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Woodland Star School

September 2016 Newsletter

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Welcome to the sixth year of Woodland Star School! We are so excited to welcome new and returning students, staff, and parents to our flourishing community. As a small school in Tigoni, we are dependent on the well-being and growth of our community. With the stability we now feel from five years of community building, Woodland Star is no longer just an alternative to the large, busy schools in the centre of Nairobi. We are becoming much more: an environmentally focused, avant-garde, and globally aware establishment of excellence. We are so proud of how far we’ve come, and we’re even more enthusiastic about the direction we’re heading.

Growth Mindset

While we have Village Rules for the community, we are actively incorporating “growth” mindset in our classrooms to teach the importance of self-value. As opposed to “fixed” mindset, which only recognizes weakness, “growth” mindset recognizes vulnerability and the potential for change. Mindset Works, a website dedicated to research initiated by Dr. Carol Dweck, says that “those who believe their abilities are malleable are more likely to embrace challenges and persist despite failure.” For example, six years ago, we could have told ourselves that a small school in Tigoni would never work. We probably wouldn’t be where we are now if we had that mindset.

Connectedness, Belonging, and Village Rules

Woodland Star has always been a small school, and we want to stay a connected school throughout periods of growth. According to the District Administration Magazine, small schools enforce connectedness and unity in the student body. With greater connectedness, a school not only offers more security, but empowers students to realize and activate their innate passions.

Adding to this, the American Psychological Association states that small schools offer a place of belonging to students of minority, students who ask difficult questions of identity, and students who are “at risk for feeling alienated or isolated from others.” Based on global trends alone, small schools seem optimal for third culture children. As we welcome more members to our community each year, Woodland Star will stay a connected school by continuing to implement our philosophy of community. In alignment with our philosophy, we are establishing Village Rules (see attached) to shape all relationships at Woodland Star School, on educational, social, and administrative levels. We want our students to realize the value of community in the importance of environmental conservation, peaceful conflict resolution, and individual success.

Holistic Education and the Power of Story

Besides a growth mindset, we are focusing on child-centered education, allowing us to provide holistic education through integrative curriculum and multi-age classrooms. Scholar Base defines holistic education as academic, social, and emotional growth through studying subjects that reflect the connectedness of themes in the world. Scholar Base also states that holistic education is “attuned to each child’s individual persona and learning style” due to the flexibility it generates. At Woodland Star, we believe in providing children with a range of subjects in which to find their passion, from sports to mathematics to performing arts. As partners of the Anne Frank Project, we not only believe that every one of our students has innate passion, but also a beautiful story of realizing his or her passion. This year, we will continue to develop our arts department, providing students with greater vehicles of expression to enable the powerful sharing of story.

Awareness of our Global Presence

We want our students to be aware of the world around us, and learn how to engage with it creatively and sustainably. Students will study Peace Heroes, a highly effective curriculum in East Jerusalem that teaches the urgency and value of peaceful change through a medium of history and geography. Woodland Star is experiencing connectivity with other parts of the world, developing partnerships from East Jerusalem to Buffalo, New York. This little school in Tigoni is now truly a part of the global educational community.

Wild Wednesdays

Our first two Wild Wednesday Assemblies were wild, and we hope the trend continues! So far, we’ve introduced two awards available to our student body: the Green Giant Award and the Peace Hero Award. The Green Giant Award goes to one student who shows outstanding initiative and creativity in making Woodland Star a greener, more
environmentally-conscious school. Every week, the Peace Hero Award is given to one student from each class level who demonstrates notable effort to keep a peaceful dynamic at our school.

On our second Wild Wednesday, we were privileged to have Stratton Hatfield come from Naboisho Conservancy to talk about his work with martial eagles. Who knew that tracking software is detailed enough to figure out if an eagle is eating something?

We’re aiming for Wild Wednesdays to be community events, meaning that parents are most definitely invited to participate in the assemblies from 2:00 to 2:30 pm. We’re working on a solution for more comfortable seating.

Harvest Festival and Open House

This year’s Harvest Festival is coming up on October 29! A budding tradition, this festival is a huge event for the Woodland Star community. While children (and adults, if you like) can go on hayrides or get face-painted, there is also live music and an organic vegetable market. Many vendors will be selling health products and other goods mainly sourced in Kenya. It’s a fabulous time to discover local food, talent, and businesses while connecting to the Woodland Star community.

Simultaneously, Woodland Star School has an Open House during which prospective parents and festival attendees are invited to get information on the school. If you know of anyone who is interested in Woodland Star, the Harvest Festival is an opportune time to introduce them to Woodland Star and our wonderful community.

The festival begins at 11:00 am and ends at 5:00 pm on the Brackenhurst campus. It costs 200 shillings per child
and 350 shillings per adult.

Parental Permission for Photographs

In order to share photographs of our students on social media, it is necessary for us to have parental permission to post pictures of each child. All of our photographs arise completely from the intention to capture the atmosphere and spirit of Woodland Star. We are protective of our media; all of our documents stay within the Woodland Star system, unless a parent requests to be sent a copy of a photograph of his or her child. Permission forms will be going out at the end of September in conjunction with our Child Protection Policy. We kindly ask for punctuality in the return of this form. Until then, we will be asking permission via email. We understand sensitivity in this area, and our priority will always be safe regulation of media.

Here’s to another month of connectedness and growth!

We love watching the day-to-day growth of our school. The small victories of every day and the memories of each month reflect everything that makes our school so special. They are proof of just how genuine and dynamic our community is.

These are the moments, however little they may be, that motivate us to work harder, to never give up learning, and to achieve more than we ever thought possible. These are the moments that drive us to excellence.


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Hello Muna Tree Village!

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Mrs. Sjoberg is the leader of the Muna Tree Village (Middle Years).

“The muna is probably the tallest (over fifty metres tall) indigenous tree in Kenya. The best place to see it is in the tea fields of Kiambu and Muranga districts. There it stands out like an isolated sentinel marking the way through the tea. The muna has a beautiful, fluted stem trunk; it is this fluted stem trunk that made muna so important, when the tea area was dense forest. The distinct stem was a key path marker and meeting point for travelers. When clearing the forest, people were very reluctant to cut the tree down, so it has remained, towering over everything else in the tea country. Enough trees were cut for Kenya Trees and Shrubs to list it as good timber. Its best use, perhaps, is to be left alone for its appearance. The muna is found in the wet highland forests of Mt. Kenya, the Aberdares, Mau Summit and North to the Cherangani Hills. The muna seed requires a humid, shady environment with thick humus in which to germinate… Muna must now be regarded as a rare species and is considered endangered.”

Muna Tree Village, the oldest in our school – the tree you’ve chosen is the tallest one in our ecosystem. We see you, as well, standing tall in our school community; other students and classes look up to you. We charge you to be role models in our school, and to stand proud and strong for your own ideals as well as the ones that we have agreed to as a school. We pledge to remember that each one of you is rare and unique, and although you are strong, you also need to be nurtured delicately. You are beautiful in your individuality; we can learn from you, and you will one day be the sentinel adults who will stand as markers in our world.

Hello Jackal Village!

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Ms. Donna is the alpha of the Jackal Class (Primary Years Three). The jackal is a member of a canine family. It can be found in Africa, the Middle East, India and in the southeastern parts of Europe. Jackals can survive in deserts, savannas, grasslands, marshes, bush-lands, woodlands and mountains. There are three species of jackals: the golden jackal the side-striped jackal and the black-backed jackal. They differ in types of habitat, in size, and in color of their fur, but they all have bushy tails. Jackals are opportunistic feeders, meaning that they will eat whatever is available. Jackals like to eat snakes and other reptiles, smaller gazelles, sheep, insects, fruit, berries and sometimes even grass. Jackals can live a solitary life, work as a couple, or be a part of a large group, called a pack. Jackals are fiercely territorial. They are also very vocal animals and use a wide variety of sounds to communicate. Their most notable sounds include yips, howls, growls and “owl-like hoots.” A siren-like howl is produced when food is located.  

Jackal Village, we believe that, like the jackal, you can live in so many places and can survive just about anywhere, especially with the skills you are learning in school! We charge you to relish your adaptability and to enjoy all of the different opportunities that you have. We pledge to remember that sometimes you are quiet, but sometimes you can be very vocal, and that this is important for you to learn, to grow, and to communicate well.

Hello Grass Snakes Village!

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Ms. Brittany’s class is known as the Grass Snakes Village (Primary Years Two), which reminds us that there are so many different and important forms of life in our ecosystem. Likewise, there are so many different and important kinds of people in our community. Some people don’t like snakes, but snakes are important and we can learn many things from them! Grass Snakes are nonvenomous snakes that live in woodlands, grasslands, and marshes, near ponds and streams, and can live in a variety of climates and altitudes. Grass snakes are usually brown or green in color and have rings of black and yellow behind the head. They are active during the day. They are carnivores, swallowing their prey of small amphibians, mammals and birds in one bite! They use their sight and their excellent hearing to hunt, and like to bask in the sun after a meal. Grass snakes apply several defensive strategies when they are threatened. They can lay motionless and pretend to be dead. They can release a foul-smelling substance, or when they are cornered, grass snakes can hiss and strike at their opponent with their heads. They are also excellent swimmers and fast-moving animals!

