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November 2016 Newsletter

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Muraho to all of you in our Woodland Star Village!

We hope that you have had a month of positivity, growth, and happiness. We gratefully think of all of the great successes we’ve seen since September, the new families and staff who have joined us, and the rest of this school year in which our story will continue to unfold.

As we wrap up our first term, we trust that the coming weeks will go by with flying colors!

The Power of Arts in Education

Developing our comprehensive arts program has taken a lot of work. Teachers, directors, students, and parents have all contributed to each of the shows we’ve performed at Woodland Star School, working hard to organize plays and memorize lines. Many students spend hours practicing their instruments or perfecting dance routines. And, of course, our fine arts program demands patience, creativity, and focus. With that said, is all this effort worth it? We’d answer with a resounding “Yes!”

Several research studies have proven that art education not only improves quality of learning, but reinforces other academic areas and reaches out to empower children who are artistically inclined. Ultimately, art programs create a more expressive, cohesive, and excellent community. Studies like “Reinvesting in Arts Education” and the 2006 Guggenheim Museum’s research have demonstrated the power of arts in developing the learning process and in improving academic performance. A study by The Center for Arts Education reported that many high school students in the USA didn’t drop out of school due to the impact of their arts programs. The Arts Education Community found that exposure to art in a classroom setting improved children’s standardized test scores and increased social skills. Furthermore, the study “Learning In and Through the Arts” shows that students are not the sole beneficiaries of art; teachers grow in positivity with the implementation of a successful arts program!

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have even found reason to believe that art education creates and strengthens neurological pathways that support remarkable feats of cognition. For example, music training enables individuals to utilize better the working and long-term memory and develops abilities in geometrical representation. Understanding and remembering dance patterns through observation deeply encourages other cognitive domains. Theatre practice is associated with awareness of words and symbols. Johns Hopkins researchers also found that a greater interest in aesthetics could lead to heightened levels of dopamine in the brain, generating more openness, expression, and societal awareness.

The world of research in education is a vast and dynamic one. At Woodland Star, we are always looking for better and more effective ways to teach. Based off of our research and own professional experience, we believe that an education rich in arts is critical for the growth of any and every child.

For more information, please have a look at these links:
http://www.svpta.org/sites/default/files/ Research%20Arts%20Help%20our%20Brain.pdf
https://www.edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development
http://www.onlinecolleges.net/10-salient-studies-on-the-arts-in- education/

TakaTaka Recycling

Our commitment to the environment is one that we take seriously. Naturally, we are proud to announce that TakaTaka Recycling is officially taking over the management and transformation of our garbage. This Nairobi-based business, partnered with various establishments across the “green city in the sun,” has now extended its reach to Tigoni, Kenya.
Not only does TakaTaka Recycling share our passion for the environment, its aim to provide services to institutions of all incomes is an intention we appreciate. We are very grateful to be a part of their ecosystem of renewability. Here’s to a greener planet, one village at a time!

News

Thank you all for your contributions to the WSS Documentary! It really took our booth at Harvest Festival to a new level. We’ll be releasing it online soon, and expect to launch our new website in the near future.

In the meantime, there’s a lot going on before the end of Term One!

A Possibility

As a growing school, we are beginning to address the next stage of our development: a secondary school.

The first two years of Woodland Star, we created a fledging high school of five students. While we weren’t established enough to support a long-term secondary school then, we believe that we have the potential to begin one now. Since 2011, we have grown in ways we could have only imagined. Together, we overcame many obstacles and challenge. With this amazing possibility on our horizon, we think that, as an energetic community, we can achieve the impossible yet again.

As Woodland Star parents, you are invited to a meeting on November 22nd at 3:30 to engage as a community with the potential of a secondary school. Just as Woodland Star was created on the basis of community participation and involvement, we want to seek your input as we consider next steps in moving down this path. Your participation in this meeting in no way obligates you to be involved in future decisions, but rather gives us a chance to hear various viewpoints and take into consideration all questions and concerns. Please email hello@woodlandstarkenya.com with any ideas or topics you are interested in discussing so that we can prepare for a comprehensive and well-balanced meeting.

This is an incredibly exciting opportunity. One of the top questions that prospective parents have is if Woodland Star will ever extend into a high school. This is a question that we ourselves have brainstormed and heart- wondered about recently. We hope that our meeting on November 22nd will clarify the direction that we, as a school and as a community, will decide to take.

A Celebration of Learning

This December, we invite you to our traditional Tea Time concert – renamed as a “Celebration of Learning.” At this particular event, the Middle Years students will be performing S eedfolks, a show about the importance of cultural diversity in a context of community. Early Years and Primary Years students will also captivate our audience through performance.
The Celebration of Learning will be on December 8th at 3:30 pm.

