This week saw the presentation of our student made magazines which had been inspired by actual magazines on the market. This was a month long project with a total of 17 minimum pages being assigned over that time period. As you read in an earlier bulletin, I set down the guidelines and gave them several concrete examples of magazines I would think of doing. The final bound magazines are a wonderful mix with each student exploring the entire process of putting a magazine together from designing an attractive and eye catching, as well as, informative cover to what makes up a good article and dealing with left over white space. All of the magazines are hanging on the wall in my classroom and you are welcome to look at them. We will be spending time examining each magazine and talking about what it offered to the reader.
We will finish our work on Fresh Water this week. We have been reading together from the book Earth Matters. We learned yesterday that a dragonfly spends its first two years underwater as a nymph and then develops its wings and takes to the air for the rest of its life. Amazing information. This got the class to wondering if there were other animals that had such interesting transformations. J continues to present his fish each day, and K has a new duck for us as well. We have made two life-sized birds to signify the end of this project, but hopefully we will be able to do another one before the end of the week. We have only two more ecosystems to cover and they are grasslands and temperate forests.
I asked the class last week to write down very specific things that I could do to make their daily life more enjoyable. I got a list of thirty items that I read each morning before school and I have already been able to work on eleven of these. Sometimes I point out to the class that I have done something that was requested, and sometimes I have told them I have just done things and hopefully they will see a positive effect as time passes. There was also a suggestion that we put a box in Jill’s office for students to place papers with things that happened that were good and bad during the day. I am asking them to be as specific as possible to help me understand what they are saying – they can sign these notes or be anonymous. The good thing about having the box for good and bad things is that if someone does see a student putting something in the box they will not have any idea which of these it could be – also keeping them in Jill’s office helps to keep comments more confidential.
Work this week also included a new Scope Magazine with its mini play and articles, math work books, reading The Hobbit, vocabulary words, writing, work with apps., reading partners, music, phys. ed., and a new encyclopedia project. This project is to encourage students to use the encyclopedia as their main source to conduct research for their writing and only use the computer for updating information as needed. Each student chose a letter and is to write a page a day on a different topic in that specific encyclopedia.
We selected cooking groups out of a hat and the first group will be cooking on Friday.
I would like to restate the older class’ phone policy. Students should not bring phones into the classroom, if they need to bring them to school they are to be kept in their lockers or in Jill’s office.
I hope to see everyone at Graduate Night next Tuesday. It’s always great to see our graduates and hear of their experiences in high school.
The middle class has been busy getting back in the swing of things after the break. We have planned a trip to Deep Cut Gardens for a Wintersowing Workshop. Each student will need to bring in a clean 1-gallon milk or water jug (if you are sending in a milk jug, please make sure it is cleaned really well). I will need some parents to drive so please let Jill know if you are available. We plan to spend the morning there—we will leave school as soon as possible in the morning and return to school by 12:30 for lunch.
First I would like to start my bulletin by thanking everyone for being so wonderfully supportive about my decision to not teach full time next year. This was not an easy choice for me since I love my class and have really enjoyed being the Little Class teacher for the past eight years. Having L at the school has been both wonderful and challenging and I am really looking forward to having an extended period of time focusing on L and our lives together. TNS is an unusual school which allows us to create unusual situations, in any other school if I wanted to stop teaching I would have to leave the school, but here I can step down as lead teacher but still stay involved as much as I can. I am really looking forward to spending time in the other classes, getting to be with some of my former students, enjoying who they are now verses who they were in my class. I am also grateful that L can still be involved with the school and all of the students who I know she already thinks of as her extended family. Change can bring such wonderful results to small collectives like TNS, I am excited to see what next year will bring to all of us.
Second, I would like to congratulate Pervin on her new job with Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization. This is one of her dream jobs and I am so excited that they were able to see how talented and caring she is and offered her this position. Unfortunately for us it means that she is no longer able to be a helper in my class, but I know we will continue to be in touch and see her from time to time.