Grass Snakes Village, we don’t know if you are all excellent swimmers, but we do know that you are all fast-moving! We believe that you have and can learn strategies, like the grass snake, to find solutions to your problems. We charge you to keep your focus, to move fast to solve your problems, and to apply the strategies you’ve learned in school . We pledge to try to keep up with you, remembering that you are active learners who are developing lots of skills to be ready for anything!

Hello Mugumo Village!

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Welcome to the Mugumo Village (Primary Years One)!

Ms. Mira’s and Ms. Laura’s class is named after the Mugumo tree, which is a special, sacred tree known to the Kikuyu community and many others in Kenya. Its name was inherited from the ancestors, and the ancestors inherited it from their ancestors; in fact, some people believe that the spirits of the ancestors hover around and in this tree. The Mugumo tree is also known as the strangler fig tree, and it makes its home on another tree until the other tree is pushed out. When the sticky seeds from a strangler fig cling to clefts high up in another tree’s canopy, they develop as vines that grow on another plant. However, they are not parasites. The tiny little fig plant must work very hard to get all that it needs to grow, until finally it has built its root system and can stand on its own. Mugumos are rare trees found only in big forests like those of Mount Kenya. The Kikuyu people inhabiting the slopes of Mount Kenya consider this tree their shrine and use it to commemorate their land’s independence.

Mugumo Village, we believe that you can represent the ideals of the Mugumo tree in our community. We note that, as you begin these next steps of your school journey, you are growing in independence and putting down strong roots. We charge you to keep building your skills of independence, and to continue to work hard to become your own person. We pledge to respect you as you learn and grow into the person you are meant to be – an important part of our Woodland Star community!

Hello Baobab Village!

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The Baobab Village (Early Years Two) is lead by Ms. Berit and Ms. Esther. Baobab trees are amazingly useful, and extract from them can smell good, soften our skin, and even nourish us with Vitamin C! The fruit of the baobab is edible and the tree is known as the world’s largest succulent. The crevices of the baobab tree collect rainwater, which provides water for people and animals; even its roots can be tapped as a way to get water. The baobab tree is known as the tree of life. It can provide shelter, clothing, food, and water for animals and humans. The cork-like bark and huge stem are fire resistant and are used for making cloth and rope. The leaves are used as condiments and medicines. Some people think that baobab trees look like they were planted upside-down. When baobab trees are young, they are quite small for several years; however, the biggest trees in Africa are the baobab trees of South Africa. Some trees there used as houses, barns, pubs and even a dairy!

Baobab Class, we believe that you, although small now, will one day grow into great people. We note that, while sometimes you can turn our lives upside-down with your energy, you have so many things to teach us with your versatility, creativity and curiosity. We charge you to continue to grow your ideas and help us find new and creative paths in life. We pledge to nurture your growth patiently, knowing that good things take time to develop. Now you depend on us, but one day we will depend on you!

Hello Acacia Village!

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Welcome to the Acacia Village (Early Years One).

We are Ms. Esther and Ms. Rachel, and we lead the smallest class at Woodland Star. Acacia trees are one of the most iconic trees of Africa, and feature in countless silhouette photos of the veld in South Africa to the savannah of East Africa. There are over 1,300 species of acacia trees. They provide food and habitat for a variety of animals while protecting themselves with their thorns and poison. Some acacia trees can even whistle. One type of acacia, known as the giraffe thorn or camel thorn tree, can live up to two hundred years. Its tap root can grow down to sixty meters, allowing it to access deep groundwater and survive in extremely dry climates. This tree is resilient, and reminds us that small children, too, are resilient. The most common acacia here in East Africa is the umbrella thorn acacia, whose umbrella-shaped dome enables it to capture the largest amount of sunshine with the tiniest of leaves.

We believe that our littlest ones here are like our tiniest little Acacia leaves. Acacia Class, we note that you are the youngest among us, yet you bring so much light into our world. We charge you to grow deep and well, like the giraffe thorn acacia, so that you may live and thrive for a long, long time. We pledge to have the patience to watch you grow, to help you find deep reservoirs of hope that will sustain you, and to recognize that the smallest among us can bring us the most sunshine.