A Surprise

Timo Lehmann, our School Producer, is here! Though he was originally supposed to arrive in January, Mrs. Sjoberg’s maternity
leave provided a welcome reason for him to travel here earlier. While Mrs. Sjoberg is away, Mr. Lehmann will cover the Middle Years STEM classes and begin to work as our on-the-ground School Producer. He is such a vibrant individual, and we are ecstatic to have him at our school.

We would also like to congratulate Mrs. Sjoberg and wish her all the best during her maternity leave! (Although we’re sad to be losing our secret weapon during capture-the-flag.) We’ll definitely celebrate the addition of the newest member of the Woodland Star Village when she returns from her leave!

Follow That Star!

The drama club will present Fo ow That S tar! on December 6th. The entire Woodland Star Village is invited to bring festive holiday desserts to share while enjoying the hard work of the drama club. Fo ow That S tar!, a quirky spinoff of the well-known Christmas story, explores various gift-giving characters including the famous Mr. Claus, a more feminist version of Ms. Claus, the mysterious La Befana, and the irritable Belsnickel. As with all of our shows, we hope that each and every member of our community resonates with the universal themes of our performances in a celebration of diversity and interconnectedness.

In addition to bringing a delicious wintry treat, Fo ow That S tar! provides an opportunity to make donations for our Christmas project. This year, we are hosting a book drive for a local school. Books ranging from illustrated storybooks to classic novels are greatly appreciated!

The 2020 Olympics

Mr. David, our ASA Tae Kwon Do teacher, has been with us since the beginning of Woodland Star. He’s supported many of our students, providing stability and positivity at our school. Outside of Woodland Star, Mr. David empowers under-privileged Kenyan children at his dojo in Limuru. Many of his Kenyan students have become black-belts, and are passionate about their love for Tae Kwon Do.

Woodland Star is a place of grassroots dreams, and Mr. David’s dream is to send the first Kenyan Tae Kwon Do team to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. To do this, he needs a generous amount of support and funding, as with any athletic training of this caliber. As we make donations for our Christmas Project, we would also like to remember Mr. David and his contributions to the local community. We hope that he, and a Kenyan team, will have the opportunity to leave their mark on the history of Tae Kwon Do and the Kenyan hall of fame.

Here is the link to make a donation: https://www.generosity.com/sports-fundraising/itf-taekwon-do-kids-development-fund. Please remember that sharing on social media has the potential to raise publicity!

We are so grateful for the diversity, excellence, and connectedness here at Woodland Star School. Thank you for all you do to be a part of our village. Muraho – we celebrate your presence!

 

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October 2016 Newsletter

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While we can’t believe that it’s already been a little over a month since school started, we’re confident that this has been an incredible start to the school year. New students, staff, and families in our community have added a vibrancy that we couldn’t imagine ourselves without. As we plunge into the rest of this year, we feel a connectedness and unity that continue to motivate us towards excellence. We celebrate the gifts that each and every member brings to our community!

Immersion in Nature: Effects on Goal Setting

At Woodland Star, we are so proud of the green initiatives that we have been taking this year, including the creation of two nature classrooms. These outdoor learning environments have already generated wide-scale unity within the school body during our Wild Wednesday Assemblies, and facilitate productive class time in nature.

Already benefitting from the effects of nature classrooms, we happened upon some interesting research that could help explain their positivity.

A series of studies conducted by the University of Rochester have concluded that immersion in nature increases levels of individual intrinsic aspiration while decreasing levels of extrinsic aspiration, producing individual and community- positive patterns of decision-making. Intrinsic and extrinsic aspirations highly influence life aspirations, or “value-laden goals.”

Intrinsic aspirations are associated with setting and achieving goals critical to personal well-being, in contrast to extrinsic aspirations, which have been linked to low vitality, depression, and physical weakness. Two intrinsic aspirations, relationship and community aspirations, create a mindset that implements goals of establishing deep relationships and benefiting others. Intrinsic aspirations encourage autonomy, generosity, and connection. On the other hand, two extrinsic aspirations, fame and wealth, develop subjective mindsets relying on the approval of others and the value of material gain, discouraging autonomy, generosity, and connection.

The research from these case studies also suggest that higher levels of immersion into nature result in more nature-relatedness, therefore increasing intrinsic aspirations. The more senses that participants were able to immerse in nature, the more focused they became on relational values. On a decision-making level, participants who were more immersed in nature became more generous than those who were not.

We love our nature classrooms, and now we have more all the more reason to continue enjoying them.
The full article can be found at http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2009_WeinsteinPrzybylskiRyan_Nature.pdf.

