Friday, October 22, 2010

Did Your School Miss Out on
‘Walk to School Month’ Fun This Year?

Thousands of kids around the U.S. participated in Walk to School events this month, which is International Walk to School Month. Now in its thirteenth year, more than 3,200 U.S. schools registered to participate in events that provide a great opportunity for schools to promote good health as they engage families and the community.

In Little Falls, New York, students, teachers, staff, and city officials walked almost 1.5 miles to Little Falls Middle School on October 8. This marked the third year the school participated in the world-wide Walk to School Day event.

“This event allows us to be part of something a little bigger than ourselves,” said Bart Tooley, principal at the school. “It’s an opportunity for us to come together as an entire school and have a little fun on a beautiful October morning,” he told the Little Falls Times.

“Walking to school not only allows us to focus on being healthy and well, but it also allows us to get out and enjoy the community while forming lasting memories,” added Superintendent of Schools Louis Patrei. (read more…)

At Wilcoxson Elementary School in Stratford, Connecticut, more than half the students participated in a special event that kicked off Walk to School Month. “It’s a perfect way to build community,” Principal Deborah Dayo told the Connecticut Post. Even kids who ride the bus to school were able to participate this year. When they were dropped off by the bus, they started a 3-1/2 lap walk around the school's athletic field. (read more…)

In Mississippi, the school that engages the highest level of participation in Walk to School events earns the state’s highest award, the coveted Golden Sneaker. The day also offers an opportunity for parents to join with their children in a school-sponsored activity, crossing guard Mary Lee Montgomery told the Mobile Press-Register. (read more…)

Students at Pilot Mountain (North Carolina) Elementary School earned stickers this year for walking to school on Walk to School Day. This is an important event “because it not only teaches pedestrian safety, but also the importance of choosing healthy activities instead of sedentary behavior,” Principal Angela Carson told the Mount Airy News. (read more…)

Students who walk to school in Needham, Massachusetts, can also log their miles on the Earth 25 Web site as part of the community’s Needham in Motion campaign.

And students and parents joined together to turn a walk to Blessed Sacrament School in Savannah, Georgia, into a community event. The WSAV-TV video below is a testament to Walk to School events that took place in hundreds of U.S. communities this year.


If you and your students didn’t participate in this year’s Walk to School Day/Month events, this is the perfect time to start planning for next year. Take a quick look at some of the resources available at the link below. I’m sure you’ll see how easy it would be to gather a group of parents to spearhead a cool event that will build community as it creates wonderful memories for students, families, and staff at your school.

International Walk to School in the USA
This U.S. Walk to School site provides links to tips for starting a Walk to School Day event as well as tons of ideas for promoting the walk, planning special events and classroom activities, involving sponsors, and more. The next Walk to School Day is scheduled for October 5, 2011.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is Your School's Food Drive Just Ahead?
Check Out Some Fun Ideas!

Many schools run school-wide food drives around the Thanksgiving and December holidays.

Others run them during January, to coincide with the “Souper” Bowl service project. Or in March, as part of the National PTO’s SchoolsServe National School Food Drive.

If your school is planning a food drive for the weeks ahead -- or anytime -- here are some fun ideas you might use.

Stuff the Turkey. If your school’s food drive is held in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, you might theme that effort around a Thanksgiving turkey. Wrap a big barrel in brown craft paper to form the body of a turkey. Put the barrel near a wall and tape a large turkey head and big paper feathers to the wall. Invite students to “stuff the turkey” full of food for your local food bank.

Promote the Food Drive. Besides the usual flyers, you might have local grocery stores provide brown paper bags for students to decorate. In the weeks leading up to the drive, baggers can stuff shopper’s purchases into bags that promote your food drive with free advertising. Another greener way to promote the drive is to create food drive mobiles. Recycle an old grocery bag into a hanging advertisement for the drive; hang from that bag drawings that represent the types of food most needed by your local food bank or soup kitchen. See simple instructions for creating this mobile on Crayola’s Web site at this link: Food Bank Mobile.

Track Your Class. Students might use this November Coloring Calendar to track the number of food items brought in each day. At the end of the drive, have young students answer questions about the number of items contributed on different days and have older students add up the numbers to learn their total contribution. In addition, you might print out the calendar on a sheet of transparency film. Place the transparency on an overhead projector so you can project and trace the image onto a large sheet of craft paper or a bulletin board. This large calendar will serve as a spot where the school-wide contribution totals can be posted and tallied.

Make a Living Graph. When the drive comes to an end, use chalk to draw a large graph grid on an asphalt-covered playground surface. Students can create a bar graph to show the number of contributions (the y axis) brought in each day (the x axis) of the drive. Older students (or the student who contributed the most items from each class) might stand at the x and y coordinates to create a graph that shows school-wide totals day by day. Use a colorful rope to connect the students to create a living line graph. Have someone take pictures or video of the event from a second-floor window or the school roof. Better yet, for some great PR invite a local news photographer or TV station team to report the event.

Food Drive Word Problems. At the end of the drive, use the data collected during the food drive to create a page of math word problems. Create a different set of problems for each grade level, based on the math skills those students have learned in class. Students won’t even realize they are doing math as they solve these real-world problems. See examples of word problems for different grade levels in this Education World lesson plan: Graphing the Annual Food Drive.


Feeding a Community
Scott Elementary School in Naperville, Illinois, plans a food drive each fall (“Thanks and Giving”) and another in the spring (“Children Helping Children”). Click the link above to learn more about this school’s community service efforts.

Successful Canned Food Drive Ideas
This message board on the AtoZ Teacher Stuff site is full of great ideas for educators, from educators.

Service Learning Projects
The Pro Teacher site presents this message board with teacher-contributed ideas that can help students make a difference in their communities.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Principal Turnover
Impacts Student Achievement

As students in Washington, D.C., headed back to school this year, nearly one quarter of them were greeted by new principals [read the article]. In Pinellas County, Florida, 27 of the district’s 118 schools have new leaders at the helm this year, and 75 of those schools have had two or more principals over the past five years [read the article].

The high turnover rates among school leaders in those two districts are not all that unusual. High turnover is widespread. Such turnover is impacted by a wide range of causes, from early retirement packages offered to senior principals in order to generate budget savings to the appointment of new principals to turn around “failing” schools. In addition, some districts maintain policies that require principal rotation as a means of reinvigorating schools and their leaders.

Many of the reasons for school-leader turnover are unavoidable or can be justified. But districts would be wise to take notes from a study released in August that affirms the connection between strong and stable leadership and student achievement. Strong leadership has a more direct and meaningful impact on achievement than do factors such as geography or poverty, the study says.

The study also found that, on average, fairly rapid principal turnover (about one new principal every three to four years) can have negative effects on school culture. Principals newly assigned to schools who initially work within the existing culture of their schools -- rather than attempting to quickly, substantially change it -- are more likely to avoid negative turnover effects.


According to the study, leaders are most effective when they see themselves as working collaboratively towards clear, common goals with district personnel, other principals, and teachers. District support for shared leadership -- including mentoring for new principals and professional development for all principals -- is the key.

The study also affirms that higher-performing schools ask for more input and engagement from a wider variety of stakeholders and provide more opportunities for influence by teachers. When teachers feel attached to a professional learning community, the impact on student learning is positive and measurable.

Most important of all, when teachers -- as well as parents and other community members -- are an integral part of the leadership in a school, they can often play a big role in ensuring that a change in leadership at the top will not negatively impact student achievement.


Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning
This study is the result of a six-year investigation of the links between leadership and student learning. It was commissioned by the Wallace Foundation and carried out by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement and the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education [read the study].

Monday, October 4, 2010

Anti-Bullying Videos
Share Powerful Messages

This month, thousands of schools will recognize Bullying Prevention Month with special school-wide assemblies and teacher lessons. Below I share a handful of videos and other resources that will make powerful additions to your assembly program or classroom discussions.


If you have a big screen in your auditorium, consider sharing a video or two. These videos will offer strikingly effective visual confirmation of the themes you present. If you are not planning a school-wide assembly, you might share some of these videos during your school-wide news broadcasts. Or share the videos with your teachers, who can use them to start meaningful discussions in their classrooms.

Hero in the Hallway
This upbeat music video (above) drives home the point that bullying can happen anywhere -- and anyone can help put an end to it.

‘No, No Bully’ Music Video
This colorful animated video makes it clear that anyone can say no to bullying -- and that it is cool to do so.

Anti-Bullying Video
A cool blonde boy dyes his hair red in an act of solidarity against bullying.

‘If You Help Someone’ Music Video
The catchy lyric and bluesy sound of this video makes the point that “If you help someone, you know you help yourself.”

Words Hurt
A 30-second public-service announcement drives home the message that words can hurt.

Be a Champion
Kids who are part of the after-school drama class at San Jacinto Elementary School created this video advice for handling bullies.

Bullied to Death: ‘Wanda’s Song’
This video presents a montage of photos of kids who committed suicide because of bullying. (For middle or high school use only.)


If you’re looking for powerful videos to share with students, the National Center for Bullying Prevention has some good ones to use with elementary students. Just go to Kids Against Bullying and click Watch This, then Kid Vids.

If you teach middle or high school, be sure to check out the Center’s Teens Against Bullying page.

The Center’s Schools and Parents page has links to lesson plans, role plays, and much more.


Special Theme: Bullying
School violence is an issue in the news and on the minds of educators and administrators alike. Education World takes a look at the problem of bullying and how to stop it. This archive page includes articles, strategies, lesson plans, and much more.

Students Pledge to End Bullying
Students and staff at Forsyth (Missouri) Elementary School have chosen to take a stand against bullying. A bulletin board display of student-signed handprints is a very visual reminder of the PreK-4 students’ very public commitment to take a stand against bullying.

Stop Bullying Now
Education World offers ten lessons designed to teach students to respect diversity and peacefully resolve ideological differences. Included: Activities for teaching kids about empathy, anger management, and effective conflict resolution.