By: Ed Walters, Head of School
Summer is traditionally a time for rest, relaxation and exploration. I have practiced this routine on a yearly basis since an early age, and now, as an adult, rely on it even more as a path to the exhilaration of physical and mental renewal. Through a long process of trial and error, I have found that exploration is actually the lead activity for rest and relaxation, and that without it the latter two become rather monotonous.
Over the past few years my summers have started with a cross country drive with the “girls” Ruby and Luna. This may sound like a long, tedious, unvaried, repetitive act, but it is really a form of exploration. Each year, I either try a different route, or find new points of interest to experience and explore. This can be as simple as stopping in Casey, Illinois to view the world’s largest wind chime and golf tee, both interesting engineering feats, or taking a side road in Nevada or Utah to explore a fossil site. The Moab or Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, or small roadside stands, also make for interesting adventures.
When at the cabin in West Virginia, my explorations take on a new form. For the past two summers I have been building a wooden sailboat without the use of nails or screws. I found this to be a very relaxing way to not only improve my facility with tools and my understanding of wood, but also a way to challenge my mind to find creative solutions to the vexing problems associated with this method of construction.
Other days I work on vintage cars, trying to figure out a way to keep them on the road by cobbling together the repair or replacement of a part that is no longer available. Frustrating at times, but always rewarding in the end when the ignition switch is activated, and the mechanical clanking of the engine turns into a roar from the exhaust.
So why am I mentioning my summer activities as we prepare for the onset of the AVS summer? Summer is a time for you to encourage children to explore, and in the process find rest and relaxation. Over-scheduling does not provide a reprieve from the demands of the day, and its real or imagined expectations of life. Children need time to build, imagine, think, tinker, hack and imagine some more. This should be unstructured. It can be time in the woods playing and building new worlds, or identifying a new challenge to master.
To this end, I would like to suggest that each student be encouraged to go to DIY.org, and select at least two merit badges they would like to earn. The DIY site will ask students to explore areas of interest, and complete three challenges. If they complete the three challenges successfully, they will earn a badge of completion. This is an interesting way for students to engage with interests, and in the process gain skills and understanding, while also resting and relaxing. While I am not suggesting this is by any means a substitution for fantasy play and outside activities, I also realize that an urban landscape does not always allow for this type of pursuit, therefore the DIY challenge.
Over the summer I will be asking the faculty to also engage in this activity. AVS is a school of experience based learning, with hands on projects and investigations. I want the faculty to return to those care free days of childhood and participate in an activity that is not only new, but also of great interest. I want them to become the student that will be sitting in their classroom in August. I think it will be fun to have faculty connect, re-invigorate, and enjoy the summer while generating a pathway to the mutual sharing of these experiences with students.
I hope you have a wonderful summer with your family.