Summer of Firsts

| September 15, 2014

Home to work, this is a summer of firsts; lovely lemonade stand to foldable four-point crab trap, experiment we go: there’s dog walking (for a puggle named Jennifer); horseback riding with Magic, Dock, and Bequita; an oyster harvest at Peconic Bay; walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on surely the hottest day; and tour of Four Freedoms Park, where we discover a colony of cats in Renwick Ruin!

June launches the Summer Book Club. We vote to read The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole: Aged 13 3/4, by the late English writer and humorist Sue Townsend, and then Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt, debut American novelist living in the English countryside. Our choices are coming-of-age, set in the 1980s– the former book, in northern England, the latter, in New York City and Westchester County. Love, loss, poetry, and art are shared themes, infused with the adolescent spirit — and angst — of yearning for wisdom and light.

Guests from Humboldt University of Berlin help us explore dimensions of youth media and culture. Focusing on the urban environment, their intent is to build an international research network in the field of children’s and youth literature and media. Cities and diversity paint the backdrop, and we listen, fascinated, as German students, fluently present their diverse projects and papers in English  — and sign, international, about the significance of Def Poetry Jam.

Building on the international research network, we post news displays about the publication of The Catcher in the Rye, Capture of Anne Frank, and observance of International Youth Day. Another exciting first is the Everett Café performance of teen vocalist-pianist Chanel Andrews, preceded by the film talk, Ten9Eight Shoot for the Moon, a documentary about teenage entrepreneurs.

July confirms the Power of Conversation, an enlightening symposium held at Columbia University and moderated by Ron Gross, author of Socrates Way and Peak Learning, among other works. We present on the program of Socratic Conversations; display a comprehensive selection of  great books; and conduct Part II of the symposium, with an emphasis on Designing Ways to Talk Together for Greater Enjoyment & Effectiveness. We incorporate vialogues to enrich the conversation virtually.

In August we look back, pondering the connection between the American artist Normal Rockwell and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Rockwell’s phenomenally successful oil paintings of 1943 depict the Four Freedoms: a man, publically speaking; folk earnestly praying; children being tucked in; a family gathering around a turkey feast. At the national park, we read about the fundamental human rights articulated by FDR in his 1941 State of the Union address — Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear  — while we consider the historical context and eternal truths. We see a cormorant resting on the rock, the new Freedom Tower in the skyline, and Gottesman Libraries, tucked uptown into the Manhattan morning.

Images:

Horses by M. Venden (circa 1955), from The Ziegfled Collection of International Children’s Art, Courtesy of Teachers College, Columbia University

Lemonade for Sale, by Holly (2014)

Education Program Summer 2014 Offerings Attendees
Book Club 3 9
Film Talks 1 6
Instructional Offerings 7 48
Socratic Conversations 2 62
Musical Performances 9 n/a
News Displays 11 n/a
Exhibitions 1 n/a
Total 34 125