Friday, December 16, 2011

The iPad Creeps In...

John Schoultz came into my office this morning and told me to check out the science room "right now." Usually this is not a good sign, so I took a deep breath, a long swig of coffee and headed out to the science room and, in my mind, a certain downturn in my holiday cheer.

What I found was a section of 7th graders - almost all on their iPads - reading Alice in Wonderland in preparation for their Literature test. We had just finished training the students on the use of the e-reader function in iBooks and many were taking advantage of the resource.

So, I went from preparing to be the Grinch to feeling like Jimmy Stewart running through the streets of Bedford Falls wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. Can you tell I'm excited about the possibilities of the iPad in the classroom?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Student Leadership: ANYDAY


nccj.org

We are excited to announce that Canterbury has partnered with NCCJ of the Piedmont Triad Region to offer a day long seminar called ANYDAY on January 4, 2012. Our mission states we will “develop the whole child by challenging the mind and nourishing the spirit in a diverse community guided by Judeo-Christian values.” We believe the program NCCJ is able to offer a core group of our middle schoolers fits perfectly with our mission. The NCCJ describes their program in this way:

“ANYDAY, a program for middle school students, is designed to teach self-respect and respect for others while celebrating each other’s differences. NCCJ of the Piedmont Triad Region will lead participants through a series of activities designed to build a more inclusive, respectful and safe school environment. Particular attention will be given to how human relations and cultural awareness issues impact students and the faculty in their school.”

We have selected a core group of 35 middle school students to participate in this seminar. Our hope is that this group will bring back to Canterbury a desire to put their new insights into action through their leadership. In this way we not only develop a deeper understanding of each other, but also provide an opportunity for real student leadership.

This should be prove to be a great experience for those involved and through their engagement and leadership a great experience for the middle school as a whole. After the break we will update you about the seminar.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Power of Social Networks and Consumer Feedback

Can I say that I would have jumped on this story prior to my daughter being born? Maybe.

Regardless, this story from NPR is an example of the positive power of social networks. A mother was so annoyed/appalled by a t-shirt being sold at JC Penny that said, "I'm to pretty to do homework, so my brother has to d it for me," that she started an online petition which sent an email to JC Penny's media department and CEO with each signature. It worked. In ten hours the t-shirt was pulled.

Check it out: Moms and Social Network Power

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lunar Eclipse

Jiyang Chen
On December 10, 2011, we will have a special opportunity to view a lunar eclipse.  During a lunar eclipse, the Earth passes directly between the Sun and the full Moon, casting its shadow on the face of the moon for a period of time.  During the hours of a lunar eclipse, anyone on the right side of Earth can view the spectacle.


At the beginning of a lunar eclipse, the Earth’s shadow creeps across the bright face of the full moon, creating an area of darkness that increases gradually in size. Totality occurs when the Earth’s shadow covers the Moon’s face completely.  This lasts at least a few minutes, although every eclipse is different.  During totality, the Moon’s face appears to be a deep red.  This is due to light rays from the outermost layers of the Sun that are bent and separated by the Earth’s atmosphere.  Only the red wavelengths are bent in such a way that they reflect off the Moon’s surface.  The rest of the wavelengths pass by the Moon and shine out into space.
The upcoming lunar eclipse will be visible from Greensboro as long as the weather is clear.   From our point of view, the eclipse will not be a total one.  The Moon will enter the Earth’s shadow around 6:32 am. The Moon sets at 7:17 am. During this time, a partial lunar eclipse will be visible.


As you are getting ready for the day, take a few minutes to step outside and take a look!  If you have a Canterbury 8th grader, ask him or her to explain how a lunar eclipse is different from a solar eclipse.   (In a solar eclipse, the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and casts its shadow on a tiny portion of the Earth’s surface.  This occurs during the day when the Moon is new, and lasts only a few minutes.)

Erin Ringrose
7th and 8th Grade Science Teacher
Science Olympiad Coach

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

iPad Pilot Program 2012

We are excited to announce an iPad Pilot Program in the 7th grade beginning in the new calendar year. Students will be utilizing the iPads in a comprehensive way. Our ultimate goal in this experiment is to gather enough information to weigh the benefits of a one-to-one tablet model in our 7th and 8th grades. This program will provide us with the data to make an informed decision in the best interest of our students. Check out a summary of the program at the link below:


iPad Pilot Summary

A Quick Intro to the Brain for the ADHD Child

bufferingbrain.blogspot.com

I was perusing my Google Reader and came across this post, which is actually the last in a series by Jerome J. Schultz, a neuropsychologist at Harvard Medical School. These posts are quick reads and give a great introduction to the brain of the child with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or LD (Learning Disabled). As I've said before, this is a matter of hardwiring gone a bit wrong and the strategies necessary to overcome that hardwiring.

Stress and the Brain: To Fight, Flee, or Freeze - That is the Question

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just Wiki It

Karen Niegelsky, our 6th grade Humanities and 8th grade Composition teacher, has developed an intriguing 21st Century unit based around the principles of Heidi Hayes-Jacobs' Innovators' Challenge. She describes it below:

Students are usually cautioned about using Wikipedia as a source for academic papers, but when doing “real world” research, many of us head to this popular website to find information to everyday questions. Rather than simply dismissing it as an unreliable resource for “real” research, Canterbury eighth graders will spend the second trimester exploring its virtues and producing their own contributions to an actual Wikipedia article.

Each eighth grader will choose a topic to research thoroughly and then produce a Wikipedia-style article that is fluent, reliable, and non-biased. In completing this project, students will gain experience in writing for a real audience and in dealing with criticism and suggestions that may come from readers other than fellow students or their teachers.  Finally, they will get the thrill of seeing their work online. (Their privacy is protected; Wikipedia authors are anonymous.)

Students should be able to use much of their work to meet the requirements of the Canterbury portfolio project including

·  Develop a fundamental understanding of emerging ethical issues and dilemmas regarding new media and technologies.

·  Respond to an experience of failure in a way that acknowledges that innovation involves small successes and frequent mistakes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What is the Purpose of School? - Your Chance to Weigh In

I found this project via Karl Fisch's blog. A couple of grad students at Harvard have developed this project and are looking for global responses to the question, "What is the purpose of school?" While it may seem like a straightforward question, I'm sure (as Karl is) that the guys will get some great responses. Take a look at the site and please contribute!

School Support Project

Dana Foundation Blog: More Work for the Same Results

An interesting summary of two studies on memory: one on older women and the other on children (7-14) with ADHD. Of particular interest to those of us who work with ADHD children on daily basis is the apparent conclusion that the brain structure of the ADHD brain is inefficiently organized and therefore makes even minor memory tasks very difficult for children. Obviously, if a structural solution could be found for the part of the brain which is disorganized, this could help a large number of students. It also lends credence to the fact that these students may not be willfully misbehaving, but like most middle school students, they are "hardwired" to act this way. Only in this case, a few wires have been wired incorrectly.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Leadership Article: Do You Have Moral Overconfidence

I found this post at LeadingBlog about the need for humility in our leaders. In fact, they are teaching it at Harvard Business School. Canterbury's motto fits perfectly with this idea. To Learn, To Love, To Serve: To Live.

A Special Visitor to the Middle School

I've been with middle schoolers too long. When one of our kindergarten teachers, Jackie Fuller, brought Katie Tourney and her llama Patches over from the lower school and into Armfield Hall I wasn't that shocked to see the animal admiring the Social Contract on the back wall.

As Ron Burgundy said, "I'm not even mad. I'm impressed."


Gotta love it. Another day at the office at Canterbury School.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Elective Choices: Second Trimester

electiveselection.com
As you might remember, we began a new Electives Program this year based on three tracks: The Arts, A 21st Century World, and Leadership. We have just completed our first trimester classes and it is time to enroll in our second trimester classes.

Today we will have our teachers explain what it is that they will be offering in their classes, and our 7th and 8th grade students will receive the Selection Sheet which is linked below to take home and make their choices. Take a moment and check out what it is we have to offer students.

Electives Description 2011: Second Trimester

Friday, November 11, 2011

Leadership: Traits and Skills

dvdtrainingvideo.com
As part of the Action in Leadership elective that Tricia Fisher teaches, I have been able to work with her students on the explicit instruction on leadership. We are nearing the end of our time together and the group has taken on a number of leadership tasks around campus. They have had to lead peers and younger students.

With this experience behind them, I challenge them to identify traits and skills that leaders need to be successful. Here is what they came up with:

Traits

  • Calmness
  • Engagement
  • Understanding
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
Skills
  • Identify strengths & weaknesses in the group
  • Give precise encouragement
  • Read people's characteristics
  • Persuading through framing the task
  • Delegate
  • Identify the early adopters
  • Communication - public speaking and honest communication

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bassett Blog, 2011/11

Pat Bassett, the President of the National Association of Independent Schools, has written a blog post which re-introduces the five C's (and bonus sixth C) of 21st century schools and promises to publish one blog post dedicated to each one over the next few months. At the end of his post, he provides the research and reading which has led him to the conclusion that a new paradigm in teaching and learning is at hand. It is compelling stuff that we have been grappling with for at least 10 years. Bassett has been imploring schools to move in this direction and I believe we at Canterbury have been making significant strides in this direction. I urge to keep up with Mr. Bassett's blog. Bassett Blog, 2011/11

Friday, November 4, 2011

Reconfiguration Status Update

As part of our ongoing planning process for Grade Reconfiguration, I have linked my letter to parents and the Reconfiguration Status Report: November 2011 in this post. I plan on continuing to update throughout this school year and welcome your input and feedback throughout the process.

Reconfiguration Letter: November 2011

Reconfiguration Status Report: November 2011


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Creative Politics

I found this post from Daniel Pink's website and thought it was really funny:


And Cody Toone, who teaches at Cardston Elementary School in Alberta, sends this campaign poster from a grade six student election. I’m not sure the sign quite fits the definition of emotionally intelligent signage, but I am sure that Shelby has a future in politics:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Overheard at MDGs...

I was just out at our 7th grade Experiential Learning project on the Millennium Development Goals and heard the following:

"Laura! Come here! We need your help! We need your creative thinking. What can we add to this hospital to make it better?"

Jack to Laura in their village.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The BIG Question: Failure

As I have said before, this year we are using some of our morning time to incorporate community building through a BIG Question. This BIG Question is often related to some theme we see in the middle school and allows us to have a conversation around it in a safe and comfortable environment.

Typically, the Student Support Team will identify the theme or topic, I will present some data, a video, a podcast, a narrative, etc. that illustrates some aspect of that theme and then leave the group with a question to discuss in their advisories. The goal of the program is threefold:
  1. Create a forum for the whole division to meet,
  2. Introduce BIG ideas, current events, and/or school issues that warrant a common context for discussion, and
  3. Provide an opportunity for common reflection during our Middle School Chapel one week later. 
As you may have seen from my post titled The BIG Question, our first topic was Honor, as we found ourselves discussing the Honor Code and its implications on how we live our lives at Canterbury and beyond.

