Thursday, March 31, 2011

Young philanthropists

Three boys came to me yesterday to talk about a comic strip they made inspired by The Wimpy Kid.  They were selling it for a dime at recess. They wanted to keep some of the money and give some to a cause.

This led to a conversation about how we don't really sell things at school unless we're raising money for the school or for a cause the class agrees on.  Bracelets for Jambo Jipya School in Kenya and the spaghetti lunch for Joseph's House - two examples they recalled.  I showed them where we record gifts to the school - The Annual Giving Report.  That got their attention!

"You mean if we gave money to the school, we'd get our names in that big thing?"  Then they found their parents names, and names of graduates they knew.  Impressive! "But we just have a little money," they said.  We agreed that lots of little amounts can add up to something big.

They were hooked.  Running to tell their classmates the plan, they returned a moment later with 81cents in hand.  They wanted to give it all to the school, to use where ever it is needed most.  "When I think of it, I can't stop smiling!" said one. 

When you believe in a cause, it feels great to give!  Click here to donate to the Annual Fund!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The power of a short sentence

 Interesting article about good writing:

Even more interesting commentary on the article:

As I took pen to note paper this morning to thank our panelists, and flexed ever more seldom used hand muscles, I though about how students master the art of communicating well through the written word.  New forms of writing give practice - Twitter and Facebook beg for poetic distillations - and sometimes achieve them. 

I am in love with the ease with which I can read others' thoughts in the New York Times online and the flow of writing that is shared every nano-second.  Even a short dip into the stream is rewarding.  Thought-provoking writing lives and is more accessible than ever!

 Parker's energy-use analysis
 Eighth grade cooks up a feast
 Seventh graders cook and serve at the annual fundraiser for Troy charities
Reading Shakespeare aloud

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It will take imagination, passion and courage

Susan Engel, author and Williams College professor after last evening's panel discussion, 
Educating for 21st Century Success.

The panelists spoke to a packed house.  (Does anyone have a good picture of the panel? Please send it on!)

We need to build a generation of explorers. - Boris Pluskowski
We know how kids learn - It's alarming that our education system doesn't listen!  We need to bring students into the conversation. - Susan Engel
Students are most engaged outside the classroom - how can we bring their inventiveness into school? - Trudy Hall
The education system needs to take a lesson from industry - develop the talent! - Dan Wallace
Who should be at the table? - Karen Hitchcock

It is hard to convey the energy and electricity at last night's panel discussion.  One thing the panelists agreed upon - we all need to work to bring relevance to education in a changing world.

Over 130 people attended and the talk has not stopped.  The panelists challenged our ideas and confirmed others.  They each had a unique perspective that informed and challenged.  Let's continue the conversation!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

An uncommon skill

Here is what 2-3 teacher, Lynn, wrote to parents about student-led conferences:

This day is always a highlight in my school year. It's a unique experience for a teacher--I spend the day hearing these talented learners completely take the reins and celebrate their intellectual and personal growth with you. Hearing the conversations and seeing families huddled together is a gift for me. A day like this, dedicated solely to a child's self-reflections, is uncommon in schools today. Developing that ability to reflect, set goals, and adjust is an absolutely essential skill for success and satisfaction in life. This experience is just one example of how special Parker is for children, parents and teachers. Thank you! 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Remarkable, spontaneous learning

Happy to be out in the Spring sunshine!

Why Preschool Shouldn't Be Like School in Slate reinforces the notion that it's more important than ever to give children's remarkable, spontaneous learning abilities free rein.  Studies at MIT and UC Berkeley came to the same conclusion: that teaching kids more and more at ever younger ages, can backfire. 

While being instructed about something directly from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, "it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution."

That's why it is so important to give children practice in exploration and innovation. Plus, it's way more fun!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Alumni news

Jesse Pickard, '98 just received $1.2 million in venture capital funding for his company Mind Snacks, maker of mobile education games. Jesse started Mind Snacks less than a year ago after receiving start-up money from a venture capital competition.  The company specializes in teaching foreign language through iPhone apps, with Spanish and French games available and Mandarin and SAT Prep on the way. Go Jesse! 

Lydia Youngman, '08, is a junior at Emma Willard.  Lydia spent last week here in an internship helping Susie in Art class and with the K-1's.  K-1's interviewed Lydia and will be making a book, All About Lydia, as part of 20th Anniversary efforts to find out about our graduates. When you read the book, you will be able to find out how many friends Lydia had in kindergarten and if she has ever been on an animal ride. (among many other things about Lydia!)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Juicy studies

Let Kids Rule the School, the latest NYTimes Op Ed piece by Susan Engel says it all!  When several public high school students had a chance to devise their own curriculum they explored questions like: “Are the plant cells at the bottom of a nearby mountain different than those at the top of the mountain?” and “Why we do we cry?”  These prompted inquiry, critique and passion for the learning journey.

Parker faculty recently worked with author Matt Glover on how to inspire the most energy for writing in students.  Choice and relevancy (to the students!) were the topmost criteria for them to fully engage and become motivated.  This does make sense.  Don't we all appreciate the ability to choose?

When students are given juicy assignments or challenges, high expectations, and some autonomy - they really shine.  I see evidence of this everywhere I look at Parker.

I see it in cartoons showing understanding of Newton's Laws and Rube Goldberg constructions that demonstrate the same principals.  I saw it in the real joy in performing at the Poetry Slam.

Read Susan's article and see if you don't agree that kids can run the school (with a little support!) and come hear Susan at the Panel Discussion on March 23.

Concentrated observation, sharing home-grown crystals, receiving hand-decorated tee shirts from Jambo Jipya buddies in Kenya.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Technology, learning, and simple pleasures

Two views of technology and learning:

A mom's view:   "Screen time for kids - is it learning or a brain drain?"
  Are schools really missing out on a potent tool for learning?   "Tech and Learning: At Odds in Schools and in Sync Everywhere Else"

Thursday's Poetry Slam with 2-3's and 4-5's in berets was a delight.  The poems about what brings them joy were my favorites: food, friends, family, pets, playing, laughter - even school.  Simple and potent pleasures!

Leave Those Kids Alone in the latest The Atlantic makes me feel fierce about protecting simple pleasures for our children.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A more accurate view of who we are

I learned some new vocabulary words today.  They were used by David Brooks in his New York Times Op Ed piece The New Humanism.

He writes about a movement away from Americans' valuing only what is strictly measurable, to a growing body of research and an appreciation for traits related to human relationships and interconnections.  In the conversation about how to measure school success, teacher effectiveness, and student learning, I am interested in exploring these words and their meaning.  I'd like to define these words in terms of our school and how to teach for the future.  Let's do it together!

Attunement, Equipoise, Metis, Sympathy (I know that one!), and Limerence.

Some more photos from Read Across America Day:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Celebrating reading!

Thank you to our Librarian, Carol, our Parent Council and parent volunteers, and our students for a spectacular day!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Solar ovens are cookin'

Cupcakes, pancakes, cheese, and even bacon...4-5's are experimenting with solar power!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Energizing writers

Back after February Break to sunshine, memories of a very funny Middle School drama club play, more snowy time outside, bananas and raisins for snack, and research for presentations about modern history.  Ben and Mark regaled me with stories of WWI and the 110-year-old veteran who died recently. 

Teachers were energized yesterday by our workshop presenter Matt Glover.  Matt is a former first grade teacher, principal, and writer.  He is an expert on energizing children for writing.  He spoke our teachers' language and nudged us in new directions for creating even more creative, skilled, and authentic writers.  Click here for more on Matt Glover.