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Farewell Mila! Brookwood will miss you

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Though it seems she just arrived at Brookwood, Guatemalan student Emilia “Mila” Calderón’s (above center) eight-week exchange visit is coming to a close. The community said goodbye to Mila at School Meeting with friends Kyra J.(with whom Mila lived during her stay) and Sophia M. reading a special tribute to our friend.

This is for our sister, Mila. We have a message for you on the behalf of our class.

We want you to know that everyone here will miss you, and not a soul in this room hasn’t enjoyed your smile, laugh, and general warmth and comfort.

We all love having you here. Emilia, you have become a member of my family and the Brookwood community forever. Know that we love you and will miss you always.

milafarewellcroppedMila spent the majority of her time at school attending classes as a part of Brookwood’s seventh grade, but she interacted with students and faculty across the community in a variety of ways. For example, Mila regularly worked with Lower School students as well as Music classes.

The School Meeting farewell ended with Kyra, Mila and Avery P. presenting a beautiful rendition of Amy Winehouse’s Valerie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gratitude Quilt Captures the Spirit of Thanksgiving

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Every Friday PreK meets with our fourth grade buddies, and at our recent gathering we read Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts. This is a story about a little boy who learns about appreciating things that he has (a loving grandmother, a good friend, warm boots) and knowing that those things are more valuable than things that he wants (expensive new black high tops).

The story inspired conversation about things that WE are grateful for – and that was the beginning of the gratitude quilt. The Pre-Kindergartners and fourth graders made drawings, paintings, or collages on white squares that describe something they are grateful for. “I am thankful for my friends.” “I am thankful for my education.” “I am grateful for nature.” “I am grateful for my family.”

We have posted their squares in the Crate Family Town Square and invite the rest of the Brookwood community to add to our beautiful Gratitude Quilt.

– Karen Shorr
Pre-Kindergarten Teacher

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Brookwood voters voice their opinions

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I could never have imagined the variety and depth of learning that occurred here at Brookwood during election season. Every Social Studies teacher from PreK to eighth grade planned for this event in thoughtful ways. Since last spring when the discussions began in earnest, each division committed to developmentally appropriate ways to engage our students in what it means to participate in democracy.

As a part of the Upper School continuum, Ms. Black had sixth graders practice debating skills, and Mr. Lenci had seventh graders research the candidates, their platforms, and track polling numbers. Eighth graders comprised an Election Leadership Committee and with Mr. Abramson’s guidance, created and organized mock ballots for a mock vote by the entire Upper School.

“Seventh graders dove head-first into this election, using the app Explain Everything to make detailed presentations about the Electoral College. In an election season teeming with incivility, it was refreshing to witness the respectfulness with which our students wielded their ideas and welcomed others,” says Kent Lenci, Grade 7 History teacher.

“I was very impressed with seeing the group invest in creating an authentic election so that the students could experience both the fun and responsibility of voting. It was also instructive for the students to see how the Electoral College works in theory and practice, as the election was devised to show that in action,” adds Grade 8 History teacher and Grade 6 Social Studies teacher Peter Abramson.

img_4009Concurrently, the Lower and Middle school divisions were focused on developmentally fitting issues important to those students and their work at school.

The Lower School spent time identifying issues they would vote on, settling ultimately on two ballot questions: whether or not to use sticks for building at recess and whether there should be time limits on the use of the swings. Lower School teachers worked with their students to make ballots that reflected child-centered design. While Pre-K and Kindergartners used pictorial ballots, the first, second and third grades had text on theirs. When the big day came, baked goods were provided by the Pre-K to celebrate the vote, while the Kindergarten-generated “I Voted” stickers, which were worn proudly by all.

The first graders ran the logistics for voting day including voting booth design; second graders were the ones to identify the issues, and, together with third graders, consolidated the ideas into two initiatives. Third graders also prepared and shared speeches, four of which were voted on to represent the pros and cons of each initiative to img_4015the entire Lower School in a Town Square meeting. The teachers swelled with pride as the informed voters heard the lobbying of their peers.

“The highlight for me is that it got the kids talking,” says Moira Smith, Grade 3 teacher. “Regardless of the outcome of the vote, the kids are much more aware now of keeping each other safe and happy at recess.”

In the Middle School, students took a different approach in finding issues that connected directly with their curriculum. The fourth grade found the immediate connection between their Greek studies and the varying concepts of “democracy.”

