Monday, October 26, 2009

Students’ Hard Work
Educates Community About Recycling

“At first nobody took us as serious, but later they started noticing that we meant business and they started helping the community.”

Those words, penned by students Gustavo Garcia and Juan Castillo, sum up the efforts of Purdy, Missouri, students who helped establish the Purdy School & Community Recycling Center. Begun by members of Purdy High School’s Spanish Club (pictured) who were tired of ‘do-nothing clubs,’ the Purdy Recycling Project, which aimed to raise the environmental consciousness of their peers, has become a community-wide program that is turning a profit, raising scholarship money for students, and serving as a model for similar programs in other communities.

“The biggest surprise for me has been how exciting, how much fun it has been to watch this project grow and, hand in hand with that, how rewarding it has been to see my students grow with it,” says Gerry Wass, a world languages teacher and Spanish Club advisor at Purdy High School. “Their dedication and willingness to take over more and more of it defies assumptions we too often make about modern kids.”


Along the way to building a successful operation that is turning a profit -- in spite of economic challenges -- students and adults alike have learned many valuable lessons.
  • They’ve learned that students can have their greatest impact when they serve as a source of clear and useful information, such as the handout they created to teach their community how to recycle.
  • They’ve learned that students readily take on the role of community educators as they expertly answer adults’ questions about recycling.
  • They’ve learned that students can easily overcome the “yuck factor” when they are doing good work with friends while building a business from scratch -- even if most of the work is done on Saturday mornings.
  • They’ve learned that girls work just as hard as boys, and sometimes harder.
  • They’ve learned that you don’t have to be a fantastic writer to get a grant. You need a good, workable idea that will harness the amazing energy of kids.
  • They’ve learned that involving younger students early is an important way to ensure the sustainability of a program.
  • They’ve learned that “graduates” of the program will form an “alumni association” that can make a program sustainable long into the future.


    Against all odds -- the Purdy program has been successful by almost every measure. And that is unusual. Most school programs fail, says Gerry Wass. But they don’t fail because of the students, as one might think. Instead, they fail because they were not carefully planned.

    “No recycling program will sustain student enthusiasm for a volunteer program that doesn’t operate as a successful business,” said Wass. “The student members of the Purdy Recycling Project have earned the pride of ownership.”

    Wass would like to see Purdy, Missouri, become one of the most skillful recycling communities in the nation. “We’d like to see our program set an example for many other towns both large and small that see a school as a potential powerhouse of creative energy that serves as a seed from which a powerful program grows,” he said.

    To that end, the project has published Bringing It Back Around: The Story of the Purdy Recycling Project. This 60-page, step-by-step manual aims to assist other school systems in developing a business model for creating a recycling center. The book supplies a wide range of fascinating insider details that will help other schools as they motivate student interest, seek out grant sources, get community members involved, and create a sustainable recycling operation that can benefit everyone.


    For more information, go to the club’s Web site, The Purdy Recycling Project. There you can learn more about the project, visit the project’s photo gallery, or purchase one of a limited number of copies of the Bringing It Back Around: The Story of the Purdy Recycling Project book.
  • Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Using Music to Teach Content
    Gets Rave Reviews from Students

    If you are “of a certain age,” you have vivid memories of learning grammar, history, and math from the popular Schoolhouse Rocks animated cartoon series. You might remember, for example, visiting Conjunction Junction…

    …or you might til this day recall the bouncy tunes and catchy lyrics that taught you how a bill becomes a law, how interest accumulates on savings, or the 3x tables.


    Today, more than ever, wise teachers recognize the power that music possesses to teach new and difficult concepts. Take a few teachers I’ve read about recently.

    You’ve probably all heard about Alex Kajitani. He is California’s Teacher of the Year for 2009 and a National Teacher of the Year finalist, but he is probably best known as the Rappin’ Mathematician. His two CDs are big hits with algebra teachers -- and their students. Last winter, Kajitani and his music were the subject of a CBS News report [watch the video].

    At Christie Elementary School in Frisco, Texas, science teacher Debra Cave was amazed at how quickly her fourth-graders seemed to forget information taught in class. One day on the drive home from work, Cave got thinking about how music might help kids retain information. “It’s hard to get excited about chlorophyll, but by singing and dancing, emotion gets attached and information gets stored long-term,” Cave told the Dallas News [read the article]. What started as a photosynthesis tune dreamed up on a commute home has led Cave to create a CD and DVD full of teaching tunes. Check out her Web site, Jammin’ Classroom.

    Brooke Knight’s class at Moore Magnet School in Clarksville, Tennessee, is alive with the sound of music too. Memorizing multiplication tables is a cinch for Knight's third graders as they sing the jingles she created, many of which have accompanying hand gestures. “I’ve made songs for tons of things from rounding [numbers] to subjects and predicates to place value,” Knight told [read the article].


    Perhaps you know more examples of music being used to teach content in the classroom. Click the pencil below to share additional resources or music videos you’ve found that promote classroom learning.


    Songs for Teaching: Using Music to Promote Learning
    Research on How Music Promotes Learning
    Music and the Brain
    Music Moves Brain to Pay Attention, Study Finds

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Heimlich Training for Staff
    Can Be a Life-Saver

    The family of a boy who choked to death in an Indiana elementary school’s cafeteria was recently awarded $5 million in a lawsuit against the district [read the news]. The news of that award has spurred many schools in the area to focus attention on training staff in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.

