Developing Empathy through Meaningful Connections in Brimmer’s Lower School

The following remarks were delivered to Lower School Grandparents and Special Friends at the Thanksgiving Assembly:

This year’s theme “Empathy and Ethical Thinking” has drawn our educators at Brimmer together on a subject that is critical to the development of young people. The young minds in our Lower School are developing the social skills needed for the rest of their lives. This theme brings to the forefront the value relationships play in our lives and highlights how we must prioritize this. Just a week ago, our Parents’ Association sponsored guest speaker and author of The Empathy Effect, Dr. Helen Riess to speak about her research at Massachusetts General Hospital on the importance of building and teaching empathy. Subsequently, I read her book on the subject and was educated on the importance of how this skill is essential for our children’s success in their future.

The pathway to empathy starts with a meaningful connection between people. At Brimmer teachers and students value the relational connections we have within our own community. This morning I would like to highlight three community connections this fall that knit together the stages of building empathy within our own school community.

DSC011972018-10-19.jpgOur buddy program, where our older Lower School students are matched with our younger children, unites our Lower School community. Let me tell you about a moment where I saw the seeds of empathy. I observed what appeared to be a ten-year old take the hand of a four-year old as they began a buddy walk around the neighborhood. But what really showed the beginning of a connection and new friendship was watching the two children look into each other’s eyes. The older child bent down a little, looked into the eye of the younger child to see if she was okay and ready, and then responded with a small little pat on the back — acknowledging the journey should begin. The body language of the younger child told a story of comfort and happiness as the skip in her gait revealed a playful thought.

Our lunch program is another time in the day when our Lower School community evinces the seeds of empathy. Come to Brimmer any day around 10:50 and you will see a fleet of parents come into the Corkin Dining Commons to help serve lunch to our youngest children. In part, the parents come to School to help with the various tasks involved when feeding young children. And they are good at it. They pour the water, help children select vegetables, and happily distribute ice cream. They observe how children react through words, body language, and non-verbal clues. But the care these parents show goes beyond the children and extends to the faculty as well. Knowing the faculty would have to stand to eat their own lunch, by coming to volunteer, our faculty can sit and take a short break in their busy day. The empathic concern our families show to our faculty makes this community a healthy and special place.

The third example of a community that believes in the empathy effect is our Lower School Garden. If you were here for this day last year you will recall how I featured this part of our curriculum. The story has “grown” since then. An important note to this is my office has a beautiful view of this outdoor classroom. So, you see, I hear almost everything. I would like to share a story about the carrot harvest.


A group of students came to the garden to harvest the carrots that were planted in early spring, grew through the summer, and matured in the fall. The green tops looked robust and there were enough for each member of the class to harvest a carrot, maybe two. One child pulled out a nice sized carrot, and her smile revealed how pleased she was with this result. Another child pulled her carrot, but when she pulled it out and shook off the dirt, it was a stunted, twisted carrot that was very hard to celebrate. Her body language spoke volumes. The children immediately understood her disappointment, and together they stepped aside and told her to choose another one. It was okay to share. It was at that moment that I knew the garden was far more than an outdoor classroom teaching science; it was a place where our Life Rules are in action.

These three examples are pathways to teaching empathy and can only happen if we take time to have meaningful connections.

As we prepare for the Thanksgiving, I am confident you will have children at your table who will reveal the beginning stages of developing empathy for others. As we know, the day is far more than the food we serve; it is a day to make meaningful connections.

Enhancing Empathy Development through Meaningful Relationships in the Middle and Upper School Years

The following remarks were delivered to Middle and Upper School Grandparents and Special Friends at the Thanksgiving Assembly:

This year’s theme “Empathy and Ethical Thinking” has drawn our educators at Brimmer together on a subject that is critical to the development of young people. The maturing minds in our Middle and Upper Schools are developing the social skills needed for the rest of their lives. This theme brings to the forefront the importance relationships play in our lives. Just a week ago, our Parents’ Association sponsored guest speaker, and author of The Empathy Effect, Dr. Helen Riess to speak about her research at Massachusetts General Hospital on the importance of building and teaching empathy. Subsequently, I read her book on the subject and was educated on how vital this skill is for our student’s success in their future.

