The fourth and final stop on my Iowa school tour took me to Rivermont Collegiate in Bettendorf just east of Davenport along the Mississippi River. Founded in 1884 as St. Katharine’s School, an Episcopal boarding and day school for girls, today Rivermont offers a co-ed day school program serving 172 students in preschool through grade 12. The school has been set in the Joseph W. Bettendorf Mansion and surrounding buildings since 1973. The school mission statement reads:
Rivermont Collegiate is dedicated to academic excellence and maximizing the potential of each student through a nurturing, stimulating, and structured environment that advances the individual’s intellect, character, and creativity while guiding students on a path of life-long learning, prepared to engage fully in their local, national, and global communities.
My visit included time with Todd Zachary, Curtis Fee, and Bonnie Campbell. Todd was completing his last year as headmaster. Curtis, then dean of students, was soon to be appointed interim head. Bonnie, college counselor, serves on the ISACS Board. So, we had much to talk about!
A highlight was a student-led tour and an introduction to “Imagi-nation,” a collaborative game created by Curtis Fee for the middle school integrating humanities concepts constructed somewhat like the World Peace Game. Imagi-nation is situated in its own dedicated space, making it a special destination on campus.
In addition, I was pleased to have the opportunity during my visit to join ISACS Director of Accreditation Kevin Rooney and the four Iowa heads in a video conference to orient a representative from the Iowa Department of Education to independent school accreditation.
Next on my Iowa school tour was Willowwind School in Iowa City, where, on a snowy day, I met with new head of school Paul Pressler and toured with kindergarten teacher Michelle Beninga and a charming student guide. An extra bonus was dinner with a small group of trustees, where we had an opportunity to talk informally about best practices in independent school governance.
Founded in 1972, Willowwind moved to its current Dover Street campus in 2007. The school serves 140 students, preschool through grade 6, drawing families from Iowa City including the University of Iowa faculty community.
Willowwind’s mission is to develop in its students:
curiosity and a love for learning;
self-esteem combined with social consciousness, emotional sensitivity and respect for others;
the ability to think flexibly and critically, problem solve and express oneself clearly and constructively;
self discipline and acquisition of academic skills and creative pursuits; and
an appreciation and respect for other cultures and the natural world.
What aspect of Willowwind would Paul Pressler most like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues? Says Paul:
Willowwind is truly a progressive school as we work hard to balance what develops in students hearts as well as in their heads. We are very proud of not only our students academic achievements but also what they learn through our highly concentrated character education curriculum.
What ISACS school is based on a working organic farm? That would be Scattergood Friends School, the second stop on my Iowa tour. There, I was graciously welcomed by my hosts, co-heads Christine Ashley and Thomas Weber. Since the time of my visit, Thomas has assumed the full headship and Christine has moved on to other ventures.
Scattergood is nestled in West Branch, a community with deep Quaker roots and perhaps best known as the childhood home of President Herbert Hoover. The school was founded as an intentional boarding school by the Religious Society of Friends in 1890 and was meant to provide education for the group’s children.
Today, Scattergood serves an average of 40 boarding and day students in grades 9-12, 20% of whom are Quaker-affiliated. 1/3 of the students hail from Iowa and another 1/3 are international. Scattergood’s mission: to challenge students with a college-preparatory curriculum, farm experience, a shared work program, and community living in the spirit of Quaker faith.
Scattergood’s 126-acre campus includes a main campus and farm with organic vegetable garden, greenhouse, and livestock. My campus tour with Academic Dean Louis Herbst included a visit to ongoing agricultural research, including an impressive explanation from Socrates Bassuk ‘15, as she examined soil samples, about the effectiveness of worm output as a fertilizing agent. Obviously, school tours are not for the faint of heart!
What one aspect of Scattergood Friends School would Thomas Weber most like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues? He responds:
Scattergood is a school experience you can’t find elsewhere. We’re intentionally small. We’re farm-centered and college preparatory in a hands-on community setting. Everyone is heard and valued.
Early in 2015, I visited our ISACS-member schools in Iowa. My first visit was to Maharishi School on the campus of Maharishi International University (now Maharishi University of Management) in Fairfield, Iowa, about 60 miles south of Iowa City.
Maharishi School was founded in 1975 as an elementary school for children of University faculty and staff; a secondary school was added in 1981. Both the University and the School base their programs in Consciousness-based education, following the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi including daily practice of Transcendental Meditation®.
Today, Maharishi School serves 215 students — day students from the Fairfield community and boarding students from over 30 countries throughout the world. In addition to its emphasis on life practice and college preparation, the school has developed a championship tennis program.
Maharishi’s Head of School, Richard Beall, extended the invitation on behalf of the four schools and was my host on campus. During my visit, I asked Richard what aspect of Maharishi School would Richard most like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues. Richard offered that there are aspects of Consciousness-based education that could be beneficial for all schools, given the value to all students of reducing stress and developing intention and habits for a healthful life.