Last week's topic was failure. We have been witnessing an increased fear of failure in schools which can lead to students becoming highly stressed. Last year we watched the Race to Nowhere (and see below), which chronicles the extremes of what can be our children's over-scheduled and highly pressurized lives. More and more students have very little idea how to deal with failure. They often refuse to try because they risk failure.

Our BIG Question addresses this issue head-on by asking:

How does failure define you?

We watched a clip of Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 in which he describes being fired from the company he created and coming back to become CEO. We then broke off into our advisories and discussed the BIG Question together in the context of our own lives. Finally, Fr. Finnin will wrap up the conversation during his sermon at the Middle School Chapel tomorrow morning.

I think it is worth noting that we at Canterbury have taken a position on how believe students should view failure. It is clearly stated in the final skill for our Portfolio Program:

  1. Respond to an experience of failure in a way that acknowledges that innovation involves small successes and frequent mistakes.
We want our students to acknowledge that they will fail many times in their lives, and that the key to growth is learning from those mistakes and moving forward. We want our students to engage in life.


A New Understanding of the Digital Divide

I ran across this article at Edutopia and thought it a timely piece as many independent schools ponder 1to1 computer to student ratios and how that looks in their schools.

Essential in all of these conversations should be a discussion about access. I visited three independent schools yesterday in the Triangle area, and all were grappling with the ways our students access and utilize technology (as all good schools should). Paramount was the baseline expectation that nothing should be offered if it won't be able to supported equitably at home as it is at school.

The author discusses the new nature of the Digital Divide (formerly who has access to the Internet and who does not). Through her research, the author, Mary Beth Hertz, redefines the term Digital Divide and thus points those of us looking to bridge the divide in a new direction.

A New Understanding of the Digital Divide

See also Forrest Cloud's post about Digital Divide v. Digital Inequality for a balanced description of the difference between the two.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Portfolio Skill 10: How Steve Jobs Lived It Out

The Canterbury Portfolio Program asks our 8th graders to develop a portfolio of work which demonstrates ten skills we believe a Canterbury graduate should have. Today I want to focus on Skill 10.

Portfolio Skill 10: Respond to an experience of failure in a way that acknowledges that innovation involves small successes and frequent mistakes.


As we all know, Steve Jobs passed away last week and since then writers from every perspective have been writing eulogies of some sort. As I waded through these testaments, I heard very little from Jobs himself until I stumbled upon a reference to his commencement address at Stanford University in 2005. In it he discusses how failure provided the foundation for his success. Most spectacularly, Jobs was fired from the company he created. This may be bigger than the mistakes implied by Skill 10 but nevertheless provides an example of the spirit it takes to innovate. 


I found the address both incredibly fitting as it relates to our last skill and haunting in the way he speaks of his future. I'll leave it to you to read the speech, but will say that he is true to himself in that he uses story to resonate with his audience. We all know how compelling Jobs was and as a result how impactful his ideas have been on how we live our lives.


If there was ever an example of Skill 10, Steve Jobs would be it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Failure for Growth Can Be Found in the Brainwaves

I came across this fantastic article from a blog on Wired explaining an experiment out of Michigan State University which tested Carol Dweck's theory of Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset.

If you have never heard of Carol Dweck, she is a renowned psychologist whose theories on motivation and effort inspired authors like Malcom Gladwell and Daniel Pink to write their books. Her most famous supposition is that of the Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset. In a Fixed Mindset, a student feels they have  a certain capacity for intelligence and once used is full. The Growth Mindset individual feels that if one applies themselves to a task and learns from mistakes in pursuit of that task, then they can grow to be as successful as they want to be.

In his article, Why Do Some People Learn Faster?, Jonah Lerner, introduces us to the parts of the brain which recognize and process mistakes. In a fascinating narrative we discover that those who were improving and learning actually used a greater portion of the mistake-processing sector of the brain. Essentially, these findings provide biological support for Carol Dweck's psychological theories.

I highly recommend reading it.

Why Do Some People Learn Faster? 

21st Century Learning: Say Goodbye to the Book Report

Growing up one of the first types of writing we learned was the book report. This was about as straightforward an assignment as there is:
  • What is the title? Who is the author? When was it written? Who published it?
  • Who are the main characters? What is an outline of the plot?
  • Did you like it? Why or why not? 
These were papers written for an audience of one: the teacher. Typically, the teacher would be looking to make sure you actually read the book and used proper grammar and sentence structure. Once handed back, the paper would go in the back of the binder, never to be seen again. 

Well, the book report is no longer relevant in our world. In a period that is so enmeshed in social media and search terms, the more applicable piece of writing would be the book review. The more relevant venue would be a blog and a more interesting audience is your grade at school. 

Tony Carrick, Karen Niegelsky, and John Schoultz have devised a unit to do just that. Karen and Tony teach literature to our middle school students and were searching for a way to spice up the classic book report assignment which always used to accompany summer reading. They decided that a more relevant type of writing was the book review, but they still struggled with how they might broaden the audience. 

