Friday, April 29, 2011

The 3 R's

Our Kindergarten children offer a few helpful hints and encourage you to...

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

You can recycle plastic bags.

You can use a paper if you make a mistake you can use again and flip it over.

I gave a book to my friend.

I take a short shower.

You can reduce paper towels. You can reuse paper towels because it's easy to pick up.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Science Fair

Congratulations to our young scientists.  Our submission, entitled What is Biodegradable?, to the PS347 Science Fair resulted in a Best of Show ribbon!

The Best of Show title encompassed three criteria; student presentation, poster exhibition and use of scientific methodology.

Although we thought the kids did a fantastic job both Lauren and I were a bit shocked when the winner was announced.  We didn't expect that children this young would take best of show when entries ranged from kindergarten to 6th grade.

What we did...

1. We chose pieces from our lunch.

2. We each had 2 cups and filled it halfway with soil.

3. Then we buried the food item in one cup, a non-food item in the other cup and labeled both cups.

4. We filled the rest of the cup with more soil.

5. We watered the soil and let it sit by the window for three weeks, watering it occasionally.

6. On the third week, we put on gloves to protect our hands and covered tables with newspaper.

7. Next we dumped the contents from each cup and looked at what happened.

Some observations about the food items...

"The apple broke up."
"My cracker melted."
"It became part of the dirt."
"Broccoli is biodegradable!"
"I have nothing."
"My pizza became little. This is disgusting."

The children recorded their observations in words and/or drawings.  We also had the food and non-food items available for others to view during the science fair.

A trophy will be awarded on May 6th as part of the GO GREEN! Spirit Day celebration.  Thank you judges!  You made a bunch of children very happy.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Every Sunday morning I have the pleasure of interpreting the children's sermon into ASL for a deaf boy in our congregation. This Easter our pastor chose to read a children's book about the resurrection of Jesus, naturally. The children also covered a large cross in flowers - a beautiful tradition at our church.

And to top off this glorious day, the sun is shining and a warm breeze is taking off the rainy day chill of yesterday.  Perfect timing!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Think I Can!

As a doctoral student I sometimes feel like the tenacious Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper.

We both go chugging along believing we can get over the mountain but it isn't always easy.

My cheering section may not be "the funniest little toy clown you ever saw" or a "doll with blue eyes and yellow curls" or "even a baby elephant" but support systems are in place.

And according to the book Writing Your Doctoral Dissertation: Invisible Rules For Success by Rita S. Brause, this is an important element that can separate those who complete the process and those who forever remain ABD (all but dissertation).

Her book has been a real page-turner.  I have been reading it for the past 2 days and simply cannot put it down.  I am as addicted to it as I was to reading Harry Potter.  The school boy geek in me is working overtime.

In the book Dr. Brause puts forth, and rightly so, that doctoral students are often unclear about the procedures, requirements and demands placed upon them to complete a Ph.D. She wrote this book to demystify the process.

I have learned...
  • I am now a doctoral candidate rather than merely a doctoral student! This is due to the fact that I have completed all of my coursework and passed my comprehensive examinations. 
  • I have entered the final phase in the doctoral process - Phase IV: The Dissertation Phase!
  • There are 8 academic stages in the doctoral process.  I am currently in Stage 5: Select Dissertation Topic, Chair and Committee. I have selected my topic, Chair and 2 committee members (3 are needed).
    Next up...Drafting the dissertation proposal.

    This is an exciting time because from now on I can focus on research that is important to me instead of completing course assignments that I am less passionate about.

    I have at least another 2 years to go on this journey but I am really looking forward to it.

    I am!

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    "Green" Stamps

    The United States Postal Service has issued a series of 16 Go Green stamps to raise awareness of some simple things we can do to make a positive impact on the environment.

    How timely!

    It's as if they have been watching our kindergarten class and decided to support our investigations.


    The Go Green Forever stamps suggest we reuse bags, share rides, compost, recycle, plant trees, compost and turn off lights when not in use.  All of this will help reduce our environmental footprint.

    I suppose it is greener to send an email than to mail a letter but the USPS does not have a stamp for that. Besides, there is really no substitute for a handwritten letter.  And when you do sent one, you may as well Go Green (stamp-wise anyway)!

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Stop Bullying!

    Bullying is a big problem in schools all across America.

    I suppose it always has been.  The difference is that nowadays adults are taking an active role in educating children about this topic. We are teaching victims how to get back the power, self confidence and safety that is being stripped from them every time a bully taunts and terrorizes. Children are learning ways to deal with this unfortunate situation and not feel ashamed. Bullying is no longer an issue to be swept away or laughed at or downplayed. Bullying is serious stuff.

    And it's not just kids stuff anymore.

    Bullying has lead to a rash of teen suicides.  Recently the It Gets Better Project published a book to provide hope to LGBT youth who are struggling to find a way out of the injustices thrust upon them from a less than tolerant society.

