Otto Specht school in the community and beyond
At Otto Specht School, we are forging a path for a drastic and necessary change in education. Throughout the United States and around the world, more and more children are not finding a home within traditional school settings. Autism, attention disorders, sensory imbalances, anxiety and other social difficulties, developmental delays, and many other learning challenges are on the rise. We need new approaches to understanding and meeting these children. At Otto Specht School, we are committed to remaining an active presence in shaping the global conversation surrounding the evolution of education. Here, you will find links to affiliated organizations, information about events and educational seminars we will be hosting or participating in, and educational fairs and conferences we will be represented at.
Events, Workshops and seminars
In our efforts to continue building our community and sharing our knowledge, we will host and participate in various events throughout the year. These events are for everyone, not just parents and educators of children with learning challenges!
Where You Will Find Us
At Otto Specht School we are working to reach out to the larger community of educators and parents to build relationships, to educate, and to add our presence and our voice to the global conversation regarding education. Here's where you will find us!
We are grateful for other organizations working towards our common goals. We believe that our work is made stronger and better through collaboration with these organizations.
"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." --Helen Keller
Otto Specht School has joined #GivingTuesday, a pioneering effort to harness the collective power of partners charities, families, businesses, and individuals. The movement is transforming how people think, talk about, and participate in the giving season. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday have become recognized days of holiday shopping. #GivingTuesday brings attention to philanthropy, donations, and kind actions - a movement we can really get behind!
This year, the winner for Best Short Film at the Nyack Film Festival was “Writing on the Wall” by filmmaker Rob Barrett and singer/songwriter Sam Leopold. The film features footage of refugees crossing deserts, mountains, and seas, children clinging to their parents or to a few precious belongings. The topic is painfully current, and yet, as Sam will tell you – the writing has been on the wall for a very long time. His song, written nearly twenty years ago was prescient. At the time, few saw the problem of refugees coming on as hard and fast as is now happening.
Fifteen years after the release of the song, filmmaker Rob Barrett heard it and proposed the making of a short film based on the song. Sam agreed and they launched into the project without waiting to find investors. Over the next two years, local artists, activists, and inspired individuals from far and wide, participated in the project. A local documentarian and activist, Hassan Oswald, who traveled to Lesvos, Greece, to witness, help, and document the travails of the Syrian refugees coming ashore provided footage that became the basis for the film. Gaining rights to other footage was not without adventure. Most notably, a Brazilian professor of geography living in Malaga, Spain, inspired by the video’s message, got on a boat and travelled to Cueta, a Spanish region located on the northern coast of Africa across from Gibraltar. Upon landing, she took a taxi to the headquarters of Faro TV, where she spoke to the manager, and received written permission for Sam and Rob to use video footage owned by the station.
One of the things that really helped me about living in Costa Rica was the peaceful acceptance of the vicissitudes of life so contrary to the New York high speed, high intensity attitude, where everything seems focused on achievement and beating the competition. Costa Ricans have a saying: “Pura Vida” which roughly means, relax and live life joyfully. In Costa Rica I was able to let go of much of my anxiety about all the developmental milestones that my son was not reaching, to practice more patience and acceptance of my son - and of myself with all of my hang ups.
As the school year drew to a close, harvests and seed saving filled our last days of Farming and Gardening. The spaces cared for by our students produced hundreds of pounds of food for the Fellowship Community kitchen. Beautiful dishes of fresh salads, carrots and radishes, warm, nourishing beet greens, and earthy, deep red beets brightened the tables of members, co-workers, and guests. Students joyfully sampled the vegetables they grew and delivered them to the kitchen with the pride of real farmers.
Handwork has a specific task within the curriculum. It awakens the creative powers which will be useful in as many ways as possible in later life and work. It helps the young child to develop a healthy imagination and helps to unfold his/her will and feeling life. What’s almost more important than the child learning to use his/her hands in a practical way is that in adult life, it will help form good judgement and balanced thinking.
In Handwork, we use mainly the right side of the brain (creativity, intuition), which helps the students crossing the “mid-line.” It requires the involvement of many skills including: body awareness, hand-eye coordination and possibly most importantly, brain communication.
When a student enters the wood shop, she is welcomed into a space where she can use her hands, mind, imagination, senses of beauty and proportion, will power, and simple tools to create something beautiful. She is invited to look forward to the pride and satisfaction that her completed project will eventually bring. She is looking forward to success.
Woodworking requires that the maker engage all of his faculties in an integrated manner to transform organic material into something beautiful and useful. It requires purpose, patience, concentration, and commitment. Woodworking can also be fun! Social interaction is common and welcome, as long as it is not distracting or disruptive. Tools, especially ones that are cared for and well-maintained such as the ones we use, can be both highly satisfying and dangerous, and we work within clear safety guidelines, conscious of protecting ourselves and the others around us.
Although there is still a nip in the air and snow on the ground, the classes working in our greenhouses are anticipating spring! Several of our plants have been left to set seed for next year, including radishes and lettuce. Even in the depths of winter we were able to sell some of our beautiful rainbow chard at the Hand and Hoe, bringing in $50 to support our farm and garden programming.
When our students discover that they are writers, a whole world is unlocked within them. Our work as educators is to give them the keys. The main lesson teachers and our reading and writing specialist, Elizabeth Harriman, work to remove obstacles and anxieties and provide students with tools and guidance along the way.
Fall harvest is winding down in the fields of Duryea Farm at the Fellowship Community. Otto Specht third graders along with farm educator, Jose Romero Bosch, finished bringing in the last of the lettuce they planted earlier this fall before winter snows set in. As the weather outside turns cold, however, and the ground begins to freeze, inside the greenhouses warm temperatures and healthy soil allow us to continue growing and providing fresh produce to the members of the Fellowship Community. This fall, students threshed seeds they had saved from last year’s crops. Now, Greenhouse 2 is filled with vibrant beds of rainbow chard, radishes, and a variety of lettuces grown from these seeds. Just last week, high school and middle school students planted over 300 more radishes and 125 more lettuces, which will be greatly enjoyed at midwinter meals.