Posts Tagged ‘school’

Raising a family is challenging under any circumstances, but Simon Romero of the NY Times can tell you about families that have added on a somewhat more extreme challenge: settling in Antarctica.

He writes from Villa Las Estrellas, “Children at the schoolhouse here study under a portrait of Bernardo O’Higgins, Chile’s independence leader. The bank manager welcomes deposits in Chilean pesos. The cellphone service from the Chilean phone company Entel is so robust that downloading iPhone apps works like a charm. …

“Fewer than 200 people live in this outpost founded in 1984 during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, when Chile was seeking to bolster its territorial claims in Antarctica. Since then, the tiny hamlet has been at the center of one of Antarctica’s most remarkable experiments: exposing entire families to isolation and extreme conditions in an attempt to arrive at a semblance of normal life at the bottom of the planet.

“It gets a little intense here in winter,” said José Luis Carillán, 40, who moved to Villa Las Estrellas three years ago with his wife and their two children to take a job as a teacher in the public school.

“He described challenges like trekking through punishing wind storms to arrive at a schoolhouse concealed by snow drifts, and withstanding long stretches with only a few hours of sunlight each day. …

“Most of the students at the village’s small school, who generally number less than a dozen, are the children of air force officials who operate the base; some of the parents say the isolating experience strengthens family bonds.

“That Villa Las Estrellas is so remote — its name can be translated as Hamlet of the Stars, since the lack of artificial light pollution here enhances gazing into the heavens — sits just fine with many who live here.

“ ‘People in the rest of Chile are so afraid of thieves that they build walls around their homes,’ said Paul Robledo, 40, an electrician from Iquique (pronounced E-key-kay). ‘Not here in Antarctica. This is one of the safest places in the world.’ More here.

And here you thought our cold snap was a little intense!

Photo: Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times  
Children being picked up from school in Villa Las Estrellas. Most of the students at the village’s small school, who generally number less than a dozen, are the children of air force officials who operate a nearby base. 

Read Full Post »

At the Guardian, teacher Steve Ritz tells Matthew Jenkin about how he began growing food in a troubled South Bronx school.

“The Green Bronx Machine was an accidental success. I wound up working at a very troubled high school in New York’s South Bronx district. It had a very low graduation rate and the bulk of my kids were special educational needs, English language learners, in foster care or homeless. It was dysfunctional to say the least.

“Someone sent me a box of daffodil bulbs one day and I hid them behind a radiator – I didn’t know what they were and figured they may cause problems in class. A while later … we looked behind the radiator and there were all these flowers. The steam from the radiator forced the bulbs to grow.

“That was when I realised that collectively and collaboratively we could grow something greater. We started taking over abandoned lots and doing landscape gardening, really just to beautify our neighbourhood. … We then moved on to growing food indoors in vertical planters around the school.

“By building an ‘edible wall’ to grow fresh vegetables in our science classroom, I gave the kids a reason to come to school. …

“Remarkably the plants grew. The kids really believe that they are responsible for them and attendance has increased from 43% to 93%. Students come to school to take care of their plants – they want to see them succeed. Along the way, the kids succeed, too.” More here.

Photo: Progressive Photos  
Steve Ritz gets students involved in the natural world. Attendance has more than doubled.

Read Full Post »

Two grandsons are starting school this week and overcoming shyness, which got me talking to John about what happened one time when I was a shy first grader.

My family had stayed an extra month on Fire Island that year, which meant that when I got to first grade on the mainland, I didn’t know any of the routines. For example, I didn’t know what the lined paper that appeared on my desk after recess was for. (It turned out it was not for drawing a picture of a girl.)

Another routine was morning attendance. We would all sit quietly at our desks, and when Miss Dobbins called our name, we would say, “Here.”

This particular morning, I was really not feeling at all well but was too shy to raise my hand in the middle of a ritual. I didn’t want anyone to look at me.

But becoming increasingly desperate, I made up my mind that when my name was called, I would go up to the teacher’s desk and tell her I felt sick.

Miss Dobbins called my name. I got out of my seat quickly and hurried up to her desk and opened my mouth to say, “I feel sick,” and vomited all over her lap.

She didn’t get mad, just asked another teacher to hold the fort while she cleaned up and got me some help.

People looked at me after all.

(One always feels an urge to come up with a moral for every tale one tells children, but I don’t think this tale has one. Stuff happens to everyone. Even grandmas.)

Read Full Post »

Thomas Whaley, a teacher of 7-year-old English-language learners on Long Island came up with a creative way to build confidence while building writing skills. He has students make the case for why they should be president.

Jasmine Garsd reports at National Public Radio, “Whaley does not look like the kind of guy that dabbles in magic markers. Before he was a second-grade teacher, he worked at a public relations company in New York City.

“He says he started thinking about doing something else while riding to and from work on the Long Island Rail Road. ‘I would talk with people on the train at 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on the way home,’ he recalls. ‘They were people who had a complete disconnect from the young people of the world. They were all so focused on adults and the rat race. And I realized that this was not for me.’

“That was 16 years ago. He has been teaching ever since.

“In addition, Whaley has found time to write a novel called Leaving Montana, and he’s starting to write children’s books. Last year, he won the New York state teacher-of-the-year award.

“This second-grade presidential campaign is an example of why. He tells me he got the idea when he asked the children one day to raise their hands if they thought they could never be a U.S. president.