Peace Curriculum

Our Peace Heroes curriculum is another facet of our education that we celebrate. This innovative curriculum was created by Elie Pritz, a writer who grew up in Jerusalem. Much like many of the children at Woodland Star, Elie was a “third-culture child,” meaning that the culture she was raised in was different from those of her parents’ home countries. Using her gifts in creative writing, Elie developed the Peace Heroes curriculum. First implemented in the Jerusalem School, East Jerusalem, Peace Heroes is now piloted in a handful of schools in Palestine, Israel, and Kenya.

Peace Heroes is structured around geographical locations and the “heroes” from each region who stood for peaceful change, such as Desmond Tutu in South Africa, Malala Yousefzai in Pakistan, and Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar. The curriculum uses these historical figures as a lens for studying the geography, history, and culture of a region, then goes into depth about each hero. The ultimate purpose of the curriculum is to communicate the message “peace begins with me.”

A Student’s Voice on Peace

When asked what peace is during a Friday class of Peace Heroes, one of our own students, Raquel, stated that it is “a dark night with stars.”

Raquel’s answer was so profound that Elie Pritz, the writer of our Peace Curriculum, wrote a response to Raquel’s words. This is the link to the full article: http://www.paxology.org/points-of-light/.

We celebrate you Raquel, and all of our students’ voices!

Themes: Connectedness and Seeds

The themes for Term One are “Connectedness” and “Seeds.” These themes provide an anchor for studies such as multiplication, division, and DNA. “Connectedness” explores how life is related, examining connections across our ecosystems and cultures, and transitioning into the theme of “Seeds.” “Seeds” underlies the idea of replication, even on a personal level, with phrases such as “peace begins with me” and the concept that, with a growth mindset, we all have innate passions and abilities that can be actualized. These themes reinforce Woodland Star’s emphasis on identity, autonomy, and self-expression as children blossom into diverse and unique versions of themselves.

Harvest Festival

Harvest Festival is coming soon! On October 29, Brackenhurst will host a festival with vendors selling artisan products, fresh produce, hayrides, orange pumpkins, and live music.

Simultaneously, Woodland Star School will be holding an Open House. Harvest Festival is a great opportunity for our community to come together while discovering local commodities, enjoying live music, and feasting on good food. If you know of anyone interested in Woodland Star, this is also an opportune moment to introduce them to the school!

Parent Handbook

By Term Two, we will have a comprehensive handbook designed for Woodland Star parents. It will cover topics ranging from our policies concerning mental health to further details about our lunch menu. While we are busy at work on this handbook, we hope that our Parent Overview will provide a decent substitute for the time being. We trust that our handbook will further strengthen an already a vibrant and connected community!

Social Media Usage

As we begin to expand our online presence, we are glad to have our Child Protection Policy in place and for your responses in the use of photographs of your child. We would love parent feedback on how we could best communicate with social media. Please email hello@woodlandstarkenya.com or merekelvie@gmail.com for suggestions, or message us on Facebook.

Scholarship Program

At Woodland Star School, we like to include as many individuals as possible in our village. We realize that, in the context of private education in a developing country, there is an economic barrier for some potential students to study at our school. As a result, we have decided to introduce a scholarship program at Woodland Star School, compromised of donations by our village. We believe in this community; without it, we would not exist. Now, we believe that we can go a step further in funding the education of some of the children already at our school, and welcoming new ones in. Our school is about so much more than sitting in a classroom day in and day out; it is about acceptance, inclusion, and affecting positive change.

If you are able and would like to contribute to our scholarship funds, please contact hello@woodlandstarkenya.com for further details or questions.

We are so grateful for the diversity, excellence, and connectedness here at Woodland Star School. Thank you for all you do to be a part of our village. Muraho – we celebrate your presence!

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September 2016 Newsletter

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Welcome to the sixth year of Woodland Star School! We are so excited to welcome new and returning students, staff, and parents to our flourishing community. As a small school in Tigoni, we are dependent on the well-being and growth of our community. With the stability we now feel from five years of community building, Woodland Star is no longer just an alternative to the large, busy schools in the centre of Nairobi. We are becoming much more: an environmentally focused, avant-garde, and globally aware establishment of excellence. We are so proud of how far we’ve come, and we’re even more enthusiastic about the direction we’re heading.

Growth Mindset

While we have Village Rules for the community, we are actively incorporating “growth” mindset in our classrooms to teach the importance of self-value. As opposed to “fixed” mindset, which only recognizes weakness, “growth” mindset recognizes vulnerability and the potential for change. Mindset Works, a website dedicated to research initiated by Dr. Carol Dweck, says that “those who believe their abilities are malleable are more likely to embrace challenges and persist despite failure.” For example, six years ago, we could have told ourselves that a small school in Tigoni would never work. We probably wouldn’t be where we are now if we had that mindset.

