Death Valley, USA. That’s what I kept thinking about this past Wednesday evening while at our annual Family Night that features our Art Show, drama performances, book fair, and middle school Project-Based Learning Expo. Before you think that odd, hear me out because there is something incredible happening there right now, and I think it provides us fabulous insight into who our students are and what they need.
Most people know Death Valley as being the hottest place on Earth. It also happens to be the driest and lowest place in North America. It only averages about two inches of rain per year. It’s a location defined by extreme conditions, which make it difficult for most plants to survive.
When we think of Death Valley, we often conjure images like this:
Which is why what’s happening now is so awesome. For the past couple months, areas of Death Valley have looked like this:
The famously arid landscape is now blanketed with wildflowers. A sea of brilliant gold and violet. This only occurs on rare occasion and under perfect conditions. It’s being referred to as a Super Bloom, and has become such an exciting event that it even earned it’s own hashtag on social media: #SuperBloom.
So what does this have to do with our kids? I think the Death Valley story is one of hope. It’s also about truth. It provides us indisputable evidence from the natural sciences that environmental conditions decide how well and if organisms grow or not. In one interview, a long-time park ranger reflected on what he’s learned from this Death Valley phenomena. He said, “There are so many seeds out there just waiting to sprout. Just waiting to grow.” The same applies to our students. When a student is struggling, society too often looks first for what’s deficient in the child. This is like blaming the wildflowers for not growing! That’s easy to do if you just ignore the fact that it’s 120°F outside with no rain. Obviously it isn’t the flowers’ fault. Their seeds are magnificent and ready. Instead, we should look to the environment.
Let’s bring this back to Assets. What I saw last Wednesday night was nothing short of its own #SuperBloom. Our walls and campus were bursting with creativity and excellence. Students were showcasing their fine art projects and dramatic arts skills, while the middle schoolers also presented learning that they’ve been engaged with all year. It served as a reminder to what the faculty get to see everyday – our students thrive within the appropriate environment. There are no limits to the talents, accomplishments and potential of our kids. Likewise, in a mismatched environment, the opposite is true. For our students, the proper environment often includes conditions such as, multisensory structured language instruction, proper accommodations, an individualized approach, highly trained faculty who accept and affirm them as both individuals and learners, an integrated and strength-based curriculum, and loving family who are committed to them on this journey together.
I hope you take the time to look at the photos below and marvel like I do at what our beautiful, brilliant and wildest of flowers accomplished this year.
About the Author
Ryan Masa is the K-8 Principal at Assets School in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Pingback: “Fountains of Creative Activity” – Family Night 2017 | Assets School K-8 Principal Blog
June 15, 2016 at 11:46 am
this happens in Arizona too, where the seeds only come to life every few years with the right rain and conditions. Lucky enough to be there to show my wife and daughter a few years back as the cactus get the most beautiful blankets to go to sleep with at night, because it gets cold in the desert at night. The colors were amazing, and these deserts are some of the most beautiful in the world like dormant kids ready to BLOOM
May 10, 2016 at 11:33 pm
What a wonderfully worded tribute to our Assets ohana! Mahalo nui, Mr. Masa. I’m honored and blessed to be part of the Assets community!
May 6, 2016 at 8:39 pm
Such a beautiful analogy! Not only do the Assets students bloom, but they seem to be thriving in the environment provided by Assets! I was truly amazed by the artistic creativity presented on Family Night. Kudos to the entire staff at Assets for all that they do!
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May 6, 2016 at 7:30 pm
Thank you for all that you do. I completely agree, our children are uniquely beautiful and can do anything, especially in the right environment.
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May 8, 2016 at 7:44 pm
May 6, 2016 at 10:56 am
Wow, beautiful comparison to Superbloom. I enjoyed the ranger’s quote about the seeds ready to sprout, given the proper conditions to grow. It’s all so true and we are so fortunate to be a part of it.
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May 6, 2016 at 10:57 am
Thanks Jon! I appreciate your support.