Friday, December 18, 2009

Show of depth

A beautiful Peace Assembly today full of song, spirit, and light.

The Show of Work in 2-3 and K-1 made everyone proud with the depth and breadth of the experiences. 2-3 students demonstrated chlorophyll and turbidity testing from their Hudson River study. They shared a food web of Hudson River life, their essays on scientific testing, their point-of-view poems, their grand mural.

K-1's animal habitats were detailed and lush. Their animal posters were filled with information and color.

4-5's narrated their Native American legend PowerPoints on Wednesday. The stories held humor, irony, suspense. They shared foods, artifacts, games, jewelry and long houses.

I am struck by the high level of communication and the happy competency the children show. One kindergartner when I asked him how he knew that opossums have 52 teeth said, "I did research on Carol's computer and read a book." Of course!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What could be more fun?

Just enough snow for sledding - and eating of course. As the flurries fell this morning, heads were thrown back and little tongues were out to catch a few sweet flakes!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fun learning

I love seeing how our teachers interact with the kids - caring for each student and his or her progress, with big doses of fun. And they are so proud of their students. Rose said to me, "I can't wait until you read the Native American Legends the 4-5's wrote! They are amazing!"

Assembly this morning was a great example of the students taking responsibility. The 8th graders run things and music teacher George plays guitar. Today's features were "Quote of the week," "DeZara's Fun Facts," "The Garbage and Recycling Report," a humorous skit, and rousing choruses of "You are my Sunshine" and "Yellow Submarine."

Breaking news from Planet Parker: We just received the check for $1,445 from General William Mayer Foundation for a Pedal-a-Watt! Kids will pedal a bike to power lights or a radio; even a computer. Definitely a fun way to learn.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Children and anxiety

Our Faculty Professional Development Day was rich with discussion and ideas. Dr. Pat Schuler, a nationally recognized speaker discussed anxiety in children and what we can do in school to help children cope. It was affirming to hear that we are doing many of the things Pat recommended, and she gave us new ideas, too.

I recently found someone's paper from the 4-5 health class, where children wrote "10 Things That Stress Me" and "10 Things that Relieve My Stress."
Among the stressors:

My black belt exam
Getting yelled at
Losing something important to me
If I accidentally spill someone's secret

and some ways to relieve stress:
Hot cocoa
Going outside
Doing a back flip
and # 14 Take my stress out on a Barbie or Bratz doll!

One of the ways we help children cope with stress at Parker is by practicing the simple mindful breathing taught us by C.S., the grandfather of Veda in 4-5. It is one of his life's missions to spread this easy and effective way to reduce anxiety. The breathing technique is practiced regularly by almost all the children in the school.

In the afternoon yesterday we watched the video: Consuming Kids, The Commercialization of Childhood. It was an amazing reminder of how even our youngest children are the target of consumer brands.

We also shared books we are reading and that we recommend to others. Here is the list.
  • Blessings of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogul
  • Play by Stuart Brown
  • Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
  • Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof
  • Moral Intelligence of Children by Robert Coles
  • Teaching Children Compassionately by Marshall Rosenberg
  • Teaching with a Heart by Vito Perrone
  • The Hudson River, An Illustrated Guide to the Living River
  • Yardsticks by Chip Wood
  • Doing Good Science in Middle School
  • Nurture Shock by Bronson and Merryman

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Special day

A Feast, a rousing chorus of songs from Here Comes the Sun to Cotton Eye Joe, special friends and grandparents, cookies and cider, memories and hugs...a beautiful November day! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Planet Parker

You are going to start hearing a lot more about Planet Parker!

Planet Parker is what we are calling our efforts in educating for sustainable energy and the environment. It encompasses the summer camp programs, science curriculum, trail system, speaker series, teacher education, a panel of experts, and in the years to come, much more!

Its roots come from parent and teacher forums and a Board goal to develop the school property for education. Three years ago, a steering committee wrote a proposal for a Legislative grant for a pilot summer program in hands-on sustainable energy studies. It was awarded in June of 2008 and funding came through in September of 2009.

Last summer we launched the new camp programs. Since June volunteers have been clearing trails to form a 3 K loop with bridges over the creeks and science stations throughout the woods.

With the $90,000 grant money we are upgrading our science lab, building an outdoor pavilion classroom with an amphitheater, and obtaining technology and materials.

We also received a $1,400 grant from the General William Mayer Foundation for a Pedal -a-Watt bicycle system (kids pedal the bike to generate power) AND a three-year gift from a special donor to pay the salary of a coordinator for Planet Parker!

I'll be circulating the job description for the coordinator. If you know of someone who is interested, have them send me their resume.

In the next months we will be putting out a press release, planning a Saturday of hands-on science for parents, and organizing a panel discussion. Our website will also reflect Planet Parker and all its elements.

What a legacy for Parker students present and future!

21st C students

21st Century Students was the topic of the recent conference I attended (Headmistresses Association of the East - we did not arrive on broomsticks!) The first speaker was Michael Wesch, a professor of Anthropology at Kansas State U If you visit this site and read or view his presentations, you will find exciting food for thought!

His premise is that the social media revolution is changing the face of education - do we need classroom walls when the world - through wiki's, Facebook, You Tube, etc - is literally at students' fingertips? His perspective is from a university setting, but has profound ramifications for educators in all areas.

