Monday, December 6, 2010

November Photos Are Up!

Check out our photos on Facebook of November goings- on at Wellspring Community School.

And while you're there, don't forget to "Like" our page to receive regular updates from us.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Embracing Emergent Curriculum in Higher Education

College professors are making use of social media to allow students to direct their own learning:
If we build curricula around formats, we are likely to find ourselves unable to respond quickly to changing conditions, when new formats replace old or when the scope of the problem expands. And if we tie the teaching of form to decontextualized exercises, we risk being only about abstract principles that are later challenged by shifting media contexts and by the growing need for things that are social as well as visual.
According to Davis' provocative vision, flexible curricula suggest: 
* Important content may not require its own course
* Faculty may not work with all of the students all of the time
* Different students may achieve the same curricular outcomes through different curricular paths

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

When Teachers Highlight Gender

An interesting article describing findings that when teachers highlight gender, by having girls and boys line up separately or even by saying "boys and girls", children are more likely to pick up stereotyped attitudes and behaviors.

When preschool teachers call attention to gender in any way, kids pick up on it. 
A new study found that in classrooms where boys and girls line up separately — and even in settings where teachers say things like, "Good morning boys and girls" — children express more stereotypes about gender and even discriminate when deciding who to play with.

Read the whole thing

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Performance vs. Mastery

This is just a beautiful blog post from Marla McLean, atelierista at School Within School at the Peabody School in Washington, D.C.  The photography is beautiful, and I love how the children's process is documented and given more attention that the product.

The idea of working collaboratively to achieve mastery, as opposed to each child performing independently, is so important.  

[The] process of modeling and working with children is based on the idea of learning called ZPD, or Zone of Proximal Development developed by Vygotsky.
To cite directly from Vygotsky, this most widely known concept of his theory represented “the distance between the actual level of development as determined by independent problem solving [without guided instruction] and the level of potential development as determined by problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers”.
The thesis behind this “zone” is that at a certain stage in development, children can solve a certain range of problems only when they are interacting with people and in cooperation with peers.
As arts are being slashed from school budgets in an effort to save money and focus more on "important" things like reading and math, it is vital that we examine the real impact of these decisions.  If we focus on product - a finished art piece - that comes home at the end of a day, it may not seem that important, just another thing among our children's items that we collect, display, store or maybe pitch in the trash.  But when we look at the process, we can see how rich and meaningful those sculptures really are.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teaching for Whose America?

Tom Friedman's recent op-ed column in The New York Times, "Teaching for America", is garnering a lot of attention among education bloggers and commentators.  For a couple of responses, check here and here.

As for me - well, I'm not a huge Tom Friedman fan in general, and I think this piece is particularly riddled with inconsistencies and misstatements.  For example, on the one hand he says (or quotes Tony Wagner as saying) that we need to focus on the most important skills for the knowledge economy: critical thinking, communication skills, and collaboration.  I buy that, though I would say that this list is hardly exhaustive.  However, Friedman goes on to say that we should use student achievement data (read: standardized test scores) to calculate teacher compensation.  Even if we accept the premise that standardized test scores accurately measure student achievement in certain academic areas, which I do not, they clearly do not measure how effectively a teacher has developed critical thinking, communication skills, or collaboration in her students.  One has to be in the classroom watching the dance between  teacher and student in order to properly evaluate how well a teacher is inculcating his students with these abilities.

We need more good teachers in our schools, that is for sure.  But this is another area where Friedman totally misses the boat.  He says that since countries that are successfully educating their youth - specifically Finland and Denmark - require that all their teachers come from the top 1/3 of their college graduating classes, that we would be wise to follow suit.  Statistics 101, people - correlation does NOT imply causation.  Better students do not necessarily make better teachers - I would argue that the opposite might just as well be true in a system where school "success" requires regurgitating facts and filling in little black dots with #2 pencils better than your peers.  Teaching is an avocation, a gift - and a skill, one that can be honed and refined, but not one that can be predicted from a person's GPA.

