education.

Brookwood students have a positive environment; the children love the school, and the school itself is a friend.

Brookwood students have positive values like self-esteem and self-discipline.

When I reach my own school in Kigali, I will not rest. I will share my experiences here and new understandings with my colleagues and my students.

I hope this Educator Exchange will be sustained for a long time.

As a farewell gift, a group of Lower School students presented Victor with a quilt featuring handmade squares by every Lower School student. (Click image to view video.)


Lower School reflections on Victor’s visit

VIctor1sfwThe Lower School began corresponding with Victor Gakwaya when we collaborated with his students in the Global Cardboard Challenge.  From this early work came this exciting faculty exchange.  Victor has spent two weeks with us with the goal of learning more about American education and working with us to see where additional partnerships could emerge.  Victor spent time in each Lower School classroom and followed the children to their specials.  A highlight of each day was when he shared his reflections of the day with the teachers.  His astute observations and obvious understanding of educational practices allowed the reflective sessions to be helpful to all of us.  VIctor3sfwWe were all touched by Victor’s humility and will miss him.  He entered our school and within two weeks became a part of our community.  We look forward to sending a teacher to APAPEC-IREBERO in October.

– Nancy Evans, Head of Lower School





Middle School’s reflections on Victor’s visit

VIctor2sfwVictor was able to lead our classes in a Q & A and also shared some compositions from his students to begin a literacy exchange between Brookwood’s Grade 5 and APAPEC-IREBERO. The students also reported on their current immigration unit in social studies as well as stood to recite the New Colossus by Emma Lazarus. Victor was able to accompany a section of Grade 5 to Black Cove Beach to view Fifth Grade Coastal Stewardship work in action. He commented frequently about Brookwood’s extended campus and how we use it well as a “teaching tool.” A group of students enthusiastically shared with Victor their Rubik’s Cube solving skills, knowing that his school is also working on solving Rubik’s Cubes! Later, Victor had an incredibly meaningful discussion with our fourth and fifth grade teachers about classroom and behavior management strategies. He is working on a book with another teacher to promote change in Rwanda, and other African countries, from current practices towards a model that more closely resembles our Responsive Classroom-inspired style.

–  Middle School Teachers

“It was wonderful to have Victor’s insights and reflections.  We are already talking about what books we will “share read” next year with his fifth grade classes.”

– Middle School Coordinator Lisa Johnson

Upper School’s reflections on Victor’s visit

Victor visited sixth grade English classes where he talked to kids about how in Rwanda they paid close attention to the Millennium Development Goals. He talked about how hard it used to be, for example, for pregnant women to get health care, but now it’s better because they’ve met Millennium Goals. Now that we are paying attention to the Sustainable Development Goals, he is glad we’re all on board.  The Sustainable Development Goals have been part of our work in sixth grade’s Global Collaborations Project.  Victor also visited with social studies classes where he and Rich Lehrer discussed everything from the causes of the genocide and health care issues in Rwanda to what life is like at APAPEC-IREBERO.

Victor was articulate, eager, and very insightful and his talk touched on many of the themes we have been discussing all year in social studies and GCP such as the Ten Attributes of Culture and global goals as articulated by the United Nations.

– Evan Diamond, Head of Upper School

Brookwood School students receive Sonia Schreiber Weitz Upstander Awards

upstander awardsNine Brookwood School students were honored at the 2016 Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) service at Salem State University’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Eighth grader Max M., received the Sonia Schreiber Weitz Upstander Award for an original essay while sixth graders Jack H., and eighth graders Sophia C., Portia D., Emily H., Walker M., Ellen N., Kishan P., and Noah R. earned Honorable Mentions.

The service’s program acknowledged their efforts saying, “Thank you to these exemplary students for being upstanders and not bystanders and for honoring Sonia Schreiber Weitz by dedicating themselves to taking action on behalf of others who are persecuted or treated unfairly. The each play a role in making our would a better place.”

The program and the award are, “dedicated to the memory of Sonia Schreiber Weitz, Holocaust survivor, poet, educator, and human rights activist. Through her everyday actions and her written and spoken word, Weitz encouraged and inspired her audiences. She hoped for a world ‘where the are no more victims nor victimizers and, above all, no more bystanders.’”

Weitz was a Holocaust survivor and worked tirelessly to inform and teach people so the horrific event is never forgotten. She was the co-founder and Education Director of The Holocaust Center Boston North Inc. before it became incorporated into Salem State University and was renamed the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Brookwood School is proud to have had a close relationship with Weitz who came to campus each year and spoke to students about her experiences in the Krakow Ghetto and five Nazi camps, including Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. She shared her poetry with students and inspired them to be upstanders for righteousness in the world so tragedies like the Holocaust never happen again.