The pathway to empathy starts with a meaningful connection between people. At Brimmer teachers and students value the relational connections we have within our own community and this is evidenced nearly every day. I would like to highlight an incident and a program – one in the Middle School and one in the Upper School – that exemplify the stages of building empathy within our own school community.

Teaching students to have a voice that is authentic and reveals an original point of view is a hard task. Just ask our college counselors, and they will tell you that the college admissions people are trained to identify a student-written college essay and differentiate it from one done with too much assistance.


A.J. Naddaff ’15

Five years ago, we launched the on-line publication, The Gator. It was risky. Would it be a good example of the students’ digital footprint? Would it reveal a lot about our student body and the ethics of our school? The answer to these questions is yes. Just Google one of our writer’s, and you will see. AJ Naddoff, class of 2015, who launched his interest in journalism here at Brimmer where he was editor in chief, just had his first byline in the Washington Post on Kosovo and its concerns with homegrown terrorism. Naddoff’s research included in-country interviewing and answers to questions that could have ignited a negative reaction had he not been careful.

The ethics of our School and its students are also displayed in The Gator, now an award-winning publication. Last month Gabe Byran won first place nationally for his article “Speak Truth to Power Amid Sexual Abuse Claims.” With exceptional clarity and conviction, Gabe opens his article saying, “Something is rotten in America, and the stench is emanating from our political leaders and media elite, who either don’t know how or refuse to treat women with dignity and respect.” He continues with well-researched and clearly presented evidence to support his opinion. Gabe’s ethical thinking is clear and convincing, so much so that the piece was selected among thousands of high school writers as the first-place opinion piece of the year. Teaching students to have a voice — one that is authentic, original, and ethical — is a goal reached.

A second example of teaching the pathways to empathy and ethical thinking is the new curriculum in our Middle School framed by the Max Warburg Foundation. The Max Warburg Courage Curriculum was first shared with me last year when our PA Co-President Mark MacClaren and Trustee Eleanor Bright shared how important they found this curriculum to be and how it seemed like a good match to Brimmer’s mission of developing ethical citizens. The match, an exceptionally good one in a year when we had adopted the theme of teaching empathy and ethical thinking, inspired Middle School Head Carl Rapisarda Vallely and teacher Gus Polstein to embark on integrating this new program.  Since “stories of courage have a special power to engage and inspire young people,” our Middle School students now had a new way “to discover their capacity for courage and find a voice to share their personal stories of courage with the world.” The Middle School students are busy learning about their own challenges and personal stories that represent courage and will be entering their stories in the annual contest.

This new journey for our students involved an important connection. Parents and Trustees partner with our school to make the student experience an exceptional one. Teaching empathy requires a commitment from a community of adults who are dedicated to a community of children. Most certainly, educators select the curriculum, but with the support of our families and friends, our work is enhanced and made more effective.

How We Think: Moving from Sympathy to Empathy to Ethical Thinking

The following is the text of my Opening Convocation speech to the Middle and Upper School community on Tuesday, September 4, 2018.

Welcome to the 2018-2019 School year. I am delighted to be welcoming back such a wonderful group of students and to have so many new students join our School.

In June the administrative team deliberated about our role as educational leaders. Our discussion focused on what is important for you as learners in the year 2018. There were several creative ideas and insights and we had lengthy discussions about what our school community would benefit from as we learn together. Our collective wisdom, problem-solving, and experience directed us to our theme for the year, Empathy and Ethical Thinking.

This theme pertains to the work of all of us. The teachers will be thinking about ways to inspire each of you to show empathy and to understand what it means to be of good character; the administrators will plan their work with deliberate attention to this theme, so our community is empowered to uphold our Core Values; and as students you will be encouraged to dedicate yourselves to think about the impact you have on others both here and in the greater Boston Community, our nation, and the world.

As I reflected on this theme over the summer, I found that much of what I read, both in fiction and non-fiction, held elements of the topic of empathy and ethical thinking within the pages of each work. The faculty summer reading book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba, posed questions and offered answers to the topic of helping others to be empathic in their response to those around them. The short but powerful book How to Think by Alan Jacobs challenged me to consider a more philosophical and deliberate approach to the process of thinking. The novels I read helped me see how protagonists and antagonists alike were faced with social decisions about a person or group of people as they learned to interact with others in their lives. I was even able to see myself within some of those fictional characters. I’d like to take you through a short journey of where my summer-long reflection on our theme for the year took me.

As we expand and mature our experience in life to extend beyond the emotions of sympathy and pity, we are challenged with the complex task of developing empathy, which we know to be a learned skill. We see this idea expressed throughout literature. For example, Jane Austin’s novel Pride and Prejudice was originally titled First Impressions as she worked through the thematic idea that we must not be quick to judge others and to show empathy to those around us. In Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, she writes “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Lee’s novel challenged readers to question injustice and demand equity. In making her point she used the proverb that dates back to the Cherokee tribe of Native Americans, who warned: “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.” Countless times this summer, I was reminded that if we are to live a responsible life where conflict can be resolved peacefully while upholding dignity for all people as a priority, we need to spend time understanding the life others live.

At Brimmer, we “walk a mile in others’ shoes” throughout the year. Over the years, we have made many efforts to build understanding and have empathy for others. This is important work and should be celebrated for its commitment and courage and taking the perspective of others a few times a year is a great beginning. However, recent research out of Harvard University on the topic of social perspective taking (SPT) suggests that developing empathy requires more from us if we are to resolve conflicts effectively and live in a peaceful society. To help others or to be empathic towards the conditions others face is hard work, requires deep thinking, and needs sustained commitment. We must commit ourselves to understanding the challenges people face and be deliberate in our commitment before and after direct social experiences.

According to Harvard’s research team on the study of social perspective taking, “Information about the other party fosters more positive relationships and make greater concessions than participants who did not receive information about the other party. Furthermore, those who experientially learned about the other party’s perspective felt more positive about their relationships and made greater concessions during negotiation than those who were simply provided information about the other party’s perspective.” (Many Ways to Walk a Mile in Another’s Moccasins: Type of Social Perspective Taking and its effect on Negotiation Outcomes). According to the study, learning about others requires a fair degree of listening, asking questions, and seeing reactions. Interestingly, this can be done effectively through simulation and not just in a face-to-face environment. In fact, it can be done with just a book in our hands if we allow our imagination to take us there. This means for those who cannot travel to understand other cultures and differences, they can be just as effective as developing empathy as those who can travel. If we are able to watch and listen to simulations and be guided through a thoughtful discussion, learning and understanding takes place. If we commit to reading the stories others tell us in novels and through narratives, and we try to imagine and transcend into their experience through conversation and instruction, we can learn to be empathic. (Young, Imaging Minds.)

Learning how to develop empathy is a lifelong journey. It involves learning how to think and is part of our collective educational journey. New ways to do this always present themselves. With the technological advances now made available to all of us, it is possible to have meaningful experiences without actually being present. Technology also allows information to be delivered fast and almost immediately; it means we can experience what others do by watching and being part of an experience even if it is a simulation. In turn, the advancements of technology also require more of us. We must think more critically about what we read, what we hear, and what we see. In the book How We Think, author Alan Jacobs mindfully points out that we are now in a time when not all public statements heard in such a vastly public way were meant to be so. Not all images shared were thoughtfully considered before being made public. Having access to information, especially private information, means we need to be careful and discern if we should share it even when it is possible to do so. Testing out truth and knowing when to share information requires both the work of our character and the work of our intellect. In turn, responding to what we feel and what we do relies both on our character and on our intellect.

