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Mind, Body and Spirit

Mind, Body and Spirit

The newly established Hibbitt/Rockwell Fund Travel Fellowship is an opportunity for faculty and student-facing staff to engage in a travel experience that will energize and enrich their professional lives. The intention of this program is to promote enthusiasm and creativity in their work with students. Kathy Bliss, an Upper School Math teacher recently went to Northern California. Below is her story. 

Mind, Body, and Spirit: I was able to nurture all three during my 10-day excursion to Northern California, thanks to the Hibbitt-Rockwell Grant.

Stanford Professor Joe Boaler has been my professional ideal since my first year (2013) at Lincoln School. A revolutionary in Maths Education, Professor Boaler recently created a totally innovative course in data science. As a Statistics teacher, I felt that I needed to learn from the masters, and the Hibbett Rockwell grant enabled me to have that opportunity.

While at Stanford, I spent five days experiencing and learning the curriculum, which is project-based and utilizes databases, spreadsheets, digital notebooks, programming as well as machine learning otherwise known as artificial intelligence. I worked with instructors from throughout the United States, as well as Mexico, China, and Brazil. For more than 10 years, I’ve been the only Statistics teacher at Lincoln School. This experience has given me a community of over 80 people as extended colleagues.

Every morning before my class started, I explored the college campus. The peaceful meditative strolls set me in the perfect mindset for my day of learning. Stanford has an extraordinary cactus garden with specimens I have never seen before. One morning I saw a large blooming cactus and the next day that bloom was gone. A reminder to be present and enjoy the moment.  

The Cantor Art museum has one of the larger collections of Rodin sculptures in the U.S., including an outdoor sculpture garden which I visited regularly. The garden had 20 sculptures which you could admire and even touch. I was most in awe of the 20-foot Gates of Hell inspired by Dante’s Inferno set with Adam and Eve on either side. It became a daily stop for me. 

The most spiritually moving place for me on campus was the Stanford Memorial Church. It is interdenominational and a magnificent representation of glory to a higher power. What I first thought were stunning frescos turned out to be tiled images made from 1-centimeter tiles. Both the interior and exterior of the chapel were filled with images. On one of my visits, a labyrinth was set up on the dais which allowed me to do a walking meditation. A subsequent visit included a midday service which shared the message of universal care for all beings. As my mind was being stretched in the classroom, my soul was being restored by what the rest of the campus had to offer.

This generous travel grant also provided me the opportunity to explore. Afternoons and weekends were spent hiking along the California coast and experiencing the awe and grandeur of the pacific seascapes and wildlife.  My first hike was in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California’s oldest state park. In 2020, 97% of the park's property was hit by a massive fire. The fire destroyed all human-built structures, but most of the old growth redwoods survived. It was incredible to see the resilience of nature as well as the human spirit that has rebounded to reimagine the next iteration of what the park will be.  

Another hike took me to the awe-inspiring beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway near Monterey filled with sheer cliffs, crashing waves, kelp beds with sea otters enjoying their meals on their bellies, tidal pools, flocks of storks, and so much more. We took all day to hike a meandering 4-mile stretch of stunning natural beauty that had me gobsmacked around every turn.

The final big exploration was north of San Francisco in Muir Woods National Monument. The contrast between this redwood forest which had not experienced a recent fire was humbling. This being our last big hike, we took a six-mile journey through the old growth forest and saw trees that were over 1,000 years old and more than 250 feet tall. We then explored some of the local towns and cuisine before heading to the coast to watch the sunset over the water at Stinson Beach. It was a magical ending to a trip that was so much more than a nice travel grant-the Hibbitt-Rockwell Grant enabled me to have a profound experience, rejuvenating mind, body, and spirit, and I am looking forward to sharing what I have learned with my students and colleagues at Lincoln.