“It was exciting to watch the fourth graders engage in the process of democracy with commitment and curiosity! Fourth graders looked at the evolution of democracy. They had the opportunity to vote on a local ballot question as ancient electionms2-registeringAthenians would have during a direct democracy voting simulation and also as if they were real US citizens voting in our representative democracy,” says fourth grade teacher Elizabeth Highgas.” The students participated in meaningful conversations comparing the two voting systems and were amazed at how far the system of democracy has come. As a teacher, seeing their passion for how important it is to have a voice is extraordinary.”

Additionally, using the debate about the recent water ban on the North Shore and whether or not well owners should be made to follow it, fourth graders were able to vote twice, both as Greeks and as 21st century Americans.

electionms2votingAs a part of the fifth grade beekeeping unit, students in Grade 5 investigated the proposed regulations on neonicitanoid pesticides used near blooming plants to better protect our pollinators and prevent colony collapse of honeybees. After much research and a Town Hall Meeting, both sides of the issue were presented.

“It was incredible to watch the students develop ownership over one side of the issue but then remain open to hearing their peers’ point of view on the other side,” says fifth grade teacher Liz Buchan. “At one point in the conversation, a fifth grader exclaimed after hearing the nuances of the two sides, ‘So, we’re all pro-bees!’ What a revelation about the nature of these issues. We’re proud of their thoughtful work.”

In conjunction with the vote, Harbor Sweets of Salem made a delectable donation to the school of chocolates made with honey to celebrate the efforts of our fifth graders to better understand this issue. (Harbor Sweets already donates a portion of the profits from these specific chocolates to the Pollinator Partnership out of San Francisco, CA.)

When it came time to vote on the Bee Initiative, Middle School had some help from eighth graders frelectionms1om the Upper School Election Committee. The eighth graders were on hand to check in fourth and fifth grade voters, monitor the booths, check voters out, and finally collect the ballots. The Tinker Room/Dream Lab was transformed into the polling place, and thanks to Ms. Kelsey’s kiosk of two-color voting prints and Mrs. Geraty’s mobile flag display, everyone was in the mood to vote, and vote they did!

After tallying the ballots, it’s clear that these students care a lot about the bees, and the entire school cares about their country, community, friends and neighbors …. What could be better than that?!

– Sven Holch
Social Studies Department Coordinator

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Brookwood Goes GaGa

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Anyone who’s in the know about what’s happening during recess at Brookwood has heard there’s a new game on  campus. Brookwood recently installed a GaGa pit for all students to use during Physical Education classes, After-school classes, and Recess. Physical Education Coordinator Bill Schneider gives highlights of the new game that’s all the rage and is now a hit at Brookwood as well.

Tell us about GaGa ball.
GaGa is a dodge ball type game played in a three-foot high octagon enclosure. It’s played inside the pit with a lightweight inflated rubber ball. It’s a fun game that all ages can play and enjoy.

Where did GaGa originate?
GaGa was created in Israel and has slowly made its way around the world. I believe GaGa is a recreational game played in many countries.

gaga-01For children, what sorts of skills are developed through a game of GaGa Ball?
Dodging, striking with open or closed hand, cardiovascular endurance, and lateral movement, are all skills players acquire through playing GaGa Ball.

How are Brookwood students reacting to GaGa Ball?
GaGa has been a huge hit at Brookwood. Many of our students have played outside of school in various places like summer camps and town parks, so they were already familiar with the game and eager to play here. We introduced the game during PE classes and recently opened the pit up for recess. So far, every recess has had a large number of students playing GaGa.

How is the game played? What are the basic rules of GaGa?
Like I said, the game is somewhat like dodge ball and players are trying not to be touched by a ball that is hit toward them by another player. The rules we follow are very simple:

  • All players begin the game standing in the pit together;
  • The game starts with all players standing against the wall. The ball is thrown into play as the players chant “Ga! Ga!” and the game begins;
  • The ball must be hit with an open or closed hand;
  • No player can hit the ball twice in a row or he/she is out;
  • If a player is hit by the ball below the knee that player is eliminated from the game and leaves the pit for the duration of that game;
  • If a player hits the ball out of the pit, he or she is eliminated and has to leave the pit for the duration of the game;
  • The game is over when only one player remains in the GaGa pit.

