Sandy Spring Friends School



Sep. and Oct. 2023 Updates from the OIEJB

Sep. and Oct. 2023 Updates from the OIEJB

Greetings from the OIEJB! The months of September and early October have been filled with celebrations, recognitions, and community-building activities that help to establish a place of belonging for our community. Below are some of the highlights of the different activities that have taken place on campus, a note about Indigenous People’s Day, and a look into what’s next on our docket.

Advisory/Classroom Lessons on Identity
By October 16, students in all three divisions will have engaged in developmentally appropriate Advisory or classroom lessons about identity. The lessons defined language that is inappropriate on campus, specifically in regard to Ability, Gender Identity, Race, and Sexual Orientation. 

Hispanic Heritage Month 2023

Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month Activities on Campus
During a September Community Time, Lower School students viewed a presentation that introduced History and Heritage Months and specifically looked at Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month (H/LHM). The presentation defined terms, discussed respecting an individual's choice on how they identified, and examined the history of Spanish-speaking Equatorial Guinea. Students also read and analyzed a poem by Juan Tomás Avila Laurel and were moved by his call to action to make positive change. Please click here for a link to the presentation. The Lower School has also celebrated the month through reading buddy activities, literature available to teachers for use in their classrooms, and a colorful bulletin board.

Middle School celebrations of H/LHM have included a book display that helped connect students with Hispanic and Latinx authors and a bulletin board featuring aspects of Hispanic history and heritage, including activism, the arts, Day of the Dead, the importance of the Afro-Latino story, and the diversity amongst Latinx/Hispanic people. An email announced the Heritage Month to the division, and another message sent to teachers discussed what people can do to combat book banning.

In Upper School, the Hispanic/Latinx Affinity Group decorated part of the 1st-floor Atrium and 2nd-floor hallways with displays of prominent historical figures and flags from countries in Central and South America. The affinity group will present an assembly about dance styles from those countries that includes video demonstrations of the dances and discusses the cultural significance and history of the various dance styles. Classroom content in Latin American Studies, History, and Global Languages classes has also centered on Hispanic/Latinx culture.

Black Student Affinity Group

Upper & Middle School Affinity Groups
Affinity Groups provide safe spaces for students (usually from marginalized groups) to gather in fellowship and community with peers who share their identities. Affinity Group meetings have started in the Middle School, and Upper School Affinity Groups will begin meeting during the week of October 10. Middle School Affinity Groups include Asian American/Pacific Islander Students, Black Girls, Black Students, a Gender and Sexuality Alliance (for LGBTQ+ students and allies), a Girls Affinity Group, Jewish Students, and Neurodiverse Students. View a list of Upper School Affinity Groups. Upper School students can sign up to be connected with clerks and advisors or simply attend a meeting. Middle School Affinity Groups meet on a rotating schedule during Lunch, and Upper School groups meet every other week during lunch.


A Sukkah for Sukkot
In late September, the Upper School Jewish Student Affinity Group constructed a Sukkah outside the Upper School building. Sukkot is an Autumn festival holiday during which Jews build a "sukkah" –or temporary dwelling–outdoors. The sukkah is a traditional place where family and friends eat meals together during the weeklong holiday, but in public spaces, it can be a chance to educate friends about the holiday or to call for action with broader causes such as Refugee crises and environmental initiatives. One central aspect of Sukkot is to inclusively engage with others as it is a mitzvah to welcome guests into a Sukkah. In the Sukkah, one may also reflect on what and where is a home, while connecting to the sacred through being outside in nature. This week-long holiday starts five days after Yom Kippur on the full moon, and this year goes from sundown September 29 to sundown October 6. Be sure to view a time-lapse video of the Sukkah construction.

Columbus Day? Fall Break? Indigenous People’s Day!
For years, Sandy Spring Friends School has been closed on the second Monday of October in observance of a day that was at first referred to as “Columbus Day.” As more information about the explorer long credited with “discovering” what would come to be called America, SSFS–and many other independent schools–began calling it “Fall Break.” Here is an excerpt from Christopher Columbus’s journal that describes his first encounter with members of the Arowak tribe:

“These people in the Caribbean have no creed and they are not idolaters, but they are very gentle and do not know what it is to be wicked, or to kill others, or to steal...and they are sure that we come from Heaven....So your Highnesses should resolve to make them Christians, for I believe that if you begin, in a little while you will achieve the conversion of a great number of peoples to our holy faith, with the acquisition of great lordships and riches and all their inhabitants for Spain. For without doubt there is a very great amount of gold in these lands…

They brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

Given the dissonance between Columbus’s words about the Native people he encountered and the Quaker belief that there is “that of God in everyone,” Sandy Spring Friends School is moving toward calling the holiday “Indigenous People’s Day.” Along with our efforts to consistently acknowledge the unceded Piscataway land on which our community is located–the Class of 2020 donated a land acknowledgment plaque that will soon be placed on campus–this change in the way we refer to this holiday is part of, as the plaque acknowledges, our community’s attempt to demonstrate “a commitment to the process of understanding and grappling with the ongoing legacies of colonialism.”

Happy Indigenous People’s Day!

Next Up: Disabilities Awareness and Indigenous American/American Indian Heritage Month
At the conclusion of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, the OIEJB will shift our focus to two weeks of Disabilities Awareness, featuring an Upper School Advisory lesson and other activities and awareness-raising efforts in the Middle School and Lower School.

In November, we will celebrate Indigenous American/American Indian Heritage Month with book displays, decorations, and more. 

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