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harmony fall 2020 header
Welcome to our fall newsletter! You'll find updates from all of our programs about the start of this unusual school year, which we started on August 31. Elementary and middle school programs are combining distance learning online with opportunities for in-person activities outdoors, on and off of Harmony's grounds; the high school is meeting entirely online. The Early Childhood Program is open in-person, with a small group and an outdoor classroom.

While we can't gather together as we usually do for fall events, this Halloween we will strive for the same fun, all-inclusive feel of Halloween at Harmony by inviting every student to send in a picture of their costume, which will be made into a slideshow and shared on the website. On October 30th we will invite all students, staff, and family to attend an all-school zoom meeting (costumes welcome!), and some high school students will read spooky stories. At the end of the meeting a link will be shared to a Harmony haunted house style choose your own adventure game that is currently being filmed.

We're also continuing to build our alumni network this year. In just a few short years, Harmony will be celebrating its 50th birthday. As we look ahead to the next fifty years, we know that our relationships with alumni will be critical to supporting Harmony School and carrying our traditions and memories forward to the next generations. This year we have a newly formed Alumni Council - a small group of alumni (including past students and past teachers), who are focusing on the project of building a strong Harmony Alumni Association.

Thank you all for your support of Harmony, whether you're a long-time part of the Harmony family or we just recently connected. We're so grateful for our community, and we look forward to when we can all gather again.
We're sending warm thoughts and congratulations to Harmony senior Kobe Thompson, who just completed his attempt at swimming the English Channel for his senior project, and is headed back to the US this week.
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In response to the need for social distancing, Harmony's Early Childhood Program scaled back from our normal enrollment of 21 kids and started a pod of six children and one teacher in an outdoor classroom set up on our little playground. We've adopted several protocols for preventing the spread of coronavirus, such as taking temperatures upon arrival and wearing masks when entering the building for trips to the bathroom. The big positive from all this has been the time outdoors. We've had wonderful weather and the kids have enjoyed swimming and water play, making art with things we find in nature, taking our annual signs of fall walk, snuggling up on the bean bags to read books, and tons of imaginative play.
-- Linda Lewis, ECP teacher


The Elementary is off to a great start with our distance learning. At this time, all the classrooms are meeting in small groups over Zoom for their lessons, routines, and themes. Each classroom is also providing opportunities for the kids to see each other during in-person time at and away from Harmony. Here are updates from our teachers! -- Jen Ruff, K-6 teacher
The Lower Elementary Classroom (Laura Beth and David’s class) is doing small reading and math groups over Zoom. They play games, listen to stories, and get to know each other better. They start every morning with mindfulness and have read aloud over lunch time. They just finished The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo and are now reading the Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson. They have been taking walks and playing during their in person meet ups on Fridays, trying to create as much “normal” during that time as they can.

The Upper Elementary Classroom (Lana, Todd, and Zevon’s class) has been meeting with small groups over Zoom for homeroom, math, and language arts. Lana has been leading some fantastic book clubs while Todd and Zevon have been reviewing and exploring math concepts. Every Friday, they have a variety of activities including fishing, creek stomping, hiking, art projects, and animal observations. For themes they have been working with guests from the Middle Way House on some amazing life skills lessons. They also have worked on developing some conflict resolution skills.
The K-6 Classroom (Jen and Adam’s class) has started their year with an animal science unit. The kids are researching different animals and learning all about classification, basic animal anatomy, life cycles, diets and food chains, habitats, and animal behavior. This work happens in small groups over Zoom and also during in-person learning.

They have a zillion book clubs started — Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, a basketball book club that just finished a Lebron James biography, the Zoey and Sassafras (by Asia Citro) book club, a club studying nonfiction texts, and a book club focused on the beginnings of the United States (reading Chains and Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson).

As you can imagine in a multi-age classroom, the kids are learning a wide range of mathematical concepts — writing numerals and numbers through 20, multi-digit addition and subtraction, strategies for multiplication and division, and foundations in decimals, fractions, percents, and ratios! It’s a lot, and it all happens over Zoom!
The K-6 class meets Wednesdays and Friday afternoons for in-person time. This time has been used for games, research, book clubs, engineering club projects, walks in the park, play, and even watching the musical Hamilton.