This week we have had a great return after winter break. We finished the predator project right before vacation and have now started work on learning about habitats. My class decided that they wanted to work in pairs on habitats, researching and creating models or dioramas that they then would share with the class in a few weeks. So far they have done a great job working together and I have been very impressed by how much they already know about their chosen habitats. We have also worked on reading, journal writing, math, music, and Spanish and enjoyed meeting visitors on Wednesday.
At the end of the day last Friday my class watched an Eyewitness Video on the Tropical Forests with the younger class and then Rebekah read to them from The Hobbit. She remarked how difficult the language structure of The Hobbit was so on Tuesday I told the students who have been reading it aloud in class that I even appreciated more the fact that they were doing such a good job. We are now almost halfway through this book.
On Monday we had our second New York trip and we all had a great time despite the weather. Thank you to Fran, John, Xinyu, and Sara for being chaperones. The students in my group at the museum picked a few paintings that we want to present to the class as ideas for group wall murals. Everyone on the trip was very conscientious about looking for animals in paintings and writing in their notebooks. After our break we will look at some of this work online and decide about our wall mural. The themes of our next two trips will be: 1) A tour of subway art. The arts council has been installing art in the subway for years and we will be riding the train from station to station seeing as much of it as we can. (We will also view a PBS program on Subway Art before this trip) We will be surfacing from the underground to visit Little Italy and Chinatown. We will have dinner at a Chinese restaurant. 2) A tour of the Brooklyn Museum and a walk through Brooklyn and across the Brooklyn Bridge. Our restaurant will be an old favorite of mine, Mullane’s Bar and Grill which is an Irish Pub type restaurant. Our last trip is open ended at this point.
On Tuesday, I had my second parent meeting in the series which nicely fits under the TNS philosophy which started off last week’s bulletin – “We are committed to educating the whole child by placing equal focus on social, emotional and intellectual growth and development.” The second meeting was on social development and our last meeting will be on emotional and physical development.
This week we started our new ecosystem which is Fresh Waters. We read from Earth Matters and had J presenting freshwater fish and K presenting ducks. Our work on vocabulary continues with the students taking an active interest in the words and the writing that they are doing using these words. We are really enjoying hearing everyone’s work. We also made time for the reading of New York Trip writings.
This is the last week we are actively working on the pages for the magazine project. Students who are not finished or who wish to do more work should do that during the break. We will be putting this work into magazine form when we return after the break.
Our regular work on the schedule continued with math workbooks, etc. Also thank you to five students who took over the entire project this week of reading with the younger class.
Joyce will be coming in on Friday to talk with us again about Uganda and Rwanda. Cooking with Sara to start after the break! See note from her below…
A NOTE FROM SARA ABOUT OLDER CLASS COOKING:
Eight sessions of Older Class cooking will begin on Friday, March 1. This year our focus will be on (relatively) healthy snacks and simple meals made from scratch, and most of the foods were suggested by the class. We’ll divide the class randomly into four groups of four students, and each group will have two opportunities to prepare food for the entire class.
We’ll be making deviled eggs; homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches; hummus with pita bread and a veggie platter; meringues and fruit salad; pasta sauce and baked ziti; pancakes and scrambled eggs; spanikopita (spinach and cheese pie); and will finish up with nachos and quesadillas.
All foods will be ovo-lacto vegetarian. Parents,please contact me if you want to share information about food allergy or food sensitivity issues.
The middle class had a busy and productive day today which included a great time exchanging valentines. I hope everyone enjoys the break next week.
I can safely say we have had one of the most productive weeks so far this year at school. My class have taken this Friday’s deadline for the Predator project very seriously and have worked so hard each day to finish all of the pieces of the project. I love the art they have created for their animal’s food chain, the stories they have written, and the amazing facts they have researched. I want to encourage parents to make some time after February break to stop in and check out these amazing projects. We also had a great time making Valentine’s Day boxes, giving and receiving Valentine’s, working on journals, math, and music. I have also been meeting one-on-one with members of my class to work on their self-evaluations. Tomorrow we are really excited to be going to Brookdale to see Amazing Grace, a play about racial equality in school. We also celebrated R’s 8th Birthday.
After break we will begin our next project on animal habitats. If you have any interesting books, etc… please feel free to send them in.