And here's the kicker:
Wagner thinks we should create a West Point for teachers: “We need a new National Education Academy, modeled after our military academies, to raise the status of the profession and to support the R.& D. that is essential for reinventing teaching, learning and assessment in the 21st century.”
Setting aside the mixed metaphors - are our schools like the military, or like a Fortune 100 company? - the idea that we need to create a high-profile academy in order to raise the status of teachers is, once again, totally missing the mark.  As long as we view schools as simply training grounds for raising the next generation of money-makers, the teachers will continue to be seen as the privates in the trenches, making possible the work of the high-ranked generals who are really running the show.  The only way we are going to raise the status of teachers is to start valuing the work they do for what it is, and not what it will one day become.

If we want our children to not only develop the skills they need to participate in tomorrow's workforce (whatever that will mean), but to develop the qualities they need to be happy, responsible and productive human beings, then we need to rethink the whole system.  This is one place where Friedman got it right - we parents need to do our parts.  We need to demand, and to build, places where students can learn how to learn, where they can develop their unique gifts and talents, where they can nurture the sparks of curiosity and creativity that lies within each of them - places, of course, like Wellspring!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

'Ready to Learn' Equals Easier to Educate

Generally, when Alfie Kohn talks (or writes, as the case may be), I listen:
The phrase "ready to learn," frequently applied to young children, is rather odd when you stop to think about it, because the implication is that some kids aren't. Have you ever met a child who wasn't ready to learn -- or, for that matter, already learning like crazy? The term must mean something much more specific -- namely, that some children aren't yet able (or willing) to learncertain things or learn them in a certain way.
You really should read the entire article from The Huffington Post here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tips for Raising Thankful Children

We could all use some more gratitude in our lives:
As Thanksgiving approaches, the chaos of the winter holidays can overshadow its essence. The spirit of thankfulness is a complex one for young kids to grasp, but by by modeling generosity all year long and talking about the subject, your child will begin to absorb and emulate this emotion. It’s a great start to discuss thankfulness during this time of year, but its more powerful to incorporate it into the everyday all year long.
Read the whole article on Child Perspective here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why Standardized Tests Diminish the Joy of Learning

This article describes one mother's approach to keeping her son's love of learning alive despite his experiences in the classroom:
Appreciation, however, is not covered on standardized tests. Although standardized tests allow administrators to gain valuable measures of general success across various school districts, they do not leave room for the notion that appreciation and love of learning can lead to better overall understanding.
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Helping Children Make Beautiful Music With Their Lives

I love this post from my friend and mentor at the Institute for Humane Education, Mary Pat Champeau.  I highly recommend Suzuki's book - it is focused on teaching violin, but his philosophy could easily be applied to parenting or teaching:
I learned so much about parenting from a little book written by the violin teacher Shinichi Suzuki called Nurtured by Love. It is part personal history and part love letter to the violin, and part instruction on how to nurture a beautiful heart through music lessons. I learned that correcting what is wrong is nowhere near as powerful as praising what is right. His idea was to shine the light always on what worked, and let the rest wither in the dark. He believed that children could learn to play music and love it just as they learned to speak -- starting when they were young and having music all around them. 
Read the entire post here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Teaching the Art of Sharing

I especially like the idea of giving children a script to follow in difficult social situations.
[Power is] a motivating source that allows them to learn and become more proficient and independent.  If sharing is presented to them as a loss of power (“You must give something up“) rather than as an opportunity to be powerful (“You can choose what or when to share”/”You can help someone be very happy“), they will naturally resist.  Help children recognize the power in sharing.
Read the entire post from Simple Kids here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kids Haven't Changed - Kindergarten Has

The Harvard Education Letter reports that children are being pushed to perform tasks in kindergarten before they are developmentally ready.  Just because a child can recite 3+2=5 does not mean that the child understands the concepts involved:
What’s tricky, says Guddemi, is that children can be trained to perform tasks (called “splinter skills”), such as writing names or counting. But just because “April” can pen her name doesn’t mean she can perceive letters with oblique angles. “You can train them, but the knowledge and understanding—the true learning—has not happened,” she says. “Our country has this hang up that if the child can perform, that they know.”
Read the entire article here - please!!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

