Friday, May 31, 2013

The products of deep inquiry

Rapid-fire movie trailers, interesting essays, cultural dances, colorful weaving, informative posters, life-sized hand-sewn animals, ethnic recorder music, vividly painted huts and dragons, green-designed homes, power-point shows, Masai poetry...

K-1 and 2-3 students showcased their knowledge and connections to Africa and China through all the disciplines and in the most wonderful of ways.  This morning each class presented a Show of Work to the Parker community. 

Also today: a final band performance and assembly, assignments for field day teams, finishing touches on graduation speeches... How did the end of the school year come so fast?!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What motivates middle schoolers?

Teenagers are Wired for Peer Approval says Sarah Sparks in Education Week.  Their risk-taking behavior rises with an audience.

When intellectual risk-taking is the goal, an accepting culture and the presence of peers can be an enormous positive.  As you read this interesting article, think about the possibilities and ramifications for positive peer pressure.  Peer approval for insightful or novel ideas and good writing inspires Parker students to reach both deeper and higher.

Here is a quote from a parent in our recent school survey:  At Parker success is a standard that is encouraged and part of the culture.  The culture is reinforced by peers - so when it is a positive culture, that's what is valued.

When students know they will be sharing their ideas with friends - holding their work up to the light of peer examination - they become motivated to give their best. This is why discussion, cooperative projects and "critique" work.  And why a system based on grades is less motivating for most kids.

The experts recommend that educators focus on leveraging positive peer pressure: "When adolescents are with their peers, they're more likely to pursue rewards, and those can be academic rewards." 

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Art of Focus

Camille spoke compellingly about the issue of gay marriage in her thesis presentation.

4-5's read their creative stories about characters both real and fictional revealing historical knowledge about 20th Century immigrant experiences.
Different types of activities require different types of focus - and practice can take us into a zone of "relaxed presence when mind and body are in the same place at the same time" as described by James Fallows in his Atlantic article The Art of Staying Focused in a Distracting World.

Last night and this morning, Parker students showed their growing expertise as public speakers and their focus seemed just right.  With a little bit of nervousness to heighten the senses, students' talks were relaxed and conversational.  They were concise, and that conveyed that vast detail and knowledge had been mastered and distilled.  Future TED talkers!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Heads for a Day!

Awesome Head Laurel making a phone call

Lunch at Alexis Diner

Visiting with our Preschool buddies
We fired everyone in the school...Just kidding!  We got to declare an extra recess and pull the fire alarm.  And we got lunch out!  (Laurel)

We had milkshakes!!! (Julian)

Visiting classes ...It was great hanging out with Pre K buddies.  (Alex)

We're the BEST Heads in the world!!!!!  (all)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Learning is about the relationship


It's all about relationships.  Teachers connecting with students is what makes learning meaningful  - and at Parker, students connecting with each other is also a crucial element to inspired learning.  Listen to Rita Pierson talk about the importance of the relationship and you will know why so many Parker parents and kids say that "community" is what they love most about the school.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Meanwhile, in the rest of the school...

With melodic strains of Pachelbel's canon drifting up from Pre K and of violin practice in the music room, here is what everyone else is doing (for this one moment in time) while 6-7's are building bridges and 8's are sight-seeing at the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia:

Observing the seeds they sewed in Pre K 3's...quiet time in Pre K 4's...drawing "consumer" animals in K-1 science...choosing survey categories in 3rd grade math...figuring long division in both 4th and 5th grade math...and plotting an afternoon of outdoor activities by all the teachers on this beautiful spring day!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

STEM week

STEM Week!  6-7's are on track to design and build a bridge over the creek in time for a buddy hike on Friday afternoon.  Their tasks have included mapping the proposed site, role-play of group dynamics, working with structural engineers from international firm CHA, designing on Google sketch-up, measuring and sawing lumber, and documenting their work. The weather has been perfect.  I can't wait to see the next steps!