Wednesday, December 19, 2012


There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children.  There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they grow up in peace.
                                                                                                                                      - Kofi Annan

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Real work for a real purpose

2-3's presented essays, three-dimensional models and murals showing the changing landscape in Rensselaer County from Native American times to today at the Rensselaer County Historical Society.  Their exhibit opening was held on Thursday night for assembled families, teachers and docents.  At the end of the evening, students presented items for a time capsule that will be kept in the museum archives.  This article about the event appeared in the Times Union.

Walt Disney

Joan of Ark

Amelia Earhart

Samuel Morse
4-5's presented a Living Museum of History Makers today.  Their displays included posters, PowerPoints, timelines, masks, artifacts, and oral presentations.

Having an audience raises the stakes for students - it enhances the quality and importance of the research and presentation and gives incredible meaning to the whole project!


The unthinkable events in Sandy Hook so deeply affected all of us.  For teachers who care for precious children every day and for parents who release them into our care, the horror was especially acute.  Parker teachers communicated all weekend with each other and with parents.  Monday was handled with sensitivity and wisdom as teachers met the children where they were.  I found that this article from the Dougy Center for Grieving Families was a good one out of the many to help parents figure out how to talk to their children about tragedy. 

Being part of a caring community like Parker has helped everyone cope. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Can altruism be taught?

Parker middle schoolers sort items at the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.

Making bowl selections at the Empty Bowls hunger awareness evening last week.  8th graders organized the event and raised over $1,150 for Joseph's House, a homeless shelter in Troy.
Developing empathy, sympathy, compassion, kindness and charity is a process that takes lots of practice.  Offering opportunities for children to do good, to "see themselves and frame their own behavior as generous, kind, and helpful" is critical.

For the last four weeks, the whole middle school has gone to the Regional Food Bank on Friday afternoons to do what ever needs doing there: sorting rotten from good cucumbers or organizing boxes of toiletries.  It is truly "hands-on" and it helps them understand the massive logistics of  ameliorating local hunger.  It gives them practice in what we hope will be a life-long habit of helping others. 

What is their reward? As I used to tell my own children, "Your reward is the satisfaction of a job well done."  Research shows that material reinforcement is not the most effective way to stimulate generosity - it's the "warm glow" that works.  In the New York Times article, Understanding How Children Develop Empathy, Perry Klaus, MD, tells about the brain chemistry that makes this so.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Preparations.  We're getting ready for the Museum display at the Rensselaer County Historical Society on historic land transformation (2-3's), The Show of Work for Farm to Table (K-1's), a mock murder trial (8th grade) with a jury (6-7's), a mock trial with parent and judge, Michael Melkonian, Justice of the New York Supreme Court presiding (4-5's), the Living Museum of History Makers (4-5's), Empty Bowls (8th grade), The Peace Assembly (everyone)!  Essays, scripts, artwork, analysis...singing...we're buzzing around here!

Friday, November 30, 2012


There is a new trend in schools: BYOD (Bring your own device).  It seems to be working informally at Parker.  With a variety of desktops and laptops available at school and the i-Pads and laptops some students and teachers bring with them, not to mention calculators and smart phones, we've got a lot of tools.  At our recent professional development day, we were able to successfully connect 20 or so computers, pads and phones to explore internet based communication sites and apps all day.  Everybody is experimenting - teachers and students - to see what works best.  Prezi or PowerPoint; Animoto or i-Movie?  It is great to be in it together.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bold brains!

On our professional development day, the faculty worked with Connell Frazier, director of Sage Online.  She is the parent of our alumna, Alex Frazier, currently a senior at Troy High.  Connie taught us about moodle, wordle, photofunia, scribblar, spellingcity, animoto, audioboo, voicethread, glogster, xtranormal, zoomerang, dipity and jing.  Wow!  Do you think our heads are full?

Here is a movie I made on animoto that shows us at work!

Next step:  share with the kids!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

All I really need

I love Special Friends Day. We began this morning at the Pre K Feast with soup and pumpkin bread prepared by our preschoolers and shared with families and 4-5 buddies.  In the afternoon there was an all school concert with songs and recorders -  and everyone joined in.  Then grandparents and special friends participated in classroom activities.  As the preschoolers sing, "All I really need is a song in my heart and love in my family!"

Thank you to those grandparents who couldn't be here for sending good wishes through the mail.  They are displayed on the Special Messages wall:
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2012

What you do with what you know

The world no longer cares about what you know; the world only cares about what you can do with what you know.

Thomas Friedman quoted Tony Wagner of Harvard, the author of “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World" in his NY Times Op Ed piece yesterday.  Everywhere I look at Parker I see this idea in action.  "Purposeful Action" is what we call it.  Students using math and engineering skills to build and program robots; eighth graders preparing and serving a spaghetti lunch to raise funds for a curricular trip to Philadelphia; K-1's writing about their observations of the radishes they planted; 2-3's preparing a display for the Historical Society; and on...

Our curriculum is based on building things, doing for others, trying out perspectives, exploring fascinating topics - what you know is vitally important because what you do with it can change the world.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Many connections

Several classes went to Hancock Shaker Village last week.  The eighth grade gleaned fall vegetables for soup that they will serve at Empty Bowls, their hunger awareness event.  I heard that they worked really hard and practically picked the fields clean!

K-1's were taking a look at farm life in their ongoing study of food and where it comes from. They have already planted vegetables, observed and drawn seeds of many kinds and designed an irrigation system for a farm.  Each student is writing and illustrating a book about farms.

2-3's were there too.  The focus of their exploration was how the Shakers developed and transformed their land. They are studying the concepts of rural, urban and suburban communities and the site proved a very interesting challenge to their understanding of those terms.  A historic scavenger hunt of Troy and mapping the school's property have also added to their knowledge base.  December 13 is Opening Night for an exhibition they will be designing and curating at the Troy Historical Society.

Hancock Shaker Village

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Global connection

From the 2-3 study of India in May 2010
Susie Merrett writes:
I'm off to south India to visit Shanti Bhavan , a remarkable boarding school outside of Bangalore. Our hope is to establish a relationship between Shanti Bhavan and Parker that will deepen our studies of India and help our students gain connections to children of a very different culture.

Susie is traveling with former Parker parent and trustee Kallanna Manjunath.  Manju's family is from Bangalore where Susie and he are treasured guests of the family.  To read Susie's beautiful travel blog click:

Susie is bringing letters from our 2-3 students introducing themselves to Shanti Bhavan students. She hopes to bring back responses that will begin a relationship between the two schools.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Quite amazing

I just got a note from Jennifer Bryan who worked with us last year on gender identity issues.  She was thought provoking and wise - and gave us so much good food for thought and action.  Mark Merrett, Susie's husband, made a film last year when Jennifer was here.  Jennifer just re-watched it and said,  

"The film reminded me that the students at Parker really are quite amazing. I love listening to those 8th graders who are already bringing such important skills to their understanding of the world. I felt proud watching the film; you must feel proud every day about the great work you and the teachers are doing at Parker."

Here is the film:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Science and play

What do science and play have in common?  This wonderful TED Talk analyzes what is needed to be a good scientist.  Guess what? Curiosity, interest, innocence and zeal are key components.  The essence of what we support in our students.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Full circle

The time honored Parker tradition of Buddies brings our students full circle.  Remembering their time in Pre K, K-1 and 2-3, older buddies love to revisit their "youth" as they read, write, create art, or play and take nature hikes with younger buddies.  These very special relationships carry over across the years as the cycle continues.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sweet deal

 Mmm, honey.  Bee-keeper and mentor, Tony Antonucci brought knowledge and honey to today's 4-5 science class.  They are learning all about pollinators as our resident bee-keeping experts.  How sweet it is!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The stimulated brain

All over the school: Picture Day; beginning research on protest music; building block structures; math lesson on graphing; the history of the Brooklyn Bridge; designing an irrigation system and recording the work (while holding a clipboard like a scientist does). 

Read this article about how the brain needs stimulation in the early years for maximum growth later.  A Parker brain is definitely a stimulated brain!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Authentic work

Persevering to get just the right design in LEGO Robotics Club
Charlotte, Veda and Jared present the "Fun Fact of the Week" at Assembly
            In Muddy Boots Club, K-1's and 2-3's decide "Who Eats What in the Woods?"
 ...students work should be something they create on their own, or with others, that has real value in the real world.  They are capable of doing authentic work that adds to the abundance of ways that can make the world a better, richer place.

Teachers discussed the article Should we Connect School to Real Life? from Will  Richardson's new book, Why School?  Richardson envisions how students can create work that is relevant and useful in the world.  Our focus on Signature Experiences for students that develop leadership and communication is exactly what is called for.