Shaping Our Intellectual Culture

Posted by Peggy Procter on 3/6/2018

Shaping our intellectual culture by Peggy Procter


Last week, Meg Baltazar and I had the pleasure of spending three days on the rugged Monterey coast at the Art of Coaching conference led by educator, author and expert Elena Aguilar.  The key themes of the conference included building high performance teams, creating learning organizations, and culturally responsive teaching.  All of the workshops and keynotes were quite relevant to the work we are tackling this year at Echo Horizon and we returned to campus energized to share what we learned and to continue this important work! 


One of our keynote speakers opened her talk with a simple and powerful quotation by psychologist Lev Vygotsky - “Children will grow into the intellectual life of those around them.” Throughout the year, I have been listening and observing and engaging with the community in order to best understand and to continue to shape our Echo Horizon school culture.  As I think specifically about our intellectual culture, a comment by a parent member of our Strategic Planning committee comes to mind.  As we grappled with the types of students we seek and we graduate, she described them as “thinkers”.  I wholeheartedly agree.  So, reflecting on this comment and this powerful quotation, I wish to ponder the question “How might we ensure that we are creating a rich intellectual learning environment at Echo Horizon that encourages every child to reach his/her/their fullest potential as a scholar and lifelong learner?”  I believe that this goal is one that we as educators and parents must strive for.  It starts with honoring the innate curiosity in every child who, the research shows, at age five asks “Why?” over 150 times a day.  First and foremost, we must embrace these whys and never get frustrated by our children’s incessant questioning.  Then, we must help them to explore and problem solve their whys, guiding them to figure things out on their own.  Embracing the whys also requires us to be nimble and flexible in our classrooms, studios, and makerspaces by taking the time to follow our children’s curiosity and wonder with them.   Questions like “Why can’t humans live on Mars?”, “How do bees make honey?”, and “Why do some people struggle to be kind?” are phenomenal opportunities to explore together the complex world around us.  If the adults in our community are continually modeling lifelong learning and curiosity, it will trickle down and positively impact our children.  If the adults are taking risks, asking good questions, reading books, and exploring the world around us too, we are modeling important skills and habits of mind that our students will emulate. 


I can’t wait for my next Pre-K and K recess where I might spend time building a shelter for a beautiful caterpillar that our students may find or digging in the sandbox and wondering why the deeper wet sand is better for building a mountain than the dry sand on top?  I can’t wait for the next chance to make slime with my daughter and her friends to experiment with which materials work better – shaving cream or contact solution - to get the slime to the perfect texture and stickiness.  I can’t wait for the next time a group of students appears at my office to discuss with me their proposal for ways to improve respectful interactions on the playground.  Or my next chance to hang out in the Makerspace as the kids create, build, and iterate.  I look forward to my next conversation with 6th graders about what they are studying in science class – I learned so much last month about the arguments for and against GMO’s in a casual conversation in the hallway with two of our elder scholars. 


It is imperative that we create environments where our children are surrounded by meaningful inquiry and dialogue, by constant exploration and discovery, by frequent opportunities to build and create, and by chances to explore and understand the similarities and differences that exist amongst us.  They may be small, but their brains and minds are buzzing with wild and creative thoughts and ideas and questions that must be pondered.  We are honored to play a significant role in building your children’s vibrant intellectual life and look forward to working in partnership to continually strengthen our dynamic culture of thinking and learning.