An Ode to the One Room Schoolhouse

An oldie but a goodie from Mothering magazine:
As I observed successful multiage classrooms in Canada and Washington State before the creation of the multiage class my own kids would eventually take part in, I noticed that every child was on his or her own individual path of learning in a continuum that mutually supported the greater social structure (in this case, the other classmates) around them. I realized I was witnessing a touch of that "village." Many different ages and skill levels interacted, competitiveness naturally melted away, and the higher forms of human interaction--such as the desire to help others--came forward. When there is no obvious unit of measurement to be compared to, competitiveness has less fuel to grow on. 
Read the whole article here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

7 Keys of Great Teaching

Based on the premises of Leadership Education (or Thomas Jefferson education), I think these keys could be of interest to anyone:

1. Classics, not textbooks
2. Mentors, not professors
3. Inspire, not require
4. Structure time, not content
5. Quality, not conformity
6. Simplicity, not complexity
7. You, not them

Read more here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Encouraging Our Children to Live Passionately

Some great tips from Zen Family Habits on how to make this happen:
One of my hopes for my children is that they’ll live a passionate life, not settling for less just because they’re told they should or because the alternative seems too hard. But living passionately isn’t easy because it involves taking risks, putting yourself out there and being confident, even when you fail. I don’t think it’s something that can be taught or learned. Our best hope is to model and encourage it.
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why Are Teenagers Growing Up So Slowly?

The short answer: because we are sapping their lives of meaning!  Another must-read article by Po Bronson from Newsweek.  
As Allen writes, “We place kids in schools together with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of other kids typically from similar economic and cultural backgrounds. We group them all within a year or so of one another in age. We equip them with similar gadgets, expose them to the same TV shows, lessons, and sports. We ask them all to take almost the exact same courses and do the exact same work and be graded relative to one another. We give them only a handful of ways in which they can meaningfully demonstrate their competencies. And then we’re surprised they have some difficulty establishing a sense of their own individuality.”
Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Taking School'Work' A Little Too Far?

An education activist reports that some children are required to spend their days working in cubicles.  All I can say is:  Yikes!
In a world with such looming catastrophes and such extraordinary opportunities the last thing our children should be doing is sitting at cubicle-like desks filling out worksheets day after day. Their world desperately needs them to be educated, able to think critically, creatively and cooperatively to build a healthy future relying upon the great and amazing strides their forebears have already achieved and solving the problems those same forebears, often unwittingly, caused. They will never learn this doing worksheets behind cardboard screens.
Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

You Change Them

I had the pleasure of hearing Marla McLean speak at the Educating the Creative Mind conference last spring, and then had the privilege of visiting her at her studio at School Within School at the Peabody School in Washington DC.  She maintains a blog as a way of documenting her students' work and it is well worth a visit.  The photography is beautiful, her creativity is impassioned, and her insight into the process of education is inspiring.

"I think you will be inspired! What does inspired mean?”
“You can’t believe your eyes”
“You want to look at it for a long time”
“Really really really really pretty”
“I know what inspired means, it means, you change them (the paintings) but it can still be them”

This type of deep work,  can be revisited in life endlessly:
Making marks to create memory.
Observing deeply.
Internalizing inspiration.

What Mani said, is  a succinct definition of inspiration.
“You change them, but it can still be them.”
It is also a beautiful metaphor for teaching.

Monday, November 1, 2010

October Photos

Photos of Wellspring in October are up on Facebook!  Halloween, Welcome to Wellspring Night, Dads and Special Guys Day, it's all there.  Head over the check them out, and don't forget to Like our page in order to receive links to interesting articles and updates on what is going on.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Words That Ignite Learning - Or Don't

A great article on the Ecology of Education blog about the ways in which language influences our beliefs about ourselves and our ability to learn:
Words reinforce beliefs, and beliefs, especially those about intelligence, influence learning. Students can hold or lean toward either believing intelligence is something you’re born with (or without), or intelligence is something you gain through effort. A student who believes you’re born smart—or not—is less likely to put forth effort to learn. This student seeks to convince those around him that he is one of the chosen who were given the gift of smart at birth. Either that, or the student may believe he is not among the chosen so effort is futile. The same belief interpreted differently yields the same result: a student who is unlikely to work to learn when learning does not come instantly or easily.
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Brief History of Standardized Tests

