Friday, December 17, 2010

An unlimited capacity for learning

Lighting a candle for Peace...Dinosaur essays and portraits...a flip book and posters about research on workers in our community...the living museum of history makers...

Industry and artistry were on display this morning!  The pride, joy, and confidence engendered by doing a job well and then sharing it with those whose opinions we value - parents, families, teachers, peers, and buddies.  What could be a more satisfying or fulfilling learning experience?

Thank you students and teachers for your commitment to each person's unlimited capacity, and thank you to parents and families for your heartfelt support!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Preparations underway

Preparing for a deadline...the Peace Assembly and Show of Work are coming up fast!

K-1's are researching and preparing a display about community workers.  They have enjoyed visits from parents and friends  - including a nurse, Russell Crouse (pictured).  Each 2-3 student is writing an essay about a particular dinosaur and painting a dinosaur portrait in art class.  4-5's will be staging a living museum through multi-media presentations.  Come see Albert Einstein, Paul Revere, Helen Keller, Thurgood Marshall and others.  Pre K 4's are creating lanterns for the Peace Assembly. 

Don't miss it all starting at 9 AM on Friday.

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms

Friday, December 10, 2010

Capacity, Collaboration, Culture: Empty Bowls

Everyone pitched in, from start to finish.  The 8th grade gleaned vegetables at Hancock Shaker Village, made soup, researched, prepared and presented a program about world hunger, and invited a speaker on local hunger to participate.  Meanwhile, the rest of the school made clay bowls.  Parents and friends came to purchase the bowls with donations that went to Joseph's House in Troy, to help feed families in need.  Funds raised: $1,156! 

And what did everyone learn?  What skills were advanced through this kind of activity?  Not the kind that are taught from sitting at separate desks, memorizing the one correct answer to the question.

In another compelling and animated video, Sir Ken Robinson explains the history of American education, and how we need just three elements in schools to engage children's minds and hearts: Understanding that human capacity is limitless and broad; that collaboration is the stuff of growth; and that a dynamic culture is essential.  

Sounds suspiciously like the Empty Bowls undertaking!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lovin' math

Math, math everywhere!  2-3's and 4-5's are immersed in math every morning.  When I asked a kindergartner yesterday what she loved about being in kindergarten, she said, "Math!"  Middle school kids at Parker love math, too. 

Local company Vicarious Visions, maker of Guitar Hero, created this video as part of a STEM Challenge (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).  The Parker Computer Club visited there last year, and Spanish teacher Erin's husband Dan is a top manager at V.V.  Dan will be part of our panel this spring (March 23) on Educating for 21st Century Success. 

The video is awesome - click "like" on the You Tube page if you do!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Student expert

Anya in 4-5 is fast becoming a cheese celebrity!  New England Cheesemaking  and  Culture: the Word on Cheese highlight her passion.  Early affinities can translate into life long pursuits.  They develop the complexity of the brain.  Plus it's fun to be an expert!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A dose of green per day

Head out for a daily dose of green space

From the NY Times: First, the bad news: Americans are suffering from an acute case of “outdoor deprivation disorder,” and the effects on physical and mental health are rising fast... Now, the good news: There’s a simple remedy — get outside and start moving around in green spaces near and far

I think Parker is the right prescription for this problem...

New website!

Check out our new website!  We're in the beta stage, so please give your feedback!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Special Friends

A child's family is made up of those who love them.  Thank you Special Friends who visited today!  Happy Thanksgiving, Parker family!

Growing Friends and Caring Connections

2-3's are working with adults with disabilities from Rensselaer County ARC to become friends and to do horticultural projects together.  Four new friends, Jessica, Connie, Paul, and Renee, were given tours of the school by small groups of 2-3's.  Paul played harmonica for the kids and sang a song. 

In K-1 on Fridays, a graduate class from Russell Sage brings therapy dogs to teach about caring for animals. 

In each instance, students reach outside their zones of comfort and perspective.  They practice kind and caring words and actions - and ultimately develop empathy and understanding. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Creative minds at work

This You Tube video was made by three of our middle school students.

Here's the assignment:
Students researched and presented what they felt were important inventions and discoveries from their lifetimes. Expanding from discoveries, the 6th and 7th graders were then challenged to, in groups, choose the "greatest" scientist to research and present. 

They spent several days researching scientists, weighing options, and organizing information. Writing research papers as individuals and collaborating on skits in groups, they delved into the lives and works of lesser known scientists and justified why these men and women are great. Putting together facts, props, sets, and entertainment, their creative skits highlighted famous discoveries and interesting people. Students employed the same problem solving and creative thinking skills while planning, researching and implementing their papers and skits that they use when creating their own scientific experiments.  

Being completely jealous of the skills shown in this video (if you've seen my video attempts, you know why), I asked the creators about how they learned film-making. Zoe told me she had taken a class last summer at Hudson Valley Community College.  I'm signing up!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A foundation of caring

The new pavilion is taking shape! 