Committing to a life of thinking often means adapting our own thinking. Jacobs asserts that we must embrace the habits of past philosophers who practiced the methods of disciplined discourse and who “care more about working toward the truth than about one’s own social position” (Jacob. p. 150).  We seem to be in a time when we emphasize our differences and watch people celebrate ideas freely that are often hurtful and polarizing just to gain a social position. I hope this year, we will care more about working toward the truth, and in the words of Immanuel Kant “Sapere aude! – Dare to think, dare to be wise.”

Project Based Learning at Brimmer

As we embark on the second semester of the school year, I am reminded of how our spring will be busy with exhibitions, defenses, and presentations. Families may wonder what drives the process that produces these culminating events and how can they support their students to be successful?

Our Brimmer curriculum is a blend of a variety of educational practices and philosophies that strive to reach every type of learner, to stretch our students in learning new and different methods, and to challenge them to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. One effective practice we use is called Project Based Learning. “PBL is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.” (

Much of what drives the process of project-based learning is the art of questioning. Students are required to question and dig deeply into a topic. To help their student, adults can engage in the process of asking good questions. This will help the student probe a problem or question that is authentic and worth solving. Successful projects have value, show student voice, and reflect critical thinking and effective problem solving. Giving feedback during the process often means redirecting the student through inquiry and finding supportive resources. Once the student finds the path through the inquiry stage, the project is usually successful.

Whether your student is a senior embarking on the senior thesis defense, an eighth grader beginning the interdisciplinary Poverty Project, a fourth grader getting ready for the Fourth Fest, or a fifth grader researching a person who demonstrated independence–each of these projects follows the project-based curriculum philosophy. The public presentation for people beyond the classroom is just the final phase. In the months that lead up to the exhibition, families can support the work by asking good questions, which helps our students think deeply about their topic.


This past week I discussed the core value, honesty. Students know what it means to show the qualities of being free of deceit and untruthfulness (American Heritage). We also discussed how people often refer to shades of honesty since pure honesty can, at times, cause hurt feelings. For example, if the turkey dinner is not tasty at Thanksgiving, pure honesty may not be necessary. The dilemma is at what point does that become deceit? Also, when we say, “he made an honest mistake,” we know that it is possible to uphold this virtue even in the midst of a small mistake.

One of my favorite plays is Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello. The main characters are tested when their ability to uphold the virtue of honesty is challenged and broken. Holding back on having honest conversations erodes and eventually destroys relationships. The deepest hurt comes to the protagonist when being honest is violated and trust is broken, but as in all of Shakespeare’s tragedies, ruin comes not just to the protagonist but also to everyone he loves. Shakespeare understands human behavior and states, “Honesty is the best policy. If I lose mine honor, I lose myself.”

Honesty is a partner to trust. I have seen many students at Brimmer taking responsibility for doing what is right by being honest. They tell the truth even when it is hard and perhaps embarrassing. I am thankful for students who work hard to uphold the value of honesty because they know that trust is earned and easy to break.

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful for having a School filled with such wonderful people who work every day to uphold our Core Values and Life Rules.


When I asked students this week to define what the word respect means to them, they used vague phrases. I shared with them how I found the same to be true for me. This core value requires reflection in order to consider its full meaning.

When I searched for the definition of respect, I found the verb “to admire” a curious synonym. “To acknowledge the value in someone or something” seems to be closer to the generic understanding of the word. However, it makes sense that if we are to respect one another, then we must find a trait we admire. When we think of respect from that point of view, our grasp of the word is made clearer, and it encourages us to look for the positive qualities in others to admire.

Our students were quick to point out that respecting people is not the only way to demonstrate this important quality. Students of all ages are passionate about respecting our earth and its resources, property, creatures, and belongings. I enjoyed listening to their ideas about caring for our earth, which they believe requires respect every day.

As we observed the Veterans Day holiday last week, I asked the Brimmer community to reflect on ways to show our admiration and respect for their sacrifice. Their courage and brave commitment to protect our country and its people are valuable and deserve respect.