From the Mothering website:
One might hope that the education bureaucrats of our day would listen to the words of Carl Brigham, the creator of the SAT. Near his death, Brigham wrote a five-page letter to the president of Harvard, stating, "If the unhappy day ever comes when teachers point their students towards these newer examinations, then we may look for the inevitable distortion of education in terms of tests."
Read the entire article (very short) here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Window Into Wellspring

Check out some photos from Wellspring Community School on our Facebook page. While you're there, don't forget to click "Like" so you can receive updates from us regarding upcoming events and interesting articles!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Introduce Thinking in Schools

An interesting article discussing the idea of introducing a course on Thinking Big in schools (and in life):
The facilitator of the thinking module does not need to know anything about "divided middles" or "syllogistic reasoning" or "remote associates." Rather, she needs to be comfortable with -- or, to begin with, at least able to fake being comfortable with -- providing students with genuine permission to think. This involves helping them propose big questions worth answering, helping them embrace complexity and helping them honor not knowing. She should expect to feel a little nervous facilitating this module, as there is no curriculum to teach or information to impart. After a little while she will come to understand her job and be thrilled by the results.
Read the whole thing here.

And don't miss the comments - they're pretty interesting in and of themselves!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Scientifically Tested Tests

Another great op-ed piece by Susan Engel about the shortcomings of standardized tests:
...we should come up with assessments that truly measure the qualities of well-educated children: the ability to understand what they read; an interest in using books to gain knowledge; the capacity to know when a problem calls for mathematics and quantification; the agility to move from concrete examples to abstract principles and back again; the ability to think about a situation in several different ways; and a dynamic working knowledge of the society in which they live.
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Are We Learning for Earning or for Living?

A recent article in Education Week asks this important question about the purpose of education.
The late historian Paul Gagnon, viewing schools through the lens of democracy, suggested three aims: preparing young people for (1) work, (2) citizenship, and (3) private culture. Within this framework, schools empower citizens to participate in the economy, to serve the community and have an informed voice in public decisions, and to enjoy a rich personal life nourished by the freedom to choose from all that the human experience has to offer. Gagnon also emphasized that, in a democracy, government-supported schools, at least, have the obligation to offer a first-class program of studies to every student. There are no second-class citizens, so there can be no second-class schooling-no mere training for worker-bees; no Delta indoctrinations from the Brave New World.
Read the entire article here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Value of Picture Books

A recent New York Times article links the decline in picture book sales to parents' push to read chapter books are increasingly early ages:

The economic downturn is certainly a major factor, but many in the industry see an additional reason for the slump. Parents have begun pressing their kindergartners and first graders to leave the picture book behind and move on to more text-heavy chapter books. Publishers cite pressures from parents who are mindful of increasingly rigorous standardized testing in schools.
Parents are saying, ‘My kid doesn’t need books with pictures anymore,’ ” said Justin Chanda, the publisher of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. “There’s a real push with parents and schools to have kids start reading big-kid books earlier. We’ve accelerated the graduation rate out of picture books.”
I wonder how much of this really is related to the economic downturn.  I have a huge picture book collection, but almost all of it was purchased before I actually had children - either for me and my sister when we were kids, or because I saw them in a bookstore and loved the art or the story.  Now that I actually have children, and the resultant budget crunch, I almost never buy new picture books - or books of any kind, for that matter.  Almost everything we read is borrowed from the library, purchased used from an online book dealer, garage sale or used book store, mooched on BookMooch, or handed-down from someone else.  I don't think that extrapolating from a decrease in picture book sales to a decrease in picture book reading is necessarily accurate.

