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Middle School River of Spirit Odyssey Day 6

Tuesday, May 8th

Tour of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center
with Barbara Sahli and students of Malik Academy

Lunch at café with students of Malik Academy

Salaat Prayers

Meet with Brother David Vryhof from the monastery of the Society of St. John

Eucharist Service, Society of St. John the Evangelist

Last Supper in Harvard Square

My favorite part of the visit to the ISBCC was the call the prayer. The chanting was just extraordinary, and everyone worshipping Allah side by side rang so beautifully of peace and connection.
-Siri

Today I did something I’ve never done before: go to a Mosque. I studied Islam, but seeing it in practice was enlightening. We started by putting on our hijabs. But putting it on, I suddenly felt part of something larger than myself. Instead of feeling oppressed, I felt connected to those millions of women proudly wearing them all over the world.
-Julia

It was so great and beautiful to meet with the kids from Malik Academy. I have said that you don’t fully know a religion until you meet with people from the religion, but now I think you can’t fully know a religion until you meet with people of your own age from a religion.
-Julian

A Story from the Islamic Society of Boston and Cultural Center
When my hijab came undone, Anisa fixed it for me. I made a friend. The end.
-Hazel

It is one of the most amazing feelings in the world to hug a group of people goodbye who you only met that day but already love. I wish we could have spent some more time with the Malik Academy students. They made me feel comfortable, even though I was wearing a hijab and was in a place I did not know. I feel sooooo lucky to have had this experience and I will never forget it. It’s amazing that people from different backgrounds and with different beliefs can have so much fun.
-Emmy

The monastery made me want to try out the monastic lifestyle. There was a welcoming a feeling all throughout the church. All the brothers seemed very happy and kind. Out of everywhere we’ve been, this has been the closest one to my religion.
-Anna

Call to Prayer at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center

 

Middle School River of Spirit Odyssey Day 3

Saturday, May 5th

Morning Shabbat and Bar Mitzvah at Temple Ohabei Shalom

Lunch in Coolidge Corner

Thousand Buddha Temple

Dinner at Eataly food court

The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence by Step Afrika Dance Co.
Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre

Today was the first day I ever went to a Bar Mitzvah. It was a long and harmonious service for a boy named Zach. Throughout it, I could feel the love, stillness, and calmness of “a young patawan growing into a promised Jew.” I now feel very attached to the idea that the celebration of a Bar Mitzvah is the Jewish “everyone has the chance for enlightenment.”
-Hazel

[The Thousand Buddha Temple] a lot more alive than the other Buddhist temples we visited because people were visiting and practicing. I kind of felt bored during the slow walk meditation but it was fun to do the fast walk meditation. I felt so relaxed during the breathing meditation. I liked how the chant was so simple but powerful.
-Owen B.

Our last stop of the day was going to a step Afro performance. I thought it was a beautiful example of dance theater that triggered an emotional response from both Alabama and our odyssey in Boston. The performer’s truth flowed toward the audience in kinetic, electric waves. Using humans as a living, breathing, and malleable art form created such depth and perspective.
-Lily

The class walked to a dance musical called The Migration. It was so energetic and everyone acting was so talented. It reminded me of what somebody said at The Crossing that connecting and participating in a rhythm can bring everybody together.
-Owen J.

Haiku-ish by Solomon

Drums, bright lights
Pervading rhythm
Deep message

Middle School River of Spirit Odyssey Day 2

Friday, May 4

Head into Boston

Ramakrishna Vedanta Society
Swami Tyanananda

Lunch in Harvard Square

The Pluralism Project at Harvard University
Alexis Salomone

Dinner in Coolidge Corner

Conversation with Reb Moshe Waldoks of Temple Beth Zion

Kabbalat Shabbat at Temple Beth Zion

At The RamakrishnaVedanta Society I had a feeling of peacefulness right when I entered the building. I was struck by the smell of incense, then was welcomed by a friendly monk who I really liked by the end of the visit.

-Owen B.

After our conversation with Reb Moshe, we had Shabbat. I was looking forward to it because I had hoped it would be like home. It was nice, but it was very different from what I do at home. It was hard for me to keep up with the prayers and songs. It must have been crazy for all the others. Even though it wasn’t what I was used to, there was something powerful about the words. After the service, I felt lighter.

-Solomon

At the Pluralism Project we were able to laugh at topics usually frowned upon. This is what the world needs to get through disagreement. We need to be able to sit down and have a conversation and share stories, concerns, hopes, and then be open to all.

