AIS Reflects on the Core Value of Respect

Respect for Self, Respect for Others, and Respect for What We Share 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Our fourth and final CORE day brought students, staff, and faculty together to reaffirm our commitments as individuals, and as AIS community members, to treat all people with understanding and dignity, as well as to welcome differences in backgrounds, perspectives, and cultures. 

What does respect mean? Cross-divisional morning assemblies touched on the meaning of respect—the feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. In the Lower School, PreK, Kindergarten, and 1st grade met with their senior buddies, a favorite activity for both the seniors and the little owls! Lower School activities touched upon the concept of kindness to oneself allowing kindness to others. The students also made “breathing wands,” which are self-care tools that promote children’s emotional well-being by teaching them breathing techniques, positive affirmations, and mindfulness. 

The Lower Schoolers also gathered to celebrate our annual Dolly Gaul Day, an Agnes Irwin tradition honoring Mrs. Marion “Dolly” Gaul, who taught in the Lower School for 35 years and was a leader in community service. The girls wrote down their hopes for the future and buried them under a “wishing tree” — which this year is a beautiful bed of Miss Kim Lilacs — to symbolize the pursuit of their dreams. 

Over in the Middle and Upper Schools, the day began with a nod to Earth Day with presentations by Maeve Martinelli ’27 and Eco Council members focused on doing one’s part to take care of and respect planet Earth. Later, they participated in unity workshops during which they practiced calligraphy with the Asian Student Alliance, made Islamic art with the Middle Eastern Student Alliance, did a Passover scavenger hunt with the Jewish Student Union, and enjoyed a (very!) lively lesson in Latin American dance from the Hispanic Student Alliance. 

Afterwards, they viewed a short film, “Mary Ann Shadd Cary – Her Life and Legacy,” an oral history piece about Cary, an African American woman born in Delaware in 1823, who was an editor, educator, suffragette, and lawyer, and worked tirelessly to overcome race barriers. The remainder of the morning was spent in wellness activities, such as yoga, still life drawing, ultimate frisbee, tennis, and squash.

The school community then broke into “families'’ (groups of students, teachers, and staff) to participate in a team-building exercise. Gathered in circles, family members shared something special about themselves — from type of pet, to number of siblings, to a favorite sport or activity. With that, they handed the ball of yarn to someone else in the group who had that same special quality in common. The ball criss-crossed the circle, symbolically weaving connections throughout the group. At the end of the activity, the groups were left with yarn tying them all together! Later, on small, smooth rocks brought in from home gardens, neighborhoods, or even travels from spring break, students painted messages about what our school’s core values mean to them. The rocks became part of our Agnes Irwin campus gardens.
The day concluded with an all-school assembly where the school came together to focus on the core value of respect, and to conclude our year-long celebration of all of Agnes Irwin's core values.

Head of School Sally Keidel remarked, "When Agnes Irwin, our school’s founder, would stand at the door at the end of each day, she would ask students, ‘What did you do to make a difference today?’ My question to you is: How did you live into the core values today and every day? I love these core values because they help to unify and build our community. When CORE days were first envisioned, they were developed to build relationships across grade levels, divisions, and departments, to help us to share joy and celebrate school spirit, and to make sure that everyone thinks about what our values mean. It has been wonderful to connect in so many new ways over our CORE days celebrating Character, Community, Excellence, and Respect."

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