Thursday, March 25, 2010

Indicators of clean water (and other things)

The 2-3's brought their water testing equipment to the Parker creek today. During their Stream to River clean water project they have visited the Hudson three times to collect data. Now they will compare their data on turbidity, pH, flow, chlorophyll, plant and animal life and other indicators, to our own stream. One more trip to the Hudson is planned for May. Of course our creek is available any day for testing.

Their usual partners, the 6-7's, were at the Clark Museum in Williamstown today, so 2-3's handled things on their own. They have lots of field experience, so the kids got right to work.

One of their informal tests is to see who can go deepest in the water without flooding their boots - wet socks (and screaming) are the indicators!

Monday, March 22, 2010

A busy Saturday!

Saturday morning: hands-on energy science and brainstorming about all the exciting things Planet Parker can be.

Saturday evening: seventh graders serving spaghetti to raise money for Troy charities.

Thank you to everyone who participated!

Friday, March 19, 2010

We all feel proud

Self-reflection and assessment, setting goals, planning and giving a presentation of their work; students gain valuable skills preparing for student-led conferences. They also get the reward of proud parents!

Here is what a 2-3 teacher wrote to parents after the conferences:

I want to thank you all for such an excellent day. This is the one school day a year that Lynne and I are on the sidelines, a complete audience to our incredible learners. To watch our students share their progress and insights about their intellectual and social lives is an honor. To hear the feedback you gave and pride you shined on your children has plastered a smile on our faces. This day was a gift. This is a day that reminds me that we are all so lucky to share this unique learning community at Parker. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bringing the mission into the classroom

There is a push-pull in our society between the standardized testing, standards-based culture and the belief that American children need creativity, communication, and entrepreneurial skills for real future success. In independent education circles the current conversation is about resisting the pull for test prep based learning and recognizing that excellence and rigor are found in rethinking a traditional curriculum.

At Parker, we never did buy into the idea that preparing for testing prepares students for life.

We now find ourselves at the forefront of what is being suggested by the National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS) and thoughtful education experts, that schools develop a project-based, relevant curriculum to prepare students for the 21st Century and a competitive, complex interconnected world.

Emily Jones, Head of Putney School, writes in the current NAIS magazine:

Schools that have freed themselves from the constraints of standardized testing have found that they have several critical advantages:
  • They can teach creativity in all disciplines
  • They can lengthen time horizons for assignments, using project based learning that is genuinely authentic
  • They can teach decision -making and create a sense of agency and citizenship by having students approach real-world problems in real time
She goes on to say:

One thing that is clear from a study of these schools is that their students are doing serious intellectual work. There is nothing fluffy or "alternative" about these classes; in fact, they drive directly towards the goals articulated by the schools' mission statements and urged by educational leaders.

We will continue to bring our mission statement to the classroom in all the creative and rigorous ways we can through our rich and responsive program!

Photos: Independent reading, self-portraits, Pi Day, writing a letter "To Mom" in Pre K 4.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sticky learning

I love to watch kids thinking. Powering a light bulb, gathering materials for a bird's nest, figuring out a math problem. What do we need? How will this work? Trial and error; back to the drawing board. Now we've got it! Brain pathways are connecting and reinforcing. This is the kind of learning that sticks.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Story, design, production

Read Across America Day is a true celebration of literacy. We had Ivy Vine puppets big and tiny, authors Alexandra Siy, Daniel Hayes, and Matt McElligott, a book talk with Market Block Books, and tall tales with storyteller, Kent Busman. We sang and marched and pretty much everyone had on a costume. Then there was a book sale - 25 cents bought any used paperback. The excitement of choosing a book with a quarter clutched in your palm - that is the power of literature!

Thank you Carol, our wonderful librarian, and parents who helped set up and clear up the book sale and who provided our visitors with tasty hospitality.

After school I accompanied the Computer Club to Vicarious Visions, local video game design company. No photos, please! The latest version of Guitar Hero and Marvel Comics is top secret! It's still story, design and production - in another guise. Thank you, Dan Wallace (V.V. Producer and husband of Spanish teacher Erin) and David Cooperstein '07, Computer Club teacher!

Parker basketball

One casualty, second win, good time had by all!

Monday, March 1, 2010

A mixed age community

We give students of different ages lots of ways to get to know each other.

Buddies read, write, and research together. On Fridays in the winter, kids swim, ski, and dance together. Middle school students are helpers and mentors for younger students in art, science, reading, and at snack time. 2-3's and 6-7's cooperate in science visits to the Hudson River. In MICE teams, mixed age groups work together to tidy-up the school.

It isn't that easy sometimes being the older "teacher" - it takes thought and self-control. It takes patience and listening. Sometimes it takes compromise. Older kids learn that the younger ones watch what they do and how they act.

These are life-skills that are not always provided in schools or sports settings where children are segregated by age.

The rewards of mixed-age experiences are a strong sense of community, thoughtful social ability, and kids who care about each other!