Monday, December 22, 2008


Friday brought our Peace Assembly and a Living Museum in 4-5. Then we all went home early as the snowflakes fell. More snow over the weekend brought beauty and peace. We'll see everyone in 2009!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Empty Bowls

Everyone at Parker last night had full bowls - I had three! The soup was delicious. We learned about hunger around the world and right here in Troy. Thank you all who came, donated, made bowls, dug potatoes, and chopped vegetables. Thank you James and Susie and the eighth grade for coordinating this worthwhile effort. And thank you Thomas for offering your fall vegetables from The Alleged Farm and for supervising soup-making.

The estimated amount the students raised for Joseph's House is $1,400, and today they will do a final count.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Storms, ice, trees down, power out, no heat, no phones, ( " pool, no pets, I ain't got no cigarettes..." Sorry, I got carried away.) What a crazy parade of days! We are very glad to be back in school!

We had a visitor today from South Africa. Roland Abrahams is an English teacher and Associate Director of Christel House Academy in Cape Town. His school's mission is to break the cycle of poverty - poverty is a criteria for admission. He arrived at Emma Willard last week and has experienced his first snow and ice and slept by the fireplace for three nights. It was a privilege to have him at Parker for the day. He said he felt such warmth and leaning here. We hope to keep our lines of communication open for future exchange.

There is cookin' goin' on down in the kitchen! Thomas Christenfeld and the the eighth grade are making soup. Three kinds, I've heard. I can sure smell it and it smells great. Proceeds from tonight's sale of student-made bowls and other donated bowls will go to Joseph's House in Troy.

Many who were without power over the last few days feel increased empathy for those who struggle daily to find heat and food. It is humbling to think of our tenuous hold on the privilege of light and heat and easy communication. And for having a school open to us that is filled with a richness of materials and shared humanity.

Friday, December 5, 2008

After hours...

Here is what things looked like today after school. In After Club kids were cooking - bean dip - and they didn't even double dip! Then I walked down to the scene at the Middle School Dance. It is amazing what twinkle lights can do for the atmosphere in a gym. Great cream puffs and other yummy things for sale - I double dipped.

Working in a community

K-1's are learning about people who work in a community. They are making a pop-up book, doing research with their buddies and then writing reports. They were wondering what I do in my job and suggested that I sleep at my desk (I thought no one saw!) They will have a big presentation of their work after the Peace Assembly on the 19th.

Middle school kids are all in clubs. This is the Outdoors Club. They were disposing of the pumpkin that has sat by the front door since Fall Festival. It is in the woods now for future study...They were happy to pose with their broom. They have big plans for trail-blazing and projects in the greenhouse. Good community workers for Parker - definitely not sleeping on the job!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Special Friends

The Pre K Harvest Feast and Special Friends Day is filled with food, smiles and music. I look forward to the pumpkin bread with chocolate chips (baked personally by preschoolers!) every year. 4-5 Buddies join their Pre K friends and families for the feast and a few songs.

In the afternoon all the kids put on a rousing musical performance. This year the middle schoolers performed a very cool rhythm and movement piece.

My special friends were Jamie and Coleman in K-1 who regaled me with stories of learning to read the words cat and rat, and things they will never forget, like jumping up three stairs.

At lunch I sat with preschooler Sarah and her fifth grade buddy Hannah. Sarah's grandfather confessed, "If I'd known how much fun grandchildren were, I would have skipped having kids and jumped right to grandkids!" Hannah remarked to me in confidence, "That wouldn't actually work."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Happier = Smarter

Singing together, writing together, reading together, creating together - the social aspects of learning are so powerful!

At a conference a few weeks ago I heard Shawn Achor, a Harvard professor and researcher, talk about positive psychology. He is studying how happiness increases intelligence. The research shows that you can increase your baseline happiness level and hence, become smarter. The research started with 4-year-olds who, when pre-set to think about happy things, performed faster and more accurately on a block building exercise.

The ramifications for a school are so interesting. It is what we know about learning at Parker, but haven't put into quite those terms. Everyone who visits notes how happy the atmosphere is. We also know our children are smart and that they perform well here and later in their lives.

The idea that we can increase the happiness levels even more interests me a lot. Things like exercise, yoga, meditation, writing about something that makes you happy, noting things you are grateful for, connecting socially - all these can make people happy. And if you practice them regularly, they make you even happier.

Another thing that is true about happiness (and all human emotions) is that it is contagious. We mimic each other - we are empathetic. So, when people feel happy there is a ripple effect.

Knowing that, we can practice ways to make ourselves happier, make our school happier, and our world happier - and smarter!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Election Day

6-7's organized an all school election on November 4. They tabulated ballots and counted twice. Obama won by a big margin. Peter C. in grade 7 got 1% of the vote.

Kindergarten was counting, too (puff balls.) 4-5's were writing bills. Many children were tired on Wednesday, as they had stayed up late to see the historic election results. Students experienced the hope and responsibility of Democracy in lots of ways this week.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Buddy Walk

The Buddy Walk is a highlight of Robert C.Parker Day. After an assembly of songs, skits, posters, a jazz band and lots of merriment, we all headed out together into the meadow.

One funny skit at the assembly highlighted Bob's love of proper grammar with Cade translating Ben's lazy speech. Ben, "He liked walkin up mountains 'n stuff." Cade with an English accent, "Robert loved hiking up the breathtakingly beautiful Adirondack mountains."

It was a spirited tribute to the spirit of Robert C. Parker!

Visit from the Ark's sixth grade

Sixth graders from the Ark Charter School in Troy visited middle school yesterday. It was a great chance for our 5 Murnane Scholars in seventh and eighth grade who went to the Ark Charter School, to show their friends around. The guests got a flavor of Parker so they can decide if they would like to apply for the program. The current Scholars are funded by past parents. We hope to raise enough in continuing funds to bring more Murnane Scholars next year.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thank you for a great day!

Fall Festival was lots of fun. One of our new teachers said, "The parents here care so much! They work so hard to make it great!" It is true! Parents made the day fun for all - memorable and a child's delight. Our Open House brought many new families to see the school - in short the day was a big success! Thanks, everybody!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Spatial intelligence

Grade 4 math class was trying out and critiquing three different sets of instructions for building a cube structure. Then they wrote instructions for a buddy to build and evaluate. Now they are analyzing which instructions are effective and why.

The greenhouse construction crew is building tables and benches from wooden pallets.

Skills: cooperation, coordination, planning, three-dimensional design, trial and error (hammer and saw operation and safety...)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Scientists and builders

Predicting, weighing, measuring, counting, observing, building. 2-3's use pumpkins for math and science and build a shade garden for ferns.

Salem witch trial

Prosecution, defense, judge, jury. Witches? Not guilty!

Fire safety and jamming

In K-1: The firemen visited AND the class made grape jam. And they gave me some! Yum.