Antioch School Celebrates 100 Years • The Yellow Springs News


When you’re 7 or 8 years old, the legacy of your school’s 100-year history isn’t nearly as exciting as reaching the 100th day of the school year.

One hundred years – an entire century – can be hard to fathom, but 100 days is a bit more tangible. At least that was recently for students in the youth group at the 100-year-old Antioch School, who marked their 100th day of school with a variety of hands-on activities: stringing 100 pieces of Cheerios cereal into a necklace, make chains of 100 strips of construction paper, paint 100 dots of color on a single sheet of paper, write all the numbers from 1 to 100 on long rolls of paper.

“I did it,” exclaimed one youngster as she completed her sequence of paper rolls. “I’m going to make more!”

Another student wondered aloud about the results of writing 1 to 10 repeatedly.

“Try it,” replied Elaina Vimmerstedt, a teacher at The Younger Group. “How many groups of 10 will you need?” »

It turns out that writing 1-10 multiple times and more than 10 times is just as much work as numbering 1-100, and harder to keep track of.

No matter the activity, getting to 100 of anything takes time and effort, the kids learned. But with such a milestone comes pride and a sense of accomplishment.

The Antioch School Youth Group class recently celebrated the 100th day of classes this school year, which marks the school’s centenary. (Photo by Carol Simmons)

These emotions are also true for the Antioch School community, as the school looks back on 100 years since its founding in the fall of 1921 and looks to the future in a world where its supporters believe that school version of child-centered education is needed more than ever.

“It’s pretty amazing,” school principal Nathan Summers said of the anniversary in a recent phone interview. He added, however, that reaching such a moment in the middle of a pandemic once every 100 years was not the kind of milestone they wanted.

Indeed, the pandemic has caused the postponement of some of the festivities that were to begin last summer.

“We had planned to throw a big party last summer and try to bring former students back to school,” he said. The number of alumni of course numbers in the hundreds and includes names as well known as actor John Lithgow.

The March 2020 general lockdown also came days before that year’s annual fundraising auction and gala, which, like everything else at the time, was cancelled.

The pandemic also caused the event to be canceled in 2021, but it returns this year with a May 6 date at the Foundry Theater on the Antioch College campus. Summers said he was “very happy” that the school could begin to resume more of its regular activities.

Resisting the pandemic has been difficult, he said.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve experienced in my professional career,” he said.

While he believes the school’s small size, tight-knit community and integration of outdoor learning experiences have positioned it well to meet the challenges of the pandemic, it still imposed a heavy toll.

The biggest effect has been on the community’s sense of connection, he said. Without the traditional activities and events—class performances, soup dinners, chores—that brought them together, families became estranged from each other and from school. A pandemic protocol requiring students to enter the building through the exterior door of their classrooms relieved a bottleneck of students and their adults at the front of the building each day, but also eliminated an important time for adults to mingle and catch up.

“We’re very, very excited to get all of these things back,” Summers said. “We look forward to rebuilding these relationships.”

The love for school runs deep in his families. Moriel Rothman-Zecher, 32, attended school as a child, as did his father, Jay Rothman, 63. Today, Rothman-Zecher’s daughter, Nahar, is a kindergarten student. The young dad said he and his partner, Kayla, moved back to Yellow Springs after living abroad largely because they wanted Nahar to have the experiences of growing up – especially an education in school. ‘Antioch – which had been so important to its own development. .

“The school of Antioch cherishes freedom, and that is no small thing in this world of ours,” he recently wrote.

He noted that his father, who holds a Ph.D. in international relations and published five books, was unable to read until he reached fifth grade.

“Instead of being ashamed to learn the differences, Jay was allowed to thrive in his time,” Rothman-Zecher wrote.

“I would say a lot of who I am – a novelist, a poet, a teacher of creative writing – has its roots in my time in Antioch,” he added.

Founded by Arthur Morgan, then president of Antioch College, as a teacher training laboratory for college students, the original school went through grade 12. There was to be “close and open observation of the children, with the curriculum molded to suit the children’s needs, rather than forcing them to adapt to a rigid, contrived curriculum,” according to a school history.

“Children were encouraged to progress at whatever rate their natural ability, health and vitality made possible.” The approach was experimental and it is believed that the students were not graded.

All 12 levels were housed in the former house of William Mills, which was on the grounds where Mills Lawn Elementary School in Yellow Springs is located. In 1929, the school dropped the middle and high school sections and moved into Bryan High School. The school moved to its present building on Corry Street in 1953, eventually adding a kindergarten class. Today, classes are divided into kindergarten, kindergarten, younger group (approximately grades one to three), and older group (usually grades four to six).

Making chains out of 100 pieces of construction paper was one of the activities celebrating the 100th day of school recently in the Antioch School Youth Group class, taught by Elaina Vimmerstedt. The school celebrates its centenary this school year. (Photo by Carol Simmons)

School staff believe it is the oldest democratic school in the country. Summers noted that a school in England founded the same year as the Antioch school claims to be the oldest democratic school in the world.

“Arthur Morgan didn’t call it a democratic school, but that’s what we are,” Summers said. “This label basically indicates that children have a say in how they approach their day at school.”

He also described the school’s lack of hierarchy among staff. As principal, Summers handles many administrative functions, but unlike a traditional principal, he is not senior to teachers and staff. Daily decisions are made as a group. The board determines the “big picture,” such as philosophy, goals and direction.

In anticipation of the centennial, the board and staff had begun strategic planning work a few years before the pandemic hit.

Summers said the focus is on the financial well-being of the school, increasing the endowment and increasing scholarship opportunities so that cost is not a barrier for anyone wishing to attend.

Enrollment is currently around 50 students, about 10 less than before the pandemic and 10 more than last year. Enrollments have been kept down this year and are lasting due to the pandemic. Current staff includes five full-time teachers, two part-time assistant teachers, one part-time after-school teacher and two part-time office staff.

Summers, whose two children attended school in Antioch (one is now at Yellow Springs High School and the other at Stivers School for the Arts in Dayton), said he loved being part of the school life.

“From my desk, I have a full view of the playground,” he said. “I love being a fly on the wall and watching students interact with each other and come up with games, being totally joyful with each other. It’s really great to do work that contributes to that joy.

The school is planning an open house for prospective families on Sunday, April 3 from 1 to 3 p.m.

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