Viz educators are shaking things up in their classrooms and enhancing their curriculum this year thanks to the rebranded "Concept Corridor," which includes the Viz food science kitchen and makerspace area. The state-of-the-art food science kitchen boasts five prep stations equipped with all the necessary tools for students to use cooking as a learning tool. The fully outfitted makerspace is a collaborative environment for hands-on activities, complete with materials for students to unleash their creativity. It also houses cutting-edge tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, virtual reality goggles, sewing machines, and more, allowing students to deepen their understanding of various topics. The "freedom of use" model encourages both teachers and students to make the most of these inviting and innovative spaces.
The middle school years, aka adolescence, tween, or pre-teen, are a pivotal time in the growth of all young women, with a lasting impact on their future. The transition between childhood and adulthood is exciting, as well as a period that sometimes leaves girls feeling vulnerable. Providing guidance, resources, and opportunities to help young women become healthy, ethical, intelligent, and productive is critical for both the student and the parent at this developmental stage.
When the new Upper School and Middle School schedules were launched this year, I was delighted to see that a five-minute reflection time was included every afternoon. Unlike the morning and afternoon prayers over the announcements, reflection time would be five minutes, where the entire Middle School and Upper School divisions pause to say and do nothing. To just be.
For me, those five minutes of reflection are like a shaken snow globe after it is set down. The flurry of activity settles, and I am left with the beautiful, present moment at the center of it all. I concentrate on the calm of my soul and my body settling down. As the five minutes draw to a close, I do a quick inventory of the present moment, and more often than not, it is filled with grace and joy. More often than not, it becomes clear that I have so much to be grateful for and that my flurry of worry has kept me from glimpsing that joy.
A few weeks ago, we had a special schedule for a Mass, and because of this, the flexible time at the end of the day — Enrichment for Middle School students, Collaboration for Upper School — didn't happen. As I walked through the halls around 2:45 p.m., a teacher caught sight of me and beckoned me into her classroom.
"Dr. Human," she said, "the students have a bone to pick with you."
"Why did you take away Enrichment?" they asked. "We neeeeeed it."1
One of the joys of observing a Montessori classroom is seeing small people solemnly and carefully taking various activities—excuse me, works—off of the shelves and to their workspace to engage with them.
When I was seven and in the throes of wrestling the times table to the ground and taking its lunch money, I remember saying to my teacher, the long-suffering Ms. Ellul, “Why do I need to learn this? I can just use a calculator.” She told me I needed to learn it because I wouldn’t always be carrying a calculator around in my pocket with me. I’m sure she feels very silly about that statement now.
I’ve spent the past several months trying to figure out how to create more time in the day. Since I’m still here and not living the life of an idle billionaire on an island in the tropics, it seems safe to assume that I haven’t managed it.
Second grade at Visitation Academy is a best-kept secret. Just ask the 14 lucky girls who cannot wait to walk through the doors each morning, eager to be with their school family and discover what fun and new authentic learning opportunities are in store for the day. They might only be seven to eight years of age, but Viz second-grade students welcome the challenge of the accelerated curriculum, taking ownership of their individual learning and pushing themselves in an environment that allows them to, “Be who they are and be that well.” The second grade classroom is a collaborative center of learning where students work together as a family, as well as the setting where girls learn and practice the Visitation, Salesian charism.
Will the Coronavirus ever go away? According to U.S. News & World Report, it may be with us for decades or longer. While this is unhappy news, the past year has forced us to rethink and reimagine how we approach even the most routine activities in our daily lives, in the workplace, and in the school setting. This was definitely the case during the 2020-2021 school year at Viz.
According to 2021 entrepreneurship statistics, there are over 582 million entrepreneurs in the world. Another interesting, and possibly concerning, statistic for young entrepreneurs is that 22.5% of small businesses fail within the first year. The number one reason why businesses fail - there is no market need. Thankfully for two enterprising Viz seniors, Martha Seaton and Kate Hanlon who are part of the Ellen Thomasson Malecek Entrepreneurial Leadership Program (ETMELP), market need is not an issue for their business venture, Here Comes the Graduate.
What does it mean to be who you are and be that well? At Visitation Academy, it is the foundation for the knowledge, skills, and virtues instilled in young women during their time at Viz. But it is much more than that. It is how graduates take their experiences at Viz out into the world to achieve success in a diverse array of careers as well as how they share their success to help better those around them. Viz alumnae truly are a testament to the value of a Visitation education and the lifelong impact of the Viz experience.
The common stressors of everyday life can make it difficult to maintain a sense of peace, calm, and personal wellness; and this is when not in the midst of a global pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control confirms the very real stress that pandemics can induce and has noted the importance of dealing with this stress stating, “Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.”
Service is an essential part of a Visitation Academy education. This has been the case since the school was founded in 1833, and now that we are in the midst of this life-changing COVID-19 crisis, our commitment to serving our community is more important than ever.
The preteen years, especially for girls, can be a challenging period. As noted by the Child Mind Institute, “Pre-adolescence, often referred to as the “tween” years (defined loosely as the years between eight or nine to twelve), is a time of monumental shifts in your child’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development. It’s a time of growing independence, but it can also be scary for kids.” This is the case during the best of times. Imagine how tweens are feeling now that a global pandemic has been thrown into the mix?
Visitation Academy’s co-educational Montessori program is one of the most established in the St. Louis area, with more than 50 years of experience helping young children reach their full potential. Thebenefits of a Montessori education are undeniable. What makes the Viz Montessori classroom different from the rest? The school’s longstanding program combines the established principles of Maria Montessori with the inspiring vision of Visitation founders St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal. The influence of all three of these individuals is clear in everything we do.
What immediately comes to mind when you hear the word “failure?” If we had to guess, it probably isn’t something positive. That’s not surprising because failure historically has a bad rap, especially in a school setting. Visitation Academy is working hard to change this negative connotation, embracing the value of failure, and its important role in shaping our students’ confidence and resilience and creating lifelong learners.
You have probably heard the phrase “Knowledge is power.” Obtaining the knowledge is unquestionably important, but at Visitation Academy, we believe educating our young women involves more than just giving them the information they need to pass an exam. The true power lies in possessing the skills necessary to analyze what has been learned, think about it critically, and apply it creatively. At Viz, we are committed to an approach to education that blends traditional knowledge-based learning with skills-based learning opportunities, preparing each student for success in higher education as well as the global society of tomorrow.
Visitation Academy is an independent, private Catholic school offering a coeducational Montessori preschool and Kindergarten program, the area's only all-girl elementary program for Grades 1-5, and an all-girl middle school and all-girl high school.