Letter from the Director of Education

It is the mission of Noorthoek Academy to provide a continuing education in the arts and sciences to students with learning challenges and other intellectual disabilities, with the purpose of expanding horizons, exciting curiosity, and encouraging self-expression.

During the fall 2019 semester, we explored the vibrant country of India. Students began by delving into the history of the Indian people and learning how British rule impacted the government that was established. The effect of religion on the newly formed independent nation of India was explored. Students gained a respect and admiration for the accomplishments of Gandhi and Mother Teresa. The disparity of resources became relevant to students when they learned that many villages do not have access to running water or electricity. Students learned about the colorful celebrations that India is known for including, Holi, the festival of colors and Diwali, the festival of lights. The Indian culture was experienced through art projects, music, traditional Indian games, and food. The lotus flower is the national flower of India and became inspiration for some of the poetry that you will find in this edition. The story of the lotus is one of a flower that grows in filthy water but doesn’t bloom until it reaches the surface. It is a symbol of purity. Students were moved to write about their own journeys of coming out of a dark place and blooming into a beautiful being.

Winter semester 2020 was spent studying health and wellness. Students began by reviewing the systems and functions of the body. The importance of brain health was emphasized. Students were challenged to set goals for themselves regarding their nutrition and fitness. Stress was a topic that was discussed thoroughly as it affects all systems of the body. Ironically, this also became the semester that classes were moved to distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Noorthoek Academy students were up to the challenge to switch their learning to an on-line format. While learning looked different for the last half of the semester, students were engaged and continued to work on understanding how the connections between their mind, body, and lifestyle are all related. One of the highlights of this semester was our field trip to the Grand Rapids Public Museum where we visited the Bodies Revealed exhibit.

The poems you will read in this compilation are reflections of what has been learned this year. The title of this volume comes from Staci Van Kampen. Her poem entitled “Finding the Light” is a beautiful example of the symbolism of the lotus flower. Other works express memories of loved ones, acts of kindness, the beauty of nature, and grief. It is my sincere hope that as you read this poetry, you hear their experiences and wonder of life. Please listen to the words of these Noorthoek Academy students and allow them to speak to you.

Sandra Barraza
Director of Education, Noorthoek Academy

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