It was only a couple weeks ago I was writing about summer camps, then last week about travelling to one of our National Parks and now it’s back to school, as many areas around the country begin their official school year this week. On a recent afternoon hike I came across this old schoolhouse that deserved some recognition from my camera and it made me think about how times have changed since the era of this 19th century schoolhouse. I wondered if the kids back then experienced the same exhilarating anticipation at the beginning of each school year just like students today, those feelings of anxious excitement as they get ready for something new. Although back then there was little to prepare for other than making sure you had good walking shoes to take you to the schoolhouse. These days students are getting ready by filling up a new backpack with shiny new school supplies, anxious to meet a new teacher and new classmates, eager to explore new places in the hallways that they’ll roam for the next few years. School gives kids a place to discover new personalities, including their own, room to read about characters of history and challenges minds with new ideas of problem solving. The American school landscape has changed in so many ways over the years with updated buildings, computers and technology in the classroom, varied schedules, limited arts and physical education classes, but the foundation has remained the same, a place to learn. We are proud to have some of the most passionate teachers, enthusiastic crossing guards, faithful bus drivers, engaged parents, and a wide variety of school functions that allow children to expand their learning experience beyond the classroom. Band and choir concerts, football and baseball games, spelling and geography bees, family social events are all opportunities to come together in the spirit of supporting young people while appreciating the importance of extracurricular activities and what they bring to the whole learning process, not to mention a chance for us to reminisce about our own school events we once enjoyed. Schools are not just a building where some people work and kids go to spend the day, beyond the rules and walls; they offer such a vital component to the evolution of our society. A place that encourages cooperation, promotes the importance of research and study skills, acknowledges hard work, and engages the community to remain involved. Even though the landscape around the old schoolhouse has changed, educating the next generation will continue to be our responsibility in sharing our values and freedoms we have come to know through our own experience. And remember, some of the best lessons are learned at home, so be a good teacher!