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Photo: CNN
Sy Newson Green, center, attended a book club at California’s Soledad State Prison while he was a student at nearby Palma School. Jason Bryant, right in blue shirt, is one of the inmates who led the fundraising for Newson Green’s tuition at the Catholic school.

Just to remind you on the day after the Capitol invasion* that good people are still in the majority around these parts, I offer a recent story from California. It’s about prison inmates who received kindness from a local school and found an impressive way to give back. And since the story is about people in prison for serious crimes, it’s also about redemption.

As Lauren Kent at CNN reported in November, “It’s hard to imagine two more different places than an elite private school and California’s Soledad State Prison, which houses the state’s largest concentration of men sentenced to life behind bars.

“But for the past seven years, the two worlds have collided in an unusual way: through a book club. Palma School, a prep school for boys in Salinas, California, created a partnership with the Correctional Training Facility (CTF) at Soledad State Prison to form a reading group for inmates and high school students — bringing the two groups together to learn and develop greater understanding of one another.

“But the reading group has developed into much more than an exchange of knowledge and empathy. When one Palma student was struggling to pay the $1,200 monthly tuition after both his parents suffered medical emergencies, the inmates already had a plan to help.

‘I didn’t believe it at first,’ said English and Theology teacher Jim Michelleti, who created the reading program. ‘They said, “We value you guys coming in. We’d like to do something for your school … can you find us a student on campus who needs some money to attend Palma?” ‘

“The inmates, who the program calls ‘brothers in blue,’ raised more than $30,000 from inside the prison to create a scholarship for student Sy Green — helping him graduate this year and attend college at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.’Regardless of the poor choices that people make, most people want to take part in something good,’ said Jason Bryant, a former inmate who was instrumental in launching the scholarship. ‘Guys were eager to do it.’

“Bryant served 20 years for armed robberies in which one victim was fatally shot by an accomplice. But while inside Soledad State Prison, he made a daily effort to turn his life around, earning his bachelor’s degree and two masters and running leadership training programs for inmates. ‘I’m never far from the reality that I committed a crime in 1999 that devastated a family — several families — and irreparably harmed my community,’ Bryant said. ‘I keep that close to my heart, and I would hope that people can identify the power of forgiveness and the probability of restoration when people put belief in each other.’

“Bryant’s sentence was commuted in March due to his contributions in restorative work while he was in prison. He now works as the Director for Restorative Work at an organization called Creating Restorative Opportunities and Programs (CROP), which helps equip formerly incarcerated people with tools like skills training and stable housing in order to succeed in their communities. …

“Hundreds of incarcerated men jumped at the opportunity to make a heavy, meaningful investment in someone else’s life. Considering that minimum wage in prison can be as low as 8 cents an hour, raising $30,000 is an astonishing feat. It can take a full day of hard labor to make a dollar inside prison. … Some brothers in blue who had no money to donate even hustled to sell possessions or food so they could be a part of the campaign. …

“Sy and his family started making visits to the prison in addition to taking part in the Palma reading group. He and his family have embraced building relationships with many of the bothers in blue, and four former inmates even attended his high school graduation. …

“The inmates also plan to continue the scholarship program for another student in need. With the help of inmate leadership groups and the CROP organization, they want to keep paying it forward. … Said Bryant. ‘If more people just decided to do good things, this world would be a better palace.’ “

More at CNN, here.

* In the first version of this post, I said the Capitol invasion Wednesday was a first in American history. I stand corrected.

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Photo: David Sowells via Upworthy
Henry Sowells, 16, in his garage in Bethesda, Maryland. Sowells is selling homemade furniture and donating the profits to Bethesda Cares to help people experiencing homelessness.

Enterprising folks have taken advantage of being home all day to take on a new challenge. This high school student and his father enrolled in an online woodworking class. But they didn’t stop there.

As Teddy Amenabar reported in a July Washington Post article, “Three months ago, 16-year-old Henry Sowells didn’t know the first thing about woodworking. Now, he has people asking him to renovate their kitchens.

“Henry is quick to say he can’t install your granite countertops, but he can build you furniture out of pine. Henry, a rising junior at Walt Whitman High, has turned his budding hobby into an act of goodwill with help from his father, David. For every piece of furniture Henry builds and sells to neighbors, he is donating [the profits] to a local nonprofit, Bethesda Cares, which serves those experiencing homelessness in Montgomery County. …

“After schools shut down in the Washington region in mid-March because of the growing number of novel coronavirus cases, David and Henry started a six-week online woodworking course from Steve Ramsey, a YouTube creator who uploads instructional videos for those interested in learning the craft.