That said, what if it's true?  What if children are being asked to read chapter books at an increasingly early age as yet another way to urge them towards higher academic achievement?  I think that would be very, very sad.  First of all, most of the chapter books for early readers that I've seen are painfully written and full of dialogue as a way to move the story.  I do not find them to be rich in narrative, or particularly compelling, at all.  My daughter can't stand them, and neither can I.  But even the good ones are missing something that picture books offer.
Just yesterday, I substituted for the Elementary One teacher who needed to take an afternoon off, and she left some reading for us to do together.  Frankly, I did expect the books to be text-heavy, but they weren't.  What they did do is engage the children, keep their attention, and encourage them the depart the text, make predictions, ask questions, learn vocabulary, and appreciate the artistry of the illustrations.  One book in particular, Some Things Are Scary by Florence Parry Heide, Illustrated by Jules Feiffer, led to an amazingly rich and powerful discussion.  The book starts out with what you would expect - swinging too high is scary, holding someone's hand and then realizing it's not your mom is scary - but then it turned to more complicated social situations.  Seeing people laugh and thinking they're laughing at you is scary.  Finding out your best friend who has a best friend that isn't you is scary.  Thinking you might not be picked for either team is scary.  
The mood in the room turned contemplative and serious as the children shared stories of times they had felt left out, awkward, unwanted, not good enough.  They felt free to share their thoughts and feelings, and their friends held the safe space for them and listened to their stories.  I listened to what they had to say, but I didn't have to try to resolve the problems or offer solutions, because simply being able to get these things off their chests and knowing that they weren't alone, that everyone feels this way sometimes, was therapy enough for them.
This was a discussion that never could have happened any other way.  The funny illustrations and situations in the book (drinking something and then finding out it wasn't what you thought it was is scary - "That's not scary, it's gross!") kept the mood light enough to facilitate such a serious discussion without getting bogged down in it, in a way that no conversation or chapter book could have.  It was amazing how easy it became to work through real and tough issues of kindness, friendship, and safety with this book as a tool.
Maybe, when we're talking about things like plot, character development, and independent reading, there is a need for the chapter books.  But when we're talking about the intangibles of literacy, not to mention the intangibles of humanity, nothing beats a good picture book.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Applied Learning in NYC Schools

An interesting article from the website of the New York City Board of Education singing the praises of "Applied Learning":

What is important about an applied learning project is that it involves students in working to create a solution to a problem that addresses a genuine need, for which there is no preconceived plan and solution but for which there is an expectation of a genuine outcome.
Working on applied learning projects is a way of helping students make connections between what they learn in school and how that knowledge is used for real purposes both in school and out of school. One of the things that teachers notice about their students when they do projects like these is the level of interest and commitment the students demonstrate.

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How to Raise Boys Who Read

An interesting article called "How to Raise Boys That Read (As Much As Girls Do)" about the literacy gap between boys and girls from the Wall Street Journal:

Education was once understood as training for freedom. Not merely the transmission of information, education entailed the formation of manners and taste. Aristotle thought we should be raised "so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; this is the right education."
"Plato before him," writes C. S. Lewis, "had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful."
This kind of training goes against the grain, and who has time for that? How much easier to meet children where they are.
One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn't go very far.

Read the whole thing here, and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Keep Learning Alive!

In the September 20 issue of The Huffington Post, author and activist Ellen Galinsky writes:
Children are born are insatiable learners -- they want to see, to taste, to touch, to explore, and to learn about everything. We as parents, as teachers, and as a culture are taking this away from them.
If we are going to get the oomph back as a country, we have to get the oomph back in education. The research on children and learning makes it clear that we can and MUST teach in ways that keep learning alive. We can promote values, life skills, and content in ways that engage children in learning. I have seen this happen in hundreds of families and schools and it is reinforced by hundreds of studies.

Read the whole article here, and please post a comment supporting her view of educational reform at the end!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wellspring Featured in Education Revolution Magazine

Check out the article (starting on page 9) by Wellspring parent Kelly Coyle DiNorcia, and photography (including the front cover!) by Parvathi Kumar!

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Every Teacher a Peace Teacher

There is a fantastic article in Yes! Magazine about the teaching of peace in schools:

We are neglecting to teach our students the most fundamental and urgent lesson: how to make peace in the world around them. And by forgetting to do so, we are promoting violence. As my friend and fellow peace educator Colman McCarthy once said, “If we don’t teach our children peace, someone else will teach them violence.’’
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Art for Small People

I have become fascinated over the past year by the process of creating art in general, but particularly my interest lies in the art of young children.  How do they learn to express themselves through different media?  What is the difference between "abstract" and representational art, and how do they develop the skills to actually picture something in their minds and then bring it to life?  How can we cultivate a child's artistic abilities from the time she is young?

