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Together 3.31.23

March 31, 2023 | Nancy Van Epps

by Head of School, Abby Hall Choi

In last week’s blog, I talked about the fourth and fifth grade’s field trip to the National Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan. The excursion was an addendum to their STEAM study of Native Americans. At the museum, they gleaned information about their assigned region of the country’s environment, shelter, food, customs, technology, and the arts through observation of artifacts on display. They experienced firsthand the innovations that indigenous people developed to solve their challenges.

Fifth grade student Kira, who was focusing on the Plains, admired the homespun doll from her region that featured beads and clothing from animal skins. Inspired by their handmade musical instruments, she noted that, like her, they enjoyed playing music and dancing. Addison, whose concentration was on the peoples of the Great Basin, liked a decoy duck with real feathers designed and built by people in her region.

In addition to this academic study, students were also asked to consider a thornier subject: How do museums acquire their objects and artwork? Have the curators conducted provenance research on the materials? Should museums keep these pieces or are they ethically obligated to return them to their countries of origin? 

You may well wonder why we would trouble our young students with such a complex and troubling issue over and above their scholarly pursuits. At Mustard Seed, we believe in the capability of children as well as their right to experience the full range of emotions.

A quote often mistakenly attributed to C.S. Lewis or J.J.R. Tolkien is actually a paraphrase of a reflection by theologian G. K. Chesterton:

Fairy tales do not introduce children to the notion of dragons. Children already know that the dragon exists. The child has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.


Seventh Grade Teacher Mr. Harris often reads books aloud to his literature classes. In this way, students have the opportunity to experience stories together regardless of their reading level. Last year, he narrated Richard Connell’s short story, The Most Dangerous Game. Set in a luxurious estate on a deserted island in the 1920s, the action follows a big-game hunter protagonist as he (and the reader!) slowly realize that his host’s favorite hobby is hunting people. 

Because Mr. Harris is always accessible to students and actually looking for them to raise their hands during a reading, the class can discuss and tackle difficult subjects as a group. They have an open door to interrupt the reading, sharing their views and support on challenging topics. 

In a similar fashion, we do not shy away from the heavier Bible stories of Lent in worship. After the reading, we talk about and reflect on them together. With our preschool students, we do not shy away from difficult emotions like disappointment, fear, and anger in spaces like the playground. Students are encouraged to identify their emotions and then provided with strategies to deal with them.

Our goal is to walk through those experiences with the child. In equipping our students to be tomorrow’s Changemakers, we intentionally point them toward agency and hope—their own St. George. In other words, our students feel empowered and have the strategies to slay challenges that they will inevitably encounter in the future.

Nancy Van Epps

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