Dr. James Handlin Dr. Handlin’s Blog …Click HERE
I’ll never forget the first time I set foot on our beautiful campus, felt the fresh air hit my lungs as I strolled the grounds, took in the inspiration of Overlook Mountain towering over the science building, and felt the infectious buzz of a student body that was so thoroughly engaged in the joy of learning.
Four years later, none of that initial, visceral excitement has faded.
For almost 40 years, Woodstock Day School has nurtured young children’s wonder and joy, helping it blossom into enthusiastic curiosity. With the addition of grades 9 through 12 eight years ago, Woodstock Day School built on this principle of academic excellence, developing excellent learners and life-long critical thinkers. Our continued growth in a challenging economy demonstrates how our goals of rigorous education, responsible community relationships, and continuing commitment to the arts – all in an experiential and socially relevant framework in the Lower, and Upper Schools — mesh with demands of parents and students within and outside of the immediate WDS community.
From early childhood to young adulthood and beyond, we experience ever larger torrents of information from society and technology. As Head of School for the past 4 years, I can proudly say that all of our students are developing what noted educational expert Tony Wagner calls “the habit of curiosity”– learning (age-appropriately) how to ask relevant questions. We expect our students (from the youngest to the college-bound) to exceed the fundamentals of traditional learning by not accepting what they see at face value, but wondering why things are that way. We encourage our students to sort, analyze, and evaluate information; to recognize when information is valid, when it is helpful, and when it is irrelevant or wrong. Confident decisions regarding information and articulate presentation of arguments, so basic to educated adult life, can overwhelm or turn off those students not as well prepared as ours. Today, problems change so rapidly, our students must have the courage to think flexibly and to make (and fix) mistakes to discover the approach that will solve the problem.
With the completion of our new Media Center this winter, we are anticipating being able to more than ever before integrate technology into our curriculum. Recognizing that schools cannot possibly prepare students to participate in the global economy without intensive use of technology, our Media Center will allow us to develop technology curriculum that is a much more critical component of our educational approach. More than simply a means to access content, our new technological capabilities will represent a tool for creating and transforming knowledge, enabling students to apply knowledge and skills to interdisciplinary challenges, foster inquiry and investigation, build conceptual understanding, and create an environment for collaboration – both on-site and off.
Our students are not “always wired,” however. Students tend our two organic gardens introducing them to green thinking. Our Upper School students participate in environmental research and observation, including assisting with the new solar array that now exclusively powers the lower campus.
Most of all, I enjoy watching all of our students walking through our campus from one undertaking to another building through the snow, puddles, leaves or the new grass, or traveling to and from community service in Woodstock. Few walls separate our students from their world. I like to think that Overlook Mountain gazing on our campus inspires our students’ perspective on life. Even though they are protected momentarily by parents, teachers, and society, our students feel that they are also directly connected to the world. They are its future, as full of unknown surprises as the world’s future is itself unknowable. I am proud that we encourage them to walk gently on this Earth with pride in their intelligence, and with confidence, grace, compassion, and integrity.