Changes Improve Family Weekend

During the second weekend in October, Columbus Day weekend (for Americans) or Thanksgiving Weekend (for Canadians), Northwood School hosted the annual “Family Weekend” on campus. This year, Northwood added a few activities for students and their families, including an Innovation + Design Workshop, a reception for International Parents and Students and a LEAP Program Question and Answer on Saturday.

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Led by Ms. Jill Walker, Ms. Mavis Miller and Ms. Linda D’Arco, the Innovation + Design Workshop gave families some firsthand experience with this exciting new class. “We held two Innovation + Design workshops for Northwood families during Family Weekend,” Ms. D’Arco said. “Our objective was to share the type of work that our students are doing and engage our guests in that kind of creative thinking and prototyping. We made eleven new inventions in the workshops. They are all based on adapting the design of a standard wheelchair to help its user perform activities they otherwise couldn’t perform. Workshop participants designed an umbrella mechanism, a chair that turns into a trolley for working under cars, a gyroscopic chair, and a device for raising and lowering the foot rests, among others. It was energizing to see all those families engaging in meaningful problem solving together!”

The Reception for International Parents and Students was also a new activity for Northwood Family Weekend, and Dr. Laura Finnerty-Paul was the leader for that program. Dr. Paul said “This year we hosted the first Head of School Reception for international families.  It provided us with an opportunity to meet the families of some of our international students in a small group setting to understand some of the unique opportunities Northwood provides their students, and the challenges they face being so far from home.  We look forward to the event growing in the coming years.”

The LEAP Program Question and Answer was another new activity for families. Ms. Fagan was able to give answers to the questions from parents with students in grades 9-11 and give information about the different LEAP course offerings that students have for Spring of 2017. There are 13 courses ranging from Green Building and Design, Art of the Adirondack Great Camps, Mountain Rescue, Geothermal Sustainability in Iceland, and Marine Ecology in the Bahamas, as well as many others.

While most parents are not on campus everyday and see their child grow and develop at a boarding school, Mr. Donatello is fortunate enough to experience it all. Mr. Donatello is the athletic trainer at Northwood and has a daughter (Sara Donatello ‘18) who attends Northwood School and plays hockey, so his perspective of Family Weekend is a little different, compared to parents who live many hours away. “Family weekend for a faculty member with a child at school is still very useful,” Mr. Donatello said. “Sara spends so much time at school that the weekend is a great time for me to connect the dots in relation to what I hear her say about classes and how she is doing.  The reality of her academic standing here at school is clear by the end of the weekend.  I love having Sara around all day.  I consider myself lucky.  I like being the ‘Northwood dad’ to all her friends that have families far away.  Next year it will be even better with two daughters here.  This is what I have been waiting all these years for.  We’re very excited.”

For parents who don’t see their children every day, their viewpoints of Family Weekend was a little different. Mrs. Christine DiCesare whose twin boys (AJ and Christian) are PGs, had nothing but positive things to say about Family Weekend. On a phone interview she said, “I loved that unlike school events at other schools, I got to meet the teachers and see the style of the classroom and see the way the teacher is when in a classroom setting with students during class time. It was extraordinary. The interactivity of the classroom truly struck me. I was given a guitar when I went to my son’s guitar class. I really loved the open time slots to go and talk to the teachers if you wanted to. I loved the interactive style that was portrayed by all faculty and students. It was just a great weekend overall.”

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