– Bill Schneider
Physical Education Department Coordinator

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Rare warbler makes an appearance in third grade

Editor’s note: Sometimes, as Grade 3 students in Jen Cunningham-Butler’s class learned this week, members of the outdoor classroom try to come indoors! Jen’s note sharing the news with the Brookwood community tells of a rare Nashville warbler that hit the classroom window last week, but fortunately survived the ordeal. Students in the class are now discussing and working on solving the problems windows present to our feathered friends.

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Jen’s interaction with the Nashville Warble (left to right):
“A bit stunned; Resting but okay; Ready to fly.”

 

 

 

 

 

Hello All,

Check out the attached photos. Tgrade3-birdhis gorgeous female Nashville Warbler hit our 3A window yesterday. Her wing was bent as she sprawled below the window, so I picked her up and gave her a safe perch until she recovered and flew off. Snapped these pics as I held her in one hand.

Positive ID had been confirmed by two reliable sources, and I sent it to Ipswich wildlife as well (probable that she was a first-year female).

My students noticed many identifying markers this morning and also picked out Nashville while scrolling through warblers related to the more often-seen yellow warbler on the Cornell site. They are now trying to problem-solve window strikes.

Beauty is certainly all around us, sometimes hidden like famously shy warblers. And of course, beauty is best enjoyed when shared 🙂

Jen

P.S. Cool note is that we are in the migration path. These warblers are on their way south from Canada. This was a rare find!

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Election 2016: Brookwood’s Community Values Guide Civil Discourse

lenci2016At Brookwood we constantly encourage students to take responsibility – for themselves, for the care of others, and for their environment. This theme is incredibly timely during this year’s heated presidential election. As we teachers encourage responsibility, it’s worth taking stock of our professional responsibilities during this electoral season. What is our role?

Certainly our responsibility includes encouraging civil discourse. In many ways, we function as facilitators, helping children wrestle with complex issues and navigate conflicting points of view. It’s a responsibility that is broadly embraced in our professional circles; we know our job includes helping children listen to each other carefully and to speak to each other considerately. That’s easier said than done, of course, and, as we endeavor to instill civility, we fight stiff headwinds. We will have to muster patience and good spirits as we implement the protocols that establish our classrooms as safe spaces for children to exchange ideas.

We cannot ignore the unique challenges of this election. It is, of course, not our place to steer children toward or away from one candidate or the other. Let’s not be afraid, though, to admit that questions of morality have entered into the national discourse. We are bombarded with news coverage that begs us to revisit our own values: allegations maintain that one candidate has lied, even as competing coverage suggests that the other candidate is stirring xenophobia. This is a pivotal moment for teachers to navigate these choppy waters with our students in a constructive manner that shows them what civil discourse should – and should not – look like.

In these troubling times, I find many in our profession wish that they could weigh in on these topics but feel bound by their professional vow of “neutrality.” I suggest that maintaining an unbiased stance on the candidates does not necessarily preclude us from wading into these waters. Even as we leave our own politics aside, though, we can let community values take the lead. In my classroom, I turn to our school’s “Mission in Practice,” which adorns our walls, reminding us of our six core principles. In short, we endeavor to help students communicate, collaborate, take risks, take responsibility, think critically, and honor differences.

This fall, I will ask students to analyze the election through those lenses. For example, I might ask students to watch a debate and gather data on the extent to which each candidate, in the words of our Mission, communicated “directly, clearly, and respectfully.” Another lesson might find students analyzing the degree to which each candidate has honored “differences and diverse perspectives.” In other words, I see the election as a welcome opportunity to reinforce our school’s core values by applying those values to a compelling national discussion. For those educators seeking a similar compass to guide them, we can simply turn to Facing History. As Facing History teachers, we lean on strategies to create a safe and reflective space for students to develop their skills in civil discourse and civic participation. We can help students examine their own identities, understand their role as citizens living in a democracy, and listen to diverse voices so they can exchange ideas and learn from each other.

Rather than shy away from the thorny questions of this election season, I will embrace them, knowing that my school has articulated a common, shared vision of our community’s values that will facilitate these discussions. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” If that’s true, it’s also true that it does not bend that way by itself.

– Kent Lenci
Grade 7 History Teacher and Advisor

This column currently appears in the Facing Today blog of Facing History and Ourselves. This educational organization works to “engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry.”

