Thursday, April 25, 2013

The task is the test

What does cheating mean to kids whose understanding of learning is that it is a cooperative endeavor? This year during STEM week, 6-7's at Parker will design and build a bridge over a creek on our school property.  Their multi-layered task is not unlike the type of problem-solving that UCLA students did when their professor challenged them to think differently about taking a test.  In Cheating to Learn, a fascinating article about the typical competitive, grade-based culture of many schools - where cooperation equals cheating - professor Peter Nonacs says, "The test itself becomes a learning experience – where the very act of taking it leads to a deeper understanding of the subject."  With project-based learning, the task is the test. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Advocacy on Earth Day

For Earth Day, Parker kids learned that Monarch butterfly habitat is disappearing all across the migration path.  Buddies got together to write letters to Congressman Tonko, Senator Gillibrand, President Obama, and Grandpa Herating (a farmer in Mexico) to advocate for habitat protection. They are planting a butterfly garden with milkweed and other Monarch favorites that will become a certified butterfly way station.  You can learn more at Monarch Watch.

My favorite letter started: "Dear Butterflies, We are making you a lovely garden.  We hope you like it!"

Hark, it's Shakespeare!

Shakespeare at Parker means nine action-packed days.  Students tap their creative juices, brainstorm ideas, memorize Shakespearean lines, learn to move on-stage (sometimes with swords), and practice the give-and-take of listening and responding to fellow actors.  It takes self-discipline.  It takes bravery and empathy.  Ultimately Shakespeare builds students' self-confidence, literacy and communication skills.  And many of the kids (and adults!) will tell you, "Shakespeare Night is my favorite night of the year!"

The theme this year involved going to Hollywood and videos of the actors were interspersed with the live action in the performance.  Class scenes developed by Sean Fagan with the students' input included the legend of rainbows, a cross-country bus trip, a pie throwing documentary, a Shakespearean game show, Zombies in the Globe Theater, and Othello: a Melodrama on Film and Stage.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Food for thought

Preschoolers make and eat their own "teddy-bear" pancakes.
Could you eat on $4 a day?  For the 16 million American children who live in poverty, getting healthy food is a daily issue.  The Spectrum Theater is showing A Place at the Table tomorrow night at 6:30.  It's a film about three different families in America who are struggling with issues around hunger.

This blog entry from Good Food Matters explores the challenges of eating well on a limited budget in areas where access to healthy food is difficult.  The author suggests several paths of advocacy. 

Here is what we are doing this Spring at school to focus on local hunger/local food and teach our students about plants, food and nutrition:
  • Seventh grade will be serving a spaghetti dinner at  Christ Church Troy United Methodist on Friday, April 26 from 5 - 8 PM to help raise funds for Troy hunger and homeless charities.  
  • The K-1 class has brainstormed a list of non-sugary snacks for classroom celebrations.  
  • On Earth Day we will plant a butterfly way-station to help ameliorate the national problem of disappearing Monarch habitat.
  • All classes will be planting herbs in the next few weeks in science class.
  • The Bee Club has been selling honey from our hives to raise funds for bee keeping costs.
It's all food for thought.