-Nomi

The drum and the pure force of [Reb Moshe’s] voice brought meaning to words I had no meaning for. I especially liked when we stood in a circle around the alter. I felt so connected, so alive, so clueless and vulnerable, ready to accept anything that came wholeheartedly. As we walked on the streets on the way home, I began to notice the sheer diversity of Boston. Hijab’s blended in with Yarmulkes and t-shirts. I sat and ate red bean paste filled buns at a table less than a foot off the ground, the sound of laughing and rapid fire Chinese filling my ears.

-Julia

It feels so nice to go to all these places and feel myself and the class becoming a part of the culture and community there. I feel that we are helping to create ties of friendship and community spirit that can last for a long time. Everyone has been so welcoming and opening. I have not figured out if there is a religion that I prefer, but I have been very pleasantly surprised by the kindness shown by all the people we have visited with.

-Emmy

 

Middle School River of Spirit Odyssey – Day 1

Thursday May 3rd

New England Peace Pagoda

Wat Boston Buddha Vararam (Thai Buddhist Temple)
Lesson, chant, and meditation with monk from Theravada tradition. (questions)

Friendly Crossways Hostel
Drop off luggage and get tour.

Head into Boston

The Crossing – Cathedral Church of St. Paul.
Dinner, service, and conversation with Reverend Marsha Hoecker

Return to Friendly Crossways – journal, sleep

The place that really spoke to me today was the Buddhist temple. I think the very reason I felt closer to this place was because the monk was speaking a different language. I can’t quite explain it but it was as if his words flowed over me. I felt his teachings rather than hearing them.

-Siri

..But nothing really compared to The Crossing. I really enjoyed the connection I felt. This may be because Christianity is familiar, I don’t really know. I felt super engaged throughout the entire service. It was very welcoming and not as strict as what Im used to. The way they gave a time for people to do their own thing reflected how their community works, letting people come and go, welcoming anyone who is willing to listen.

-Anna

I think that there is a sense of wholeness and completeness from singing, especially about God. The sense of trust and faith that everyone at The Crossing had was a feeling that I noticed.

-Eliot

I have found that, so far, the two biggest messages or parts of the places of worship has been rhythm/music and social action. At The Peace Pagoda they have their peace walks, and many of the people at The Crossing were involved in social action and one even said that you can not be Christian without social action. On the rhythm/music front, The Peace Pagoda had the drum and gong. At the Thai Buddhist Temple, the chant had a certain melody to it. And The Crossing had a huge focus on music and some said music helped them feel closer to God.

-Julian

Extra thoughts from Hazel:
1.) The cross as a symbol for the intersection of God and human
2.) Religion is an art, not a science.
3.) The term “stranger danger” and many other western culture thinking reflects on one of the major differences with Buddhist thinking.

 

Middle School River of Spirit Odyssey – Get Ready

Just a few days now until the Middle School heads to the greater Boston area on their River of Spirit Odyssey. During their seven day journey students will participate and observe 15  different spiritual services as they try to understand the nature of spirit and how it is integral in so many people’s lives. Just one more piece in the driving question of what it means to be human.

March 8 & 9 at 7 p.m.: Middle School Performance, “The Field”

This is a time when we reflect on the big ideas we have been exploring through the year and collaborate to craft a theatrical presentation. It is interesting that the theme for this year’s performance, The Field, was greatly inspired by an essay that the students read by the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, and a poem by the Sufi poet, Rumi, that he includes in his essay. Students are striving to understand the complicated and divisive world we live in and are putting their thoughts and words into action in this community centered work of theater and music.
Performances of The Field are on Thursday and Friday, March 8 and 9 at 7:00pm in the Arts Barn Theater. There will also be a performance for the school on Friday, March 9 at 10:00am. All are invited and we hope you can join us for this provocative, humorous, tuneful, and thoughtful show.

Graduates on Board of The Putney School!

April 7, 2017
We are proud to share that two of our 2015 graduates, Emmanuel Keppel and Greta Wolfe, have recently been elected to the Board of Trustees of The Putney School, a position of great responsibility and honor. Emmanuel graduated from Hilltop having started in the Children’s House and Greta joined Hilltop for the two years of the Middle School. Both students thrived at Hilltop. “Hilltop taught us to notice all of the fine workings of a community and discover our place in the world. With that foundation, we continue to do so at Putney, and will be learning with every responsibility we take on for the rest of our lives” – Greta Wolfe.
Both Emmanuel and Greta were perhaps inspired by their father’s roles on the Hilltop Board of Trustees – Patrick Keppel, Emmanuel’s father, was on the board for 7 years, including three as Chair, and Rich Wolfe, Greta’s father, is the current Board Chair at Hilltop. Each of five student candidates gave a speech to the school at an assembly meeting and later in the day, students, faculty, and staff all cast their votes for the position.

