Off and Running!

Posted by: Chad Cianfrani - Head of School on Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

The Sacred Waters outside Standing Rock, Peking University, dormitory bathrooms, the Republic of Georgia, mitre saws, and approximately 70,000 bees spoke in unison within the Oakwood community this summer. Seemingly disparate activities, projects, adventures, modes of research and professional development opportunities resonated with a common theme this summer; one of engagement, energy, curiosity, and a sense that our faculty and staff are ‘all in’.

And as we pause (just for a second) at the start of this academic year, it is appropriate to look back on the summer work which informs our curriculum, inspires our teaching and gives perspective to our work.

During the summer months, faculty travelled extensively to areas a far-reaching as Standing Rock and the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, to Peking University in Beijing, to Wadgassen, Germany and Tbilisi, in the Republic of Georgia.  During their travels, they presented research, attended conferences, drew inspiration, created art, and built relationships. Their intellectual curiosity coupled with an innate desire to connect helps define our Oakwood community. Their summer work translates directly into curriculum and elevates the learning environment across the board. It draws upon a diversity of thought and reiterates the importance of a global perspective within education.

 Closer to home this summer, our faculty ran multiple programs, camps and workshops. Local middle school girls challenged themselves during two weeks of science and math (SAM) camp run by our math/science chair and our community outreach coordinator.  Smaller budding scientists grades 2nd through 4th spent a week on campus engaged in everything from soldering LED “Harry Potter” light wands, to mummifying Gummy Bears.  In its 16th year, the Student Youth Advocacy Program (SYOP), engaged regional youth in an immersive multi-week program focused on community engagement, social activism, and political advocacy.  No less than eight local and state representatives joined the students on campus, in the city of Poughkeepsie and in Albany.  A few faculty, (as seen in the photo) looked no further than their front steps for inspiration.  Armed with a vision (and a healthy dose of professional design and construction experience) they embarked on a multi-tiered exterior deck project. This space set upon the concrete pad of a 1940’s era water tower, provides an exterior gathering, eating, and learning space for the girls of Newlin dorm.

Other on-campus families tended to the four-season greenhouse and shared in the bounty of thousands of tomatoes, bushels of basil, cucumbers, okra, eggplant, greens, and much more.   The approximately 70,000 Oakwood bees quietly buzzed about as well, darting between Willow, Red Maple, Tulip trees and campus flowers producing our first batch of delicious campus honey. Meanwhile our maintenance staff continued a multi-year facilities improvement campaign. This summer, while maintaining the 55-acre campus, they helped with the redesign of a fully ADA compliant entrance to Craig dormitory and a renovation of the dorm’s north wing bathrooms.  The facilities team was also inspired by student voice as they installed four water bottle filling stations in our dorms, gymnasium and academic buildings.  These stations have already saved the equivalent of over 25,000 bottles worth of plastic containers!

Some of our faculty and staff bring with them a global perspective, other a local knowledge of their Hudson Valley community. Some possess the ability to design and construct patio decks, others the ability to install new kitchens and bathrooms, some inspire students through mathematics, the arts, language and sport, while others relish the smell of compost and coax heirloom basil and tomatoes to grow in our gardens.

I feel blessed to work with colleagues that inspire me daily. And such is the bond and power of an Oakwood education.  Something truly spiritual occurs when the right mix of faculty who are ‘all in’, who are engaged and who love their work combine with a student body willing and eager to be active learners.   As is often heard in class, one of the critical first steps to ensuring success is to simply show up. We demand of ourselves to be present in the moment and to fully participate in the change we wish to see. This serves us as well in algebra class as it does in the larger society.

So, as we embark on Oakwood’s 222nd year and our 98th year on our Poughkeepsie campus, I see a community committed to our mission, excited in our direction and optimistic for what is possible. We continue to envision and realize campus enhancements, some modest and some transformative in scope. We continue our intentional work inside and outside the classroom. And as we celebrate our victories and reflect upon lessons learned, Oakwood continues to evolve, strengthen and grow as a community. We are excited for the 2018-2019 year and the road ahead!

Chad Cianfrani

Head of School