“When Henry’s high school classes moved online, Henry and his family noticed that the school district’s priority was making sure students with free and reduced-price meals had food.

There were frequent discussions around the Sowellses’ dinner table about the wealth disparity in the United States, which led Henry to his idea — to sell the furniture he has built and donate the profits to people nearby who are fighting hunger. …

“Henry sells seven different products for a variety of prices — a small bench costs $100, wooden crates are $35, and a patio table is $85. Each item on the website includes a cost breakdown for the parts and how much money would go to Bethesda Cares.

“For example, he explains that for the $100 bench, parts cost $60 and $40 goes to Bethesda Cares. Henry said some customers have paid more than the asking price, and he donates any extra money to the nonprofit.

“Most of the designs come from the tutorials that Henry followed with his dad. But he also created his own design for a raised planter bed after a request from a customer. …

“David Sowells learned the basics of woodworking along with Henry, but he said Henry runs the show. David’s contribution is that he drives three times a week to Home Depot so he can stock up on wood and other supplies. …

“Henry’s first orders came from dog walkers in his neighborhood, Woodhaven. To get the ball rolling, Henry made one of every product he offers and set up a display in his driveway. That way, when people walked by, they could see the furniture and take a flier to learn more about how to buy their own stool or bench. …

“Heading into the summer, Henry was going to intern at a local dentist’s office, but the coronavirus made that impossible. … Depending on how the school year goes, Henry’s plan is to keep building and selling furniture through the end of the year. Henry said he already has ideas to make cutting boards or other gifts around the holidays.”

More here.

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Photo: AVID
AVID is a program that gives extra attention to students who might otherwise be marginalized. The acronym stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination.

My friends Ann and AJ had a fun time this past summer helping to chaperone their Colorado niece’s students on a trip to New York City. That’s how I learned about an enrichment program called AVID, which gives an extra boost to students who might need it and incorporates life skills with academic learning.

According to the AVID website, “75% of AVID students are from a low socioeconomic status background, and 80% are underrepresented students. Nevertheless, they outperform their peers in crucial metrics nationwide.”

Ann tells me, “It’s a curriculum that districts can purchase. Emalea has worked with these same AVID program students for four years and they are now making college plans.  Most will be first generation college students. Emalea has helped the kids with everything from social skills to completing their college applications to prepping for ACTs.” (ACTs are standardized tests similar to the SATs.)

Ann and AJ had a blast hanging out with the Colorado teens in New York and feel a lot of hope for these kids’ futures.

AVID’s approach is described on the website: “AVID students reflect and question while mastering content. … Our students work together to problem solve and to change the level of discourse in the classroom as they prepare for success. Students are taught to articulate what they don’t understand and learn how to seek out the resources they need. By teaching critical thinking, inquiry, and self-advocacy, AVID educators empower students to own their learning. …

“This student-centered approach ensures that the people doing the most talking learn the most. This engages students and creates content mastery through inquiry and collaboration. …

“All students need to learn how to learn. Note-taking, studying, and organizing assignments are all skills that must be taught and practiced to perfect, but are not explicitly taught in schools. … Educators can teach students how to master these and other academic behaviors that will help them succeed in school and life.

“Students would rather talk, move around, and ask questions than sit still and be quiet. Humans are wired to construct knowledge through action. AVID classrooms promote motion, communication, and team building through activities such as Socratic Seminars, Collaborative Study Groups, [and] peer tutoring.”

I’ve culled a few testimonials from the AVID website.

“The AVID program not only pushes students, but teachers to set these goals and do whatever it takes to achieve them.”
–Victor, High School student

“I completely changed the way I teach. It’s just amazing the difference it’s made in my teaching and students’ learning.”
–Cynthia Lee, Teacher

“AVID has really increased our graduation rates and also our success rates for students who choose to go to college.”
–Dr. Karen Fischer Gray, Superintendent

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Photo: Stefan Sauer/AFP/Getty Images
Amateur archaeologist Rene Schoen (left) and 13-year-old student Luca Malaschnichenko looking for treasures in Schaprode, Germany. The boy made a startling discovery in January, then participated in a professional dig that uncovered a larger trove.

In this National Public Radio story, a young boy working with an amateur archaeologist gets to experience the thrill of a significant find, one that underscores the historical connection between Germany and Denmark.

It wasn’t aluminum trash he found. It was a silver coin.

Camila Domonoske reports at NPR, “An amateur archaeologist and a 13-year-old student have uncovered a stash of thousand-year-old coins, rings and pearls on an island in the Baltic Sea in northern Germany, including items that might be tied to Harald Bluetooth, the famous king who united Denmark.

“René Schön and student Luca Malaschnitschenko were searching northern Rügen island with metal detectors when they found something they thought was aluminum but turned out to be silver, Agence France-Presse reports. …

“The two alerted professional archaeologists, and then helped recover of the rest of the trove — more than 600 silver objects dating from the late 10th century. …

“About 100 of the coins are from the reign of King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark: the largest find of such coins in the southern Baltic region, the [archaeology office of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania] office says.

“Harald I — his nickname is believed to come from a dead tooth that may have looked blueish — was a Viking king who united Denmark, conquered Norway and converted to Christianity.

“And based on the date of the stash, the state archaeology office says, it’s possible that the hoard wasn’t just from Bluetooth’s reign, but that it was directly tied to the king himself. …

“In case you were wondering: Yes, King Harald Bluetooth is the namesake for Bluetooth wireless technology. An Intel engineer who worked on the technology, Jim Kardach, was reading about Vikings as the project developed.

“In his words, King Bluetooth ‘was famous for uniting Scandinavia just as we intended to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link.’ The Bluetooth symbol is a runic representation of his initials.”

More here.

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Some schools are taking the current push for STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and math) a step further and putting kids on project teams with students from around the world. While you are learning science, you are getting to know what life is like somewhere else.

Dugan Arnett writes at the Boston Globe, “In just a few weeks’ time, the students in Kathy Wright’s Richard J. Murphy K-8 School STEM class have developed a keen grasp of Costa Rican culture.

“ ‘They don’t get snow there,’ said Jayd’n Washington, a 12-year-old seventh grader at the Dorchester school. Added fellow 12-year-old Fabian Riascos, ‘They have their own currency.’

“Their burgeoning interest in the Central American country stems not from a recent geography lesson plan — it’s the result, instead, of a program called Design Squad Global, which pairs American middle-school classes with students from other countries in a kind of virtual pen-pal relationship.

“Created by WGBH Boston as a spinoff of the old PBS television series ‘Design Squad,’ the program serves, at its core, as a way to introduce young students across the globe to the importance of engineering-related projects.

“But another goal — and one that organizers seem to value as much as anything — is the program’s ability to connect children from various locations, backgrounds, and cultures. …

“The DSG program connects kids ages 10-13. Currently, it operates in 25 American cities — including Boston, Chicago, and New York — and eight countries, from Brazil to Jordan to South Africa.

“At the start of the program, which can run either six or 12 weeks, two classes from different countries are paired together. In online correspondence, they tick off their names, nicknames, and interests — and as they tackle a collection of weekly projects, a virtual relationship blossoms. …

“The focus is on real-world problem-solving. Participants are charged with designing and constructing scaled-down versions of a number of projects: a structure that can withstand an earthquake, an emergency shelter, an adaptive device for someone with disabilities.

“ ‘Middle school kids can come up with some amazing solutions,’ said Mary Haggerty, who oversees educational outreach at WGBH. ‘It makes you feel very hopeful for the future.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff
Jhondell Smith-Young tested his STEM project for a Dorchester class that assigns him to an international team.

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Photo: Andy Hogg/Unsung Heroes
Georgetown students raised more than $5,000 for Umberto “Suru” Ripai, a cashier at the dining hall, who is now able to visit his family in South Sudan for the first time in 45 years.

On Facebook, Cousin Claire reposted a wonderful story that Cousin Nancy had shared. It describes exactly the kind of outreach I think of when I say that small acts by one person can make the world a better place.

Petula Dvorak writes at the Washington Post, “Every night, they had the same routine. The Georgetown University business student would settle in for his cram session — soda, chips, books lined up. And the janitor would come in to start his night shift — polishing each of the windows in the study room, moving amid all those books and chips and sodas. Invisible.

“ ‘There was this space, like ice separating us,’ said Oneil Batchelor, an immigrant from Jamaica. The janitor worked around the students — many of them in their 20s like him, many with entrepreneurial ambitions like him — for nearly a decade before one of them finally broke that ice last year.

“A nod one night. A hello the next.

“And within weeks, Batchelor and the student, Febin Bellamy, were having long talks about being immigrants, about wanting to be entrepreneurs, about politics and history and music. Bellamy even went to Batchelor’s church and met his 6-year-old daughter.

“After he formed that bond with the once-invisible worker, Bellamy couldn’t stop noticing the others. …

“Each of those workers has a story. Many of them are immigrants, and their collective histories of war and flight and families left behind offer a master class in geo­politics. No tuition needed.

“Bellamy understands because these are his people. His family immigrated to the United States from India when he was 5. When they got to New York, his mother worked as a nursing assistant and his father as a customer service rep while they were going to college at night and raising a family in the few hours left over.

“Bellamy started at a community college and then transferred to Georgetown as a junior. He knows the scrap and fight the folks fixing pipes and cleaning bathrooms have inside them.

“So he had a brainstorm. What if he found a way to introduce the workers to the students? And that idea went from a class project in April to a fundraiser making real change today.

“He did it in the language his peers understand: a Facebook page. He calls it Unsung Heroes, and he began posting little profiles of workers around campus. …

“The students also learned about some of the hopes percolating, as windows are washed and floors are scrubbed. And they’re helping.

“Turns out that Batchelor really is a gifted cook. Students who read about him encouraged him to hold fundraisers serving his now-famous-on-campus chicken. They raised $2,500, got him catering gigs and helped him put up his own web page, Oneil’s Famous Jerk.

“ ‘It’s like the door has cracked open in front of me,’ he said. ‘And I can smell the air coming through. The inspiration.’ ” Lots more here.

Photo: Andy Hogg/Unsung Heroes
Georgetown University business major Febin Bellamy, left, talks with janitor Oneil Batchelor, who wants to open a chicken joint. Students raised $2,500 and got him catering gigs.

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I liked this local story about a new approach to helping students who have special needs master independent-living skills while still connected with high school. It’s not hard to imagine the satisfaction students will gain from this volunteer-powered opportunity.

Brittany Ballantyne writes at the Valley Breeze, “Thanks to $15,000 donated from Lowe’s Home Improvement stores and the help of volunteers, students in the transition program at North Providence High School [NPHS] will start the school year in a new state-of-the-art transitional apartment space.

“Christopher Jones, special education director, said six Lowe’s stores donated $2,500 each to help build a studio apartment in the building at 1828 Mineral Spring Ave., where students will learn how to prepare and cook food, do laundry, type up resumes, make a bed and become [nursing assistant] certified if they choose.

“By the start of the academic year, Jones said, students ages 18 to 21 in the program will be able to get to work in the space …

“Jones envisioned giving the students an experience where they moved up not just in academics, but also in the NPHS building after receiving their diplomas. What were two in-school suspension classrooms [have been] transformed into the apartment after space was reconfigured in the high school, Jones explained. …

“He said the apartment space will be used anytime students aren’t out in the community getting hands-on work experience.”

More at the Valley Breeze, here.

Photo: The Valley Breeze
Students in the transition program at North Providence High School get apartment-style space to practice how to prepare food and cook, do laundry, make beds and write resumes.

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Teny Gross tweeted this nice story from the Brown University alumni magazine.

Courtney Coelho wrote, “On a snowy December evening, lights were visible through the second-floor windows of List Art Center as the visual arts department’s Critique Intensive held its last session. Mixed with the students in the large studio space were four working artists—Elise Ansel ’84, Chitra Ganesh ’96, Keith Mayerson ’88, and Rob Reynolds ’90—who’d spent sixteen weeks with the class, teaching, critiquing, and discussing art.

“The class was the brainchild of Chair of Visual Art Wendy Edwards, who hopes it will serve as a model for future classes. ‘Alumni bring a generosity to their approach to the Brown students,’ Edwards said. ‘They love coming back here, they love giving, and they’re very professional and committed to helping our students.’ ” More here.

Speaking of art education in Providence, RISD just got a new president, an artisan herself. Meredith Goldstein at the Boston Globe writes, “The Rhode Island School of Design has chosen its 17th president. Rosanne Somerson takes the title effective immediately, the Board of Trustees announced [in February]. Somerson, a RISD grad and furniture designer, has been serving as the school’s interim president since January 2014. The board says it chose to keep Somerson in the job after a nine-month international search.”

