Originally posted May 4, 2016
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 every day – 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.