    Our school has taken on the crusade to stop bullying.  The fifth grade students researched the topic and presented their findings to the school. They created a poster (see above) and invited everyone to commit to Stop Bullying by signing their name.

    School counselors and social workers visit our classrooms for "What's Up?" meetings to discuss issues surrounding bullying.  The book Stop Picking on Me by Pat Thomas is a terrific resource to get the conversation started.

    And just this week I read a poem written by Shaili Patel and Myisha A. Bryan, two deaf high school students attending Passaic County Technical Institute. It seems fitting to include it here.

    Silent Hands

    Some talk by mouth, I talk by hands
    Never once hearing your continuous demands

    When woken, no alarm clock sounds
    Only vibrations are felt all around

    Once you're aware, you mock and jeer
    Thinking its okay just because I can't hear

    But I feel your scoffs and I feel your taunts
    Always in my nightmares, you never cease to haunt

    Never once do you attempt to understand my ways
    Of my abilities, one day you'll be amazed

    I understand more than you know
    I feel more than I'll ever show

    Days come and go, with your unchanging style
    Making me wish I was worthwhile

    Never once did you share a smile
    Did you think I was a useless scrap pile?

    You don't get it; your words are like bombs
    I have a voice; it just rests in my palms

    My reverence toward you has begun to decline
    I respect your voice, can you respect mine?

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    Edward and the Pirates

    As a little boy, curled up in my bed, I would read with such concentration that nothing else could penetrate the world I had entered.

    I was like Max in Where the Wild Things Are.  My bedroom would morph into whatever I was reading about.  Sometimes I was in a far off kingdom with knights (who used big words I didn't understand) fighting dragons or on the prairie with the Ingalls family or swashbuckling on a pirate ship .  The books transported me like that song Sailin' On with the lyrics "The ship was my bed and the waves were my pillow and the dark sky breathed and the sheets used to billow as I'd go sailin' on."

    I couldn't imagine why anyone would say that reading was boring or uninteresting.

    I still can't.

    Lauren and I read Edward and the Pirates by David McPhail to our students this week and the magical, transformative quality of books came sweeping back.  We may have been sitting in our classroom but our minds were in Edward's world surrounded by pirates and possibility.

    The children were transfixed.

    This book reminded me of all those long ago nights getting lost in reading. When I first discovered that reading carried such power. When I first fell in love with sitting alone but not really being alone because on the page all of these amazing things were taking place.

    So thank you to David McPhail for capturing this with your beautiful book. And thanks to the authors who have transported me time and time again into those stunning worlds created by words.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    ASL Workshop

    Riddle me this...

    Who has blue eyes, red lips, black eyebrows and a blonde "Rachel" style haircut?  Choose your answer from the selection of possibilities provided below.

    If you guessed #9 you would be correct!

    Now, voices off.  ASL workshop has begun. Choose a portrait and describe him/her in great detail using only American Sign Language.

    This activity builds receptive and expressive language in our students while promoting eye contact and attention.  Our ASL instructor introduced this game through modeling and thinking aloud about his process for describing an illustration.  Although his narration included specific details about the hairstyle (wavy, flowing, pulled back, etc.), clothing, jewelry and general tone of the picture when the children went off to give it a go on their own their commentary was not nearly as specific.

    To deepen their noticings he instructed them to include color (which he presented in a splendid PowerPoint) and off they went again.  As before each group of students sat with a teacher but this time we recorded the whole thing with Lauren's new, handy-dandy iPad 2 (an incredible tool for the classroom).

    We watched and realized, once again, some areas that needed to be targeted for follow-up lessons. These support structures we provide will help expand student language and ensure that while it is done they are having a good time.  One numbered template contains pictures of the students in the class.  If that is not motivating I don't know what is.

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    The Heritage Project

    Our wise and wonderful art teacher, Margaret (whose services are made possible through an educational partnership with The Children's Museum of the Arts) contributed to our kindergarten study of self with the Heritage Project.

    Margaret asked the families of each child in our class to provide a detailed list of ancestral origins. A diverse number of countries were represented including Wales, Australia, Cuba, Israel, Netherlands, Morocco, Romania, Hungry, Syria, Dominican Republic, Spain, Puerto Rico, Italy, Trinidad and Tobago, Sweden, Mexico, Russia, Germany, Ireland, Ukraine, Belgium, France, United States, England, Korea and Texas.  Yes, one mischievous mom tried to slip in that last one, arguing her case with a sweet southern charm.

    Flags of each country were colored by the students (using cray-pas and covered with a light gloss to prevent smudging) which served as a background to individual self portraits.

    Each one was then placed on a puzzle piece that fit into a large jigsaw puzzle.  Taken together this project highlighted the fact that although we all come from divergent backgrounds, we are all part of a global community.

    As we strive to instill a sense of responsibility in our students so they become active citizens caring for our world, this feeling of brotherhood and unity and oneness cannot be overemphasized.

    Isn't it "one nation under God with liberty and justice for all"?


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