“The answer broke his heart.

” ‘Almost every single child who is an English-language learner believed that they couldn’t be,’ Whaley recalls. They’d say things like, ‘ “I can’t run for president because my parents are from a different country.” That was a biggie. “Because I’m poor, and you need a lot of money to be the president.” “Because I don’t like to read, or I can’t read.” ‘

“Whaley says the presidential speech project is about more than just learning to read and speak in public. He wants these kids to learn to boast about themselves.

” ‘Bragging about yourself, and your best qualities,’ Whaley says, ‘is very difficult for a child who came into the classroom not feeling any confidence whatsoever to read three or four words.’

“Robert Epstein, the principal at Canaan Elementary, says this is the essence of what makes Whaley such a great teacher.

” ‘There’s a sense of community that’s really unsurpassed,’ and the students will take risks as a result, Epstein says. He adds that Whaley goes above and beyond what is expected of him as a teacher. ‘If one needs sneakers, I’ve seen him go out and buy sneakers. He’s gone to homes. He’s constantly on the phone, constantly emailing parents.’ ”

More at NPR.

Photo: Christopher Gregory for NPR
Thomas Whaley walks his students back to class from the library.

Read Full Post »

Adele Peters writes at FastCoExist that some schools, “like Ward Elementary in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are starting to fill classrooms with exercise bikes, so students can work out while they learn.

“The Read and Ride program at Ward began five years ago. One classroom is equipped with enough exercise bikes for a full class of students, and teachers bring students throughout the day to use them. As they ride, they read. The combination burns calories, but it turns out that it also helps students learn better. As the elementary school analyzed testing data at the end of school year, they found that students who had spent the most time in the program achieved an 83% proficiency in reading, while those who spent the least time in the program had failing scores–only 41% proficiency.” More here.

The concept, which I learned about at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, is interesting. I hope most such efforts are in addition to recess, not instead of, but I know from experience that physical motion can helping with learning. And if the kids like it, so much the better.

Photo: Read and Ride

Read Full Post »

And speaking of schools that develop a love of the natural world, check out this story from the radio show Living on Earth.

“On the other side of the world, in the tourist paradise of Bali, there’s a school that the U.S. Green Building Council named the greenest school on Earth for 2012. It’s called the Green School, and it educates some 300 students from 25 different countries. Living on Earth’s Bobby Bascomb went to check out what’s so green about the school.”

Among the people he spoke with was Charis Ford, director of communications for the Green School.

“BOBBY BASCOMB: It rains a lot in Bali. Humidity and bugs typically destroy a bamboo structure in about 4 years, but the Green School buildings should survive 20 years or more.

“CHARIS FORD: We use treated bamboo, but it’s been treated with salt essentially. We heat water and we submerge the bamboo poles into the saltwater and it makes the bamboo unpalatable to termites and mold and funguses and other things that would biodegrade the bamboo. …

“FORD: All the building companies that he spoke with were like well, ‘You have to have walls. All schools have to have walls,’ and John [Hardy, a Canadian jewelry designer who moved to Bali in the 1970s and founded the school] said, ‘Why do they have to have walls?”’ They rubbed their chins and scratched their heads and said, “’Well, where are the kids going to hang the art?’ As it turns out, you don’t have to have walls. And we don’t have walls and we’re quite happy about it.

“BASCOMB: Just outside the classroom, a chicken wanders through a patch of green beans. Gardens are everywhere, integrated throughout the campus. They mimic a natural forest ecosystem using edible plants, a design called permaculture.

“FORD: When you wander around Green School’s campus, you might think it looks kind of like it’s wild, but then as you tune in and look at the plants that you’re around, you’ll see that that’s a bean trellis, and that’s a guava tree, and that’s ginger. Even though it looks like a jungle setting, you get a little closer and you see that’s chocolate — cacao pods — hanging from a tree next to you.” Lots more here. You also can listen to the recording of the radio interview.

Photo: Mark Fabian
On extremely hot days a canvas envelope can be pulled around a wall-less Green School classroom so cool air can be piped in to keep kids comfortable. 

Read Full Post »

Discouraging as it is to read that many children won’t eat the healthful food schools are now providing, I take heart that at least they are learning to compost.

Al Baker writes at the NY Times, “The sad voyage of fruits and vegetables from lunch lady to landfill has frustrated parents, nutritionists and environmentalists for decades. Children are still as picky and wasteful as ever, but at least there is now a happier ending — that banana-filled bin is a composting container, part of a growing effort to shrink the mountains of perfectly good food being hauled away to trash heaps every year.

“New York City’s school composting program, kicked off just two years ago by parents on the Upper West Side, is now in 230 school buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island, and is expected to more than double in size and reach all five boroughs in the fall, with an ultimate goal of encompassing all 1,300-plus school buildings. …

“The hope is that by building up composting in school, the city will help the environment, instill a sense of conservation in schoolchildren and, critically, save some money. The city paid $93 per ton in 2013 to dump in landfills, up from $68 in 2004. Composting saves the city $10 to $50 per ton, because the cost is offset by the sale of the end product, according to the Sanitation Department.” More here.

I tend to think kids will eventually eat something nourishing if that’s what’s available and they’re hungry. All I know is my kids eat everything now that they are grown-ups. (Still laughing that John came home from college and said, “How come you never told me I like mushrooms?”)

Photo: Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »