Wednesday, February 24, 2016

February Winds Down

Greetings! Hope you had a nice week off. We're back at it, in the groove like vacation never happened (but, like, in a good way). That's the power of a community that knows how to gel. Love that. I've got all sorts of information to share, so let's get right to it with some academic good stuff. There is also a slew of tidbits at the end.

The crew is really loving our Lewis and Clark team-based learning activities that kick off our Westward Expansion unit. It has been awesome to see so many of the teams organizing, keeping each other on track, and shelling out tons of self-direction and creativity. This is part of a packaged unit--which I don't tend to hang my shingle on--from the Interact company. I do have a unit of my own that I wrote when I was at Hinesburg that gets at many of the same themes as the Interact, but I thought I might try something different this year. I'm glad I did because the kids are really digging it. In fact, many are choosing to work on the Corps of Discovery tasks at Genius Hour and during any scrap of academic choice time we have. The unit is really letting the history buffs in the room (of which there are a TON!) spread their wings and fly into all sorts of pursuits from geography and mapmaking to Native American cultural studies and the civics and philosophy behind the truly American idea of Manifest Destiny.

Not to be outdone, our weekly Physics Club time is helping everyone understand why the universe and, by extension our little planet, works. Talking about gravity, friction, energy, planetary motion, and well, you know, general relativity, has sparked all kinds of curiosity and great discussion. The end product of this massive undertaking, the "One Ring To Rule Them All," if you will, is an art, design, and engineering technology ("STEAM") challenge wherein kids will work in teams to prototype and build a vehicle that goes at least 10 feet and also tells a story. I'm mirroring this activity on the Oddysey of the Mind challenge that took my eighth grade team to the international finals back in 19... Well, long ago at any rate... It's also aligned with Next Generation Science Standards for both physics, earth and space sciences, and engineering and design tech. Plus, it gets at my next professional development dreams of unifying science and art, a natural combination if there ever was one!

I want to give a shout out to John McNerney who has been hanging out at Genius Hour the past few weeks to help us get one of our new 3D printers operational. Thanks John! One of the goals of our new 3D printing capability is for our classroom to become part of the eNable network and help print, assemble, and even design prosthetic hands for kids around the world. Many students have dipped into TinkerCAD design programs already; still more have printed something to get a feel for that as well. I'm pumped to say that a group of students set up our other 3D printer and are helping me and each other learn the ins and outs of that device, which uses the cloud to print.

First things first: it's almost the end of the second trimester (what the what?!), which means it's conference time. Here is a link to the Sign Up Genius if you'd like to spend 20 minutes chatting about your student's life in Room 110. Report cards will go home on March 10th and we have no school on the 11th.

Former MCS students, now seventh graders, will be visiting on April 26th as part of transition. This is a meeting for sixth graders to ask burning questions and get answers from kids they know. Parent meetings of all sorts will be coming up this spring and we'll forward dates, times, and locations as we know them. Middle school principal Ellen Repstad is also really great about using Front Porch Forum for these announcements, too.

Common Ground
A hearty crew of Gagner moms and dads has stepped forward to help us make our end of the year camping trips a reality by chaperoning the event (June 1st and 2nd). We can use some more if you're looking for a fun way to spend a Wednesday night. Let me know and I'll send the forms home. We can also use folks to hang out on the site, help with meals, and that sort of thing, so the commitment doesn't have to be an overnight one.

SBAC testing will happen between March 28th and April 8th this year. Everyone has a frame of reference for this test after last year. I don't anticipate it to be anything greater than or less than last year. No stress, no worries, and in the rearview a.s.a.p. Once we settle on a schedule, I'll pass it along so that we can make sure restful nights and heathly breakfasts are on deck.

I'm told lice are in the house. Yay! Nurse Mack distributed hair ties for those who need them and advises that we keep our hair up for the next couple of weeks. Psychosomatic itching starts in 3... 2...

It is Sponsor Pledge time with the Read-a-thon! We had our our Pledge Kick-off for the Read-a-thon PTO fundraiser just before the February break and sent home Sponor Pledge envelopes with students to find sponsors for a month long of reading from March 4-April 4th. Our theme is "Launch into Reading!" Students will be asking their family, friends and neighbors to support them by pledging a per minute amount or a flat rate for the total minutes they read. We know that there may be children who find it difficult to find sponsors, so if you are a community member who would like to sponsor a child's reading, please call call the school and sign up with Cindy Castle. If you are a parent whose child needs a sponsor, please let your classroom teacher or Holly Esterline know (they will be anonymously matched with a sponsor). Thanks ahead of time for your generous support of our students! It is both a fundraiser and a celebration of reading! For more information, you can check out our blog at: Reading logs will be sent home next Friday, March 4th for the Read-a-thon to begin!

Friendly reminder: iPods, iPhones, and cell phones in general are not to be used in the classroom unless it's for learning and has been approved for an activity by moi. Students who cannot adhere to this policy will be asked to leave their gadgets either at home or in the main office from 8am to 3:15pm.

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