Both our 1st-4th grade and 5th-8th grade spring concerts have been a blast in the past two weeks. On Friday, May 17, we will host our High School Spring Showcase. The philosophy guiding our music program is consistent with our general approach to teaching.

The elementary through 8th grade program is required and based on Orff Schulwerk. Orff Schulwerk is an approach to music education established in the 1960s by German composer Carl Orff and his colleague, Gunild. The program employs elemental techniques such as imitation, echo, and ostinato. The objective is to build musicianship in every learner through the integration of music, movement, speech, and drama.

Effort and skill-building are what we emphasize here. Our music program is both experiential and inclusive: everyone participates. All students, regardless of age, interest, or ability have the opportunity to explore music and to perform.  

Early elementary students learn songs through movement, dance, and voice. As they develop skills with notation, ear training, and fine motor movement, they begin to incorporate more sophisticated instruments into their work. Third graders learn to use recorders and 4th grade ukuleles.         

By 5th grade, students choose a specific chromatic instrument like piano or guitar. By 7th grade, students are supported in specializing in an instrument, should they choose to do that, and the curriculum is focused more on forming musical bands. Singing is a fundamental practice for students in all grades. Music provides us with the opportunity to discover our feelings, to explore cooperative process, and to develop neural pathways that connect both hemispheres of the brain.  

In High School, music is no longer mandatory but continues to be an option for students in electives. HS students have four electives each year, and this year can choose from music, ceramics, woodshop, journalism, French, digital design, studio art, film studies, film making, theater, and dance.

At Oak Grove, students don’t audition or take required prerequisites to participate in band, art, and sports. Regardless of skill or experience, students are stretched beyond their natural inclination and given the opportunity to participate in all art forms as well as sports. Our teachers are highly skilled in differentiation and able to challenge some forward while simultaneously providing additional scaffolding to others.

At the upcoming HS Showcase, you will witness musicians, many playing a particular instrument for the first time this year, perform complicated songs like Free Falling, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Unchained Melody, as well as Mack the Knife; along with some uncomplicated melodic songs like Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby, Stand By Me, and Don’t Let Me Down.

The High School Spring Showcase will also include a dance performance and a student art exhibit including woodworking, ceramics, photography, and fine art. The artists, using many media, will showcase Hatch/Hanson/Rosulek-inspired delicate ceramics, abstracted landscape photography, and large-scale paintings. Woodworkers, having just learned how to use power and hand tools, will display wooden tables, spoons, and a lamp; journalists, some with English as a second language, have filled an eight-page newspaper with deeply personal reflections and relevant investigative reporting.

Music begins at Oak Grove in the Early Childhood Program with weekly singalongs and daily integration of informal singing and music-making. Our preschool and kindergarten students have opportunities to bring their singing to community events like Open House, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Earth Day celebrations.

At Oak Grove, every student has the opportunity to be a musician, an athlete, an artist, a scholar, while not being limited by any or all of these narrow concepts of identity. At Oak Grove, music practice along with the arts are crucial processes in the development of the “whole” child.

Camping Trips

Our spring trips have officially begun! Last week, the freshman and sophomore classes backpacked the Gene Marshall trail, beginning at Reyes Creek Campground in Lockwood Valley and ending at Rose Valley. They arrived safely home on Friday to warm showers and reports of ice cream and large amounts of pasta.

Our juniors are currently on day 7 of a 10-day expedition through the southwest—river rafting the Kern River near Sequoia National Forest, trekking through Death Valley, hiking up a portion of the Mt. Whitney Trail and traversing up to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park.

This past Thursday night, kindergarten students and their families camped on our athletic field. Together, they enjoyed bonfire stories, a sing-along, and roasted marshmallows in the darkness. This practice of spending the night at “school,” is where our students begin to develop camping skills (pitching a tent, sleeping outside, fire safety) while in a familiar and safe place with their family.