The Importance of Kindness and Character

Developing character as part of the educational journey of a student has been a long-standing, mission driven educational pursuit at Brimmer. Our Life Skills/Core Values curriculum and culture is woven into our daily habits, programs, and conversations.

19th Century philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson considered the importance of character when he said, “Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.” Philosophers have debated throughout time whether character is higher than intellect or if intellect is higher than character. I am not too sure if that debate matters very much when raising a child. During the month of November, I will highlight our community values each week as an effort to help guide our young people to think about the importance of having a strong character.

Our Middle School students began this year with their focus on kindness. “The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate” (American Standard Dictionary) and the act of thinking of others and how they may feel could arguably be the most important quality to possess. We see kindness when our students share with one another, help each other with a project, take time to pick up a dropped plate, turn in lost money, and offer a helping hand on the field. Being kind makes life better for everyone.

American novelist Henry James is often quoted for saying, “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” It is hard to question the importance of kindness.

Inspiring Thinkers and Doers 

The following post is the text of my opening remarks at Brimmer’s Opening Convocation Ceremony on Monday, September 11, 2017.

Welcome to the 2017-2018 School year. I am delighted to be welcoming back such a wonderful group of students and to have so many new students join our School. With three instructional sections in grades 7, 10, 11, and 12 we are clearly achieving our goal of having a larger Upper School, and we are certainly in need of this amazing new facility. I think we will find that we will fill it up quite nicely! 

Before I start my short talk about this year’s School’s theme, Inspiring Thinkers and Doers, I would like you to join me in welcoming our new faculty.  

Please also join me in thanking our administrators for their outstanding leadership of the School, to our teachers for their commitment and dedication, and to our staff for the support and service to all of us. 

In June the administrative team deliberated about our role as educational leaders. Our discussion focused on what is important for you as learners in the year 2017 and there were several creative ideas and insights. Our collective wisdom, problem solving, and experience directed us to our theme for the year – Inspiring Thinkers and Doers. 

This theme pertains to the work of all of us. As teachers we will be thinking about ways and doing activities to inspire each of you; as administrators, we will plan our work with deliberate attention so we can inspire others to produce excellence results, and as students you will be encouraged to inspire each other to be both thinkers and doers so you can be the best you can be. Each speaker this morning will illustrate how we plan to achieve this work for the year ahead.  

It is important to be both thinkers and doers so that we choose the right things to do, and then get them done. However, most of us are stronger at one than we are at the other. How do you know if you are a thinker or doer? You most likely have qualities of both. The qualities of a doer include synonyms such as executor, worker, and organizer. Doers are often quick to take action, are people who love to take risks, and their level of failure is often higher than their level of success. Doers don’t procrastinate, and doers are often goal oriented. Do you see yourself in this category? Maybe some of the time? Perhaps most of the time?  

The qualities of a thinker include being a reader and problem solver, one who uses his or her intellect. The thinker likes to study, reflect, and ask questions. Thinkers often offer ideas and usually act only after information is clear to them. They tend to look at a bigger picture and put their idea in the context of other ideas. Are you more of a thinker? Do you see parts of yourself in this category? 

We have images of thinkers: people scratching their heads or sitting with their hand on their chin. We have images for doers: people holding their fists up in a moment of victory. Or a doer may be using a gesture of thumbs up for achieving success.  

So the question for us this year is how do we become better and better, which as you know is our School’s motto. How can we understand what we do both naturally and perhaps a bit less naturally? How do we as learners harness what we do naturally and expand what we do less naturally so we grow into our best selves? The School’s motto holds an enduring message for us all. Pursuing an education is not a destination but rather a commitment to growth, a commitment to seeking both truth and achievement, and to fulfilling a promise to become better and better with each passing day. 

A good way to do this is to surround yourself with people who are a little different than you are. If you find yourself to be a bit more of a thinker than a doer, then find the doers and collaborate with them on a project. If you have a bit of a problem getting started, find a doer to help you move forward. This is called cognitive diversity and is a proven method for increasing better performance. This is why teachers pair you in class or create diverse groups. It is important that you become comfortable with classmates who work with different strengths. 