And here is the first team of President, Vice President and Secretary of Class for the 4-5's.  Their election process was terrific - from the Bubble Gum Party to the Peaceful Classroom and the Black and White Parties, everyone got involved in a dynamic exercise about government. 

I just returned from three days with other Heads of New York independent schools.  We had thought provoking speakers and discussions about the state of public schools, from the most challenged, to the most challenging. The perils of a system geared towards meeting testing standards seem almost overwhelming.  We discussed kids who want to learn, but the schools aren't teaching them, and on the other end of the spectrum kids under so much pressure to perform that they become sick.

As an independent school believing that positive and caring connections between and among students, teachers, and parents is the most important foundation for learning, we function on a very different premise.  We are so fortunate that wonder, discovery, and delight are our baseline.  Our teachers believe in every child and his or her own amazing potential - and the students thrive. 

We heard from Ned Hallowell who wrote Finding the Heart of the Child and The Childhood Roots of Happiness.  My next reads!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Buddy hike for Parker Day

A great Buddy Hike for Robert C. Parker Day.  Here's the video!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kids haven't changed; Kindergarten has

From a parent:

I thought you might be interested in this article. The findings of the Gesell study seem to support the notion that lots of free play and limited pencil and paper work is good for kids in kindergarten!

Harvard Education  Letter

A kind of winning

The fall soccer season ended yesterday - with a flourish!  The other team was a no-show.  Our team cheered.  A forfeit - that's a win!  Making our season 1 and 4.  We held a scrimmage anyway.

This is the first time in some years that we had a full season of competition, so there were a few bugs to work out.  One is balancing a no-cut policy where all team members get to play with the desire to play the best players and get closer to winning.  Darcy wants to play all the kids, but all didn't come to all the games. Should she give preference to those who are the most dedicated?  A good question for us. 

The players had a great attitude.  All had fun.  Learning to be a good sport is a skill for life.  Watching our players delight in the action, help others up and cheer each other on - that's a win.  Go Parker!

My visitors

I love having visitors to my office!  Children will come up to read a story they have written, show their drawings of leaf symmetry (above), or bring me jam or a wreath of fall leaves!  The very best part of working with kids is - the kids!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cross-Country Meet

We hosted about 120 kids for a 1 mile cross-country race yesterday.  The autumn sun was brilliant.  The foliage, too.  Parker kids were terrific hosts - and did well in their races.  What a great day!

Thank you to all the folks  - especially Kurt Arnold, Doug McClaren, and John Arnason - who put so much time and effort into clearing trails.  Huge thanks to our phys ed teacher and coach, Darcy DeMaria who organized the event and inspired our runners.  And big, big thanks to all our students - you have great spirit and heart!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Parker video!

This is a mini video of 2-3's and 6-7's collecting water data on Crooked Lake.  We partnered with Averill Park High School students in a Serve and Learn grant.  The data the students collected will be part of our Stream to River, Clean Water Stewardship project.

Live dangerously

At recess today, I took a gang of kids out to Tree Island - a favorite spot, too tangled and low for adults to enter.  Hiding in special nooks under the low branches of old apple trees, making a fort, or a little room  - that's what they love to do.  Third grader, Coleman asked me if he could climb a tree.  I said OK, "But not too high!"

I recently encountered a book on Amazon called Fifty Dangerous Things (You should let your children do)
 Things like licking a battery, throwing things from a moving car, or standing on the roof - perhaps antidotes to over-protection by adults. (It made me nostalgic for my own childhood!)  The author speaks of the importance of hands-on, self-directed learning as being critical to the development of the kind of creativity and love of learning that is largely absent from today's test driven schooling. 

So yes, kids, climbing trees is encouraged!
Tony Featherston's school blog

Fall Festival Fun

What a great time!  Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make it such a success.  The smiles on every face made the day - not to mention the "human hampster balls"!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tasty results of their labours

8th graders went to Hancock Shaker Village to glean vegetables on Tuesday.  Today, parent Michael Tanenblatt arrived to help them turn the assorted veggies into soup.  The delicious smells wafted through the halls - we'll freeze it  - and on Empty Bowls Night, taste the results!

River Day!

What a day on the River!!  On Hudson River Snapshot day, schools from Manhattan to Troy collect water data to share with Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.  Our students collected information on water creatures, weather, tides and current, and shipping traffic, and we sketched the testing site.  We also performed tests for:
• Dissolved oxygen and temperature
• Nitrate, pH, metals and salinity
• Turbidity, plankton and chlorophyll

This year we had the added excitement of having Commisioner Pete Grannis, of the DEC observing our site, and local news channels 9 and 10 interviewing students!

This is just one of the planned data collection days for Parker 2-3 and 6-7's.  Our Stream to River, Clean Water Stewardship project continues on other visits to the Hudson, our school creeks, and Crooked Lake.  Commissioner Grannis suggested that students present their findings to a Legislative Committee - we think we'll take him up on it!
Check out the news link on YNN