MUSIC WITH HELEN:
Younger Class — Music was held in Opera form today. There was no speaking, only singing. We talked (sang) about the differences in music sounds, and the feelings you can have from different kinds of music. We were also lucky to have a special guest in our class today, Rockin’ Ron! In our next session we’ll begin learning songs from our upcoming presentation of The Three Little Pigs.
Middle Class — The last two weeks were spent listening to music. We heard selections by Ravel, Handel, Brahms and others. Some of the music was written to promote imagery like water falls or fireworks and the class made drawing and haiku to match the sounds they heard. Thank you to Victor for photographing each drawing and making a slide show that is available on the Middle Class iPad 2.
Older Class — Last week we had a short session in which we brainstormed some of the things we could do for the end of the year project. One of the items on the list was to play some of the music for the younger class’s musical. Since we have a variety of skills and tools, we will be working on bringing the elements together for a musical halftime show of our own.
This week we will be finishing our fifth ecosystem, tropical forests. We have only three more systems to cover and they are fresh water areas, grasslands, and temperate forests. I think using these ecosystems and the book Earth Matters as our base for all of our animal studies has been very productive. Once we have completed all of these sections, we will have a chance to review some of this material by having handouts and games to see if students can identify what animals and features go with each of the ecosystems we studied. It will be our form of the T.V. show Jeopardy.
Our magazine project continues this week and next. Each student should have a minimum of 17 pages for their magazine by the end of next week. After the break we will put all of the pages in magazine format and create what I hope looks a lot like a real magazine. We will then read and talk about each magazine and see if it is really modeled after its original inspiration which ranges from National Geographic to Opera.
We had a project this week inspired by the art work of Jay Ryan, a graphic designer. He is a person who uses minimal lines to create amazingly charming and sometimes edgy animals. We actually started this project by enhancing a bat drawing that was created by a student in the younger class. Each student in the class added color and additional details to her work, and they are now hanging on our wall. I love it when the classes share work with each other! From that beginning, I then presented work from a book on Jay Ryan and asked the class to try to draw animals making only a few lines. We soon learned that it is quite a challenge to use less to create more feeling and expression. I was very pleased with the work we have done so far with this idea.
This week we had our regular work along with phys. ed. and music. It is good to have both Helen and Chris back!
2nd NEW YORK TRIP:
We will be taking the train from Middletown Station and upon arrival at Penn Station we will take the Number 2 Subway line to The World Financial Center to see Canstruction, an exhibit of structures created by artists, architects, and engineers from food cans. The sculptures we will see were made from 100,000 cans! We will have our lunches in The Winter Garden before heading back to the subway to take the 2 and then the 1 train to 50th St. (The subway is about 6 blocks from the World Financial Center.) We will have a six block walk to the museum where we are going to be looking for animals in paintings and sculptures, as well as enjoying several new exhibits. We will be at the museum for 2 hours and then walk seven blocks to our restaurant. It is D Napoli Pizza and they have delicious pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and salads served family style. It is a very comfortable and spacious environment. After dinner we will walk 22 blocks back to Penn Station. We will get Krispy Kremes and board the train for our trip back to Middletown train station for pick up by parents.
We have begun a new phase of animal study by discussing the system of classification developed by Carolus Linnaeus. Each child is choosing an animal and then researching its classification. We will then be making a chart or diagram to show species, genus and family. We will be discussing what characteristics animals in a family might have in common.
The class has been processing social relationships. We have been identifying areas of misunderstanding or conflict and brainstorming solutions. I am planning meetings with the boys and the girls to give everyone the opportunity to speak to each other about anything that needs work and to share all the positive experiences they share. It has been difficult to get everyone together as we have students out every day for one reason or another. I understand that it is not always possible to schedule doctor/dentist appointments outside of school hours, but in the event that your child is going to miss school, arrive late, or leave early, please let us know as far in advance as possible. As you know, most of our projects are done in groups so it is helpful if I have some advance notice that a student is going to be out. Thank you for your cooperation.