The Globe article is here. Disegno magazine has an interview with Somerson, here.

Photo: Mike Cohea
Rose Congdon ’15, left, and her classmates critique work created for the visual art department’s Critique Intensive, a class taught by four alumni artists last semester. 

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An Associated Press blurb in the Globe caught my eye today.

Here it is in its entirety: “Unity Plantation, Maine. A two-year quest by Unity College students to fit a black bear with a video collar has succeeded. The Morning Sentinel said Professor George Matula and about a dozen students trekked deep into a 4,000-acre patch of woods off Route 139 Thursday to fit the collar on a trapped bear. While one student kept the angry bear’s attention, another sneaked in from behind to deliver a shot to knock it out.”

I had to find out more. The website of Unity College, “America’s Environmental College” located north of Augusta in Waldo County, explains it wasn’t a professor-assisted prank.

“With permission from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Unity College Bear Study team does hands-on research to provide information on a bear population in Central Maine. Students work with faculty mentor George Matula and alumna mentor Lisa Bates ’08 to tag, tattoo and radio collar bears to collect data and monitor activity.” More at Unity College, here.

But about actually collaring the bear. …

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling  writes at the Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel, “Once Matula gave the all-clear, the students descended on the bear, intent and serious as each performed a well-defined role. They still spoke in whispers as they took blood samples, checked its vital signs and prepared to affix the all-important video collar to its neck. …

“One student, Leon Burman, cradled the bear’s head in his lap while he pulled back its lips, using a tattoo gun to leave an identification mark on the gums.

“[Student Jonah] Gula lifted the bear’s front right paw, inspecting a raw and red line defining the previous capture’s cable. Gula speculated later that it meant the bear was pulling at its snare more aggressively than most. The team treated it with a first-aid kit.” More here.

Photo: Mark Bennett

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At my husband’s college reunion yesterday, we heard a former classmate talk about a wonderfully innovative school he founded  in San Diego (High Tech High).

After hearing that a fairly typical class project was developing a genetic bar code to identify endangered species in the bush, my husband wondered how such an inventive school can function in today’s teaching-to-the-test world. I myself figured that whatever the kids absorb from meaningful projects and cutting-edge teaching they absorb deeply enough to pass tests if they need to.

And when I think of the lengths to which test mania is going, I think more schools should learn from High Tech High. Consider the latest testing aberration: robots grading essays.

Les Perelman at the Boston Globe gives examples:

” ‘According to professor of theory of knowledge Leon Trotsky, privacy is the most fundamental report of humankind. Radiation on advocates to an orator transmits gamma rays of parsimony to implode.

“Any native speaker over age 5 knows that the preceding sentences are incoherent babble. But a computer essay grader, like the one Massachusetts may use as part of its new public school tests, thinks it is exceptionally good prose.

“PARCC, the consortium of states including Massachusetts that is developing assessments for the Common Core Curriculum, has contracted with Pearson Education, the same company that graded the notorious SAT essay, to grade the essay portions of the Common Core tests. Some students throughout Massachusetts just took the pilot test, which wasted precious school time on an exercise that will provide no feedback to students or to their schools.

“It was, however, not wasted time for Pearson. The company is using these student essays to train its robo-grader to replace one of the two human readers grading the essay, although there are no published data on their effectiveness in correcting human readers.

“Robo-graders do not score by understanding meaning but almost solely by use of gross measures, especially length and the presence of pretentious language. The fallacy underlying this approach is confusing association with causation. A person makes the observation that many smart college professors wear tweed jackets and then believes that if she wears a tweed jacket, she will be a smart college professor.” More here.

Uh-oh. Sounds like the children’s book Petunia. Fortunately, a timely explosion taught the silly goose that books have pages you need to read, that carrying a book under your wing doesn’t make you smart.

More explosions needed.

Photo: blog.spoongraphics.co.uk

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A woman in my tai chi chuan class yesterday mentioned that she was taking her son to an “Instrument PettingZoo” this weekend to see if he could find an instrument he’d like to study.

What a great name for the event! With a title like that, no one needs to explain that the idea is to help children learn about different instruments — and have fun at the same time.

This weekend’s Instrument PettingZoo is at Powers Music School.