    The benefits of such training are clear…

    Late last month, a teacher’s aide in Pittsburgh made headlines when she saved a 5-year-old special education student who is assigned to her care. Jan Tomnay had learned the Heimlich maneuver at a CPR training session provided by the district. While the state of Pennsylvania does not require such training, her district, the Baldwin-Whitehall district, requires that all paraprofessionals be trained by the district’s nursing staff.

    Read more about this story in the local newspaper and on the school district Web site.

    Earlier in the month, the lives of two students might have been saved when the Heimlich maneuver was administered in separate incidents at a Plainfield, Illinois, elementary school.
  • A cafeteria supervisor performed the life-saving maneuver on a fourth-grade girl who was choking on a piece of chicken. That event happened just two days after a nurse had given lunchroom staff a refresher course on lifesaving techniques.

  • A couple days later a first-grade teacher was reading a story while her students were eating their snacks. Her reading was interrupted by a strange noise. She acted quickly to administer the Heimlich to a student who was choking on a grape [read more].

  • The value of training in the Heimlich maneuver and other life-saving measures cannot be underestimated. Each month, a handful of news stories validate the value of such training and refresher courses.

    While we are talking about training staff in life-saving techniques, can it hurt to teach students about some of them too? Last week, we posted a News for Kids article on Education World [see Kid Heroes Use Heimlich Maneuver]. The story tells of three children who recently saved others -- including a teacher -- who were choking. Encourage your teachers to share this “news for kids” with their students.


    Click > to play the video:


  • The Heimlich Maneuver (for younger kids)

  • The Heimlich Maneuver (for teens)

  • Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    Blog Bits #1:
    Three Programs of Interest
    Math Fun for Students
    A Capital Idea

    My files are full of ideas to share, so from time to time I will clean out my files by sharing a few “bits” --- things of interest, things to think about, or things to share with your staff or students. Following is my first batch of bits and pieces of principal concern and interest.


    Emails land in my inbox about tons of fun new programs that might motivate students as they support the curriculum. Here is news of just a few timely programs I’ve learned about in recent weeks.

    Classrooms Care from Scholastic Book Clubs
    There’s a football match-up this fall and millions of kids across the U.S. will benefit if your students get in the game. Top names in education and in football -- Scholastic, Inc., and Super Bowl MVPs Eli and Peyton Manning -- are joining forces and inviting America’s teachers and students to join them in bringing more than one million books to kids in need across the U.S.

    King Arthur Flour’s Life Skill Baking Program
    Baking is a great hands-on way for kids to learn math, science, and cultural traditions, all while having fun. Through its Life Skills Bread Baking Program, King Arthur Flour has taught more than 100,000 school children how to bake bread. In turn, the students have shared this bread with social-service organizations in their community. This program is available to grades 4 to 7 in schools located in the Midwest or Northeast.

    The Idaho Potato Harvest Story & Game
    This new interactive video game offers students and schools an opportunity to split a $10,000 prize. Students learn about Idaho Potatoes and then complete a simple sequencing activity. Of course the game does require students to give personal information at the end in order to be entered into the contest, so this might be something you share with parents instead of doing in school. The game and sweepstakes runs through October 31, 2009.


    If your school includes students in the upper elementary or middle school grades, provide them with the math problem below to solve. (Answers are shown in orange.) Before presenting the problem, set a few ground rules:
  • Name please. Write your name at the top of your paper.
  • “Show me the work!” The detailed math must be shown for all steps of the problem.
  • Watch for the Prize Patrol. Tell students you have prizes in store for someone who gets all the correct answers and shows all the math calculations. Then draw one winner’s paper at random and provide a prize as promised. (If you have a deep prize drawer, you might even have multiple winners. How about a winner at each grade level?)

    What a fun -- and educational -- way to keep kids engaged on a rainy indoor-recess day!

    1 x 9 + 2 = 11
    12 x 9 + 3 = 111
    123 x 9 + 4 = 1111
    1234 x 9 + 5 = 11111
    12345 x 9 + 6 = 111111
    123456 x 9 + 7 = 1111111
    1234567 x 9 + 8 = 11111111
    12345678 x 9 + 9 = 111111111
    123456789 x 9 + 10 = 1111111111

    For more frequent math fun, be sure to check out Education World's principal-created math feature, Morning Math.


    While many newspapers and Web sites present headlines in stylish lower-case letters,
    Bits and pieces #1: a capital idea, cool programs, math fun…
    you might notice that Education World keeps to the more traditional headline treatment. Key words get capitalized as in the headline at the top of this page. We do this for a reason: it’s the way grammar books teach headline or title writing, and it’s the style that teachers teach and students learn. If we can reinforce the skills that teachers teach in any way, then we should do that.

    And so this week I pass my Golden Grammar Book Award to the staff, students, and families of Algood Elementary School in Cookeville, Tennessee. This school just opened in August, a brand new school with a brand new sign out front that read
    algood elementary school
    Clearly, that sign was designed by architects, not teachers. As stylish as it might have appeared, teachers, parents, and kids stood up and called the local newspaper and school board members to protest. If teachers will be teaching lessons on capitalizing proper names, how could the sign out front break those basic rules of good grammar?

    Their voices were heard. Capital letters A, E, and S were ordered. And now Algood Elementary School gets an A+ in grammar.