This is where John Schoultz, our Technology Coordinator stepped in. Through our internal server, we have the ability to build wikis and blogs. Blogs allow students to create, as John calls it, a "virtual locker" which can be shared with their teachers and students alike. So, Tony and Karen worked with John to develop a unit that focused on the writing skills of a book review and the technological skills of managing and presenting a blog product. The book reviews appear in blog form and will be preserved in a review library for upcoming middle school students to view when they are choosing their independent reading books.

Students learned what distinguishes a good book review from a bad, how to determine a reviewers' bias, and the breakdown of a book review in terms of engaging the reader from the title through the plot summary to the analysis. On the technology side they learned to set up a blog, manage multiple subjects and labels, create and edit content, and incorporate multimedia into an otherwise wordy post (I'm sure your wishing I would audit this course and learn how to be more concise....) 

By the end of this Book Review Unit, our students have begun to develop the following 21st Century Skills (based on a list from NAIS Trendbook 2010-2011):
  • Analytical and Creative Thinking and Problem Solving
    • Detect bias, and distinguish between reliable and unsound information.
    • Control information overload
  • Complex Communication - Oral and Written
    • Write clearly and concisely - for a variety of audiences
    • Explain information and compellingly persuade others of its implications
  • Digital and Quantitative Literacy
    • Understand, use, and apply digital technologies
    • Create digital knowledge and media
    • Use multimedia resources to communicate ideas effectively in a variety of formats
Throughout this post you have seen screen shots of those book reviews. We are excited for the type of learning we are creating in the middle school and what it means for our students in the future. 
                                  •  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

High School Night on October 3 and High School Placement Program

Everybody knows the college selection process is very involved. In fact, it is something that has become a lightning rod of debate in recent years. Concurrently, many students across the country are transitioning from middle to high school and with the addition of IB and magnet programs, as well as the plethora of independent and boarding school options, the process is no longer as easy as crossing the street to the next  building. At Canterbury we want to help ease this transition as much as possible. Below are some of the programs we offer to that end.

High School Night

Canterbury's campus at 5400 Old Lake Jeanette Rd
All middle school families should have the opportunity to explore every option for high school and make an informed decision about what will best serve their child at the next level, whether it be a public, magnet, independent or boarding school. To that end, Canterbury has organized High School Night. Over 30 schools will be represented including those from the Greensboro area, as well as nationally recognized boarding schools. We encourage anyone from the community to join us on October 3 from 6:30 - 8:00 in Berry Hall (next to the chapel) on the Canterbury School campus for a meet and greet with admissions directors, officers, and student representatives who can answer all your questions about schools. There is no fee and this event is open to the public, so please invite your neighbors and friends.

High School Placement Program

At Canterbury, we are pleased to introduce a new High School Placement Program. This is, at its core, a one-on-one family approach to finding the right high school for each student at the school. We are uniquely positioned to offer this service because of two factors. First, as a small K-8 school, we know our students and families very well, allowing for a caring and informed perspective on all of the high school options out there. Second, as an academically challenging K-8 school, we have developed and continue to build strong relationships with prestigious public, magnet, independent, and boarding schools seeking students who reflect our Middle School Vision (see description on right hand column) and can demonstrate the ten skills of a Canterbury graduate.

The program has three main components: people, support, and events.

People

Each student will be assigned a high school placement coordinator. The coordinators will meet with each family at least twice over the course of their 7th and 8th grade years - once in the spring of 7th grade and once in the fall of 8th grade. Our three High School Coordinators are:


Support

The high school placement coordinators charge is to walk families through every step of the process from beginning (in 7th grade) to end (enrollment in the spring of 8th grade year). This person will be the point of contact for all issues relating to high school placement including:

  • Investigating various types of schools
  • Focusing the family's high school options based on their particular needs
  • Providing a student-specific timeline for the admissions or registration process
  • Working with students on application completion and interview practice
  • Providing standardized testing resources (for the independent and/or boarding schools)
  • Completing all required forms, including transcripts and teacher recommendations
In addition, the coordinators have developed the High School Placement Packet which outlines the entire process for families. This document includes timelines, admissions strategies, descriptions of IB/AP/Honors Programs, magnet school explanations, and much more. Parents and students can use this as a reference book as they explore their options. 

Events

Canterbury will put on various events pertaining to High School Placement over the course of the year. This year they include:
  • High School Night (Whole Community, 6:30 - 8:00, October 3, 2011 in Berry Hall): Over 30 high schools will send representatives to Canterbury to meet and answer questions about their schools, the admissions or registration process, and dialogue about the high school experience. Boarding, independent, public, and magnet schools from Greensboro and beyond are represented. 
  • Fall Meetings, 8th Grade Families (October 12, 2011 and continuing throughout the Fall of 2011): We have assigned each 8th grade family to a high school placement coordinator who will be available during Middle School Conferences on October 12, 2011 to discuss high school options. Stay tuned for an introductory email. 
  • Fall Meeting, 7th Grade Families (6:30 - 8:00, October 20, 2011 in Armfield Hall): We will introduce the placement process, our placement coordinators, and the resources we can offer to support you as you think about the next level. 






The BIG Question

This morning we launched the BIG Question during our morning meeting time. This program has three goals:

  1. Create a forum for the whole division to meet,
  2. Introduce BIG ideas, current events, and/or school issues that warrant a common context for discussion, and
  3. Provide an opportunity for common reflection during our Middle School Chapel one week later. 
Today our topic was values and ethics, as we are in the midst of reviewing our Honor Code in anticipation of our Honor Chapel. During this service we all place our signed agreement sheets upon the altar in Phillips Chapel and agree to uphold the Honor Code in letter and in spirit. 