In the next few weeks, our students in 1st through 8th grades will travel progressively further away on increasingly more challenging trips. Immersive outdoor trips enhance learning through direct experiences. In early elementary, the camp-out moves away to Carpinteria, first with parents, then the following year, without parents. The students practice being with teachers and peers away from home, but geographically close.

In upper elementary, the focus moves to places further away with more physically challenging activities: group bike rides, longer hikes, and bouldering. Then they are off to our local forest carrying their own packs, swimming in water holes, and out of cell phone range. Our 7th and 8th graders travel by plane to other states to sleep in teepees, to river raft, and to study glacier science. In a couple of weeks, this group will head to the Canyonlands Field Institute in Moab, Utah. While there, they will participate in white water expeditions through ancient canyons and engage in active, meaningful, transformative, hands-on, outdoor curriculum that integrates science, history, literature, and art.

These trips are developmentally appropriate, with each building on the one before. Students practice essential life skills, gain a sense of agency and grit, and also deepen their relationship with the natural world.

For our parents, these trips offer an opportunity to practice trusting other adults to care for our children away from home. As I have shared here before, from the moment of birth our children begin growing away from us. Each moment brings new opportunities for children to gain confidence in their ability to be separate, for parents to trust that the child is capable of separating, and for both to trust that this separation is natural and safe. These trips allow the child and parent an ever-increasing practice in separating. There are things that cannot be learned conceptually—digging a hole in the wilderness to go to the bathroom, overcoming a fear of water or heights, pushing ourselves physically beyond what our mind believes is possible (just one more step), and, perhaps the most difficult of them all, letting a child grow away from us.

March 31, 2019

by Christina Sbarra

Self-Discovery: Making Space for What Really Counts

The recent college admissions scandal, dubbed Varsity Blues, hit the news just a few days before the release of Turning the Tide II, the second installment of a report on the college admissions process from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common Project.  As if part of a well-choreographed but tragic dance, a large portion of the report, entitled Ethical Parenting in the College Admissions Process, unabashedly calls out parents for “failing to prepare young people to be caring, ethical community members and citizens.”  According to students surveyed for the report, most parents place far more emphasis on their children getting into good colleges than on them being good people.  “In an effort to give their kids everything, these parents often end up robbing them of what counts.”

The report goes on to provide recommendations for parents guiding their teens through the college admissions process. Their first recommendation, ‘Keep the focus on your teen,’ centers around supporting the teen’s authenticity.   In order to be authentic, teens first need to know themselves.  In fact, identity formation is a primary facet of adolescence.  But when in the frantic years of clamoring to accumulate outstanding grades, AP credits, athletic awards, participation in clubs and leadership credentials, do these teens have time to get to know themselves?

Parents are not the only culprits here.  At risk of stating the obvious, Harvard itself is a major culprit.  In fact, Harvard is ironically leading the pack on both sides of this dilemma: as arguably the most elite university of them all (with a record low 4.5% acceptance rate this year) and also as head of a movement to re-write college admissions criteria.  Kudos to them for at least trying to be part of the solution.

All of the adults stewarding children through childhood play a role in this crisis and have the opportunity to be part of “turning the tide.”  In my mind, the best way for both parents and educators to support young people in the essential process of self-discovery and increasing independence is to get out of the way, to back-off, humbly taking our well-thought out agendas and our best intentions with us.  Schools can build in time in the regular schedule for pursuit of personal interests, for social interaction, and for quiet reflection. Parents can seek out and support these schools, eschewing questions about test scores, rankings, and college acceptances in favor of deep consideration of the culture of the school, the quality of the relationships, and the opportunities for self-discovery.  Together parents and teachers can build supportive communities committed to creating the space teens need to come to know themselves.

There are many elementary and high schools that intentionally provide opportunities for self-discovery.   Here are just a few inspiring examples from my own personal research this past year.

