Wednesday, June 27, 2012


  Check out this video of the LEGO robots Planet Parker kids have built and programmed!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Could camp actually be any cooler?

Making the grade

Through observing, experimenting and problem-solving, our students work towards understanding of science and math.  We know what they learn by what they demonstrate, explain, write, and build.  A standardized score is not often our measurement.

Exceptions are the New York State Regents exams.  Passing these tests puts our students into a higher level of science and math in high school.  Not passing isn't a failure, it just means that the topic needs more time to be mastered, so the student will take algebra or earth science again in 9th grade.  Students have special study sessions to prepare for the exams and in earth science they also must complete a specific number of labs. 

Students' scores this year in earth science: 95 high; 67 low; average: 90.  In algebra: 99 high, 68 low; average: 82.  Great job, kids and teachers!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Naturalists in the making

Direct experience with nature is incredibly exciting to kids.  A recent essay in the NY Times, Nature Follows a Path of Pixels into Children's Hearts argues that even those funny videos of animals like OMG Cat Meets the Dramatic Lemur can spark children's interest in nature.  Andrew Revkin argues in his article On Children and Digital Depictions of Nature that it's the intersection of media, direct experience and sharing that experience that makes a difference.  His son's video of discovering a baby heron is worth watching to hear the authentic excitement.  However you cut it, nature ignites children's passion.

Muddy Boots Club (where Pre K 4's spend Friday afternoons in the woods, rain or shine) took children from their basic natural inclination to shake a tree to close observation, active listening and keen enjoyment.  Next year teachers are getting K-1's and 2-3's into the act for extended periods of time in the woods where they can hone these joyful skills.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What could taste better than dinner over an open fire?

Terrific time at the 2-3 campfire cookout.  Class parents were the highest bidders on this one-of-a-kind experience at the Parker benefit auction.  Darcy and I had a great time too!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dinosaurs in the backyard

"Get outside!"  says Dr. Scott from PBS's Dinosaur Train in this article about learning that happens in the outdoors.  He tells kids that their future as scientists depends on it.  Curiosity is sparked when the screens are turned off and kids interact with nature.  And they might even see a dinosaur!  (Did you know that birds are living dinos?)

Here's an article from the NY Times about kids and their increasing amount of screen time.  And here is another from the Mayo Clinic about the health issues that can ensue: Limiting Your Child's Screen Time.

OK - I'm stepping away from the computer right now to go out and see what the kids are doing at camp this week.  I'll be on the lookout for dinosaurs.

Monday, June 11, 2012

First day of camp!

Nora '10 is assisting at camp again this summer!

Planet Parker started on a beautiful day.  This week's camps: Schoolhouse Rock with Seano, CSI: Tree Island, and Parker Planeteers. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

"See you later graduators"

Our beautiful and handsome graduating class!  They gave insightful, funny, and heartfelt speeches that made us all laugh and cry.  It is so gratifying to hear them talk about Parker as welcoming, friendly, and kind - and to hear that they loved the academic challenge, the teachers and the high expectations.  We know we are on the right track!  Now it's not good bye, just "so long" because they will be back for the Regents exams this coming week. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Making creates evidence of learning

In this excellent article in Slate by Dale Dougherty, Learning by Making he says "American kids should be building rockets and robots, not taking standardized tests...I see the power of engaging kids in science and technology through the practices of making and hands-on experiences."

He talks about John Dewey who founded the movement for progressive education that Parker subscribes to.  And he picks apart the myth that standardized tests measure learning.

Read the article and you will understand better the real power of the education here.  Our teaching philosophy coupled with an imbedded culture of positive community is what sets Parker apart.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Field day II

A wonderful time was had by all!

Cloudy skies? Field Day still rules!

Integrated Technology Unit: Concept to Story Completion

 Guest blogger, 4-5 teacher Rose Nolan:

The 4/5s undertook an integrated technology project this term, creating original animations of their life stories.  We began with a field trip to Vicarious Visions for a behind the scenes tour into the detail that goes into creating animation and animated characters. 

The students’ first attempt at animation was creating a flip book.  They discovered how much thought, time and detail go into creating movement of an animal or object.   Next we moved on to animation created by integrating technology.

There are many benefits of animation projects in the classroom, as they provide a vast amount of learning opportunities for everyone.  Animation presents opportunities for variety of skill development at each stage of the project.  These include:

Creativity: Students can show what they know best through the act of creation. In creating a character, script or storyboard for a video, students not only show what knowledge they have gained but help the brain to become an even better tool for logical and rational thought.  Before beginning their life story animations, students worked on storyboards as a planning tool.  They then learned how to create animated characters to use in their videos. 

Thought process: Building a video takes planning. An initial idea starts as a thought and then starts to come to life as the storyboard, frames, and scenes are created. Working through a process like this helps students to think about working logically through a project.

Finishing a project: Students find great satisfaction and accomplishment in being able to share their videos with classmates. Being able to finish a project and show it to others builds self esteem and provides a platform for successfully accomplishing tasks in the future.

Attention to detail: Creating many, sometimes hundreds of scenes, takes careful planning and acute attention to detail.  These are skills that will be useful across many platforms. 

Following directions: There are many steps involved in making a film. Because students are highly engaged in this activity, it allows students to gain an understanding on how following directions produces great results.

Collaboration / Teamwork: The best projects are made conferring with others.  Getting feedback from classmates, sharing animation strategies and discoveries on how to complete a task, teaching one another, and sharing something you discover that you are good at during the animation process, are elements of teamwork and benefit the final outcome. Plus, we really laughed a lot!

The students worked incredibly hard on their videos.  I witnessed students highly engaged, excited, helping and teaching one another, sharing ways to achieve something in a scene, immense creativity, collaborative sharing and problem solving, and pride.  This was a great learning experience for all of us.       

Presenting the completed videos to parents