Stock up for summer reading at the Brookwood School Spring Book Fair



An air of anticipation seeps through the community during the month of May.  Field Day, Steep Week, and Graduation are some of the beloved events in the offing.

For the students, the Spring Book Fair is a treasured experience. Beginning in April, students ask, “Mrs. Geraty, when’s the Book Fair?” and  “What day is our class coming?”  I admit, I’m excited, too!

The anticipated shift from the structured school schedule to relaxed summer days hints at more time to play and be with friends and family, as well as read stories that transport us to other worlds, times, and places. The Book Fair offerings spark our imaginations and pave the way for riveting summer reading experiences.  What types of books bring us pleasure?  Graphic novels, fiction, biographies, sports books, mysteries, and science fiction are options. As well as some assigned reading, summer is a time when readers have a choice of what to read!

SummerReading2Keep a stack of books handy for rainy days, beach days, or any day.  Read with a friend, read to a sister or brother, listen to an audio book, or curl up in a comfy place and relax into a book. What will happen next? Keep reading and find out!

 – Sheila Geraty
Brookwood Librarian

Editor’s note:  Please feel free to join us at the Book Fair May 11-13. It begins at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, May 11 and continues on Thursday and on Friday, May 13 until noon.

A Day Brookwood School Celebrates Grandparents

EVANS_Nancy-sfwWhat a joy to be a grandparent and to be able to watch and listen to all the things that excite our grandchildren. We grandparents have the enviable position of having more leisure time and the ability to celebrate each stage of our little ones’ development and not be so anxious about the next stage. As a grandparent one is able to interact in a different way … a way that is sublimely satisfying to both grandparent and grandchild.

The times I spend with my grandchildren are always special. Whether it be a walk on the beach, sitting reading a book together, or playing a game, I always marvel at the poignancy of the experiences we share. The simplest moments have deep, deep meaning.

Nancy_students_workingsfwWatching my granddaughter thrive in a rich educational environment and being able to peek into her days is truly a gift … one that I cherish.

It was wonderful seeing all the grandparents and special friends here during our annual Grandparents’ Day celebration, and I hope you enjoyed every minute you spent with your grandchildren here in our community.

– Nancy Evans
Head of Lower School

Brookwood School Eighth Graders Gain Wisdom from Alumni

alum-lunch1sfwI had the great fortune to sit with two fellow Brookwood alums, Jessie Long ’00 and Akshay Patel ’86, who returned to campus for our annual Alumni Mentor Luncheon April 14.  We spoke to a group of Brookwood eighth graders, soon to be Brookwood graduates themselves, on the topic of Leadership. Each of us on the panel had a unique story and perspective to share.

Jessie is a Brookwood Cup recipient, graduate of Governor’s Academy, and Dartmouth College and third year student at UMass Medical School with a path in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Akshay, a graduate of Phillips Academy Andover, the University of Pennsylvania and the Georgia Institute of Technology, is the founder and CEO of LeadKarma LLC and is currently working on the launch of a new marketing startup. He is also parent to Kayuri ’23.  I graduated from Brookwood in 1995, went on to Dana Hall School and then St. Lawrence University.  I recently returned to Brookwood to work in the Advancement Office after a decade of running my own event planning company – something I started with my best friend whom I met here in Kindergarten.

The three of us answered a variety of questions, from “How did Brookwood prepare you for where you are?” and “Did grades dictate your path?” to “How have you balanced your hobbies in times when school work or your career has been your priority?”  We also reflected on our 13- and 14-year-old lives and recalled feelings of uncertainty about moving beyond Brookwood’s comforting classrooms and hallways.

alum-lunch2sfwJessie spoke quite a bit about the importance of balance in life, adding that Brookwood, “laid the foundation that enabled me to move forward, allowed me to be comfortable in places with people who did not look like me and Brookwood took care to ensure my success.”

Akshay addressed the importance of “casting a wide web” and said that the students would “be the most successful once they find out what they are interested in … that they will find sweet spots.”

I talked about applying my skills to a place and a field I enjoyed. I also mentioned the importance of saving phone numbers because you never know when you will be calling on people you meet in life.

As an alum I remember fondly the feeling of anticipation in my eighth grade year of what is beyond Brookwood. I know the students, filled with that same anticipation, left the luncheon with exciting ideas of all the possibilities that lay before them.

We are so fortunate that our Alumni are eager to come back to mentor the young students, and we’re grateful to them for doing so. As Brookwood enters its 60th year we look forward to sharing many more amazing Alumni stories and bringing more Alumni to campus to talk about how Brookwood helped shape their lives.

