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April 22, 2010
Beatrice Swift and Martha Douglas-Osmundson
English Department

Seeds of Exchange

The seeds of an exchange between Lincoln School and Durham (England) High School for Girls were sown this spring. Situated “across the pond” from one another, the two all-girls’ schools, both 125 years old, are grounded in values that follow from their respective Quaker and Anglican cores. The seeds of exchange, carried by emissaries Beatrice Swift and Martha Douglas-Osmundson from Lincoln and Suzanne Hart and Louise Pickering from Durham, took root in the rich soil of two communities eager to learn about one another.

In Durham, we were gently shepherded through the school and community by our hosts, Suz and Louise, and by everyone we met at the school. We attended morning assemblies, where we saw the strong leadership of the Head of School, an ordained minister, as well as the strong leadership of students beginning at the very youngest levels.

We were taken on tours of the beautiful medieval city, the University, and the Cathedral, where Durham’s equivalent of Lambrequins have performed. An especially exciting experience was learning about the school’s involvement in the Durham-Lesotho (Africa) link, established by the Durham parish.  For the past six years, faculty and students have been traveling to Lesotho during the summer to refurbish schools, lead HIV/AIDS prevention workshops, and provide supplies and services to hundreds of Lesotho children.  Best of all, we were offered friendship by the teachers and students who welcomed us into their school, their homes, and their lives.

Two weeks after our visit to Durham, we welcomed Suz and Louise to Lincoln School.  They participated across grades and subject areas: they baked cookies with the kindergarten, read stories to the 3rd grade, sang with the Middle School Chorus, explained GCSE and A Levels Exams to seniors, and participated in Book Lynx with 5th and 6th grade students and parents. Beyond the classroom, they were taken by Lincoln faculty to explore Brown University and Harvard Square, to tour Benefit Street, to browse on Thayer and Wickenden, and to sip tea with a view of Poppasquash Point. Their visit to Providence included a culinary tour that was a microcosm of America:  Japanese sushi, Lebanese felafel, Indian curry, Italian pizza, and pastries from Seven Stars.  The long list of available ice cream flavors at Ben and Jerry’s inspired an equally long conversation about the role and value of individual choice in American culture and at Lincoln School: food choices at lunch, uniform choices, curricular choices for teachers, course choices for Upper School students. Our rich discussions allowed us to explore Durham’s school community and culture, and also to see our own school through their eyes.

We were struck by the many similarities and differences between our schools. Both schools offer rigorous courses taught by dedicated teachers who cherish the responsibility of educating young women. Some differences center on curriculum; in Durham’s Senior House, curriculum is driven by national exams that shape course content and require the older girls to focus on fewer subjects.  In both schools, traditions are honored. Durham’s green and gold uniform is similar to Lincoln’s, and is strictly followed. Finally, the sense of spiritual core and community values is evident in both campuses and connects us across the ocean. The teachers from Lincoln and Durham returned to their schools with new ideas to share, and with visions of future exchanges between the two schools.

 

 

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