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!