Two of my favorite blogs recently posted very good articles on this topic:

The Artful Parent :: Top 10 Art Materials for Preschoolers

Paint Cut Paste :: Making Art At Home: My Favorite Art Supplies for Toddlers

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What's for Lunch Wednesday - Getting Your Kids to Eat Their Veggies

This is a great post from Delicious Ambiguity about how to get your kids to eat their vegetables.  My favorite idea: vegetable BINGO!  How creative!  Blog author Jenn suggests using Bingo Card Creator to make a template; this is definitely one we are going to try over here!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Weekend Web Favorites

I'm behind on my link love, but I'm trying to catch up.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Childhood 101 has several really great posts lately :: 10 Tips for Creating Great Play Spaces, Playing Creatively, and Developing Brains: Laying the Pathways to Learning are all worth a read

Ecology of Education :: Creating the Optimal Learning Environment, What Makes a Master Teacher?

Education Revolution :: Democratic Education With Young Children (a talk given by Elizabeth Baker of the Patchwork School at the Voyagers' Conference, very good!)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

words, the podcast of wellspring community school

After an outrageously frustrating month of technical difficulties that has challenged my patience to its very core....I think we are finally back on track over here at Rhythms.  We are working on instituting some privacy protocols with respect to photos, but I am planning on at least getting the content up and running again.

So it is with great, great pleasure that I give to you our first episode of words, the podcast of wellspring community school - actually up and functioning!  Please check out my interview with Stephanie Field, Director and Heather Laszlo, co-founder of Wellspring Community School.  If you have any ideas for future podcasts, please post them in the comments either here or at words.  Thanks for listening!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Simplicity Parenting

Donna Ashton over at The Waldorf Connection is hosting an online Waldorf Homeschooling Expo.  Some of the workshops are really geared specifically toward Waldorf in general and homeschooling in particular, but some of them are great general parenting workshops.  I just listened to Kim John Payne talk about Simplicity Parenting, and his talk was phenomenal - I highly recommend that you pop over and give it a listen!  His talk is about an hour long and then his wife Katharine talks for a half hour from her unique perspective as a Waldorf-educated individual and teacher who is now a homeschooling mom.  He describes his four layers of Simplicity Parenting: simplifying clutter, creating rhythm and predictability, scheduling and screening out the adult world.  The talk is free for forty-eight hours, but after that you will have to purchase the entire Expo download package to listen.

Luckily, you can also read Payne's book Simplicity Parenting - I haven't yet, but I've heard great things about it.  If you've read it, please post a review in the comments!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

May at Wellspring

We welcome spring!  Our garden is the source of many lessons this month including: math lessons categorizing by size and charting by taste and science lessons exploring roots, characteristics of emerging plants, and why the radishes with big leaves are smaller than the ones with the small leaves.  We have enjoyed our lettuce and radishes for snack.
Our World Cultures Program took us to Japan and Israel this month.  We celebrated Children’s Day, a Japanese tradition with Ann Rosen in the beginning of the month.  The children enjoyed making carp kites, learning about traditional dress, and the Japanese alphabet.  The children also learned how to sing If You’re Happy and You Know It in Japanese.  Dōmo arigatō, Ann!
Caryn and Josh Rosenberg came in to explain and celebrate Shavuot, the spring harvest festival in Israel.  They shared traditional foods and a ram’s horn instrument (bukkehorn) for all to try.  Caryn introduced the alphabet to us and wrote everyone’s name in Hebrew.  Finally, Grandma visited to read a story called Chicken Man about living in a kibbutz.  Toda, Rosenbergs!
The blue bird project has been exciting this month.  On Thursday, we checked the boxes to find both eggs and baby chicks!  FINALLY!  Each child was able to peer into the box and count the eggs.  The baby birds were huddled together and difficult to distinguish.  We took a picture and counted four babies when were returned to school.  Before the end of school the tree swallow eggs and blue bird eggs will hatch, offering a nice opportunity to compare species.  The children should be able to monitor the birds until they are fledglings.
The children are also monitoring the life cycle of the caterpillars.  They have documented the caterpillar and chrysalis stages and awaiting the emergence of our painted ladies.  We have observed these butterflies in the meadow this spring.
Lastly, several children took the opportunity to sponge paint “their meadow” at the request of the town.  Our artwork should be hanging in the Rock-a-Bye meadow display box shortly.  Please try to stop by to take a look.  If you also choose to peek in the bird boxes, please gently tap on the outside and step away from the opening before you lift the side.  Just a bit of bird etiquette on this last day of May,