Oak Grove School in Ojai, California incorporates both time and space for a variety of contemplative practices into the regular weekly schedule and into the campus. These include meditation, council circles, quiet time communing with nature, and the 7th grade rocking chair circle pictured above.
www.oakgroveschool.org

Skorpeskolen Private School in Helsingor, Denmark offers Personal Time to students in the early grades and Talent Time to students in the upper grades.  These weekly periods provide opportunities to follow a curiosity, to pursue a personal passion, and to develop the capacity for sustained, deep focus on a self-directed project for an extended amount of time.  Open in Google Chrome for a translation of the website.
www.skorpeskolen.dk

The Green School in Bali, Indonesia identifies sustainability as one its primary values.  They believe that the practice of sustainability starts at the individual level.   For that reason, teachers are free to set aside all academic demands whenever an individual child needs extra social-emotional support.
www.greenschool.org/about/

You can access the full report from Harvard here.
Harvard’s class of 2023 acceptance rate reported in The Crimson.

You can view Christina Sbarra’s original post here.

» You can also read this article in context: 2017-18 Annual Report

 

One of my most memorable experiences growing up in India was that my twin sister and I would travel to Chennai during the warm days and cool nights in December. It was something we waited for eagerly, as we would get to stay at the beautiful 250-acre land of the Theosophical Society in Adyar wherein my family would attend the international convention that happens every year. Each year the convention has a theme where theosophists and avid learners of various disciplines would converge to hear lectures and have wonderful discussions. For us as children, we would be in this wonderful environment of learning but mostly focused on play and I had no idea that it was subconsciously having a great impact on my inner child. A theme from the convention has stayed with me over the years, “where YOU are, love is not” and I didn’t understand the impact it would have on me in my adult life.

When we came to Oak Grove to explore the school and community, Surya (my son, 11 at that time) and I were resistant as we did not want to leave our lovely home, community, friends in the Bay Area. My husband convinced us to explore the school and then to decide if we wanted to uproot our lives from the known and jump headlong into the unknown. We met with Andy, who embodies many wonderful things of the Oak Grove teacher culture and were very taken in by the honesty and simplicity of this Krishnamurti school. I remember sitting with Surya by the Pavilion and asking him about his thoughts/ feelings going through his mind. After voicing some of the positives and fears of moving to a new school, he said, “My heart says to stay in the Bay Area (because of my friends) but my gut says to come to this school”! I was stunned at the depth of his observation in himself and that he was able to articulate it so succinctly. I told my husband about this and we both knew at that time that this would be the right choice for him/us and applied to the school. Suffice to say, when Surya got accepted, we moved our lives, left all that was familiar and safe to us, and moved to Ojai.

They say (I don’t know who) that nothing good in life comes easy. We went through our struggles of moving, change of jobs, finding a home in Ojai, saying goodbyes to friends and I can say a year later that it has been completely worth it. Surya was welcomed, embraced by the class, teachers and school alike, and made connections with kids that I know will last a lifetime. The growth of the mind, the ease of the heart and the happiness of learning in a relaxed environment is reflected on Surya on most days after school. One day, in the middle of the year, he said, “I did not realize I was so stressed at Independent (his previous school) until I realized I wasn’t feeling the stress anymore.” When asked how he would describe the stress, he said that he felt the class energy was less about strict rules and more focused on learning and creativity. Every child goes through their own struggles (education, social relationship dynamics and peer pressure) in school irrespective of the greatness of the school but to hear that he was not stressed, my husband and I thought this was absolutely worth all the sacrifices we made as a family.

I realized after I moved to Ojai that the convention theme of many years ago, “where YOU are, love is not” would circle back as a theme of being more present and aware of one’s own self in the world of relationships. And that we as a family would get an opportunity to be in an environment to explore that self and be able to reflect and grow.

Oak Grove embraced us, reminded me that there are schools in this world that breed a culture of integrity, kindness, honesty, authenticity and most of all genuine empathy towards fellow human beings. My family and I are grateful for this wonderful experience of the Oak Grove school/community and look forward to the exciting years ahead in Surya’s experiences at the school.