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Room to grow: Outdoor Learning at Brookwood

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I love to see students consistently connect with nature through Brookwood’s many outdoor programs. I have seen first-hand our kindergartners work with monarch butterflies, including planting milkweed seeds to produce a more robust habitat; second graders caring for our chickens and sharing their love for them; fourth graders creating colorful maps of the Brookwood watershed, the heart of our verdant campus; fifth graders discovering crabs and other marine life in the tide pools of Black Cove Beach; seventh graders designing outdoor experiments (complete with dependent and independent variables) they carry out along the beautiful coastline of West Beach. Outdoor learning takes place every day at Brookwood. The very essence of our school is inexorably tied to its magnificent campus – from streams to salt marsh, from the woods to the beehives – kids and teachers alike love Brookwood’s connection to the outdoors! (Read: Outdoor Learning at Brookwood)

outdoor-bees_sfwWhen I first arrived at Brookwood School eleven years ago (as a parent of a kindergartner), I was notably impressed, as many are, with the physical campus – Cutler Pond along the entrance road, woodlands adjoining three sides of the property, and two smaller creeks that ultimately lead, as all land water does, to the ocean. What I could not see at that time were the many hidden gems of nature that exist in close proximity to our campus: vernal ponds that each spring fill with eggs of spotted salamander and wood frog; a beaver pond that provides annual evidence of nature’s mammalian carpenters; a salt marsh, teeming with a broad spectrum of life, from the smallest of bacteria to our school mascot, the great blue heron.

outdoor-wb-2sfwWhat I have come to learn in the years since becoming a teacher at Brookwood is equally impressive – the day-to-day manner in which our science faculty makes great use of Brookwood’s natural resources. While all faculty embrace the environment, it is within the science department and its spiraling curriculum we see Brookwood’s core commitment to outdoor education. First, we work to reacquaint our students with the outdoors – all students are given wonderful opportunities to visit and interact with, on a first-hand basis, nature at its best. Second we aim to educate students about the impact, both positive and negative, that humans have on our planet. Third, we aim to introduce students to scientific methods that allow objective study of the environmental health of our outdoor ecosystems. And finally, we maintain several collaborations with local and global non-profits – e.g. Salem Sound Coast Watch (Salem, MA) and the Island School (Eleuthra, Bahamas) – as a reminder all people share in the wonder of our planet!

– Dr. Henry Oettinger
Science Department Coordinator and
Grade 5 Math and Science Teacher

Mission in practice: Lessons Learned at Camp Caribou

aquazip3sfwNervous energy vibrates through the woods as seventh graders take in their first glimpse of Camp Caribou’s legendary “aquazip.” The lake stretches out at our feet, while above us, tall pines filter the afternoon sunlight. Affixed to one of those trees is a platform from which each member of the class will eventually leap en route to completing this rite of passage. Before the thrilling ride down the zip line and making a spectacular splash landing in the water, though, there’s the matter of getting to that platform. Doing so requires first ascending a long ladder (which has an unsettling tendency to bounce and wiggle) and then the rungs built into the tree itself—barely large enough to accommodate growing feet. Past those steps, there’s the awkward moment of stepping onto the platform (which slopes disconcertingly away from the safety of the tree), and then the unavoidable need to . . . just . . . LEAP.

For some our students, especially those who’ve spent time at summer camp, the aquazip is an easy, breezy afternoon activity. For many, though, it is challenge, and for a few it is knee-knockingly terrifying.

As we all assemble under the trees, nerves present themselves in different ways. Some students suddenly get quiet, their eyes darting back and forth between the platform and the lake. For others, the anxiety bubbles out, like the girl who hasn’t stopped talking since we arrived 20 minutes ago (“I think I talk a lot when I’m nervous,” she says). A small group of boys has retreated to the relative safety of a nearby bench, deflecting any suggestion that they might be hesitating. “We’re just waiting for a harness,” they explain. That’s their story, and they’re sticking to it.

We’re at this glorious Maine camp on day two of our annual orientation trip, and it seems, like the Army used to claim, that we’ve done more before 9:00 am than most people do all day. Our time has been filled with team-building activities, cheers, small-group discussions, basketball, racquetball, and a game I’ve discovered this year called “gaga ball.” We’ve been busy, and this busy-ness has been firmly guided by Brookwood’s Mission in Practice, which reads, in part, “I take responsibility for myself, the care of others, and the environment.” Trip leader Mike Wellington, in his inimitable and captivating style, reminded students of that statement yesterday, and we reinforced it throughout the trip: students have leaped to their feet to help clean up after mealtimes, and they have thought deeply about the film Darius Goes West, which showcases a remarkable group of young men taking responsibility for the care of their wheelchair-bound friend suffering from muscular dystrophy.

Now, on day two, huddled below the aquazip platform, we see kids again take responsibility for each other’s care. Among the more confident students, there is no trace of gloating. Instead, we see support—a hug, a high five, a quiet word of encouragement, a longer discussion about the mechanics of the aquazip and the workings of the belaying system. Bit by bit, nerves are soothed, courage is gathered, and the community tightens. By day’s end, all 50 of our seventh graders will have completed the aquazip, and each will go on to attempt similarly challenging high-ropes elements the next morning.

By the evening’s crackling campfire all students share a moment in which someone in the community took responsibility on this trip, and everyone articulates a concrete goal for taking responsibility when they return to school (these run the gamut from stepping up to clean lunch tables to vowing to speak, even when that speech is unpopular).

The bus ride home finds many of us nodding off, but it also finds us happy and accomplished, flush with the support of friendships and firmly grounded in and cognizant of Brookwood’s values. To our kids, still free of homework and class binders, it may feel as if school has not yet begun; we teachers know, though, that the school year is now well under way.

– Kent Lenci
Grade 7 History Teacher

Another First!

OPENING-DAY-VOICESblogSFWThis week will mark either the 57th or 58th FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL (FDOS) for me – a number that includes my days as a student; the fact that I can’t figure out whether it’s 57 or 58 is no doubt a reflection of the longevity suggested by the number.

But here’s the thing: It NEVER gets old. Every First Day of School is a beginning, one with far more import than the difference between December 31 and January 1.  It signifies an opening, a fresh start – rife with possibility and, of course, some potential for pitfalls along the way. I defy you to find a student or teacher who sleeps a wink the night before this momentous occasion!

In the early elementary years, the imminence of the FDOS brings with it jaunts exciting in themselves: Buying new clothes (or trying on hand-me-downs!), picking out new shoes, or the simple pleasure of organizing shiny new supplies – book bags, binders, clean notebooks of white paper, and the favored pens and pencils. The youngest among us are literally vibrating with excitement as they meet their teachers and very quickly make new pals; they are entirely “in the moment,” and it’s a gleeful thing to watch.

If I recall correctly and my young sources are telling the truth, the emotions get a little more mixed as one progresses through the middle and upper grades. Of course, there is a bit chest puffing over the placement in a higher grade, and the shoe and supply shopping are still fun. Kids are always excited to see their friends and kibitz about their summers, but the questions multiply: Who will be in my classes?; Will I like my advisor?; How hard will it be this year? And for the oldest matriculates, there is often a tinge of that adolescent dread of returning to daily early rising …

I think too that there is a bit of Proust at work on the FDOS. In Remembrance of Things Past (now apparently called In Search of Lost Time), the taste of a madeleine dipped in tea brings to the adult narrator a rush of involuntary memory and resurrects the past.  So it is with the sensory impact of the FDOS.  Wouldn’t the smell of fresh mimeograph ink bring a rush of memories back to you? Or shiny, freshly waxed floors? The flapping sound of the world map when it spontaneously rerolls itself? I used to love the clean blackboards (now they are white and the markers smell a little like the old mimeograph ink!) with the September date written in perfect cursive in the top right corner and the slightly musty smell of the cardboard boxes full of books to be distributed. This First Day of School will be no different; our kids will absorb smells and sights and sounds that they will never entirely forget.

For teachers, the FDOS carries many of the same butterflies and questions as it does for the kids, but it is invariably an occasion of great joy. While the noise and unceasing negotiating with small fry may have grown weary-making by June, in September, the sweet new faces and timid smiles, the hugs and high fives from past charges, the face-splitting grins as friends reunite, everyone talking at once … Truly glorious mayhem. It is primarily the love of kids, not courses, that motivates those of us who teach the 4 to 14 crowd, and we relish their return. For us, the First Day also signifies a fresh start, new hopes and dreams – this is OUR January 1.

Fall is definitely a poignant time of year. The leaves fall and the days shorten, and we experience it all as a kind of loss, I think. BUT it also brings the First Day of School, an open invitation to revel in childhood, to dream of possibility, and to . . . begin again.  Bring it on!

 – Barb Liston
Assistant Head of School

 

 

 

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.