Active and Engaged Learning

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

We talk all the time about the learning experience at Flint Hill being active and engaging. It is in our Mission when we talk about best practices in traditional and contemporary education, and the fact that we are “actively and thoughtfully implementing the ideas and resources that help each student investigate, create and communicate collaboratively and effectively.” What I love about our approach to learning is that it is far different from the way I was taught…and far more effective and motivating.

This past weekend, we hosted two Admission Open House events and they were very different from any other open house I have ever attended in my entire career. They matched our approach to learning, and the Admission team demonstrated what Flint Hill means by active and engaged learning. On Saturday, we had a large number of prospective Lower School families come with their youngsters in tow. After meeting just briefly to welcome them and to give them an overview of the School, they all heard a story from one of our teachers, Jessica Craig. The children were then divided into two groups: a group of younger children worked with Administrative Assistant to the Fine Arts Director Kasey Lynn to develop an approach to acting out the story, while a second group of older children met with Lower School Music teacher Alecia Cardell to interpret the book with sound effects. As the children worked together and with our faculty, parents went on a tour of the building led by Director of the Lower School Sheena Hall and Lower School Admission Officer Megan Dhar.

Later, everyone gathered in the Olson Theater to watch a performance by children who were just visiting the school. They did a tremendous job! It was fun, experiential, and above all, active and engaging. After the performance, the families could visit the classrooms for the age group that their children would attend. They soon found themselves so deeply engrossed in that experience that a number of children did not want to leave! They were visibly comfortable and engaged in what life would be like here at Flint Hill.

On Sunday, the Middle School hosted a similar event, though it was called  Demonstration Day. Most of the families that attended were families who had already been to an open house in the fall. Nearly 25 youngsters ranging from rising Grades 5-8 had the opportunity to take part in their choice of two classes, which corresponded with our course offerings. There were five options: makers, programming, drama, Earth/space science, and drawing. As I moved from classroom to classroom, watching our amazing faculty and staff leading these potential Huskies through some exciting activities, it seemed as if these youngsters had been with us forever! They were working collaboratively, actively participating, creating relationships, solving problems, and sharing in the learning. Each and every one of them looked pleased and excited by everything that was happening. It was fun. It was challenging. It was so Flint Hill!

Everyone involved in the Admission Office should feel very pleased with how those experiences were received by the students and parents who visited. It was so very different from the traditional format of “walking the halls” and listing what we offer. It was a totally different approach and one that we were very proud to showcase.

On Monday morning, I was able to attend a day-long demonstration of the Google Expedition Pioneer Program. Do you remember the old viewfinders you may have had as a child? The ones where you held little boxes up to your eyes to see 3D images of a room, a place, or an animal? I loved viewfinders as a child and our own children did as well. Google Expedition is the 2016 version of that concept, with images in 360-degree panoramas. Using Google Expedition, an Upper School history class “visited” Versailles in France, and a Middle School art class toured Washington’s Freer and Sackler Galleries and saw architecture from around the world! Other classes “visited” even more locations throughout the day, experiencing world-renowned landmarks from right here at School. This is a really exciting next step in technology that allows us to take virtual field trips to almost any place in the world. The dream of virtual reality is no longer a dream — it is right here, available to our children.

It is an exciting time to be in education, and our children are fortunate to be exposed to this learning adventure. That is why I am so proud of our teachers for their courage and diligence in looking at new ideas and experiences. And it is why I applaud our Admission Office for seeing the value in letting prospective students and families experience our learning…not just hear or read about it. We are engaged with each other when the relationships we create impact our learning.

As we move into the next semester, I hope you will continue to see the added value in all we do and the excitement as learning becomes more vibrant and three-dimensional at Flint Hill. And if what is happening in the classrooms is not enough, I look forward to seeing you soon at the Winter Band Concert tonight, the Parent Education Series with Dr. Brad Sachs on January 21, and Winterfest on January 23.

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster