Sunday, September 30, 2007

Can you see the monarch butterfly cocoon?

Two circles: Pre K and their 4-5 Buddies join to greet the Pre K bunny, Pebbles; and a few eighth graders meet with James in the gazebo to begin developing ideas for their Salem witch trial.

The teachers meet in a circle every Thursday to plan upcoming events and convene committees and teams. We took time this week to report what we thought was going really well, and what we want to work on in the coming weeks.

The list of things going well was gratifying. The smart and nice new kids, the happy atmosphere in the school, after school sports and other activities, morning meetings, use of the outdoors, Parent Council, parents in general, listening conferences, and Before and After Care, just to give you a few of their ideas. Things to work on include examining the format and time of Meet the Teachers Night and renewing the virus protection on the lab computers.

As I watch in classes and the halls and read teacher newsletters and curriculum write ups, I notice the deepening focus on skills of observation, reflection, cooperation, analysis, innovation and responsibility. This applies to our teachers as practicing educators as well as what they are expecting from the students!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Here are a few of the scenes I saw as I visited around the school on Wednesday. 4-5's were discussing the value of money; 2-3's were reading and writing in journals; and K-1's were making soup out of vegetables from their garden (plus a few from home.) One dad popped by just to peek into the Pre K for a minute - it is fun to be a "fly on the wall!"

Can you find the praying mantis that hitched a ride on the Parent Council mums?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Our fourth through eighth graders go to Camp Chingachgook on Lake George with their teachers and a few parent helpers each fall for three days. Susie Merrett, Associate Director and our art teacher took these photos.

The setting is spectacular. The staff there is great and the trip helps everyone get to know themselves and each other a little better. Eighth graders sleep out one night and hike up Buck Mountain. The view of Lake George is beautiful from the top.

Students try cooperative games, archery, a campfire sing-a-long, a climbing tower, low and high ropes, canoeing and kayaking. Everyone is challenged to do new things . They bring so much back!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The kids love to show me things. Rafi found a rock at Rock Island. The 2-3 class was really into mud at recess on Friday, and Pre K got three little finches as class pets.

The weather has been great, so everyone has been taking advantage of the school property, hiking, gathering nature artifacts and garden treasures, doing observational drawings, sorting, questioning and exclaiming. Milkweed pods are opened and the fluff flies everywhere. The laden nature table in K-1 is a focal point of excitement.

There are special places at Parker that have a legendary mystique: Tree Island, Tire Island, and Rock Island. There is the mysterious Swamp Island and no one seems to know where it is.

I visited the kids at Camp Chingachgook on Thursday for the morning. I got many hugs and loved sharing the happy enthusiasm. The funniest thing was watching the dynamic at the lunch table where everyone is encouraged not to waste food. Those who took more than they could eat were helped by a few who delightedly stuffed themselves with left-over grilled cheese crusts and extra sandwich halves. Yum!

I had forgotten my camera! But I'll get a few pictures from others and post them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

There are so many ways to make new friends. A Mom of a new student called me this afternoon to tell me how happy her daughter was. "At Parker, everyone is so friendly." She liked the teachers and thought that everyone was respectful of one another. She was finding the academics to be very challenging - just the right level for her.

The teachers have worked hard this fall to reinforce the school culture, especially in the middle school where there are a lot of new kids. Teachers and student alike are caring of each other.

The bottom line is that you need a predictable environment to feel safe. In that kind of atmosphere kids can risk being wrong. There is a big safety net at Parker that lets kids take a chance intellectually and with new friends. It lets children be themselves and allows for real growth.

Friday, September 14, 2007

We play hard. Sometimes we dance.

Nature is a great teacher

Big Hairy Audacious Goal

This year's middle school challenge to solve global warming seems like a pretty big undertaking!

Last year sixth and seventh grade's Challenge 20/20 involved a partner school in Kenya. Students collaborated on solving world poverty. Together they created a website to raise awareness. They made micro loans to start-up African businesses and collected eyeglasses. They helped organize an Empty Bowls event.

They researched roots and issues of poverty, child labor, malnutrition, homelessness, and under-education. Their two to four page essays explained their findings.

I attended a workshop this summer by Mary Fowler, an author and expert on student motivation and performance. She stressed that infusing substance and relevance into education is crucial for learning. She says that problem-solving, decision-making, and creativity are tied to "big, hairy, audacious goals" like world hunger, human rights, and resource management.

I think that this year's charge to solve global warming will fill the bill!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Somehow seventh graders magically transform into eighth graders over the summer. Ashley told me that because she is an eighth grader she is going to finish all her homework, not just some of it like last year!
Eighth graders rise to their leadership roles. One of the obvious ways is when they emcee assembly on Fridays. I love the regular features like "Phiona's Fun Fact of the Week." This year Jen and Lydia have conceived of a talk show to interview new students.

Eighth grade will expand the Oxfam Hunger Banquet to include all the grades this year. Then it will be more like the Empty Bowls night, when everyone in the school has made a bowl.

We have been accepted into the Challenge 20/20 program again this year. Sixth and seventh graders will collaborate with a school in NYC and one in Africa to solve global warming.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The first two days of school made my cheeks cramp from smiling so much! The happiness and excitement of seeing old friends, walking to new classrooms, and anticipating the year ahead was electric. Everyone looks taller! New kids looked a little nervous, but by the afternoon of the first day, their faces had relaxed and they seemed much relieved.

I joined a hike with the middle schoolers on Friday in the sun. We took the path through the meadow to "tree island." A few intrepid souls tried the apples from the tree - tart! Then popsicicles at the tree house. I loved chatting with a small gang of girls about birthdays, pets, our ages...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

My purpose in creating this blog is to give readers a glimpse into daily life at Robert C. Parker School. I find delight each day in the things that happen at school. I hope to share a little of the fun!