Warmly,

Deepa Pulipati

From the Head of School

All of the Krishnamurti schools are located on large campuses of great natural beauty, with austere but comfortable classrooms. This is partly because the schools share an emphasis on relationship with and care for the natural world.

Yesterday at the May Gathering, a panel of students presented their experiences attending Oak Grove School, as it relates to its emphasis on a relationship with nature. The students ranged in age from elementary through high school, and included a former student. The panelists were thoughtful and articulate. They spoke eloquently about the importance of keeping Oak Grove’s campus natural and open with just a few rustic buildings. They shared their school experiences exploring the local meadows, ocean, rivers and forest. They spoke about traveling to the Grand Tetons, Zion Park, and India. Their stories were vivid and one could feel the sincerity in their words.

Most profoundly, perhaps, was each student’s ability to articulate our collective responsibility to care for the natural world from which we, as humans, are not separate.

“The death of a tree is beautiful in its ending, unlike man’s. A dead tree in the desert, stripped of its bark, polished by the sun and the wind, all its naked branches open to the heavens, is a wondrous sight. A great redwood, many, many hundreds of years old, is cut down in a few minutes to make fences, seats, and build houses or enrich the soil in the garden. The marvellous giant is gone. Man is pushing deeper and deeper into the forests, destroying them for pasture and houses. The wilds are disappearing. There is a valley, whose surrounding hills are perhaps the oldest on earth, where cheetahs, bears and the deer one once saw have entirely disappeared, for man is everywhere. The beauty of the earth is slowly being destroyed and polluted. Cars and tall buildings are appearing in the most unexpected places. When you lose your relationship with nature and the vast heavens, you lose your relationship with man.”

J. Krishnamurti, Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Bulletin 56, 1989

 

In many cultures, graduation from High School is seen as the most significant threshold moment marking the transition from childhood to adulthood. On June 6, 2018, we were given the opportunity to bear witness to this significant symbolic event for 10 young adults who completed their Oak Grove education. Please enjoy hearing directly from each graduate in the videos below.

Our class of 2018 consisted of ten students. The nine who applied to four-year colleges and universities have collectively been accepted into 37 schools. This is an average of four acceptances per student and this average is not unusual for Oak Grove seniors. The schools (listed below) include major public universities and colleges, independent and public liberal arts colleges, and specialized art schools. While this is impressive, and we joyfully celebrate this accomplishment with our students, it is also important to know that it is not our objective to have all of our graduates go directly from high school to a four-year college.

Class of 2018 college acceptances: Bennington College, Butler University, California College of the Arts, Cal Lutheran, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Long Beach, Chico State University, Case Western Reserve, Colorado College, Colorado Springs College, DePauw University, Goucher College, Humboldt State, Lewis and Clark, LIM College, Northeastern University, Otis College of Art and Design, Pacific University, Portland State, Pratt Institute, San Diego State University, San Francisco State University, Sierra Nevada College, Sonoma State University, Towson University, University of British Columbia, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, University of Kansas, University of Oklahoma, University of Puget Sound, University of Utah, Willamette University.

Introduction by Jodi Grass, Head of School

Music performance by the 2018 graduating class

Nathan Wu

Ophena De La Rosa

Bryce Brewer

Sydney Stump

Jackson Mitchell

Isabella Xiong

Sycamore Mitchell

McKenna Lynch

Peter Hu

Grace Story

Jennifer Thompson, Senior Advisor

Conferment of Diplomas

 

From the Head of School

The end of the school year is fast approaching which signals transition to many things—the completion of a grade, the advancement from one program to the next, the excitement of an Ojai summer and time with friends and family. For our seniors, this transition is particularly poignant as in this culture, completion of high school marks the symbolic end of childhood.

Our class of 2018 consists of ten students. The nine who applied to four-year colleges and universities have collectively been accepted into 37 schools. This is an average of four acceptances per student and this average is not unusual for Oak Grove seniors. The schools (listed below) include major public universities and colleges, independent and public liberal arts colleges, and specialized art schools. While this is impressive, and we joyfully celebrate this accomplishment with our students, it is also important to know that it is not our objective to have all of our graduates go directly from high school to a four-year college.

Some of our students choose to pursue a personal passion directly after Oak Grove. Sophia Grunder (2013) has made her lifelong dream of being an artisan chocolatier a reality. Today, alongside her mentor, Jennifer Smith, Sophia owns and operates the exquisite Ex Voto Chocolates in Ventura. Some Oak Grove graduates choose to defer their college acceptances and take a gap year, like Emilie Del Signore (2017), who has spent this past year traveling through the American Southwest and western Europe. This summer Emilie is planning to trek across Zavkhan, Mongolia, before beginning her studies at Syracuse University in the fall. We also have several students who chose to attend one of California’s excellent local Community Colleges to complete their general education requirements while staying closer to home, saving money, and perhaps pursuing other passions. Dane Wilson (2014) who spent several years with the US Sailing Olympic Development Program before heading to San Diego State University.

Oak Grove High School has a challenging college preparatory scope and sequence curriculum not because we think all students should go directly from high school to a four-year university, but because we want every student to have the choice of going directly to a university if that is what is right for them. More importantly, we want our students to be well educated with a solid and well rounded academic foundation for whatever they choose to do in life.

Class of 2018 College acceptances:
Bennington College, Butler University, Cal College of Art, Cal Lutheran, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Long Beach, Chico State University, Case Western Reserve, Colorado College, Colorado Springs College, DePauw University, Goucher College, Humboldt State, Lewis and Clark, LIM College, Northeastern University, Otis College of Art and Design, Pacific University, Portland State, Pratt Institute, San Diego State University, San Francisco State University, Sierra Nevada College, Sonoma State University, Towson University, University of British Columbia, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, University of Kansas, University of Oklahoma, University of Puget Sound, University of Utah, Willamette University.

 

From the Head of School

At the deepest level of our mission is the notion that if one is intrinsically motivated, not striving for external stature, for fame, for wealth, one would clearly understand the connection between one’s actions and all of life. One would understand there is nowhere else to be, but where one finds oneself now. One would naturally reveal one’s personal talents and thrive. Krishnamurti referred to this idea as “flowering in goodness.”  Here, in this place of completeness, we understand that it is in the ordinary moments that we find the extraordinary.

This idea reminds me of what William Martin writes in the “The Parents’ Tao Te Ching.”

 

“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

 

Another excerpt states …

 

“If you always compare your children’s abilities to those of great athletes, entertainers, and celebrities, they will lose their own power. If you urge them to acquire and achieve, they will learn to cheat and steal to meet your expectations. Encourage you children’s deepest joys, not their superficial desires. Praise their patience, not their ambition. Do not value the distractions and diversions that masquerade as success. They will learn to hear their own voice instead of the noise of the crowd.”

 

You can find out more about William Martin’s book here.

From the Head of School

A few years ago, we lost a huge oak tree near the Pavilion. Losing this tree was a particular hardship as it provided a perfectly-situated screen to the arc path of the spring sun. Spring is when we have many large assemblies and performances. Without the oak, the glare and heat of the sun becomes extreme for both those on stage and those sitting in the audience. After careful consideration, we decided to plant another oak where the previous one had been. To promote faster growth, we planted a nurse tree next to it. A nurse tree, if you don’t already know, is a larger, faster-growing tree that shelters a small, slower-growing tree. The nurse tree can provide shade, shelter from wind, or protection from animals. Our nurse tree is a Tipu Tipu. This morning, I noticed how tall and strong both trees have become. It almost appears that the oak is leaning or reaching toward its Tipu Tipu nurse. I began thinking about what a lovely metaphor this partnership offers.