The school’s website provides some history:

“Powers Music School is a regional, not-for-profit institution established in 1964 to provide superior music instruction and performance opportunities to all interested students. Each year the School also provides musical outreach opportunities in the community through programs such as Belmont Open Sings, the Stein Chamber Music Festival, the Peter Elvins Vocal Competition, and the Mildred P. Freiberg Piano Festival.

“The founding principles, that all students are entitled to high quality musical instruction and that music is an essential part of our lives and belongs in the community, continue to guide the School today. During 2010-2011, the School worked with over 1,000 students who traveled from 50 surrounding communities. In addition, Powers gave over 70 student recitals/community performances.”

I love the school’s dual-meaning slogan, “A great place to play.”

Makes me realize my off-and-on-music education may have left out the playful side of “play.”

Photograph: PowersMusic.org

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Ashoka, which defines itself as “a global organization that identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs,” has a blog called Changemakers that might interest readers. The March 26 post is on teaching and empathy.

Nora Cobo at the Center for Inspired Teaching writes, “While test-based assessments are essential, they reflect only one type of data and one kind of skill that students need. Schools must also focus on students’ social-emotional growth in order to create sound learning environments. Such settings help students develop interpersonal competence and improve short- and long-term academic and personal outcomes.

“Center for Inspired Teaching partners with teachers to change the school experience for students to include these critical skills. … Instead of looking at students’ behavior as something to be corrected, we train teachers to look at students’ behavior in terms of unmet needs. In particular, we ask teachers to consider students’ needs for Autonomy, Belonging, Competence, Developmental appropriateness, and Engagement — the ABCDE of learners’ needs.

“For example, a teacher may encounter a student who repeatedly gets frustrated and leaves his seat to chat with classmates when he encounters a complicated geometry problem. Rather than assuming the student has a bad attitude, the teacher strives to figure out which of the student’s needs is not being met. The teacher may discover that the student learns best when physically engaged – and offer him the option to tackle the equation by measuring distances by walking.

“Similarly, a teacher may find a student who refuses to work in a group setting, saying she just prefers to work alone. In examining the student’s unmet needs, that teacher may discover that the student longs for more autonomy with her work – and empower that student to create on her own.

“The teacher may discover, upon further engaging her skills of empathy, that other members of the group aren’t treating the student kindly, and therefore the student’s need for belonging is not being met when classroom groups are self-selected. …

“Placing empathy at the core of teachers’ practice ensures that students learn how to think, not just what to think – and go beyond covering the curriculum to learn the skills they need in order to thrive.”

More here.

Photograph: Kate Samp, Strategies for Children

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A reason that poor children are sometimes unprepared for school is that the words they are starting to read in books may not convey meaning to them. What does it mean to park a car if you have never ridden in a car?

The NY Times has a lovely article about one NYC school’s unusual field trips, designed to fill some gaps in knowledge that textbook writers take for granted.

Michael Winerip writes, “Experiences that are routine in middle-class homes are not for P.S. 142 children. When Dao Krings, a second-grade teacher, asked her students recently how many had never been inside a car, several, including Tyler Rodriguez, raised their hands. ‘I’ve been inside a bus,’ Tyler said. ‘Does that count?’

“When a new shipment of books arrives, Rhonda Levy, the principal, frets. Reading with comprehension assumes a shared prior knowledge, and cars are not the only gap at P.S. 142. Many of the children have never been to a zoo or to New Jersey. Some think the emergency room of New York Downtown Hospital is the doctor’s office. …

“Working with Renée Dinnerstein, an early childhood specialist, [Ms. Levy] has made real life experiences the center of academic lessons, in hopes of improving reading and math skills by broadening children’s frames of reference.

“The goal is to make learning more fun for younger children. … While many schools have removed stations for play from kindergarten, Ms. Levy has added them in first and second grades. [And] several times a month they take what are known as field trips to the sidewalk. In early February the second graders went around the block to study Muni-Meters and parking signs. They learned new vocabulary words, like ‘parking,’ ‘violations’ and ‘bureau.’ JenLee Zhong calculated that if Ms. Krings put 50 cents in the Muni-Meter and could park for 10 minutes, for 40 minutes she would have to put in $2. They discovered that a sign that says ‘No Standing Any Time’ is not intended for kids like them on the sidewalk.” Read more.

One thinks of all the small daily interactions one has with one’s own children and the learning occurring without forethought. There are interactions and learning in poor families, too, but if the words and concepts are not what they kids will encounter in school, I think these excursions can be very helpful.

Photograph: Librado Romero, NY Times

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