Connectedness, Belonging, and Village Rules

Woodland Star has always been a small school, and we want to stay a connected school throughout periods of growth. According to the District Administration Magazine, small schools enforce connectedness and unity in the student body. With greater connectedness, a school not only offers more security, but empowers students to realize and activate their innate passions.

Adding to this, the American Psychological Association states that small schools offer a place of belonging to students of minority, students who ask difficult questions of identity, and students who are “at risk for feeling alienated or isolated from others.” Based on global trends alone, small schools seem optimal for third culture children. As we welcome more members to our community each year, Woodland Star will stay a connected school by continuing to implement our philosophy of community. In alignment with our philosophy, we are establishing Village Rules (see attached) to shape all relationships at Woodland Star School, on educational, social, and administrative levels. We want our students to realize the value of community in the importance of environmental conservation, peaceful conflict resolution, and individual success.

Holistic Education and the Power of Story

Besides a growth mindset, we are focusing on child-centered education, allowing us to provide holistic education through integrative curriculum and multi-age classrooms. Scholar Base defines holistic education as academic, social, and emotional growth through studying subjects that reflect the connectedness of themes in the world. Scholar Base also states that holistic education is “attuned to each child’s individual persona and learning style” due to the flexibility it generates. At Woodland Star, we believe in providing children with a range of subjects in which to find their passion, from sports to mathematics to performing arts. As partners of the Anne Frank Project, we not only believe that every one of our students has innate passion, but also a beautiful story of realizing his or her passion. This year, we will continue to develop our arts department, providing students with greater vehicles of expression to enable the powerful sharing of story.

Awareness of our Global Presence

We want our students to be aware of the world around us, and learn how to engage with it creatively and sustainably. Students will study Peace Heroes, a highly effective curriculum in East Jerusalem that teaches the urgency and value of peaceful change through a medium of history and geography. Woodland Star is experiencing connectivity with other parts of the world, developing partnerships from East Jerusalem to Buffalo, New York. This little school in Tigoni is now truly a part of the global educational community.

Wild Wednesdays

Our first two Wild Wednesday Assemblies were wild, and we hope the trend continues! So far, we’ve introduced two awards available to our student body: the Green Giant Award and the Peace Hero Award. The Green Giant Award goes to one student who shows outstanding initiative and creativity in making Woodland Star a greener, more
environmentally-conscious school. Every week, the Peace Hero Award is given to one student from each class level who demonstrates notable effort to keep a peaceful dynamic at our school.

On our second Wild Wednesday, we were privileged to have Stratton Hatfield come from Naboisho Conservancy to talk about his work with martial eagles. Who knew that tracking software is detailed enough to figure out if an eagle is eating something?

We’re aiming for Wild Wednesdays to be community events, meaning that parents are most definitely invited to participate in the assemblies from 2:00 to 2:30 pm. We’re working on a solution for more comfortable seating.

Harvest Festival and Open House

This year’s Harvest Festival is coming up on October 29! A budding tradition, this festival is a huge event for the Woodland Star community. While children (and adults, if you like) can go on hayrides or get face-painted, there is also live music and an organic vegetable market. Many vendors will be selling health products and other goods mainly sourced in Kenya. It’s a fabulous time to discover local food, talent, and businesses while connecting to the Woodland Star community.

Simultaneously, Woodland Star School has an Open House during which prospective parents and festival attendees are invited to get information on the school. If you know of anyone who is interested in Woodland Star, the Harvest Festival is an opportune time to introduce them to Woodland Star and our wonderful community.

The festival begins at 11:00 am and ends at 5:00 pm on the Brackenhurst campus. It costs 200 shillings per child
and 350 shillings per adult.

Parental Permission for Photographs

In order to share photographs of our students on social media, it is necessary for us to have parental permission to post pictures of each child. All of our photographs arise completely from the intention to capture the atmosphere and spirit of Woodland Star. We are protective of our media; all of our documents stay within the Woodland Star system, unless a parent requests to be sent a copy of a photograph of his or her child. Permission forms will be going out at the end of September in conjunction with our Child Protection Policy. We kindly ask for punctuality in the return of this form. Until then, we will be asking permission via email. We understand sensitivity in this area, and our priority will always be safe regulation of media.

Here’s to another month of connectedness and growth!

We love watching the day-to-day growth of our school. The small victories of every day and the memories of each month reflect everything that makes our school so special. They are proof of just how genuine and dynamic our community is.

These are the moments, however little they may be, that motivate us to work harder, to never give up learning, and to achieve more than we ever thought possible. These are the moments that drive us to excellence.

 

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