Why I Support the Annual Fund by Sacha Vignieri


                                          Let nature be your teacher” William Wordsworth

I am a biologist, more specifically; I am an ecologist, as is my husband. We ecologists study how species in nature interact with other species and their environment. Though ecology has many important scientific and societal impacts, most ecologists became such due to a love of nature. When Griffin was born we initiated him into this life, from working in the garden with him strapped into a baby wrap days after he was born, to carrying him in a back-pack during field work on beaches in Florida, to teaching him how to identify chanterelles and pick huckleberries, to catching spiders, lizards, snakes, frogs, mice and whatever else we can get our hands on. This interaction with nature, and learning what it has to teach us, through experience, is fundamental to our lives.
My own educational experience was grounded firmly in public schools and I had always believed the same would be true for my son. When we began the process of searching for schools, it became clear to me that schools are not the same as they were when I was a child. I was disheartened by the limited time children spent outside and expectations that they suppress their natural urge to learn through movement, play, and interaction.

Creating music to accompany a poem.

Lake and Park became known to us almost by accident, but I can’t have imagined a better fit for Griffin and our family. The school’s own focus on learning through experience, time in nature, and play has not only allowed Griffin to blossom, but has allowed a community of children to blossom and carry these profound experiences with them. The approaches employed by the school, to develop minds and foster learning, produces children that are engaged, confident, curious, resilient, and compassionate.  One only has to listen to the speeches of any of the graduates in the past few years to understand the gift this school is to the children, parents, and community. I regularly feel grateful that we were lucky enough to find it; it is a truly unique and wonderful place.

Exploring electricity during a study of physics.
Falling in love with an independent school is not the same as being able to pay for one. Tuition costs can represent a significant portion of a family’s income, and for all families it is a serious commitment. Given that we all pay tuition, the question often arises, why contribute to the Annual Fund as well? There are many reasons why Annual Fund contributions aren’t just added to tuition. The most important one, in my opinion, is our school’s commitment to maintaining tuition at a below-market, broadly accessible rate. This fosters economic diversity and emphasizes the fact that parent’s choose Lake and Park for its child centered, experiential focus, not an elite status.  Despite the fact that it remains separate for this, and other, reasons, money that comes in as part of the Annual Fund is essential to the learning experiences our children engage in every day. For example, these funds support providing teachers with benefits and professional development, allow for the purchase of quality classroom materials which support the thematic studies, and allow the school to invite artists and experts to extend and enrich the studies. Most importantly to our family, they help to facilitate the maintenance of nature exploration as a fundamental component of the curriculum. 
Salmon release at Issaquah Creek.

“[What is the] the extinction of a condor to a child who has never seen a wren” Robert Michael Pyle

Whale watching trip to Port Townsend.

As a part of my current position as an editor for a scientific journal, I am regularly faced with sad news about our environment and the species with which we share the planet. Similar statements could be made about human conditions across the globe. The only way to ultimately tackle these concerns is through education of our children. Our school is producing humans that are not only well educated in the traditional sense, but who care about the natural world and social justice. I contribute to the Annual Fund because, to me, Lake and Park represents the best of this education and I am fully committed to supporting its mission to prepare our children to be the future.

Running and play on the boulevard.

Source: Ampersand