Friday, April 27, 2012

Welcome Dr. Sowell!

Today teachers JJ Brown and Karen Meissner welcomed Dr. Scott Sowell to their kindergarten classroom.  Dr. Sowell was named Duval County's Teacher of the Year in February.   The Superintendent described Scott this way - "He has an amazing gift of connecting with his students, and his success is proven through his students' academic performance.  His students master science by doing science hands-on. Instead of starting out with a lecture explaining a topic, Dr. Sowell places the experience first so his students create their own learning by exploring real-life scientific situations. He develops a strong community of learners in his classroom, fostering a climate of collaboration, empathy and kindness where critical thinking and creative expression are valued and encouraged."

So how did a middle/ high school Science teacher end up in a kindergarten class today?  Lucky for us he has nieces at Chets Creek and one is a kindergartner in Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Meissner's class. They invited him in to do a Science lesson with these early learners.

So... if you're wondering how a high school Science teacher did in a kindergarten class, I think the pictures speak for themselves!  The children were totally engaged!

Dr. Sowell began by giving each child a mystery bag.  Inside the bag he had them take out their "tools" for the day - a magnifying glass and a straw!

Next the children took our meal worms and earthworms.  They counted the legs on the meal worms and decided that they looked a lot like the very hungry caterpillar!  Dr. Sowell entertained questions from the children but mostly pointed out how smart their observations were.  They FELT like scientists!

I don't know what was more fun - looking at the worms or watching the kindergartners looking at the worms!  I would say that this high school teacher can come and teach kindergarten Science any day he likes!  Thank you Dr. Sowell for being your niece's hero today and thoroughly entertained us all!  Come back soon!

Celebrating Eric Carle in 2012

In Kindergarten Author Studies are all about retelling books.  At Chets Creek we chose the beloved early childhood author and illustrator Eric Carle to focus our first author study.  All through this unit the children have worked on ways to retell each story.  They have used pre-made props and made some of their own props.  They have drawn sequences of events and have played games to reinforce the events in each story.  They have completed story maps and have answered literal and inferred questions as they have gotten to know each book better and better.  More than the retelling, an author study is about looking across a body of work.  The children have compared and contrasted stories and of course, Eric Carle's art as they have gotten to know him and his body of work.  Many of our retelling activities are kept on our grade level wiki.

Today all seven kindergarten classes celebrated by revisiting some of their favorite books.  They began the day by donning shirts they made of the very hungry caterpillar.  First up was eating Pancakes to reinforce Eric Carle's Pancakes, Pancakes. They watched a video of the movie as they ate.

Next the children visited a center where they made necklaces threading green and red construction paper circles, spaced apart with cut green straws.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar is absolutely a favorite book and the children enjoyed retelling as they threaded their necklaces.

Of course every celebration needs a hat!  So it was on to the hat center where the children made ladybug bands to celebrate The Grouchy Ladybug.  The children talked about a ladybug being an insect and having six legs. They enjoyed listening to the story once again..

Our final center was a study of Eric Carle's art,  The children took a pattern of a seahorse and covered it with tissue paper just like Eric Carle does with the animals in his books.  Mister Seahorse never looked so good!

Thank you Eric Carle!  We have thoroughly enjoyed our study!  Can't you tell?!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Making our MARC

I know I have posted about the MARC (McKenzie's Academic Resource Center) before- our little seed of an idea for an on-site tutoring center in a community of 1000 mobile homes that lies on the border of our school boundary.  But I was reminded once again tonight about how a little idea and a small group of committed people can change the world.

Two years ago our Leadership Team had this small idea for improving the outcomes for some of our at-risk students.  We met with the owners of the mobile home site and asked for a small space and soon a few very dedicated teachers began tutoring some of our neediest students after school.   As I sat in the Recognition and Appreciation Dinner tonight, I was surrounded by Girls, Inc who  furnishes counseling to families; Beaches Resource who matches families with resources; Second Harvest that now comes through the mobile home park once a month dropping free food; Beach United Methodist Church volunteers that put on a faith based program every Saturday for the children that includes games, praise and worship, and lunch: Angie, who facilitates a preschool program and lunch that has just mushroomed; a second language teacher who volunteers her time at night to teach adults English as a second language; and a slew of teachers from Chets Creek who volunteer their time every single week to tutor along with some retired teachers - all of this now hosted and funded by the McKenzie Wilson Foundation.  All of this from just a little seed of an idea!

How fortunate we are to the McKenzie Wilson Foundation that funds the activities at the MARC.  The Wilson's lost their beautiful teenage daughter to a sudden illness.  Instead of having her death ruin their lives, they decided instead to dedicate funds to doing something special in her honor.  Funds for the MARC is just one of the many projects that they selected.  It makes a profound impact on me that they would allow their beautifully-spirited daughter's name to adorn our little Center.

I am just so proud of the school and teachers that I work with.  One of our teacher assistants now runs the Tutoring Center and our Behavior Interventionist's salary is being paid by the McKenzie Wilson Foundation to the school system as she works as a liaison between the programs.  My little group of four faithful Kindergarten teachers, who make sure the Center is manned on Mondays for our Kindergarten tutoring day, average about 12 kindergartners each week.   They are some of our neediest students and we can see each week how the extra tutoring is making a difference.  I just feel blessed to work at a school with a Principal that allows her teachers to dream and then steps outside- of-the-box to make those dreams a reality.  We believe that dreams really can come true!  Blessed indeed!