Monday, May 10, 2010

April at Wellspring

Our world was expanded this month as we visited Egypt. Many children have prior knowledge of Ancient Egypt through TV and books; yet, the photos of Scott and Mary’s trip and the Egyptian items really connected the children to the country in an authentic way. The rug was the center of our circle for two weeks and children sat in the Egyptian chair listening to Goodnight Cairo just as a young Egyptian child would. Children studied the photos of Scott climbing a pyramid as they made their own structures with sugar cubes. No one worried that the sides weren’t smooth, since the sugar cubes looked like the stone in the step pyramids photographed. The children began to understand the height and weight of the stone blocks leading many to wonder how they could be built without cranes and trucks. We experimented with blocks and pencils trying to replicate how the stone was moved. Pictures of a mummy prompted an exploration into the process of mummification. The children wondered about the water extracted with salt. This led us to a scientific experiment about extracting water from cucumbers and eggplant.

April showers are bringing food to our paddock space. The lettuce, peas, and radishes have sprouted. We’re thinning the radishes while observing what happens underground in the formation of these vegetables. Many children are fascinated that the roots are the edible part! We have also observed plants emerge from the soil that we did not plant. The children have studied the differences in leaves and have a few ideas about their origin. Time will answer this mystery.

Thanks to all who contributed materials for our recycled art projects this month. Bottles, cans, balls, aluminum pans, and boxes were transformed into some amazing pieces of art. These projects are a testament to the creative talents of children as they are tangible evidence of what a child can see in common trash. The children also wrote recipes for potions and poisons this month. After mixing these concoctions, the children observed how the materials changed over a few days or even a week. The recipes involving shaving cream produced the most dramatic change. After working in the Art and Writing Nook one morning when this work was quite frenetic, the parent helper expressed her surprise that the mixtures weren’t all brown.

Grandparent’s Day was a special time at Wellspring this month. It was delightful to see grandparents from near and far spend the morning with us at school. The children enjoyed making butterflies and turtle rings in the Art and Writing Nook. They had fun making fish and then racing them in the paddock. Several children took the opportunity to paint signs of spring while others played dodge ball in the paddock. It was a very busy and memorable morning for all!

Lastly, I would like to thank all the parents that take time out of their busy schedules to help in the classroom. This often isn’t terribly “sexy” work but it is special for your child to have you present and for you to see them at “work”. Your support makes a significant difference in the lives of the children. Thank you again for enriching our space.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Our First Podcast!

We are so pleased and excited to present the very first episode of our new podcast, Words - The Blog of Wellspring Community School.  Please do check it out, post a comment, and share with your friends, families, neighbors, and anyone else you think might be interested!

Interview With Stephanie Field, Director & Heather Laszlo, Co-Founder of Wellspring Community School

Posted using ShareThis

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What's for Lunch Wednesday - Food Attitude

Photo by wheat_in_your_hair
There is lots of information on the Internet about food and health.  Organic, free-range, biodynamic, local, ultra-local, urban gardening, food miles, Weston A. Price, vegetarian, vegan, GAPS, GFCF - food is something that everyone seems to have an opinion about.  What is the healthiest way to feed our families?  Who knows?  To be sure, there is a lot of passion and judgement surrounding this question for a lot of people.

But here is an interesting article from the latest New York Times Magazine on how our diet and eating habits affects our children's body image - boys too, but especially girls:
Food is never just food. Food is love. Food is solace. It is politics. It is religion. And if that’s not enough to heap on your dinner plate each night, food is also, especially for mothers, the instant-read measure of our parenting. We are not only what we eat, we are what we feed our children.
A quick and worthwhile read - check it out.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ron Miller's Talk

Success!  I finally figured out how to get the keynote talk from our March 20 conference up on You Tube.  The catch is that it's broken up into ten-minute segments, but hey, it's better than nothing...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review: The Big Turnoff

In honor of Earth Week and the Great TV Rebellion 2010, I thought it would be a good time to offer a review of one of my favorite parenting books, The Big Turnoff: Confessions of a TV-Addicted Mom Trying to Raise a TV-Free Kid by Ellen Currey-Wilson.