The Hastings Center was designed to help this synergy happen between learners. In the new space you will find open areas where you can work together as well as smaller, quiet areas where you can step away to think and concentrate. This was a deliberate design concept. Collecting the best from observation of area innovation labs, our new space provides you with small glassed-in cubicles where you can break away from the collaborative space to think and study in a less busy environment. The larger spaces provide you with room and the right equipment to use with the right people.  

As a result of our community’s commitment to create a collaborative environment, you will learn to problem solve together, strategize, and communicate. As you know, ideas and problems exist within all disciplines – humanities based curriculum and STEAM focused curriculum interconnects in the real world where real problems need to be solved. Whether you are working on a STEAM project, an international dilemma, a multimedia presentation to express a complex idea, or delving into a research topic, this new space will provide you the tools, space, and equipment to get the job done. 

We have a commitment to come together as a strong and supportive community at Brimmer. This year’s theme of inspiring thinkers and doers applies to our social world as well. Our new building has been designed to offer you spaces where you can take time to understand varying points of view, build trust with one another, and collaborate on ideas during your study time. Some of us are more of a thinker and some are more of a doer, but we must all work to be both when it comes to accepting our social responsibilities. 

Social doers are activists; they stand up for what is right. They actively uphold the core values of honesty, respect, responsibility, and kindness. They encourage others to take a stand and do something about how they feel. We all must try hard to demonstrate  “upstander” behavior. 

We must also all try to be social thinkers. Social thinkers talk about ideas, not people. They study the subject that is being discussed. They offer alternative ways to think about the same idea. They look at trends and study history, and they help others anticipate an outcome. They are often best at thinking before they speak, and, as you well know, we all must try hard to think before we speak. 

If you find yourself more of a thinker in this domain, then pair up with a doer and visa versa. Together you will be able to do great things. As you think of your own role and place in society, remember to uphold our Core Values and stand for what is right and good. Join forces as a community of thinkers and doers. We all must think about what we are doing. Action matters, and as Gandhi said, “The future depends on what we do in the present.” 

Head of School’s Middle/Upper School Honors Convocation Address

Welcome to the final event of the year!

This has been a year of hard work where our students stretched to make themselves the best they can be. I am delighted to be celebrating their many accomplishments today. Congratulation to our students for successfully completing another school year!

This year our students have had many remarkable accomplishments and have provided several inspiring events. I would like to highlight a few of the accomplishments:

  • 8 seniors graduated as recipients of the Creative Arts Diploma, with 13 total members in the program
  • 3 seniors were the recipients of the Global Studies Diploma with a total of 13 members.
  • 3 Seniors graduated as recipients of the STEAM diploma program, with 18 members in total.
  • 8 seniors graduated as members of the Scholar Society. Students who apply to the Scholars Society are chosen based on academic achievement, contributions to Brimmer, and their adherence to the Brimmer and May Code of Ethics.
  • 17 advanced placement courses were offered this year with strong enrollment in each. 114 exams were given with a total of 61 students taking them.
  • 3 students received Bronze medals in the National Spanish exam and 6 received honorable mention.
  • 2 students are members of Congressman Kennedy’s Youth Advisor Council
  • 2 juniors have earned National Merit Award status putting them in the nation’s top 3% of all collegebound students.
  • For its third straight year, The Gator placed first in Suffolk University’s Greater Boston High School Newspaper Competition for Excellence in Online Journalism. Our student writers and journalist leaders have done an outstanding job publishing well-researched, well-written articles and editorials throughout the year.
  • In addition to outstanding performances, incredible concerts, and outstanding video productions, our students also earned numerous awards for their creativity in the visual arts. This included:

8 SISAL Awards— including 2 First Places and Best in Show for the Middle School

12 Scholastic Art Awards— including 2 Gold Keys and 3 Silver Keys

And we had 6 Students published in The Marble Collection.

If you missed Brimmer’s Academy Awards, I encourage you to watch the outstanding presentations offered on our website. They are fantastic student productions.

