My Grayson

A key component of Grayson’s academic program involves providing opportunities for students to persevere through failure and connect their learning to real-world applications. In the Lower School, a proposed collaboration between the 4-5 Science and Projects teams and one very intrepid parent volunteer hit all the right notes. As Science teacher Ms. Connolly-Sporing explained: “Dr. Jason Goldsmith, a Grayson parent, was really excited about the possibility of spending a morning at Grayson to teach students to suture.”

Little did he know the experience would be a crash-course in failure and perseverance. For the students and himself.

A lot of experience failing fast

Dr. Goldsmith is a physician-scientist with plenty of practice suturing. Though he’s “stitched minor wounds and sewn on a lot of central lines,” he credits his laboratory experience for really solidifying the skill. “I have done a lot of surgery on mice,” he told me.

While mice were a little above our Lower Schoolers’ abilities, pigskin, which is sometimes used for suture practice in medical school, was a good introductory material. The activity was new even to Ms. Connolly-Sporing, who was excited to try stitching alongside her students.

Not just a key medical skill, “stitching teaches a lot about topography (a mathematical discipline),” Dr. Goldsmith shared. Ms. Connolly-Sporing also noted that “the accuracy, knot tying, and patience” required of stitching are all skills that students will call upon in various capacities in their time at Grayson.

A true interdisciplinary marvel, the suture clinic even taught students — and teachers — a thing or two about failure. “Many of these students didn’t know how to tie a square knot,” Dr. Goldsmith said. “That was harder to teach than I planned. There was a lot of failing fast with the first cohort that helped me make adjustments with the second cohort I taught.”

“A lot of the students struggled with it,” Ms. Conolly-Sporing echoed, but the suture clinic “was a great opportunity to try something new, experience failure, and practice resiliency when difficult things don’t go as we plan.”

Lower School students (and teachers!) learning the art of persevering through failure in a recent suture clinic.

Embracing the ick

You’re on board with sewing. You’re on board with sutures. You’re on board with productive challenge. Let’s acknowledge the real elephant — er, pig — in the room: the ick factor. It’s something I asked students and teachers alike. Did you find this project gross?

As with most things in medicine, “there honestly isn’t a way to make it less gross,” Dr. Goldsmith said, “you either just embrace the ick, or you don’t… You can learn to embrace it — just as you can learn to embrace the potential for failure and eventual growth — but that takes time and practice.”

Dr. Goldsmith added, “it’s good to know if you find it gross sooner than later.”

The suture clinic was optional, and there were some conscientious objectors who instead chose to observe their peers in action. The two-thirds or so who did particpate found the lesson satisfying — and challenging. Julian (’32) even went so far as to say it was “kind of cool” even though the pigskin “was very slimy, and my hands kept slipping.”

Grayson (’32) also overcame the ick factor, only to be vexed by a more familiar material. “The string was kind of hard to work with,” she said. “It wasn’t really stiff — it could move a lot,” but its flexibility made the shapes of the stitches unpredictable. But with enough perseverance and a healthy attitude towards failure, both Julian and Grayson completed the task.

“Do you feel like you could stitch someone up right now, if they needed?” I asked.

Julian nodded gravely. “If there’s ever an emergency, I could help.”

Two Lower School students in a project-based science class learning the art of suturing.

Enjoying the struggle

Without the pigskin, the suture clinic’s opportunities for perseverance, resilience, failure, and eventual success sound like just another day at Grayson. And, one could argue, command of these soft skills makes the larger difference in success because they’re not as easy to teach — or learn — as a measurable skill like stitching.

Dr. Goldsmith encapsulates this phenomenon perfectly: “Science takes a lot of grit and failure. Things can be gross, hard, hard and gross… It’s important to learn to enjoy that struggle, because the joy of discovering something new to humanity is a profound experience worth all of that difficulty, and something truly unique to science.”

As with many things, it takes a lot of practice to master the suturing skills needed to close an actual wound. shares some advice for how you or your child can practice at home!

Learn more about Grayson

Contextual learning is an important feature throughout all classes and grades at Grayson. Students participate in memorable and engaging lessons that are relevant to real world applications. If your child would benefit from a challenging academic environment and the opportunity to connect with like-minded friends, we warmly invite you to visit our school.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *