December 2016: Starry, Starry Night

Kathie Foster, Acting Superintendent

Today is the shortest day of the year, but every day from this point forward, the days get a little bit brighter...Inch by inch, it becomes lighter and lighter as we move forward from here. – Steve Mayer on Winter Solstice

Starry Starry NightI don’t know about you but for me the shorter daylight hours that come part and parcel with this time of year often leave me feeling a bit lethargic. Science has proven that less sunlight drives our bodies to shut down earlier, and as famed writer Clement Clarke Moore wrote so eloquently, settle in for a long winter’s nap. Alas, as with most things, this odd phenomenon has a silver lining, serving a healthy purpose for re-energizing and renewal. For, just as nature requires a period of dormancy in order to preserve energy and insulate from the elements in preparation for a new life cycle, so it is with our bodies.  In winter, we actually produce hormones that make us sleepy, giving us the time necessary to restore ourselves - body, mind and spirit. This period of stillness can provide us with varied opportunities for reflection, solitude, and for taking stock of our lives.

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the spectacular degree to which we are able to view the night sky as the stars, in all their glory, shine silently from above, gently urging us to awaken to the secrets of the universe and the mysteries of life. Observing the sky on a cold winter night invokes a sense of wonder, stirs the imagination, and sparks a connectedness to something greater than ourselves. In bearing witness to the infinite order of our vast universe, I find myself contemplating the ancient adventures of Orion as he soars across the night sky with his canine companions Canis Major and Canis Minor.


The Stars Are Aligned:  Fun Facts about the Stars

  • The number of stars in the universe are immeasurable. The Milky Way alone contains between 100 and 400 billion stars.  And that is just one galaxy!
  • For every grain of sand on the earth, there are about 10,000 stars in the universe.
  • Stars are usually between 1 and 10 billion years old. Some may even be closer in age to the observed universe at nearly 13.8 billion years old.
  • The closest star to earth, besides the sun, is 4.2 light years away.  A light year is the distance light can travel in a year.
  • Many ancient cultures used the position of stars to tell stories.  We inherited the names of the constellations from mythological heroes and legends.
  • Early agriculture used the constellations to determine when to plant and harvest crops.  Calendars were created by using the position of the stars.
  • Sailors depended upon the stars to navigate the seas, often following Polaris, the North Star. Escaping slaves followed the drinking gourd, The Big Dipper, north to freedom.


On December 21st, Robbinsville Schools will celebrate the Winter Solstice. This astronomical phenomenon marks the shortest day and, conversely, the longest night of the year. Dr. Mayer was particularly fond of this annual event marking the turnaround to increased daylight and symbolizing hope for a brighter tomorrow.


What if we followed his lead and indulged our inclination to slow down the in winter? What if we opted to sleep more and demand a little less of ourselves?  We urge you to give yourself and each member of your family permission to hibernate for at least for one evening.  As Winter Solstice approaches we will ask students, families and staff to take time to slow down, unplug, and spend time focused on the things that matter most.

Many will recall that Dr. Mayer believed deeply in living accordance with his values.  He often engaged administrators, staff and students in conversation around the question, “Who are we?” As we honor our friend by paying tribute to his favorite day of the year, we, too, will engage in meaningful discourse about who we are and what we believe as a school community.  On December 21
st, during K-8 morning meeting time and 9-12 second block, teachers and students will discuss and reflect upon the values of tolerance, kindness and respect. These community building activities are aimed at promoting understanding and acceptance.  That night, no homework will be assigned in order to allow families to eat together, engage in uninterrupted conversation, play a board game, take a walk and observe the night sky, listen to music...

The sky’s the limit!  Enjoy the show!



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