  • Our athletes also had outstanding seasons. They represented our school with strong team spirit and high levels of good sportsmanship. The highlights include three league championships –Cross Country, Varsity Girls Soccer, and Varsity Baseball. The many awards and distinctions are proudly displayed on our website with the photos and videos that represented them at the Athletic Award Assembly.

Finally, I would like to recognize the students and families who participated in the Student Exchange Program for language immersion at the Northlands School in Argentina. Best wishes to all of you who will be traveling there in the coming weeks.

I would also like to highlight some of the Middle School accomplishments:

  • Mr. R-V and the teachers exclaimed over how impressed they were with the work our 8th graders did on their Ambassadors for Social Change project. This was the culmination of their studies in the humanities using the Facing History Curriculum that focuses on what it means to be an upstander in difficult times.
  • We are also very proud of our seventh graders who worked on a robotics project. Students in seventh grade grouped into teams and worked with Lego Mindstorms learning principles of design, coding, engineering, and programming. After learning the basics of crafting and programming simple functional robots, the teams each selected a problem to solve. Problems ranged from picking up and moving objects to being capable of navigating trails autonomously. They will be able to explore further these concepts next year through the new elective called Innovation Hour, which will be offered in our new space!
  • Our sixth graders completed the annual GreekFest celebration and competition last week. They learned what it means to be part of a democracy, and we are eager for them to explore American history and literature next year, which will culminate with their trip to D.C. in March.

This year has also been a wonderful one for our School:

  • Our annual fund to date has raised over $700,000, and the fund is still growing. This allows us to be nimble in our programming, classroom equipment, and professional development. As a result, our faculty is able to explore a number of professional development opportunities this summer. Thank you for your support!
  • We completed the School’s Strategic Priorities for 2013 and Beyond. Tuesday night we announced the Hastings Family Challenge — a $400,000 dollar-for-dollar match. This resulted in 150 new gifts and pledges that were matched in 30 days, meaning $800,000 for Brimmer! Thank you, Hastings Family!

The Campaign for Brimmer: Realizing the Vision is officially complete! You probably remember that the Campaign goal was $7.5 million for the new 2-story addition that will house a new entry, lobby, dining commons, innovation space, maker space, new classrooms, a college counseling suite, new offices and an endowment for Faculty Innovation. We have surpassed that original goal and have raised $8.1 million for our School. This puts our school at the forefront of innovative programming. Thank you so much for your generosity.

Finally, I would like to highlight our theme for this year “Building the Future.” Our amazing new addition will provide space that will inform how we bring our students into their future. In a recent article titled “Why Can’t Schools be More Like Makerspaces?” the author writes, “Makerspaces support invention, design, artistic creativity, programming, hacking, and tinkering. The maker culture emphasizes informal, networked, peer-led, and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment. This is an optimal model for school.” In September, you will see first hand how a makerspace facility and culture will inform the future at Brimmer.

Once again, I wish to congratulate all of our students on working toward achieving their personal best and for reaching for excellence throughout the year. Your hard work has been noticed, and we are proud of you.



Brimmer Community Service

According to the National Service Learning Clearinghouse, “Service learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” Those principles of learning were evident this past week at the Grade 8 Community Service Fair. The students presented a short explanation of their 8-hour project with a focus on what was gained from the experience and how the experience taught them the importance of giving to a community.

Throughout Brimmer, community service is a central focus for grade levels, division levels, and for individuals. For the past several years the School has received awards from the Parents’ Independent School Network (PIN).  At the last meeting of the year, PIN gave special recognition to our kindergartners for their Cards for Seniors program, to our second graders for their thank-you letters to MSPCA donors, and to our eighth graders for their annual Individual Community Service Project. Having a heart for civic engagement and an awareness of the importance of public responsibility happens over time for children. As our students grow, it is important for them to have good role models, have opportunities to serve in meaningful ways, and work to increase their individual commitment to service. This helps our students become responsible citizens.

Thank you to all of our students for giving back to both Brimmer and the greater community.