Friday, April 28, 2017

International friendships

Having friends visit from across the world is an incredibly exciting thing.  Kids from Spain might never have tried peanut better or bagels - but it turns out they love them!  They speak five languages - fluently! Different and the same - middle school kids are middle school kids.

We are so fortunate to have a partnership with St. Peter's School in Barcelona.  One year they send a dozen students to us to stay with our families and the next year we send students to them.  We get to exchange teachers, too.

Our students revel in visiting a school with a beautiful dining hall and scrumptious prepared food. They walk everywhere in Barcelona - to La Sagrada Familia and other Gaudi sites and they buy fruit and churros at the outdoor market.  They can't believe that dinner starts after 9 PM!

St. Peter's students are amazed at sledding in the snow at Parker, our iconic yellow school buses, and dressing up on Halloween.  Being at a school with woodsy trails and a pond is incredible.  A campfire with roasted marshmallows on a stick and s'mores  - Wow!

Together they go to classes and museums, they sing, create poems and art works - go bowling - and revel in being kids.

From the first year we made new friends from Spain, the entire student body at Parker became more motivated to master the Spanish language.  We ended up extending Spanish to our Preschool and added another session of Spanish to the 4-5 weekly schedule.  For one week a year, everyone plays and works together, getting to know new families and customs and practicing another language. Then it's time to leave.

This week went by so fast - and next year, our turn to visit in Spain, will be here before we know it.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Why should kids think like a computer?

Today in the NY Times, Laura Pappano, an education journalist writes about Learning to Think Like a Computer.  It has become super popular lately to learn computer programming in college - and we see the excitement in elementary and middle school with robotics, Scratch and other programming activities.

Programming demystifies computing in many ways and gives kids practice in sequencing  - the step by step brain work that is required to program successfully.  "It's the idea of abstraction," Pappano quotes in her article. "It requires recognizing patterns and distilling complexity into a precise, clear summary,"

I see it in action in school through the intensity that kids bring to robotics - the perseverance they develop and the whoop of joy when they get the result they are looking for.  They often work together, too and get a lot of practice collaborating when they are designing a 3D prosthetic limb for an amputee or adding voices to a life-story animation.

On days that we have after school robotics club, kids often come to show me what they've accomplished: in the photo above, a second and a third grader got their robot to stop at each color line and say "red", "blue"or "yellow".  But it skipped saying "green"!  Oh well - they weren't deterred - they went running back to the drawing board to try again.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Educating for Innovation

I am so excited for our panel discussion tomorrow night - innovators from UAlbany, RPI, Regeneron, Ohio State and Tech Valley High will be here to trade ideas about the hottest trend in education today.  

From a Nobel prize winning astronomer who researches the Milky Way Galaxy to a Director of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals,  named by Forbes as one of the most innovative companies in the US, we have assembled an impressive and highly interesting group.  It should be a lively event!