Saturday, October 30, 2010


Each day, we ask our children to challenge themselves in new ways. To learn and grow. To take risks. To make mistakes and learn from them. The reason most families have chosen Seabury for their children is that Seabury is a place where their students learn something new each and every day. For children who learn quickly and think deeply, Seabury provides opportunities to stretch themselves that are often not available in programs designed for more typically developing students.

Seabury is all about learning as a school as well. In two weeks, Seabury will host an accreditation visiting team from the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools (PNAIS). This visit is the culmination of a three year process in which teachers, administrators and board members have gathered information from one another and from the school community, have looked at all aspects of the program, administration, services for students, facility, and more, and have asked two key questions.

First, we asked ourselves if everything we do in line with our school’s mission to, “…challenge gifted children in a community that cherishes each individual and fosters a love of learning, discovery and creativity.” Are we challenging our children appropriately through our curriculum, and is it aligned to ensure students meet benchmarks for learning from year to year? Are we supporting students as individuals, celebrating their gifts and building on their strengths? Are we inspiring and providing opportunities for students to take charge of their own learning – to discover new ideas and applications for information and to express themselves creatively?

Second, we asked ourselves if our program, operations, and strategic goals are in line with PNAIS major standards, based on research supported best practices for independent schools. Do we have a curriculum that is clearly defined and articulated, and that is in line with our mission and philosophies about how children learn? Do we have a sustainable financial model for the school and a strategic plan that outlines how we will pursue our mission in the coming years?

The result of our efforts over the past 3 years is a comprehensive self study document which, in nearly 150 pages, outlines Seabury’s program, operations, goals and aspirations. Creating the self study document and preparing for the self study, including completing a comprehensive review of the curriculum, have already been learning experiences for Seabury. Now, as we prepare to welcome our visiting team, we look forward to learning even more about ourselves, and about how we can improve our effectiveness as a school.

Teachers model learning for students each and every day in the classroom. Seabury’s staff and board look forward to learning as an institution as well. Learning is what we value as a school, and we look forward to this amazing opportunity for growth.

Friday, October 15, 2010

It Takes a Village...

Seabury’s rich educational program is made possible, in part, through the generous donations of those who support Seabury’s mission and vision. Seabury supporters, including parents, extended family, alumni, and community members, generously give of their time, talents and resources to ensure Seabury has the resources to “ …challenge gifted students in a community that cherishes each individual and fosters a love of learning, discovery and creativity.” Parents chaperone on field trips, including the multi-day excursions the Explorers and middle school students have been on this month. Parents and community members share resources. This week, we had firefighters, police officers, local religious leaders and others spend time with Seabury students to enhance their learning. Parents, through PBC, provide enhancements to classrooms, and provide opportunities for parents to get together for fun, family activities.  The activities and experiences that are made possible through the time and expertise shared by parents and community members have been life-changing for Seabury's children.

Tuition helps provide the small classes, highly trained teachers, and the unique experiences Seabury's students benefit from. But to supplement tuition, and to support enhancements to programs, Seabury relies on two major fundraising efforts each year, the annual fund and the auction, to provide exceptional education for students and to expand Seabury's program

You will soon be hearing about the first of Seabury’s two major annual fundraising initiatives. The annual fund will launch this month, and you will have the opportunity to participate in supporting Seabury’s students through your donations. In addition, Seabury is entering the second year of a three year Program Enhancement Campaign, which is raising funds to support the start up of the middle school program, fund facilities enhancements at the lower school, and has already provided for the lower school arts program. More information about how you can participate will be coming soon.

Seabury’s parents and friends understand more than anyone the value of the Seabury experience. Seabury’s faculty and staff appreciate the generosity of our parents in giving their time and resources to support our work on behalf of your children.  Thank you!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Learning Out of the Box

Education has been in the news this week with the release tonight of the new documentary, Waiting For Superman by director Davis Guggenheim. The film has prompted discussion about education reform, and about the qualities of great schools.

As I have listened to the debate this week about how to reform our country’s education system and about how to prepare our nation’s children for the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century, I was encouraged by the passion I saw for our nation’s youth, and for providing them with exceptional educational experiences. But I was also concerned when I heard simplistic solutions to complex problems, solutions that typically regarded education as an assembly line in which the same formula is best for all students in all situations. Seabury exists because not all students learn and grow in the same way, and because equal access to appropriate education does not mean doing the same thing for all children all the time. It is recognizing and building on the unique strengths of each child, and using the child’s strengths to address areas for growth. It is building skills for life and for solving the complex problems and unique challenges our children will face in their work and their world.

Education, as we understand it at Seabury, is more than a list of skills to master or a series of tests to pass. While skill development provides an important foundation, it is only the beginning. Education is grounded in rich experiences, is rigorous and relevant, and explores ideas deeply and from a variety of perspectives.
This week has provided great examples of the rich quality of the educational experience at Seabury. Seabury’s middle school students have been on a four day field study experience in Vancouver, B.C. as part of their study of “Perspectives” this year. They visited a Buddhist center, met with an imam, took a tai chi class, attended a physics day at a local amusement park, and explored the international flavor of our neighbor to the north. Seabury’s Explorers class has been at Olympic Park Institute (OPI) this week, participating in a three day science field study experience in OPIs beautiful location on Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park. The Sharks and Beacons classes have initiated a “Team Seabury” for Sunday’s Pierce County Hunger Walk to raise money for the Emergency Food Network, and lower school children have initiated a Seabury Service Club to organize participation in global and local service projects. Our Superstars and Bear Cubs have taken field trips in the neighborhood and to a local environmental center to observe the natural environment and to see signs of fall approaching. And Seabury’s Navigators students initiated publication of a school newspaper, which hit classroom “newsstands” today, and included stories about students’ favorite books and a profile of Seabury’s business manager, Janice Spika.

These experiences have not only provided students opportunities to develop specific academic skills, but have gone far beyond, immersing students in relevant, engaging experiences prompting deep discussions, thoughtful questions, problem solving opportunities, social skills development, and much more. The lessons learned go beyond what can be taught through a worksheet or measured on a “bubble sheet” test. They are life experiences that will shape our children’s future learning and growth.

Talk to your child about what they learned this week. Listen not only for the answers they have learned, but to the questions and discoveries their experiences have prompted them to contemplate. Ask them about successes and challenges in the classroom, on the playground and beyond the school. Learning is complex and watching our students grow, not only in specific skills but as thinkers, problem solvers, and members of the community is the greatest joy of our lives as educators. Thank you for joining us on the journey!