Heart of EMS

By Maria Archer, EMES Principal

Maria Archer with EMS students during ground breaking

This May as I watched each elementary student and teacher walk into the upper school dining hall for our final Gathering of the school year, I was once again moved by the way in which they entered our space…with respect and reverence. Why? Because these are sacred moments each week, a time that we value being together as an elementary school, and a space where we wait for and experience the presence of God.

Over the many years that I have worked at this elementary school, a theme I often hear from visitors is that there is something “unique happening at EMES.” They sense an ethos or particular feeling while wandering the halls of the school. I believe they experience our students not simply receiving information and curriculum,
but participating in their own learning, and feeling valued, seen, and known. Students are part of something bigger than themselves, and they practice contributing to the community. This is what we strive for each day at the elementary school.

What does this look like at EMES?

  • Students in class developing their own set of guidelines or classroom standards together.
  • Two children standing outside talking about a disagreement they had in music class.
  • A student sitting in a quiet place for a few minutes until they regain their composure and can return to the activities at hand.
  • Several students meeting with the principal because they have a passion for caring for the earth and want to lead the school in eliminating the trash problem they have observed on campus.
  • Classes in a circle discussing what went wrong at recess.

We want our students to feel both accountable and empowered. They learn that their actions affect others, that relationships are most important and might need to be repaired when harmed, and that mistakes are often the best way to learn. Compassion, forgiveness, and restoration are deeply ingrained into the ethos of EMES. Students watch their teachers listen to each student, create spaces for choice and variety in the classroom, expect participation and leadership. They watch their teachers work collaboratively and have fun together. They soon learn that this is a place of excitement, of challenge, and of purpose.

The Gathering Space

This spring, we have watched as our new Gathering Space has begun to take shape right outside our windows. This will be the new place, a much more convenient space in which we will meet for Gathering each week. We’ve watched many dedicated workers plan, calculate, build, pour concrete, and complete many other tasks that have been unseen. Tyler Kauffman, our onsite project manager, spoke to each group of students this spring explaining the building process. This is a great teaching opportunity, one where we will all be called upon to practice patience and flexibility as we watch and learn.

As this project gets underway, we eagerly anticipate this new space giving us opportunities to continue to build community. We will meet weekly for Gathering, eat lunch together daily, hold multi-grade book buddies, invite special speakers, work on projects, and much more. It will be the hub of EMES. It will provide many opportunities to practice the messy, energetic, and beautiful work of being a community, where students are seen, known, and valued, and where they can learn to join in God’s work in the world.