Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Work hard, play hard

After a great morning showing their animal habitat work to the Pre K's, K-1's headed out for some fun in the snow.
In social studies 6th and 7th graders are discussing, "How did Greek culture and ideas survive so long?"
In science they are summarizing and analyzing current events articles like: "Steroids, Take One for the Team" from the LA Times; "The Day the Dinosaurs Died" from Weather Wise; " Obesity Goes Global - Blame Prosperity, Bad Habits and Fast Food" from the Orlando Sentinel. They are making power point presentations from research they have done on different sources of energy and comparing and debating the relative merits of each.
Eighth graders have just finished essays analyzing Supreme Court cases.
Then a rousing game of floor-pong!


We started a tradition a few years ago of having an assembly dedicated to peace as our last program before winter break. Children sing, they read poetry about peace and other reflections on peace that they have written. For the final song, the middle school students light candles. This year we also stood holding hands around the perimeter of the gym and passed a hand-squeeze of peace to feel connected and celebrate our community. It was quiet and sweet.

In a school that holds families of many different backgrounds and religious traditions, we try to be sensitive to children's feelings of being included. Especially in the lower grades, families are encouraged to come to school and share their traditions. In Pre K last week , Astrid, who is from Sweeden, brought her family in and shared her St. Lucia tradition, in her white dress with a headress of candles.

A peace assembly that includes candles joins a tradition of light that is part of many cultures and religions. A message of peace is one that even our youngest children can understand and participate in. I hope that this tradition grows and matures in the coming years!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Wishes for snow, books, and an end to hunger

Pre K's rolled in the somewhat meager supply of snow, but then they did a snow dance - and it worked! The flurries are flying as I write.

After a whole week of the book fair, the picture I got was of the boxes ready to go back to Scholastic! It doesn't look like much compared to what we started with. We made over $900 for the library! Our parent volunteers spent long hours manning the cash box. There is no way to pull this fund raiser off without parents' help volunteering, sending in cash for wish lists, and putting up with cries for "Just this one more book, pleeeease!" Thank you to ALL - Thank you, thank you!

The 8th grade Oxfam hunger awareness banquet last night was very moving. Our students dressed up and spoke with power about world hunger. With the help of James, Dan and Susie, they put on a feast for a few, and offered rice and beans for many. I pulled a ticket for the "rich" table - boy, does that feel uncomfortable! But not as uncomfortable I'm sure as those who just got a scoop of rice to eat with their hands. The $1,036 they raised is for Oxfam America. Well done!!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Squirrel's Store

I got my own personal, hand-written invitation to The Squirrel's Store, a math play. It was performed today by first graders who wrote, produced, directed and acted. The audience of kindergartners and seventh graders gave rave reviews. The plot involved squirrels visiting a store and skip counting by twos, threes, fours, fives and sixes to purchase nuts. There was even a delivery truck: "Acorn Home Delivery - Call any time, day or night!"

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Middle school moments

Square roots, rational and irrational numbers, writing an essay, pudding math...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Poetry and music

On Friday, the 4-5's performed a "poetry slam" at assembly. It was wonderful in many ways. They looked so cool, that's one! And their main piece was very funny. But the best part was the level of their preparation - and their obvious delight that they pulled it off so well.

They spoke in unison, with inflection that highlighted the humor of the poem - and of course dressing like beat poets set it all off to perfection. Individuals and small groups recited poems with spirit, humor, and drama. Mindy, their teacher, also recited a poem about the difference that teachers make. It was very moving!

On Special Friends Day all the classes performed. There were songs, dances, and an aleatory composition by one of the middle school music classes. I have watched over the years as our performance culture has matured. It is gratifying to see the enthusiasm and pride our students bring to the stage. Sandy, our music teacher, introduces a diverse selection of music from world cultures and history. The new piano also makes a huge difference!

Here are reflections from middle school music journals about Schubert's Erlking:

I love the drama at the beginning of the lied. The intense sound of the piano captures the emotion in the piece. The way the characters' voices are separated by pitch gives you the effect of different people speaking. The child's rising voice also beautifully portrays the scene. The sheer intensity causes you to hold your breath throughout the entire piece, and not even know it.

Schubert wrote the song in triplets. The strands sound like the little boy's heart, beating fast...The child is terrified. Every time he screams it makes me feel his fear. The sound is very dramatic, even though you know what's going to happen, it still surprises you at the end.