During the month of December, even whilst navigating the chaos and trauma caused by the fire, Oak Grove received generous financial gifts from parents, alumni, staff, and our philosophical donors. It is so clear that these financial gifts allow our school to strengthen and grow in a way that would not be possible otherwise. So much of what has been done over the past few years has been possible from these ever-growing gifts.

 

Oak Grove recently received an extraordinary art collection from the estate of David Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez was an art teacher at the American International Secondary School in Germany and early on developed a lifelong interest in art. Mr. Rodriguez first heard Krishnamurti speak at Saanen, Switzerland in the mid-1960s. Mark Lee recalls meeting David throughout many decades at various Krishnamurti talks in India, Switzerland, England, and in the United States.

The rather large collection contains fine art, Tibetan antiquities, folk-art, and other artifacts from around the world. Some items are of sentimental value, while others are relatively precious. It was David’s expressed wish that Oak Grove maintain the collection as a whole and requested we not sell or donate any or all of the collection. We are hoping that the collection will serve an educational purpose —  introducing our students to art they may otherwise not have encountered — and at the same time raising profound questions about the role of art in the world, the relationship between art and religious ideas, and practical questions about how art is preserved and displayed.

With this educational purpose in mind, and in considering how to best understand and display the collection, we hired Oak Grove alumna Liza Shapiro, who has her own collections care and management company. Liza graduated from Oak Grove in 2006. Since then, she studied art restoration and art history at Lorenzo De’ Medici, Florence, Italy, Art Conservation at Camberwell College of Art, London, and Museum Studies at University College London.

Liza has broad experience in London’s foremost museums and galleries, including the Victoria and Albert Museum and Tate Modern, where she assisted in the Exhibition and Conservation departments. She also worked at the Redfern Gallery as a studio assistant and at Paul Stolper gallery supporting a Damien Hirst exhibition. Additionally, Liza worked for Lock & Co. as an Exhibition Registrar. Liza has recently relocated to Los Angeles, where she currently manages and cares for private art collections.

Liza has catalogued the collection we received and is working closely with Oak Grove staff to determine the best way to share and protect this generous and thoughtful legacy gift. Some of the less valuable artifacts may be displayed at the campus for students and others to enjoy, while the more precious items will likely be loaned to museums that have the ability to properly care for them while making them available to a larger audience.

A legacy gift of this magnitude has a large impact on a small school like Oak Grove. To honor this gift and the desires of the late Mr. David Rodriguez, we are working to preserve his collection and make it available for many years to come.

 

View this article in the 2016/17 Annual Report.

 

More about David: 
David Evan Rodriguez was born on July 1, 1933, in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Lane Technical High School, where he took art classes in oil and watercolor painting. After enrolling in Saturday classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, he was granted a four-year scholarship, where he completed a BA in Art Education.

Pursuing his interest in teaching, David moved to Berlin in the early ‘70s, where he served as an art teacher at the Berlin American Elementary (Thomas A. Toberts) School and then at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK). David’s eclectic group of friends included the German artist Eberhard Franke, with whom he had a close friendship that spanned decades. When David retired and moved to Florida, the two men kept in touch through many long letters and postcards. Through these letters, one gets a deep sense of David as a human being and friend: kind, loyal, caring, and profoundly intelligent.

David Rodriguez traveled throughout the world, to Europe, North and South America, and India, where he became familiar with J. Krishnamurti, whom he met several times. At one of Krishnamurti’s talks in Switzerland, David met Mark Lee, the first Director of Oak Grove School. After traveling to the Rishi Valley School in India, where he saw Mark once again, David decided to make the trip to Ojai, where he discovered the beauty of Oak Grove School. Feeling a deep connection to Krishnamurti, David believed that the school would be the ideal place to bequeath his extensive art collection so that he could continue to inspire students.

David Rodriguez was an independent, free thinker whose unique art collection includes Asian antiquities, paintings, prints, and many of his own artworks. Oak Grove is deeply grateful to have the opportunity to house his art collection, with hopes to inspire the students and community for many years to come.