Because information of every kind is so easily available, Wesch says we need to adapt, organizing education around questions, not mastery of facts. He says,

We have had our why's, how's, and what's upside-down, focusing too much on what should be learned, then how, and often forgetting the why altogether. In a world of nearly infinite information, we must first address why, facilitate how, and let the what generate naturally from there.

In progressive education, and especially here at Parker, we organize learning around the "why" of things. It is what motivates students and makes them life-long learners.

Social media offers so many ways to expand learning, as it gives students a wide - worldwide - audience. Using these tools in school also gives us the opportunity to teach about the ethical use of social media.

The workshop was energizing for me - I am bringing back many ideas for our teachers and we will continue to discuss, experiment and refine our use of questions, social media, and our students as "teachers" constructing and communicating knowledge in 21st C ways.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jambo Jipya School

We had a presentation a month ago by a very poised 22 year old, Keela Dates. Keela is the founder of Reason2Smile, a support organization for Jambo Jipya, a school in Kenya for orphaned and at-risk children. Since 2004 the school has expanded from one mud hut to 11 cement classrooms with 300 students ages 3 - 18.

Our students were inspired to reach out. When Keela goes to Kenya next month, she will take with her t-shirts our students decorated with artwork they designed. She will also take plain t-shirts and paints from Parker so that students at Jambo Jipya can send something back.

Jambo Jipya means "something new." You can find out more about Jambo Jipya at Link to more photos of t-shirt artwork:

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Am

Writing and performing a Salem Witch Trial (using vivid language and strong acting!), using a scale in math class, acting wacky at recess...all images from a week full of action.

Today I saw a Power Point given by two 6th graders on bacteria, with links to You Tube clips of live bacteria. "You should have seen the video of a plant eating a frog!" said Pablo.

There was a lively discussion going on in 8th grade social studies about The Bill of Rights. Who actually knows anything first hand about billeting soldiers? But search and seizure and the right to bear arms were hot topics.

In 4-5 they were writing what and how they could make tools from nature like Iroquois children had to. The class had been out by the tree house to see what they might use.

K-1's were playing pac man tag in gym class. Pre K'ers were wearing red fire hats (some wearing bride gowns.) 2-3's read their "I Am" poems in assembly. Their writing was so powerful. Here is Megan A's:

I am from purrs of love and playful nibbles
I am from chocolate icecream to steaming peas soup
I am from far away grandparents to very near neighbors
I am from dragons and unicorns to deer in my lawn
I am from hot cocoa to delicious snowcones
I am from the closest friends to sitting alone in my room
I am from a purring snuggle bug to a rambunctious dog
I am from steaming hot summers to fluffy white snow
I am from beautiful singing to sports with Darcy
I am from reading with Carol to running at recess
I am from a very big hospital to a very small house
I am from great teachers to not so great expanders
I am from delicious mashed potatoes to disgusting vegetables
I am from expressing my dreams to holding in tears
I am from a playing my flute to dancing in my room
I am from a yellow house to an apartment at the beach
I am from a loving Mom and Dad to an OK sister
I am from a very great school with very close friends

Wind and solar workshop

We held a workshop here on Saturday on solar and wind in the classroom. A dozen science teachers experimented with new toys. Our science teacher, Kate Perry organized the day through Northeast Sustainable Energy Association. Great learning and we also got lots of great free stuff.

Kate is thinking how fun it would be to hold a hands-on session for parents to try out what our kids get to experiment with in science class. Making solar cars and powering things with wind... Would you come? Let's think about it for January!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A memorable meeting

Last Sunday a group of people got together who are all advocates for Parker, our Head's Advisory Committee. Some are past parents, some past trustees - all are good friends of the school. We meet two times a year to share what's new at Parker and to get advice and ideas. This group is a valued resource for the school.

We took a wonderful hike on the new trails, led by Kurt Arnold, parent and trustee, who has spearheaded the trails effort with great enthusiasm and determination. It was beautiful - we all marveled at the trail work and delighted in the variety of trees and terrain that are now accessible.

After the hike we sat around the library table for updates and discussion. Suddenly it became apparent that some uninvited guests had accompanied us back from our walk - ticks! We checked each other and laughed ( a bit uneasily!) and seem to have found them all. It is the most abundant collection we've seen - perhaps a result of the warm day.

It was a memorable meeting!

Day 2 on the Hudson

Day #2 on the Hudson. A little colder and the leaves are off the trees. Collection of scientific data continues. Next dates: January, March, May.

Here's the scoop

I was away at a conference so I couldn't go to the soccer game. I emailed Laura and got the full sports report:


I asked all the students as they entered this morning how the game went...

Student # 1 ..."we won."
Student #2...."we lost."
Student #3...."we tied.''

Raffi Cohen...." Well, I wrote an article about it. You can read it in "The Rising Sun."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Robert Curtis Parker Day

We splashed over creeks and balanced on logs through a bog. We laughed and listened to the crackling leaves. We held hands with friends and took special care of each other. This was our Robert C. Parker Day buddy hike.

At assembly everyone had a song, skit, poem or poster. Super Bob flew through the air! Jazz music flowed. Stories were shared. Excitement buzzed through the room. We know a little more about Bob Parker and had lots of fun remembering his great spirit and energy!

Brain food

Field research on soil erosion and library research on ancient cultures. Brain food!