The beginning of the school year has given us a great opportunity to get to know the students, both in person and via Zoom. The first two weeks we held socially distanced classes outdoors. The ones that were not able to join us in person were able to participate on Zoom, but it was nice to have so many of the students with us. We were able to go through some discussions with the students about the difficulties that online learning can pose and how we can work to avoid them. We've been incredibly proud of how well the students have adjusted to so many changes.
middle school group newsletter
Our third week marked the switch to online learning. The students have all been given individualized schedules with times throughout the week when they will meet with each teacher in large groups, small groups, and one-on-one when needed. We will also try to do socially distanced walks with groups of students throughout the year.

Outside of class time, the students will be able to participate in weekly extracurricular opportunities like cooking or art classes hosted over Zoom as well as some outdoor exploration in small groups.

One of the most interesting projects this school year is the Out of Eden Walk which Ursina is teaching about in her classes. With a focus on slow journalism (which is centered around slowing down and making deeper connections), the Out of Eden Walk invites students to learn about the world around them in a more careful and meaningful way. The students also have independent projects to do, and many have already gotten started on those.

Although this year will be challenging, and though we may need to make alterations if plans don't work out occasionally, we believe that this will still be a great year!

-- Chris Abbott, Middle School teacher (One of our ECP teachers, adapting to teaching in the middle school this year)
Middle & High School PE
Physical Education teacher Neil Smith has 12 students this year. All meet online on Tuesdays and 11 of them meet for socially distanced in-person classes on Thursdays. For in-person class, so far he's adapted frisbee-golf and created a lawn bowling-curling hybrid.
middle school-high school PE


Perhaps the most exciting news from the high school this fall has been the departure of high school senior, Kobe Thompson, on his senior project: to swim the English Channel! Kobe travelled to the UK in the second week of September, where he has been getting acclimatized to the weather and the temperature of the water in preparation for his swim. Despite distance and time differences, Kobe has still been making it to class – even joining the American Century last week for our day-long Holocaust Retreat – an advantage of online learning. [Editor's note: After much preparation and anticipation, and waiting for the Channel Swimming Association to give him the green light to start swimming, Kobe finally got in the water the morning of October 12. We've heard an initial report that he did not complete the crossing, but we're so proud of his effort. We'll be sharing more of Kobe's story after he makes it back to the US.]
Both students and teachers certainly miss seeing each other in person, but we have also discovered some benefits of the virtual classroom. Jamie writes, “I love Zoom’s share screen function. In 'Greek and Latin Roots' in particular, typing notes in real time into a document on a shared screen seems to be more effective than writing on a classroom chalkboard. I also love the breakout rooms, which allow students to be very focused in pairs, compared to the openness and activity of a physical classroom."

In 9th Grade English we are reading stories of social justice and personal empowerment. In Greek and Latin Roots we are learning about Oscar Wilde and the history of the word “art.” In Shakespeare we are identifying literary devices in Midsummer Night’s Dream. In Radio Theater we are learning to use the powerful audio editing tool, Audacity. In all of our classes we are discovering ways to use the internet to communicate and to build community.

In general, I am trying to approach the challenges of online instruction the way Maya Angelou advised we approach all things in life: “Not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style."

Erica, too, has been pleased with the way things are going: "It IS absolutely more work, and keeping track of things requires a bit more finesse, but it's challenged me to find different ways of engagement to reach the students. I think in the classroom setting, once something is explained, we might think it is sufficient and move on - now we are faced with the possibility that it doesn't translate well via virtual learning...so it's forced me to offer more examples and a multitude of different perspectives.”

Speaking for my social studies students, I have been delighted by how well they have adapted to our learning online. Discussions during our Holocaust Retreat were among the richest I remember and were preceded in the days before by some excellent presentations from student teams on The Brits During the Blitz; Children at War; Teens Fighting Back; A Day in the Life of the Leningrad Siege; and A Day in the Life of a Japanese POW. They produce these by working together in Breakout Room groups which, as Jamie mentioned, seem to provoke very focused and well thought-out work. This has also been evident among the seniors – several of whom are ready to present their project proposals to the High School community for their vote – way ahead of schedule.

