This is how we spell GRATITUDE

Alzar School | 25.11.20

Thanksgiving holds a special place in the hearts of many modern American families, including a cornucopia of students and staff in our Semester Seventeen cohort. This year, with COVID-19 transmission increasing locally, we are especially grateful to have a group of young people who, due to their diligent adherence to protocol and best practice, are able to operate more-or-less as a careful family unit for Thanksgiving 2020. Expressing gratitude before dinner is something we have emphasized from day one and this family is sure to share plenty during this special time. When asked “what does gratitude mean to you?”, here is what some students had to share:

  • “[Gratitude is] showing appreciation for people you care about.” – Jack

    Students explore our backyard on snowshoes.
  • “[Gratitude] is important because it shows people around you that they are meaningful to you and gives meaning to a lot of things in your life … saying you are grateful for something can go such a long way because it reemphasizes the idea that they serve a purpose in your life.” – Brooke
  • “At Alzar School, I have realized how much gratitude I have for people at home and all the things they do for me.” – William

During their long weekend, students will bake cinnamon rolls (from scratch!), call families, meet as a community and enjoy a celebratory dinner crafted by our kitchen team with love. Additional afternoon and evening festivities will be designed in concert with our beloved Leaders of the Week, including a few activities intended to carve a deeper appreciation for our local geography. Students will have the chance to try out Alzar School’s brand new fleet of cross country skis! Additionally, they will flex their kayak muscles once again during a roll session at the local swimming pool. As we reflect on the semester we have had together, water-based activities (including the crystalized form) have been influential forces for positive personal growth.

Kayaking along Idaho’s rivers.

Connectivity to water is a driving force in the Cascade community, and is nothing new in this part of the world! Local indigenous groups have been intricately interconnected with regional rivers since “time immemorial”. One such group is Niimíípuu, “the walking people”, known commonly today as the Nez Perce Tribe. (Nez Perce is actually a misnomer given by French Canadians who mistook Niimíípuu for other regional tribes with “pierced noses”, something that was not historically part of Niimíípuu culture.) The Niimíípuu have had a lifeway grounded in hunting, fishing, and gathering throughout the salmon and snake river valleys. Today, the Nez Perce Tribe Reservation is home to the city of Lapwai, which rumor has is a Nimiipuu term to describe the sound of butterfly wings. Nez Perce language and place names have historically highlighted their strong connection to local landscape, a tradition that continues for many Nez Perce Tribal members today; in fact, at the most recent Nez Perce Tribe General Council in spring 2020, the Tribe moved a resolution to recognize the Snake River as a living entity with rights to exist, flourish, evolve, flow, regenerate and heal.

Fall 2020 students enjoying each other’s company while out adventuring.

The Payette River (known today in association with French colonizer, Francious Payette) that our Alzar School community enjoys as a backdrop to our daily life and river adventures drains into that very body of water, the Snake River. We have all experienced the life-giving, animate energy exuded by the rushing rapids and mellow meanders. So, as we continue to enjoy the watershed in which we exist at the Alzar School, let us take a cue from the Nez Perce and honor the entity that so sustains our lifeforce. Rivers ebb and flow. They freeze and thaw. Yet, despite it all, they are reliable. They are persistent. As we all strive to be.

In Nimiipuu, timíipn’it’es núunim ‘anoqonmáana means “remembering our ancestors”. Let us all, from cultures around the world, call upon our ancestral wisdom to appreciate and learn from those who have set foot upon the earth before us. To whom do you owe gratitude? We at Alzar School are deeply grateful for each and every one of you who have made this semester possible. Thank you for crafting an opportunity for us to make meaning in the world.

About the author: Rachel Ackerman is a Science Teacher and a Blog Coordinator at Alzar School. Feel free to contact her at with comments, concerns, and interesting topics for future blog posts!