In this startlingly honest memoir, Currey-Wilson invites readers to share her most intimate thoughts in a way that few of us would, even with our dearest friends. From the dysfunctional family where she grew up, to the jealousy she feels when two members of her playgroup start spending time together without her, to the time she offered a friend’s psychologist husband sexual favors (in front of her friend!) if he would give her “the answers” to the battery of psychological tests her son Casey was about to undergo, the author is willing to bare her most embarrassing secrets in a way that makes the reader fall in love with her quirky neuroticism.

Though the story is set around the author’s efforts to protect her son from exposure to television despite her lifelong addiction to the medium, TV can be seen as a metaphor for many of the alternative lifestyle choices that many of us make. Currey-Wilson struggles with both the philosophy and the practice of keeping her son TV-free: How will she find a babysitter who does not just plop Casey in front of the tube? How much should she reveal to her friends and family about her decision to eschew Sesame Street and Arthur? Can she reveal her son’s media-free status at all without sounding like a judgmental zealot? Will other parents consider it a burden to host TV-free playdates so that her son can attend? Will he be an outcast at school because he does not know who Pokemon is and does not own a Wii? Who among us has not asked ourselves these same questions about some of our own unconventional parenting choices?

Currey-Wilson’s example stands as an inspiration to those of us who sometimes tire of the pressure to “fit in” that we endure as we make choices for our families that are outside the mainstream. Her story also gives readers the courage to parent consciously, to face our own pasts, to ask the hard questions of ourselves that will make us better parents and better people.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Book Review: Henry David's House[Children] should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end.  ~Henry David Thoreau

http://thewellspringschool.orgYears ago I had the pleasure of spending a day at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.  I went by myself, hiked around the pond, and sat on its banks to read Walden.  It was an idyllic pre-children day.

This past summer, when we again found ourselves in the Boston suburbs, I took the kids to visit the pond.

It was a warm day, and we spent the morning dipping our toes in the cold (frigid, really, even in late August)  water before taking the hike out to see the site of Thoreau's legendary cabin. 

The foundation is still there, and visitors can go visit a replica of the legendary cabin.  The hike was much longer than I recalled, especially with a toddler who did not want to be carried yet was not really able to walk very well. 

But we did enjoy playing by the pile of rocks that many visitors have left by the cabin site to commemorate their visit and the influential work of Thoreau.

Given our love of this place, I was very excited to find the book Henry David's House, edited by Steven Schnur and illustrated by Peter Fiore.

Schnur distills Thoreau's great philosophical work on nature and simplicity into a diary format, including details of life by the pond that children can relate to.  Included are passages describing the selection of the building site, the construction of the cabin, the labor involved in building it, the wildlife surrounding it, the visitors Thoreau entertained there, and the changing of the seasons during the year he spent living there.  The inclusion of small details, such as the "two or three small maples turned scarlet across the pond" on the first of September and "the whooping of the ice in the pond" as it froze in winter really bring life at Walden alive for the reader, as well as encouraging children to become attuned to the sights, sounds, and smells around them.  The oil paintings are a beautiful, simple complement to the text.  I especially love the picture of Thoreau playing his flute in a rowboat surrounded by lily pads - very Monet-esque.  I can't wait to bring this book along on our next trip to Concord!

Monday, April 12, 2010

What is Community?

You may have noticed that I've been a little light on posting this past week.  I was feeling quite a bit under the weather and wasn't spending much time at the computer. 

During my convalescence, I was reading The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach - Advanced Reflections (second edition) edited by Carolyn Edwards, Lella Gandini and George Forman.  A little light reading, you know?  Anyway, there was a quote from the second chapter that really jumped out at me:

Communities are groups of people who can do together what they could not accomplish alone and who have a stake in each others' well-being.

On that note, I'd like to take this chance to publicly thank all the wonderful members of our Wellspring community who have taken the time to drop me an email or call, or otherwise check in on me, or even send meals for our family.  It has meant the world to me - I am so grateful to be a part of this wonderful group of people!