Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The best evidence

The NY Times Op Ed piece, A Dangerous Obsession by Stanford professor, Linda Darling-Hammond offers a common sense view of testing and the national conversation about how American students don't measure up on an international scale. 

At the end of the day, stronger learning will result from better teaching, not more testing, as leading nations have long understood, she says. 

Evidence of good teaching:  This article about our sixth grader Jack and his quest to save honey bees, Bees Find a Sixth Grade Advocate. (For the record, Jack wrote the letters to donors, and his mom, Lisa helped by typing and things like that.) 

Look for Parker stories tonight on Channel 13 at 5:30 with Elaine Houston, and next Tuesday, too.  Our school's success lies in good teaching that empowers students to make a difference.  Testing would be scant evidence of that!
The Parker Bee Club in full gear.  10,000+ Carniolan honey bees seem happy in their new home - thanks to Jack, his teachers, his mentors, and his Mom. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Study of Africa, Study of China

A play about Ananci and The Moss Covered Rock, books about African animals, original Chinese shadow puppet plays, Passion Projects...A beautiful morning showcasing the excitement and the deep learning of Parker students!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Showcase of skills

Thesis presentations last night showcased 8th graders' writing, analysis, and speaking skills.  I love the diverse range of topics.
  • Who Owns Antiquities?  The Black Market Trade of Relics
  • How Jimi Hendrix Changed Rock
  • Fairy Tales: A Never Ending Story
  • The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
  • Eating Disorders: The Perfect Poison
  • Home Recording:  A Music Revolution
  • The Influence of McDonald's
  • Robotics and the Future
Between the raindrops today, Pre K had a picnic.  Think sun!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It's social!

This must-read article from The Economist, An Alternative Vote, applying science to the teaching of science, gives proof that Parker's teaching methods are superior to a traditional teacher-directed model.  The article describes an experiment in teaching and learning at the college level that demonstrates the effectiveness of small group, discussion based learning,

Human learning is most effective when it is social.  This is intuitive to thoughtful and observant teachers, and it is supported by neuroscience.  Independent schools like Parker are at the cutting edge of using this knowledge to leverage student success.  Our flexibility is an enormous asset to our students and their achievement.

 Visitors talk about Africa with K-1's.
 2-3's are preparing for a Show of Work about China.
Preschoolers greet a guest at the classroom door.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A gentler picture of human nature

 Eighth grade had a great week in Philadelphia as culmination of their study of American history.

David Brooks wrote in his latest NY Times Op-Ed piece Nice Guys Finish First that:

In pursuing our self-interested goals, we often have an incentive to repay kindness with kindness, so others will do us favors when we’re in need. We have an incentive to establish a reputation for niceness, so people will want to work with us. We have an incentive to work in teams, even against our short-term self-interest because cohesive groups thrive. Cooperation is as central to evolution as mutation and selection... 

He argues that if cooperation permeates our nature, then so does morality, "and there is no escaping ethics, emotion and religion in our quest to understand who we are and how we got this way."  That sounds a lot like our school mission  - and a wonderful foundation for a 21st Century curriculum.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Work Day

Parker couldn't look as beautiful as it does without our hard-working teachers, parent and student helpers, trustees, and a dozen enthusiastic RPI students.  Now we have fresh pea-stone on the playground, newly painted walls and parking circle signs, sparkly windows and much more!  Thank you all!

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Morning on the Creek

Averill Park 11th graders joined Parker 2-3's for a morning of collecting water data at our western creek.  The Serve and Learn America program has brought the two schools together for the second time.  Testing for micro and macro invertebrates and other water qualities, the students will compare data from the Hudson River and Crooked Lake in this Stream to River project. 


The bees have arrived!  10,000 Carniolan (or as we call them "Carnies" ) honey bees were delivered today to Parker.  They are reported to be the gentlest of bees.  Bee enthusiast, 6th grader Jack, has rallied support from friends, local bee keeper mentors, corporate donors, and teachers to launch a bee program at the school.  Students will learn to take care of the hive and eventually harvest the honey.  Teachers will work the hive into the curriculum. 

Thank you Jack, for sharing your passion with your school!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How will kids know?

Getting started with West Point Bridge Design
It's STEM week for 6-7's.  That's science, technology, engineering and math. Teachers and students have embraced working in small "companies" each submitting an RFP for a bridge project.  Their challenge is:  Design and build a bridge from spaghetti that is a scale model of a 1,200 foot span to go from Selkirk to Castleton.  Materials have an assigned value ($1,500,000 per pound of spaghetti; $5,000,000 for hot glue gun rental per day)  Teams consist of a civil engineer, an environmental engineer and a project manager.

This article from The Innovative Educator about whether kids learn without testing is right on target.  The author holds a conversation with a test believer:

I say, “Do you take tests?”

They say, “Not anymore,” and smile like, “You’ve got to be kidding…”

I say, “Are you great at everything you do?”

They say, “Um…No. Obviously.” And laugh uncomfortably.

I say, “How do you know?”

Well - people just know!  And in the instance of the bridge project the kids can document what they learned by reflecting and referring to a rubric (Did our team present lots of content that was learned in the project, informative, and held the audience's attention? Did the bridge construction demonstrate all facets of the engineering roles and is load bearing?)

Is the project rigorous?  Memorable?  Highly worthwhile and relevant to future learning?  Can you answer that without a test?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Marshmallow Challenge

The challenge: In small groups, in 18 minutes, with 20 strands of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, and 1 yard of string, build the highest tower you can that will support one marshmallow.

The result: Cooperation, experimentation, and fun.  The highest tower was 22 1/2 inches.  Everyone wants to try again!

For more information: http://marshmallowchallenge.com/Welcome.html