We began by meeting in the lobby of Armfield Hall, where I presented data from the the Josephson Institute of Ethics’ Report Card on American Youth’s Values and Actions which surveyed 43,000 High School Students in Public and Private Schools in 2009-2010. Here are the numbers I presented:
  • 89% believe it is more important to be good than to be rich.
  • 33% boys/25% girls admitted stealing from a store
  • 21% admitted stealing from from a parent
  • 18% admitted stealing from a friend
  • 48% boys/35% girls said they lied to save money
  • 80+% said they lied to their parents about something significant
  • 59% admitted to cheating on a test in the last year
  • 34% admitted to cheating on more than two tests in the last year
  • 33% admitted to using the Internet to plagiarize
  • 92% of students were satisfied with their personal ethics
I asked that the students return to their advisories and, using these numbers as a context, to discuss why it is that we have an Honor Code at Canterbury. What can it do for us as a community? What can it do for them as students? How do they feel about these numbers? 

When they returned to their advisories, they had the opportunity to read an analysis of the data (from the survey when it was taken in 2008) from a parent perspective in the NY Times column called Motherlode: Adventures in Parenting. The title of the column....Your Lying, Cheating, Stealing Teens

Advisors then guided a discussion on their reactions to the data and the parent perspective as outlined in this article. The ultimate goal was to bring the conversation back to the students' perspective on the purpose and need for an Honor Code. 

On Wednesday, September 28 Fr. Finnin will give a sermon on this topic in order to provide some resolution to this particular conversation, but the discourse will continue. I invite you to pick up this conversation with your child at home. I think you will be very impressed with the insight they will bring. 

While our Canterbury students may not have taken the survey, they will be working with the people who did in high school, college, and in the workforce. Our students, and those who took the survey, will be our congressmen and women, our senators, our business and community leaders, our mayors, our doctors, and our lawyers, our mechanics and plumbers, our financial advisors and bankers. They will build our country. 

It is our job to empower them to espouse the values of honesty, integrity, responsibility, and service. The BIG Question is one forum which we believe will allow them to hone their arguments in favor of these values and the Honor Code is the means to act it out. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dana Foundation Blog: Action Learning

I thought this brief blog post was an interesting one because it highlights how the pendulum may be swinging back to center in the world of public education. It seems families are realizing the power of play in the development of our children. The Learning Resources Network has organized Ultimate Block Parties to try and get families out and playing.

If you read some of the articles in the NY Times recently, you may have seen that SATs are going down, the jury is still out on this testing frenzy (However, if you enrolled in an independent school you most likely have an opinion on what kind of education that provides for our children...), and some districts are deciding to take away PE and Recess in order to test prep. The Play Movement is one that attempts to bring it back to "normal."

As we prepare to bring the 5th grade into the middle school here at Canterbury, we are being very deliberate about how we can provide time in the day for the power of play to work its magic on our students. This can take many forms, but I am interested to hear your ideas.

Here is the link to the blog about the Ultimate Block Parties. Dana Foundation Blog: Action Learning

Kids Like To Win; Adults Need To Win 741.1

I ran across this blog post this morning and thought it particularly applicable during this season of NFL and College football, MLB playoffs, and Canterbury Fall Athletics. Mr. Josephson highlights a distinction I find worth noting here: kids like to win but it is our culture, seemingly, that feels the need to win - to be the best, to start, to become a legend.

In middle school sports it is about the journey. It is about the experience. It is about the camaraderie. It can be competitive and pure and that is why it is so special to be able to wear that Canterbury jersey. Soon enough the jerseys our kids wear will mean more pressure to win for winning sake's. Canterbury wins as a byproduct of our desire to teach the life lessons that come from the competition itself.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Curriculum Corner: 8th Grade Space Lesson

Yesterday I walked into an 8th grade Science class and saw students mauling clay into round balls. In middle school one's first instinct when you see a student roll clay into the shape of a ball is to figure out where that students plans to launch it and try to head it off at the pass...


This day, however, Mrs. Ringrose, had assigned the students the task of molding this block of clay into the planets. The challenge was to create a solar system on a scale that matched the relative diameters and distances between each planet. Mrs. Ringrose describes the lesson below and check out the link to a slideshow of the students at work:


8th Grade Space Unit: Planet Creation


The 8th grade is beginning a unit on space by modeling the relative diameters and distances between the planets.

"We scaled down the size of the planets with play dough to put the planets in perspective to the human eye. - Walton


"We took 3 pounds of play dough and make all nine planets of the solar system.  We had precise measurements that we had to follow to make sure all the planets were the right size."  - Will

After we finished modeling the planets, we pulled up pictures of our models on the Smart Board and labeled the diameters of the planets in kilometers.  Most of the students were surprised by the vast differences they saw.
"I learned that the Earth was over 100 times smaller than Jupiter and that seemed mind-blowing because our Earth seems so large." -Jessica
"I thought it was cool to compare Pluto to Jupiter" - Brad
"I learned that Earth is very small compared to other planets (ex. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus).  I realized that each person is like a grain of sand when compared to our whole galaxy." -Mary Grace
"Saturn and Jupiter were a lot bigger than I expected." - David
"Mars was smaller than Earth when I thought it was bigger or the same size." - James B
"I learned that Jupiter is so gigantic compared to everything else.  I didn't realize that Earth was so small." - Sally
"Something interesting was that Neptune and Uranus were about the same model size." - Thomas
"The sizes ranged very far apart from about the size of a hand to the head of a pin." - Ross




Thursday, September 8, 2011

7th Grade: New Arrivals Institute

As part of our MDG introduction, we visited the New Arrivals Institute on W. Vandalia Street. It is a learning center for refugees who have arrived in Greensboro and are looking for the skills and wherewithal to make it in their new home.

Our students worked with adult learners who were studying English. We discussed everything from birthdays and number of children, grandchildren or siblings to ethnic customs and life stories. One group of students played with the preschool-age children of the adult learners. It was a fascinating experience to be able to meet and learn from these people who had been through so much just to get to the United States.

The sentiment seemed to be that the students would have liked to stay longer, but alas, Canterbury and lunch was calling. Below you will see a link to a slide show that Erin Ringrose has created which features our students working with the small children at the center.

Canterbury at New Arrivals Institute

6th Grade Kanuga and 8th Grade Wilderness Adventure Pictures

I've received a few pictures from Karen Niegelsky, who is in Kanuga with our 6th grade and I've received a picture from Wes Vogel, who is with the 8th grade at Wilderness Adventure. Check them out:

Karen writes, "Sampling some sourwood leaves along the
trail to Eagle Rock. We're having a great time at Kanuga."


"...And we made it to the top of Eagle Rock!"

8th graders along the roaring waterfall hike. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

7th Grade MDG Experience Begins at Home

The 7th grade is all alone in Armfield Hall this week, as the 6th Grade is at Kanuga and the 8th grade is at Wilderness Adventure. But don't worry about them too much, as they are getting out in the Greensboro community to learn about some of the issues facing the world which affect our neighbors right here in The Gate City.

Each year, the 7th grade goes through the Millenial Development Goal Experience or MDGs. In it, they are assigned a character and a developing country and given the task of solving the problems they face in a real world setting. Some are wealthy citizens of that country, others are poor. Some suffer from a common disease found in that country, while others may be corrupt. It is all meant to provide a hands-on understanding of some of the issues that face the developing world and which the United Nations' MDGs aim to eliminate.

This year, we've begun the research in a new way. We have sought out ways for our students to experience those problems and contrast them with their own life experience. Today we visited Moses Cone Hospital and took a tour, soaking everything that network has to offer. After the tour we visited with Rosario Hankins and Rene Cone from Worlds Apart, One Heart to discuss their efforts to bring medicine and medical supplies to the Philippines. The students noticed the contrast right away.

After a brief presentation, our students took extra supplies which had been donated and helped to inventory, pack and seal them into boxes bound for Philippines at the end of this month. It was a great experience and there was a lot of momentum within the class to continue the work.


Stay tuned for some more updates on this project.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Leadership Defined

As you have seen if you've been following this blog, we instituted a Leadership track in our electives program. Today, the Leadership in Action class spent the afternoon working on a definition of leadership.

I found it very interesting to see how their thoughts on leadership changed - even over the course of the forty minute class.

I had asked the class to identify any leaders as homework. We began today's class by outlining who those leaders were, what area they led in and how they led. We came up with an expansive list.

From this discussion I asked the students to write a definition for leadership. I collected the definitions and had the students write the words that stuck out to them about their peers' definitions. After looking over these words that stuck out to us, I asked the students to re-write their definitions of leadership. They all changed their definitions.

I found it interesting to see the difference between the original definitions and their new ones, once they had discussed as a group and heard the various perspectives of their classmates. I think they summed it up well when they said, "Defining leadership is hard." It is, but I am proud of the work the class put into discovering a definition that works for them. Below you will see the before and after definitions. What are your definitions of leadership?

Student One

Before: Leadership is someone who inspires others to help his cause.
After: Leadership is when someone helps their followers and others.

Student Two

Before: Leadership is the power to control or help people do things the way you do them.
After: Leadership is when you help people, inspire people, and get people to follow you.

Student Three

Before: A leader is someone to stand up to and a person to follow or save the day.
After: A leader inspires, follows, helps.

Student Four

Before: A leader is somebody who can make the people they lead believe in themselves.
After: A leader is someone who can inspire others and make them believe in him.

Student Five

Before: Leadership is when you are in charge and take care of your followers.
After: Leadership is when you inspire your followers and then control, help, stand up for, and save the day for them.

Student Six

Before: A leader is a person that can stand out and lead the group.
After: A leader is someone that can help and put themselves after their followers.




Brain Development and 21st Century Skill Development

In an excellent article, Dr. Judy Willis concisely explains the relationship between brain growth and the need for teachers to stimulate the brain in new, engaging, and realistic ways.

Some highlights:

  • The brain has plasticity. It grows and connections are strengthened and made more efficient with increased and varied approaches to the same material. 
  • The Prefontal Cortex houses the brain's higher order thinking neurons (as opposed to the amygdala, which is our basic fight or flight monitor). It is growing the most during our years in school.
  • We need to stimulate the Prefrontal Cortex through differentiated information manipulation (say that 3 times fast...) in order to develop 21st Century skills in our students.  
At Canterbury, we are working to enhance an already strong program to enable these approaches to instruction. Additionally, our teachers have undergone a significant amount of professional development, most recently in Developmental Designs Instructional Approaches, so that we are delivering lessons in a way that acknowledges the brain research of adolescents. It is anm integral part of our vision - Best Practices. 

Throughout this year, you will see lessons featured on this blog which highlight the ways in which our students are developing 21st Century Skills. Stay tuned!