If you are an alum and have a story to tell, make sure and let me know at I’d love to hear from you.

– Eliza Cowan ’95
Director of Alumni and Parent Relations


Brookwood School springs into new sports season

April and May, two of the most exciting months of the year in my mind as we are able to get outside for spring sports after a long winter (okay, this winter we did get pretty lucky!).


We returned from spring break with many eager seventh and eighth graders. In addition to the 19 students participating in our Running  program and 22 enjoying Activities, we have over 60 seventh and eighth graders who have taken to the turf to play lacrosse.

girls-laxsfwHow lucky are these students and coaches to have turf fields? You never know what weather spring will bring, and even Mother Nature couldn’t keep our enthusiastic “laxers” inside after last week’s snowfall. And a special thanks to Rick Chute for plowing our fields. I imagine we were one of the only area schools not to have our lacrosse teams kept off the fields by the early April snow. So thankful for turf!

Brookwood athletes are well respected for not only their level of play and work ethic but most importantly for their sportsmanship and leadership qualities. Many of our athletes go on to play high school lacrosse and many have even gone on to play in college at the D3, D2 and D1 levels. The same success holds true for our students who pursue other athletic offerings like field hockey, soccer, basketball and running. boys-laxsfwThe Brookwood athlete brings the whole package: strong work ethic, great team play, leadership on and off the field, and sportsmanship. We could not be more proud of our current athletes and our alums who have continued to pursue the sport they love.

Teams were recently announced, and now we are ready to start games. The varsity teams begin their schedules on April 13 at home while our JV teams begin the following week. Our competitive schedule takes us both away to play many high school JV teams while also getting the opportunity to host area high schools.

If you are in the area and want to enjoy an afternoon watching a great game being played byactivitiessfw an amazing group of students, we invite you to come by the turf fields. We’ll be there every afternoon enjoying lacrosse, and spring, at Brookwood.

– Jane Pirie,
Brookwood School Athletic Director

Children Connect to the Outdoors at Brookwood School

When I was ten, my family lived in a small town in Indiana.  My sister and I spent hours running through the corn and soybean fields at the end of our cul-de-sac and climbing our favorite tree that stood, elegant and foreboding, at its entrance. In the summer, we rode around the neighborhood on our banana-seat bikes, collecting friends from their homes – a pack of girls exploring their world. We knew the time of day by the angle of the sun, and we knew when it would rain by the shape and color of the clouds.

Beach-Science-GroupsfwTen years later, I found my way to Outward Bound as a college student, and it galvanized my love for and belief in the power of nature. Whether reading river currents in a whitewater kayak or baking Dutch oven brownies in the rain, the environment itself was a vital teacher.  Even now, when I need to reconnect to my center, I find a place close to the earth.

Today, the rhythms of nature are a salve in our technologically relentless world.  Research has shown that children who spend time outdoors in the natural world demonstrate enhanced creativity and problem solving skills, decreased stress and increased resilience. Says author Richard Louv in his bestselling book Last Child in the Woods, “In our bones we need the natural curves of hills, the scent of chaparral, the whisper of pines, the possibility of wildness. We require these patches of nature for our mental health and our spiritual resilience.” For adults and for children, there is a profound experience being still, in observing, and in navigating an environment without customary conveniences.

At Brookwood, we embrace the value of connecting children with nature and have created vital teaching and learning experiences in every grade level.  Many occur on our richly resourced campus with its wetlands, vernal pools, Cutler Pond, walking trails, woods and outdoor classrooms; others use the tide pools, salt marshes, coastline and farms of the North Shore.

digging in the earth

Our youngest students work with their hands in the earth, tending seedlings and nourishing butterflies and chickens with plants they have cultivated. They cut flowers for classrooms and harvest school-grown cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers. Students go on insect safaris and explore forest ecology, mapping the flow of water through our campus. Older students study bees and bee keeping with actual hives on campus and examine the intertidal zone at West Beach. They explore watershed biology and monitor the health of Salem Sound, stewarding other beaches and coastline by monitoring for erosion and invasive species. In each case, students see up close the ebb and flow of nature as they begin to cultivate a personal relationship with the outdoors as both a teacher and guide.

– Laura Caron, Head of School


Editor’s note: Bestselling author Richard Louv, famous for coining the phrase “nature deficit disorder” in his book Last Child in the Woods, will speak at Brookwood School on Tuesday, September 27, 2016, at 7 p.m. as part of our ongoing 4 to 14 Speaker Series: Parenting Elementary School Kids. Tickets are on sale now on