Thursday, January 31, 2013

Projects, passion, curiosity

Science teacher, Kate Perry sent this wonderful article from Edutopia my way:  Change the subject: Making the Case for Project-Based Learning.  I urge everyone connected with Parker to read this - it really describes how we are educating students here.  While not abandoning the classic subject areas, Parker teachers collaborate and combine the disciplines for rich, interesting, connected studies of big questions and relevant explorations - that have real-life applications and audiences. 

Our graduates attest to the value of how they were educated at Parker: flexible, adaptable skills for an always changing future.  Thomas Friedman's editorial today echoes the same theme: the Passion Quotient (PQ) and the Curiosity Quotient (CQ) are now as important for economic success as IQ.  Passion and curiosity must be intentionally nurtured in school - and that is what a project-based curriculum like Parker's is doing. 

K-1 students have been studying crystals, rocks and minerals.  Today they imagined what lies below the surface of the earth: burrows, pipes, rocks, bones...endless room for wondering, testing and exploring.

4-5's study of lizards combines art and language arts: 2 and 3 dimensional work in oil pastels and sculpture and perspective-taking in writing.

Exploring the properties of motion and force: middle school science students build Rube Goldberg style machines: passion, curiosity and intelligence are all engaged here!

What is outside that informs the study of crystals?  Snow!  And there are animal tracks!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tread softly over their dreams

Sir Ken Robinson always informs and inspires.  His TED Talk on "Bring on the Learning Revolution" is a great listen.  His theme revolves around education that is personalized and customized.  He notices that time takes on a different course when you are doing something that resonates with your spirit - that feeds your energy and your passion.  Why shouldn't learning and school be fun?  Looking to the future, it has to be.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Never a dull moment

Several of us saw a bob cat walking along the Parker driveway and up in to the woods - see the tracks?!  In other locales:
Skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes at Jiminy Peak!

Cross country skiers took to the trails at Pine Ridge.

Swimmers had a blast at the East Greenbush YMCA!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sooner isn't better

How does the magic skill  - reading - come about?  At Parker, it comes from children's desire to understand the world around them - the best motivator for an emerging reader. 

Through stories read to them, and stories they tell; from describing a bird's feather to deciphering a friend's message of the day, Parker kindergarteners and first graders acquire the tools and the desire to read, to write, and to communicate.  And they master it on their own timeline, just like when they learned to talk or walk.

Children practice translating sounds into letters and words: phonics.  They keep personal "word walls": sight memory.  They interpret the meaning of a story or the facts in a research book because they really, really, really want to know all about it: purpose.  They publish a book about butterflies or a poster on poultry farmers for a Show of Work: audience.

In our K-1 classrooms, reading is bound up with everything that happens: the morning meeting, research, science and social studies, or writing and performing a play.  And it is formally scheduled for over an hour every day.

Over the last two summers our language arts teachers revised our curriculum with specialist, Miriam Raider-Roth, a professor at the University of Cincinnati and a former Parker parent.  They consulted state and national guidelines and adapted them to our own high standards.  They published the school's curricular document and now it is on our website. Click here and scroll to bottom.

I hope you will take a look, so when someone asks you why Parker kids aren't filling out workbook sheets to learn to "read" in kindergarten to take state tests - you can say with confidence, "Sooner isn't better."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Go Jesse!

Parker grad, Jesse Pickard '98 was recently honored by Forbes Magazine in its 30 under 30 Games and Apps section, and also featured in the Times Union.  Jesse's company makes an app for learning languages through games.  Parker kids use Mindsnacks for Spanish - and I've talked to students who have tried the Italian version, as I have.  The games are fun and they adjust to your level of mastery. 

Jesse started the company with venture capital and now has about 25 employees in San Fransisco.  The TU article said: Pickard attended Parker School in North Greenbush, which he credits with stoking his entrepreneurial spirit.  (Yay!)

I am fascinated by the alumni who are doing jobs and using technical and media tools that didn't even exist when they attended school.  I'd like their feedback about what parts of their education prepared them best for what they are doing now - like stoking the entrepreneurial spirit!

Another article about Mindsnacks in Tech Crunch

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The nature cure

"Take two hours of pine forest and call me in the morning..." The Nature Cure by Gretchen Reynolds in Outside Magazine, tells about the latest brain research on the benefits of being outdoors in nature.  Seems that even five minutes of time in the woods increases attention and short term memory, and decreases heart rate.  In Japan they even schedule "forest baths" as a restorative - like sun-bathing. Just smelling pine scent has a positive effect on the human system! 

Scheduling time to be outside - daily recess, Muddy Boots Club, science classes and other times in the woods  - is making a difference, I believe, for Parker kids.  The children express how much they love it and the teachers do, too.  It certainly seems to add to their ability to concentrate and handle the regular stressors of childhood - and it mitigates the screen time that has increasingly crept into our lives.  It's nice when brain science backs up what we instinctively know is the right thing!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Where life is a picnic

It's great to be back!  Happy 2013!

Here is a little good financial news for independent school parents - you can read about it in this New York Times article Tax Break That Helps Private School Parents is Made Permanent.

Ann Carrns explains how you can set up a special account to which you can add $2,000 annually and use the earnings tax free as long as they go towards tuition.  Every little bit helps... 

Some curricular highlights for 2013:
  • 6 and 7th grade Rube Goldberg contraptions demonstrating forces of motion
  • Fossils and woolly mammoth pieces in a soil sample from the Museum of the Earth for 2-3's science class
  • Ten Spanish visitors for a week in March in Middle School
  • Pen and Skype pals for 4-5's to connect with a class in Arizona taught by Parker alum JD Devane
  • K-1 creating a play from Jan Brett's story, The Hat
  • Writing a book about algebra for younger students by the 7th grade math class
  • Pasta week in Pre K, where life is a picnic (see above!)