Here is the link to the article:

Dr. Judy Willis: Improving Executive Function in Students

UPDATE: I found this really cool 3D Interactive Brain website from HealthLink. You can scroll around the brain and find out about each part, where it is, and what it does. Check it out:

The Brain

Thursday, September 1, 2011

9-11 For Middle Schoolers

How do you engage a person in a memory of which they have no experience? How can you make a young person understand what 9-11 did to the American psyche? Our 8th graders were three when the planes hit the Twin Towers.

In a timely and poignant blog on Edutopia, Ben Johnson, begins this very conversation. For those of us in the Millenial Generation, 9-11 defines who we are, how we live, and the way the world operates. For those in generation that follows, it is something they've heard about and understand was a sad event.

How do you plan on commemorating 9-11 ten years later?

Here is the article: Ben Johnson: Why Students Have No Memory of September 11

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Outdoor Chapel for Middle School

Today we had our first Middle School Chapel and it was outside. Last year, the outdoor chapel was undergoing renovations, so this is the first time I've experienced chapel outdoors. It was a great day for it as well - sunny and breezy and perfect.

For people like me who have just arrived at the school, it can be an easy thing to forget that this school is in its 19th year because the facilities we have here are so amazing. However, I found myself reflecting on what an incredible space the outdoor chapel must have been when it stood alone on the far side of the commons. An oasis, I think. Today it is still an incredible space, serving the same role, but it seems to have grown into itself along with the school.

The huge trees harken back beyond the school's beginnings and help to set a reflective tone for the participants. The rock boundaries delineate a space meant for something pure - a call back to nature in some ways. The addition of the cross and altar (a gift from the Class of 2011), provide a sign post for us all and reminder of the underlying mission of the school to develop the whole child by developing the mind and nourishing the spirit in a diverse community guided by Judeo-Christian values.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Fitness and the Brain

Flickr/Sculptures by Jurriaan van Hall, photo by Bart van Damme
At the end of last school year, our Head of School, Burns Jones, gave us the book Spark by Dr. John Ratey with Eric Hagerman, to read over the summer. One of its many points is that exercise keeps the brain healthy and working at maximum efficiency. I do recommend reading it.

In a related study out of Australia, researchers found that obesity can affect cognitive ability and while obesity may have been the cause of reduced cognitive function, reduced cognitive function can lead to obesity. A vicious downward cycle. Something to be aware of certainly.

For me, it reinforces the need for children to be out and running around. At Canterbury it means breaks and recess, PE and athletics. I am proud to say that last year, over 90% of middle school students participated in one sport over the three seasons.

Here is the article: Study Links Obesity with Poor Cognitive Performance

Friday, August 26, 2011

Math Hats

Who said 8th graders are overly concerned with their self image? In Mrs. Allen's Math class, her 8th graders were more than happy to don their "Math Hats."


Beginnings

Our new-to-Canterbury students spell out the school name. 
This time of year means people think about new beginnings. For educators, especially, it is a time of renewal - a time of expectation and excitement. For our students it is the same thing and for a particular set of our students it will be a brand new beginning.

This year we welcomed twelve new students to the middle school, nine of which are in the 6th grade. With so many new faces to Canterbury, we thought it important to provide a familiar context for them prior to arriving on the first day of classes. What came out of this was a program called Sowing Seeds for Success. We invited all new to Canterbury students to come to Armfield over the course of four mornings at the beginning of August. While they were with us we discussed topics ranging from Canterbury 101, organization, homework, technology, schedules, advisory, math, and composition. We even had Chapel twice that week.

By the end of our time together, the new students had formed relationships with their peers and felt comfortable with many of the adults who they would see in the building on a regular basis. They had learned a little bit about what makes Canterbury distinct from their elementary schools or prior middle schools. Finally, their anxiety level was brought into a manageable place. When we asked for feedback during our final reflective period, here is what we received:

  • A.W.E.S.O.M.E!!
  • Exciting!
  • Ubertastical
  • uber-super-duber-cool
  • F.U.N.
  • Amazing
  • Exuberant
                             

We also welcomed our new 6th grade class to Armfield. Each year we welcome the 6th grade early and provide a day of activities meant to orient them to their new building, new teachers, new advisors, and all the cool things they will experience in the middle school. 

This year, Janet Mintz, Kim Markham, Karen Niegelsky spearheaded the effort and walked the 6th graders through their schedules, finding their lockers, an advisory period, and the middle school buildings to name a few. The returning Canterbury students had an opportunity to reconnect and connect for the first time with the new-to-Canterbury students. The highlights for the students (despite our best efforts....) had to be the pizza lunch and ice cream social!

Our orientation does end with the August meeting. In fact, it is a year long process to make sure we are helping these students integrate into the middle school community in a way where they feel respected, accepted, and empowered to engage in all aspects of it. 
                                      

On Wednesday, the school year began and the rhythm of the middle school was finally back to normal. I know I have taken for granted how integral a sound can be to one's sense of belonging and comfort. For some it is the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach, for others it may be the sound of the engine from a 1969 Ford GTO, still others may be taken back by an old song on the radio. 

For me, the sounds of a hallway full of students - the clamoring to interject their thoughts into a running conversation, the pure laughter of a child who has, for a moment, forgotten to act cool, the screechy scuffing of the newly waxed floor, lockers slamming shut, conversations muted as I walk by (this happens a lot for some reason...) - all of these combine to create a middle school symphony that is unlike any natural musical score in the world. Let's put it this way, it is definitely not the rainforest soundtrack.

