Pat Thompson, parent of a Friends School of Minnesota 2008 graduate, was a guest in the 1st and 2nd grade Prairie classroom this week. She reflects on her visit:

When I donated a box of costume jewelry to Friends School of Minnesota, I didn’t expect to end up meeting with five 6-year-olds to discuss cameos and class rings.

It started out pretty simple. My daughter Ruby and I cleaned out her room this summer as she prepared to return for her sophomore year in college. “What about this jewelry box?” I asked her. “Keep or give away?”

She made a frowny face, but acknowledged that she didn’t really need to keep it. We decided to give it to Friends School of Minnesota, which she attended for nine years. Maybe they could use it in the dress-up area in Extended Day, or in art class.

A few weeks later, I got a call from Annamary, the school secretary. It turned out the first and second grade Prairie classroom was approaching their learning this year as detectives, and their teacher, Sally Wiedeman, had come to the office looking for something mysterious she could give the kids to investigate. The jewelry box was the perfect thing.

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The students examined the box and discussed it for weeks before even opening it, I’m told. Now they wanted to ask me some questions about where it had come from.
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When I met with the class today, I found out that their investigation of the box had led them to form three groups: one to make up imaginary stories about its contents, a second to detail and quantify the nature of its contents, and a third to find out its real story, its history.
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Isn’t that an amazing reflection of different types of learning and creative expression? Humanities and fiction, science and math, and history. Each one valued, encouraged, and allowed to run its course with support from teachers.

The five students in the “real story” group asked me questions: Why did I give the box? Where had it come from originally? Which one was my favorite piece of jewelry, or was my daughter’s favorite? Did I think any of the jewels were real?

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The box contained clip-on earrings and rings, lots of rhinestones, a 60s-era enamel flower pin, a long strand of pearls, a black and gold cameo, and a 1982 high school class ring from Columbia Heights. Each piece was lovingly examined by the students, some tried on or untangled.

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Too soon our time together ended. But I left with a new love and respect for Friends School, which is so much what a school should be, and so unlike schools like this one (Success Academy in New York, http://dianeravitch.net/2013/10/04/mole-in-success-academy-speaks) that drills its students incessantly to do well on standardized tests.
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Reading about Success Academy’s methods on the same day I visited with the inquisitive, alive students at Friends School almost made me cry. Once again, I’m so glad my child got the chance to go to Friends School of Minnesota.

– Pat Thompson, parent of Ruby (FSM Class of 2008)