Reflections from the Fall

By Kristin Sanderson

With our first snowfall in the valley early last week and the children eagerly preparing their pieces for the winter assembly, I find myself reflecting on yet another wonderful and joyous fall at Miquon.  Several of the staff and I began the year by attending a play conference at Bryn Mawr, which happily coincided with this year’s joint board-staff study of play.  To realize our vision for 2023, we want to articulate and enhance the multiple ways children play at Miquon so that we can better advocate for its lifelong benefits to learning and happiness.

In the classrooms and across campus, we regularly see the intersection of work and play and know deeply how much can happen when children are personally invested and authentically engaged.  Play is so much more than simply enjoyment:  As progressive educators, we believe that the opportunity to play is the foundation of healthy child development and lasting learning.  Play affords children the freedom and space to learn through their own curiosity and imagination.  With ample time to flesh out and follow their interests, all of our students graduate from Miquon better learners, thinkers, communicators and builders.  And as we look to the great work our alumni are doing, we see that many are still “playing” today, following their passions and dreams, doing and, sometimes even creating, the jobs they love.

September began with a little work and play of our own: our semi-annual work party yielded the return of school families and teachers to campus – making classrooms ready, building rain gardens and spreading wood chips – not to mention spreading the warm affection and respect that characterizes our little valley.

As we experienced an extended autumn, children were enveloped in the joy of learning:  Students in the sixth grade built airplanes and flew them, charting their distance in meters and calculating the mean; fifth graders enjoyed weekly “make and play” sessions, engineering their own playthings from scratch; third and fourth graders selected and embodied their own unique Lenape identity and studied what life was like for this native people, first and second graders celebrated their original writing at a publishing party – with readings and opportunity for feedback from both children and adults, honoring different perspectives along the way; kindergartners collected, identified and graphed many different varieties of apples and performed multiple math equations when challenged to consume them all over three weeks and children in the nursery explored woodland habitats and their inhabitants, beginning their lifelong connection to the mystery and beauty of our complex ecosystem.

Trips in and around the area have had Miquon students camping in the woods, learning about spy science at the Franklin Institute, geocaching in the Wissahickon, exploring American Jewish history, seeing firsthand how boats are constructed and challenging their bodies at circus school – among other things.

We have had the many helpful hands of our talented and generous families along the way, with a lovely new parent dinner to welcome the newest Miquonites into our community, two successful open house events inspiring others to follow suit, several classroom group potlucks for camaraderie and good cheer and a toasty weekend bonfire to light the early evening and warm our hearts with singing and s’mores.

With the help and guidance of Board President Greg Mandel, and all of this year’s ad-hoc committees of the board – Facilities, Sustainable Enrollment, Play, Environmental Stewardship and Stormwater Management – we rolled out our new vision for the next ten years of Miquon, focusing on a new campus master plan and the critical role of play in children’s lives – a part of childhood under threat in our culture today.

As we near winter break, our work and play continue.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this newsletter that also follows this year’s theme.  If you haven’t been around campus lately, do drop by – we’re sure to find a game or two you would enjoy.