 

This is a 30 person board and the two students elected serve as full voting members. The responsibilities include discussing reports from various members of the school community, such as Diversity and Admissions, and making decisions regarding funding and planning for the school’s future. Greta and Emmanuel follow in the footsteps of Maeve Campman, a 2012 graduate of Hilltop who also held a student trustee position at The Putney School, as well as many other graduates of Hilltop that have thrived in other various leadership positions at The Putney School.

 

Supporting Middle School Micro-Economies, A Real Life Experience!

September 29, 2017
Co-authored by Lily Buren-Charkey, Middle School Entrepreneur, and Tamara Mount, Head of School
Throughout the year the middle school takes on the daunting task of raising around ten thousand dollars for our odysseys! This year we are raising money for our River of Spirit Odyssey to Boston, a comparative world religion and science of water study, connecting with many different faith communities and cultures. In the middle school we are guided by the question,  “What Does It Mean To Be Human?”  Our trips help to answer this question as we experience things first hand, including the task of raising the money.
Raising ten thousand dollars by June seems like an overwhelming task, but with the student run micro-economies it becomes possible. Not only are we cooking and preparing food, we are managing businesses, practicing organizational skills, marketing our products and developing customer relations skills. These business are all about taking the initiative to get things done, which plays into the middle school’s philosophy of independent learning. Micro-economies are small, usually eighth grade student run, businesses. Micro-economies already underway this year include:
  • Bagel Lunch, in which we make bagels to order every Wednesday to serve to the whole school
  • Bake Sales at the Coop once a month
  • Rockin’ Ramen at BrattRock last Saturday
  • Coffee Cart on Thursday mornings, now by donation as part of welcoming parents to stay and see All School Gathering (next one on Oct. 12)

Peace Education Presentation on Grandparent and Special Friend Day

October 6, 2017
The national political rhetoric, climate, and actions of the past year have been disturbing to me. I could have been thrown into a deep depression, finding it hard to get out of bed each day, were it not for what we are doing here at Hilltop Montessori School. The events in Charlottesville, just before the start of the school year, especially hit home, as I went to the University of Virginia, and therefore feel a familiarity and attachment to that town. And now there is the incident in Las Vegas, and the challenges in Puerto Rico, again emphasizing how people are viewed and treated differently, and the many challenges we face as a society.
I have gone back to Dr. Maria Montessori’s writings and have been reminded of her motivations and discoveries. A hundred years ago she saw that the mechanized approach to education was designed to produce people who blindly followed leaders and allowed themselves to be controlled. She put forth the idea that children could be respected as individuals, given choices in what and how they learned, and be supported by caring adults who served as guides to an environment prepared for their learning. This approach supported children in developing independence along with a deep appreciation and understanding for the connectedness and community that they have with all people, with all living creatures, and with the world and universe. Montessori can be seen as an approach to education, but she also developed it as a methodology towards world peace. She evolved her ideas in the context of World War I and II, and was nominated several time for a Nobel Peace Prize. Many of her comments on education and peace resonate strongly today.
At Hilltop Montessori School, we “teach” peace in many contexts:
  • self – developing inner peace and the skills to make peace with others
  • environment – instilling an understanding and appreciation for the environment
  • cultural – celebrating our differences and knowing our connectedness, compassion for all
  • community – living our supportive interdependence
The role that Hilltop Montessori School is playing in supporting the development of responsible citizens, and striving towards peace has kept me going. This was the theme of the message I shared on Grandparent and Special Friend Day along with this presentation. I welcome any comments or reflections, by emailing me or stopping by anytime.

Guiding the Child at Work

September 8, 2017
It is only week two and the classrooms are already settling in and getting “normalized”. As Montessorians we use the term normalized to describe when the students have the rhythm of the day and, together and independently, work and grow where they need to.
Children are choosing their “work” and building their concentration. In Montessori classrooms we call the student activities “work” because the children are choosing materials that are helping them to grow where they are developmentally needing to grow, and that is their “work” as children. Dr. Montessori also chose this word knowing that “work” should ideally have the same joy and appeal for adults, as the activities the children are choosing on which to work. We should all be learning and growing through our “work”.
As guides in the classroom, the adults are careful not to interrupt a child at work. We want to foster that concentration and focus, rather than encourage distraction. This is something you can work to build at home too. When your child is engaged in something, let it come to a natural close, rather than interrupt with any words of praise or requests for another activity.