RC Works!: Hollin Meadows School

Perhaps you’ve seen the news that First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Hollin Meadows Science and Math Focus School in Alexandria, Virginia, last week as part of their promotion of the Obama administration’s Healthier U.S. Schools initiative. Their visit was timed so that they could help students and parents harvest lettuce from the school’s garden for a school community Thanksgiving dinner.

Speaking of giving thanks, I am grateful that we have a First Lady who advocates that children eat good food and run and play during the school day. She understands and promotes these actions as essential for children’s optimal learning, not diversions from it. Bravo to her for setting an example—for her gardening and hula-hooping—and for visiting schools like Hollin Meadows to celebrate what they are doing and learn more about how they are doing it.

Raising a garden is just one of many components of a strong and healthy school community at Hollin Meadows, where staff  implement many Responsive Classroom practices. They hold daily classroom Morning Meetings as well as regular class and whole-school meetings. Every August before school begins, their teachers take a Welcome Walk, visiting students and their families at home. As assistant principal Jean Consolla observed during Mrs. Obama’s visit “. . . what we’ve found is that implementation of these practices . . . has directly mirrored our closing of the achievement gap in reading and in mathematics.”

Just this fall, Hollin Meadows extended their recess time from 20 minutes to 30 minutes—an action that runs counter to the direction many schools are taking. Why? In addition to the physical fitness benefits, Jean Consolla explains: “. . . because we know that when kids are engaged in productive free play they develop self-responsibility, they practice skills such as negotiating, they communicate with each other. And this is critical to their academic success and to their healthy well-being.”

Clearly a lot more than lettuce flourishes at Hollin Meadows School.

Roxann Kriete has been involved with CRS since 1985, and was executive director from 2001 to 2011. She is the author of The Morning Meeting Book and co-author of The First Six Weeks of School.

Tags: Building Schoolwide Community