We are all doing our best to compensate for the loss of face-to-face interaction. Teachers are meeting with students one-on-one, to support them academically - but also emotionally, creating spaces where people can just talk. And we are having some fun! Erica has recommenced our Wednesday evening Taskmaster contest on Discord, where a large Halloween party is also being planned for the afternoon of Friday, October 30th. The community is strong – and every high school student and teacher deserves credit for holding us together.

-- Sallyann Murphey, High School teacher and senior advisor


Marty Belcher, middle school teacher, retires after 44 years of teaching

Marty was one of Harmony's first teachers. He began teaching at Harmony in 1977 as a 5th and 6th grade language arts teacher. He made the transition to middle school ten years later, where he continued to focus on language arts and social studies. Marty coordinated Harmony's yearbook every year, and says, "publishing student work has been a fundamental part of my curriculum."
Last year, as Marty prepared to say goodbye to Harmony, he wrote down some reflections. Read them here:
marty feature photo
What’s been keeping Marty busy this fall now that he’s retired? Well, the middle school welcomed Marty back the other week as a guest teacher to teach about current events. And he continues to play music. Alongside his teaching career, he has been playing music for 55 years, though he says the two worlds rarely mixed. Other projects he’s working on right now include an article for the Wire Magazine on improvisation, and a brochure for the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center (TMBCC). He is also teaching English to a Tibetan monk at the TMBCC.

Past Harmony teachers share memories, reflections, & where they are now

We've started reaching out to past Harmony teachers as part of our efforts to build a stronger alumni network. Because our teachers are really part of that network, too. So back in August we gathered a group of past teachers together on Zoom to reflect together on what they learned from their Harmony days and to share what they are doing now. It was the first in what we hope will be a series of conversations...
Harmony teachers zoom screenshot small
Past teachers/staff, L to R, top to bottom:
David Christman, (Alumni Coordinator Mandy Skinner, Director Roc Bonchek), Jo Banks, Julie James, Libby Gwynn, Amy Baum, Barb Backler, Gina Weir
If you’re a past Harmony teacher reading this, we’d love to hear from you. If you’re a past student wondering what your old teachers are up to, email [email protected] and let us know! We’ll track those teachers down and share their stories in the next newsletter.


Introducing the


Celebrating, Promoting, and Supporting Harmony School!
This fall our new Alumni Council has started meeting every two weeks to develop its mission and structure and focus on building a strong alumni association. Some of the goals we've talked about include:

-- To help Harmony safeguard and secure an equitable and prosperous future;
-- to strengthen the Harmony community by forging new bonds between alumni and current students to pursue academic, creative, and professional goals;
-- and to share the success of the Harmony educational model, with the intent of improving education locally, regionally, and globally.

Our inaugural Alumni Council:
- Marsha Washington ('77)
- Justin Robertson ('70s/'80s)
- Leila Wood ('99)
- Julia Reardin ('03)
- David Goodman ('07)
- Martin Medicus ('09)
- David Christman (past teacher)
- Barb Backler (past teacher)
Roc Bonchek, Harmony Director, and Mandy Skinner, Alumni Coordinator, round out the team.

If you're interested in learning more, be in touch! Email [email protected].


Over the summer we started making plans to launch a podcast featuring the voices of Harmony alumni. It's still in the works!
Want to be a part of it? Contact [email protected].


Coming soon!
This semester we are lucky to be working with a class of IU students who are part of the
Serve IT Nonprofit Technology Clinic. Serve IT students apply technology skills in order to build the capacity of local nonprofits so they may better serve their own missions. Our ServeIT team is working with us to update the alumni section of Harmony's website, including creating an alumni portal that alumni will be able to log in to. The portal will give you access to an alumni directory, as well as a Harmony alumni archive (i.e. past yearbooks, publications, photos, and videos). We look forward to launching it in the new year.

Where in the World are Harmony Alumni?

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Denise Breeden-Ost ('89)

Denise Breeden-Ost, who graduated from Harmony in 1989, shares that her novel, Making It All Right, will be published this fall. Congrats, Denise!
"Alive with the sensory detail of a mid-century farm household, from the golden glow of home-canned peaches to the sweat of the tobacco harvest, this compelling novel explores complex truths of family, friendship, community, and the past."
Learn more at clockflowerpress.com.

Interested in joining our newsletter team as a writer or editor? Have a story idea for the next issue? Comments, questions? Write to [email protected].

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