This week has really gone quickly! With two students away on a cruise all week and a number of others out sick, we have had a small class and this has allowed us to spend a lot of time working together and getting even deeper into interesting topics. Every animal mural is finished and on display. We are continuing to work on creative stories and fact writing about the animals as well. We have also worked hard on our first newspaper of the year, E is the editor and he has been following up with everyone on their writing and pictures and typing the articles when they are finished. Next week we will be making our Valentine’s Day boxes, if anyone has shoes boxes please send them in by Monday, they make the best card boxes. Please read our overview of our Valentine’s Day traditions so you and your child can decide how they would like to participate next Thursday. If you have any questions please feel free to talk to me. Also next week we are really excited to be going to Brookdale to watch the play, Amazing Grace, a book about an African American girl who sticks up for her right to play the lead role in her school play even though they tell her she can’t due to her race. I think this will be a lot of fun and a great activity before the break.
by Susan M. Chilvers, Ed. D.
Children love traditions and rituals but it is often hard for parents and teachers to find meaning in holidays that are gift wrapped in commercialism. It seems that stores go from holiday to holiday advertising anything that will sell in connection with this tradition and if food is involved they have a hit. It would be unkind to ignore these opportunities for fun but if we examine why children enjoy them so much it can be possible to get more understanding and meaning from these experiences. Anticipation is a central theme of childhood. For children, time goes slowly so the waiting time for holidays and special events is full of anticipation and hopefully preparation. This is a time when teachers and parents instead of saying “not yet” or “soon” or crossing off the days can offer more depth to the upcoming experiences by explaining the underlying historical significance. Often this is religious and although it may not be the belief of all, or any, of the children participating in the holiday, it is a wonderful opportunity for adults to teach their children about different cultures. Sharing customs and traditions is a great way to promote understanding between children. Learning about the customs of other countries or religions broadens their horizons and also demonstrates how many similarities there are in the different traditions. This can help clear some of the ignorance that might later develop into intolerance. Sharing and reaching out to the community is an experience children can enjoy. Making gifts for family and friends, dressing up and singing songs at a nursing home, cooking traditional “goodies” and taking them to people who live alone and collecting toys at holiday time all give that holiday an extra dimension for children as they learn the meaning of “outreach.”
Children can also create their own rituals in connection with traditional holidays. At The New School we have our own Halloween tradition—a haunted house designed and created by the older children, ages 11-14, for the younger children, ages 5-10. The haunted house operators offer really scary or less scary, lights on or lights off versions and the build up of anticipation for this is amazing. New children quickly learn that this is an event remembered from year to year and younger children have a chance to share their memories of former haunted houses. The encouragement and support given to the children before, during and after these tours is amazing and “don’t worry, everyone takes care of you” is the message passed on to the children.
For the winter holidays, in addition to sharing how each holiday is celebrated and its origin, we have a gingerbread evening—a fun time for families to build amazing creations. These gingerbread creations are usually based on the school’s theme for that year such as art, food, boats, the environment, etc. As this tradition has progressed, ideas have been added, making it a learning experience through fun!
In addition to adding personal traditions to existing holidays, families, community groups or schools can create their own traditions. At The New School over 40 years we have developed some wonderful traditions. Boat Day happens every year when the students build boats from milk cartons and water bottles and sail on them in the bay. Each boat holds 2 to 3 sailors and they are built by a mixed age group of about 8 children. This event, which grew from a one-time activity, offers lots of skill, not only math, science and art, but also social skills, teamwork, leadership and problem solving. On the last Friday in September, parents come to help with the launches and it has become an annual event that everyone marks on their calendar.
Other New School traditions occur around graduation time. Students who are graduating paint their names on the walls in the hall. The names are re-read and discussed every time graduates visit and more than once a graduate has brought his or her child(ren) to see his or her name on the wall.
Also for graduation the older class teacher and graduate’s parents decorate kimonos to represent their child’s years in the school. This started as a graduation present one year when the teacher purchased kimonos and put a symbol on the back created by one of his students for a class project. They were such a success that the students begged to get kimonos every year and thus another tradition was born.
Traditions and rituals help children to feel that they belong to a family or group, something to anticipate and enjoy but it is in the sharing that they can learn more about one another and develop an understanding of why we need them.