Sarah Shares: Why our work is important
I am still over the moon with the success of this week’s Day of Giving to support Greene Towne Montessori—In one day, we received 105 gifts to the Annual Fund, well exceeding our goal of 75 gifts. With your help, we met an ambitious challenge from a group of committed trustees which resulted in an additional $5,000 gift to Greene Towne. The resounding success of this day, and caring support from so many, is such a boost and affirmation of the important work we are doing with our children every day here at Greene Towne, particularly in this hard time.
Why is our work so important? It is important because research shows that 90% of the brain develops between birth and age five. The work we are doing with children now sets the foundation for the rest of their lives, for their sense of self and their way of being in the world.
The importance of the earliest years in life has been underlined for me through what I have been learning from reading The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Taken from a momentous week the two spent together on the occasion of the Dalai Lama's 80th birthday in 2015, they share what they have learned about staying centered in joy even in the midst of suffering and challenge.
Much of what the Dalai Lama and Archbishop share is supported by recent research on the development of the brain. Neuroscientist Richard Davidson found that there are four independent brain circuits that influence our lasting well-being...Our ability to maintain positive states or positive emotions. The two great spiritual leaders say the fastest way to experience happiness is to start with love and compassion. The four brain circuits control:
Our ability to maintain positive states, or experience happiness.
Our ability to recover from negative states, to be resilient despite adversity.
Our ability to focus and avoid mind-wandering, to attend to ourselves and the present circumstances.
Our ability to be generous: It’s no wonder that our brains feel so good when we help others or are helped by others, or even witness others being helped.
There is strong and compelling research that we come factory equipped for cooperation, compassion and generosity (paraphrased from Douglas Abrams, with the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, pp. 55-56).
These findings further reinforce Dr. Montessori’s forward-thinking research and design of a program aligned with child development. Our children learn to appreciate small and big moments in their lives. They learn how to persevere despite challenges, and the value of persistence in achieving their goals. Building capacity to focus their attention is a part of every work in every year of the cumulative program. And, of course, in each child’s work in co-creating their classroom community, as well as appreciating their role as strong contributors to something larger than themselves, our children understand the satisfaction that comes from helping others, and learning from others as well.
At Greene Towne, in the midst of a world-wide pandemic, we are supporting children in developing each of these areas in their brain circuitry. And we are very honored to do this work, and very thankful for your strong support and trust in doing so.