But it is alive. And it is that energy that breathes life into Armfield Hall and Canterbury's campus. It is what makes this place pulse and gives us our rhythm. It's good to be back.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Google + Redux: Another Insight into the New Social Network

A few weeks ago I posted about social networking and its influence at school and home. I was prompted to do so by some reading I've been doing about Google +, the new social network from Google. As the article below discusses, one goal of Google + is to provide more privacy through the creation of social circles and therefore the ability to control content distribution.

The last post explored the (perhaps) unintended ramifications of the social circles as a digital means of exclusion. This article explores how the jury is still out on the privacy claims of Google as it relates to Google +. As always, if your child is on a social network, it should be something you are attuned to and watching on a regular basis. Make sure the computer is in a common area, and if your child has a smartphone, make sure you are managing their access via this tool as well.

Here is the article: Google + and Privacy: Better for Educators?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What Can the Battle of Gettysburg Tell Us About the Battle over Video Games?

thejacehallshow.com
Sometimes getting children off the TV or computer while they're playing video games feels like a pitched battle. I'm not talking about the surgical strikes of modern warfare. I'm talking about a full frontal assault, the likes of which hasn't been seen since the Battle of Gettysburg.

Our 8th grade is reading The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara this summer for their social studies class, and the book may lend a nice guide to how the "Battle of Videoburg" often plays out.

Gettysburg, Day 1: The Union Cavalry sets up by the Seminary and dismounts, hoping to delay the Confederate advance so reinforcements can arrive. The Confederates rout the Federals, pushing them back through the town. However, the Union is able to dig in on the high ground, ultimately setting up the defeat of Lee after Pickett's Charge.

Videoburg, Minute 1: The Parents set up chores outside, hoping to get their child outdoors and in the fresh air. The Children entrench themselves on the couch, ignoring and steamrolling all parental attempts to dislodge them through the cunning and aggravating tactic of increasing the volume or putting earphones on.

Gettysburg, Day 2: In seemingly senseless carnage from Devil's Den to the Peach Orchard to Little Round Top, both sides exhaust themselves in bloody warfare. Lee is convinced his strategy of going hard at the flanks means the center will be weak on Day 3. He's wrong.

Videoburg, Minute 2: The Parents toss volley after volley of privileges to be revoked and extra chores to be added with only minor reaction from the Children. When screen time is revoked there is a grimace, which Parents perceive as a chink in the armour. In fact, it's a grin.

Gettysburg, Day 3: Lee has decided a full frontal assault at the Union center will break the Federals once and for all. If he is able to break the Union line, he will have defeated the North in its own backyard and demoralized its citizens. What he finds is a reinforced Union center, which cuts down Lee's troops with merciless efficiency. It is the High Water Mark of the Confederacy and the beginning of the end.

Videoburg, Minute 3: The Parents, perceiving weakness in the grimace, decide to come at the Children with all they've got. They make a move for the power button, knowing this means they are all in - inviting an onslaught of screams and tantrums rivaled only by the Tasmanian devil. What the Parents find is a stubborn and recalcitrant child who slams the console down and storms off to their room, leaving the outside and chores unexplored.

Why do we seem so far apart on the role of video games in the lives of our children? Are they so bad, that we are willing to have these intense 3-minute battles which get us nowhere? If video games are such an integral part of our child's life (and frankly, they are integral to many of us who grew up on Nintendo and the greatest game ever created - Super Tecmo Bowl), can we find a way to use their positive aspects to teach our children?

In a compelling article for SharpBrains, Marshall Weinstein, a senior at Johns Hopkins, has outlined the reasoning for a balanced approach to video games in education. (On a side note, what a great example of 21st Century learning: a senior majoring in Neuroscience with a minor in Entrepreneurship is able to have an article published on an industry website and earn a virtual internship in the process. Check it out here.)

While I am not endorsing the use of video games for educational purposes just yet, I do see some of the positive characteristics these games can develop in students such as collaboration, leadership, and feelings of accomplishment. I encourage you to check out Marshall's article on SharpBrains at the link below:

Learning with Video Games: A Revolution in Education and Training?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Social Networking and Words of Caution

focus.com
In a timely and thoughtful post on Edutopia, Ira Socol outlines the pitfalls of social networking in general and specifically the pitfalls it can hold for schools. While we have no plans to incorporate social networks like Facebook or Twitter into our classes, it would be naive for us not to realize the huge role they play in our students' lives. Additionally, it would be ridiculous for us not to realize how blurred the line between home and school becomes as a result of these new social networks.

It is scary to think how the pervasive connectedness of this age exacerbates the trials and tribulations of social navigation in adolescence. For us, the bad day ended when we got home. Few bullies were bold enough to call the house to continue the bullying. However, as Ira Socol points out, with the advent of social networks (not to mention texting, IM, etc.) there simply is no escape.

The parent-school partnership thus must be strong to be able to outline and enforce certain boundaries and standards of operation as it relates to how our students interact with each other digitally. As I've mentioned before, the number one thing we can still instill in our students and that cross personal and digital boundaries are our values.

Social networking will not go away. In fact, the work life our students are preparing for will probably be based largely on digital networking. We should not shun it. We should use it and prepare students for it, but with a healthy dose of caution. As with any advance in life, the role of the adults in providing structure is pivotal in creating responsible, ethical, and respectful citizens whether it be face-to-face or screen-to-screen.

Check out the post here:

Google +: The Dark Side of the Circle