“Let Your Life Speak” in the Classroom

Posted by David Hickson on Nov 14, 2016 3:10:25 PM

Each day students in the Upper School pass below a sign on the front of Moore Hall that says “Let Your Life Speak.”  Attributed to George Fox, the 17th century founder of Quakerism, this statement is found all over our campus and is part of our school logo. It reflects a sense that one’s words are important, but one’s deeds are even more important. It is both descriptive, what we do reflects what be believe, and aspirational: let your life mean something, be a testimony of faith and action, an affirmation, and an example to others. What, however, does this mean in the context of a Sandy Spring Friends classroom? I asked three teachers this question. Not coincidentally, all three spoke from a place of personal conviction, rather than from a clinical context of pedagogy or from an attempt to define their students’ experiences for them. Here’s what they shared:

Read More

Topics: Inquiry Based Learning, Academics

Summer Reading: Investigating Stereotype Threat

Posted by David Hickson on Sep 9, 2016 11:52:08 AM

What makes for a great summer read?  A suspenseful page-turner? An enchanting love story?  A memoir about personal struggle and triumph?  Perhaps, but my most memorable read this summer was the nonfiction Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Stanford academic and researcher Claude M. Steele. It is a highly readable discourse about sociological and educational research. Doesn’t sound like a great beach read? Let me convince you otherwise...

Read More

High School Memories Are Life Lessons

Posted by David Hickson on Jun 30, 2016 10:29:54 AM

What do you most remember from your high school education?  What skills do you use every day that you learned in high school?  For most of us, we do not recall much of the academic content. How many specific math classes can you recall from high school, out of the hundreds you likely  attended?  Solving geometric proofs, the causes of the Panic of 1837, and the purpose of the Krebs cycle tend to fade over time. Instead, we remember an especially helpful teacher, a great social experience, or a formative event that shaped who we are. At Sandy Spring Friends School (SSFS), Intersession provides that kind of memory for many of our graduates.

Read More

Topics: Academics

Peeling Onions: Creating Space in Schools for Talk About Diversity and Racism

Posted by David Hickson on May 5, 2016 10:48:38 AM

I cannot imagine a school in the country that is not experiencing some tension, and hopefully some discussion, about diversity and difference in America.  Whether this is triggered by yet another incident of an unarmed young black man being gunned down, or the ugly vitriol of current presidential campaigns, the otherization of yet another immigrant group (take your pick: Muslims of middle-eastern descent, or undocumented immigrants from lands to the south), or masking intolerance as “religious freedom,” we continue to struggle as a nation with most every dimension of our diversity. We need to better understand, for example, the national soundbites “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter.”  This is where we find ourselves, as a country, at this moment in time.  

Read More

Six Advantages of an Independent School Education

Posted by Julie Mendez on Apr 22, 2016 10:50:58 AM

Parents want to provide the best for their children – especially when it comes to their education and their future. As parents search through different education environments to find the best fit, many are turning to independent schools because of their small class sizes, hands-on learning activities, student support resources, and more.Here are just six of the many advantages that an independent school education might offer your child:

Read More

Question, Reflection, Action: A Global Learning Process

Posted by David Hickson on Mar 21, 2016 1:00:00 PM

“Global education” is an educational phrase that has been used so often, in so many different ways, that it risks losing its impact. This would be a loss, because nothing is more needed in American education, as a reflection of American society, than a global perspective. We are a large country, mostly buffered geographically by big oceans.  However, these historical insulators have less significance, on the human level, today.  In the Information Age, the internet and cell phones allow us to stand side by side, or face to face, virtually, with people around the globe whose life experiences may be radically different from our own.  This has affected the way we do business, our educational systems, and the nature of our conflicts.


Read More

Four Science Experiments for the Spring

Posted by Julie Mendez on Feb 29, 2016 7:33:31 AM


The longer days, warmer temperatures, and even the rain reminds us that spring is less than a month away. There is never a bad season for science, but springtime provides us with more opportunities to use natural materials and to see things in a brand new way. The following four experiments are a fun way to welcome in spring, and help your children understand how the world works around them.

Read More

Student Empowerment, Advocacy, and Agency

Posted by David Hickson on Jan 25, 2016 9:02:11 AM

Perhaps each generation struggles with how to empower the generations that come after them.  It bothers me that my generation, the “baby boomers,” trips over this.  I was born in 1960, towards the end of the baby boomer generation; I was old enough to witness (if still too young to fully respond to) the calls for local and global social justice, a reawakening of the environmental movement, the expansion of creative expression, and the rebalancing of political power structures that took place during the 60’s and early 70’s.

 Many in my generation have seen ourselves as change agents, advocates, and crusaders.  So why have we, who were so vocal about engaging and changing the world, who sought to wrest the tiller from the hands of our elders, not found better ways to empower the next generations of change agents and leaders?

 Today’s young people have been described as the most anxious and most compliant generation in American history, shouldered with debt, ill-served by their schools, hunkered down in an age of mega-institutions, terrorism, and looming climate change, strung out on social media.  

And yet there is good news - lots of it.  Young people are not waiting around for us to empower them.  They are empowering themselves.  They’re not strung out on social media, they are using new media tools to build community and address the problems they see.   

Here are three counterexamples that make false pervasive pessimism and low expectations:

Read More

Topics: Academics

Rigor, or Just Rigor Mortis?

Posted by David Hickson on Dec 17, 2015 12:21:46 PM

“How much homework do your students have at night?”  We hear this question frequently at SSFS admissions open houses, and it’s a reasonable question.  It is also a very difficult question to answer given that the amount of time needed to complete readings and assignments varies widely from student to student.  Some parents are trying to gauge what their child’s life will be like attending our school.  Other parents are seeking to gauge how rigorous our academic program is.  It turns out that the amount of homework is not only difficult to generalize, it is also a poor measure of academic rigor.  In fact, the quantity of work a student does in general assumes an overly narrow, and not very helpful, definition of academic rigor, if one is talking about the kind of rigor that has lasting value for students.

Read More

Connecting History to Art: Maori Culture and Tattoos

Posted by Julie Mendez on Nov 18, 2015 9:18:03 AM

Exploring history through the arts is a great way for cultural traditions to come alive for students. It is also a great way for students who normally shy away from the arts to find new meaning in their creation. At Sandy Spring Friends School, our 6th grade students recently made their studies of the Maori people in their Social Studies classroom come alive by creating colorful art pieces in their arts class.  By drawing self-portraits and Maori style tattoos (known as Ta Moko), the students were able to learn about the meaning of the various patterns used by the Maori while also building upon their understanding of symmetry and color schemes. 

Follow the steps below so you and your children can  create pieces of art that will inspire you to learn more about the Maori people and their culture!

Read More

About SSFS Blog:

The Sandy Spring Friends School (SSFS) blog shares information weekly that inspires personal and academic growth in every aspect of life for parents and students.