All of This Started With a Belief

Tweny-two years ago, Deborah Meier founded the Mission Hill School, a small Boston Public School located in Jamaica Plain. She hired me to teach at Mission Hill, which was noble because that founding year was also my first year as a teacher. Both Deborah Meier and Dr. Theresa Perry have been my mentors throughout my years of teaching. They both honored and encouraged my out-of-the-box teaching and willingness to take risks in education, in addition to the importance I placed on families, communities, and democracy. Because Deborah and Theresa believed in me, I was able to grow and to make mistakes, knowing that they would both catch me when I fell. These are the same values I instill in each of my students at the East Boston Early Education Center. I also continue to use the “Mission Hill Habit of Mind and Work” in the Science Makerspace. 

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Please take a listen to this recent Ethics in Education Network podcast featuring my mentor, Deborah Meier. She talks about what makes a good school and building and maintaining trust and mutual respect.

Sharing Resources for STEM and Early Childhood Education

For my readers who are educators:  I hope you enjoyed National Teacher Appreciation Week last week and truly felt appreciated by someone in a special way! The work that we do is very important, and so I wanted to be sure to share some resources that teachers and families can use to keep enriching the lives of young students.

On STEM Education

  1. The Captain Planet Foundation recently launched a new app to promote environmentalism. Download it today from the App Store and Google Play!
  2. 8 Eye-Opening Ways Kids Benefit From Experiences With Nature by Christopher Bergland for Psychology Today
  3. The Value of Tinkering by Aaron Schomburg for Scientific American
  4. How To Pick a Great Educational Science Toy by Ben Newsome for Fizzics Education
  5. Girl Scouts Add 30 New Badges in Robotics, Science and Engineering by Nicole Lyn Pesce for New York Post 
  6. Will K-12 Students Be Ready For the Technology of the Future? by Kelly Konrad for EdTech Magazine
  7. What Really Keeps Girls of Color Out of STEM? by Emilio Pack for Education Week
  8. Study Confirms Project-Based Learning Has a Positive Impact On How Students Learn Science and Math by Dr. Kerry Speziale for DefinedSTEM

On Early Childhood Education

  1. We Need to Make Kindergarten Engaging Again by Dr. Christopher Brown for Psychology Today
  2. Best Children’s Books Of the Year by Bank Street College of Education
  3. The 17 Picture Books of 2019 That You Need on Your Child’s Shelf by Alessia Santoro on Pop Sugar

April 2019: Spring Is In the Air

I hope you are enjoying your April Vacation thus far! With the week winding down, I wanted to make sure I provide my readers with some additional recommendations for having a fulfilling week.

It’s a Celebration

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The Cambridge Science Festival is an annual celebration of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) in our lives, particularly here in the Boston area. This 10-day festival ends this upcoming Sunday, April 21, so be sure to check out their Events Calendar to find out which events you should attend with your young student!

National Poetry Month 2019

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April is National Poetry Month! Check out this list of multicultural books of poetry curated by Colors of Us. Also, please visit the Colors of Us website for recommendations on multicultural books, multicultural toys, and multicultural clothing.

Speaking of Book Recommendations

Early this month, the A Mighty Girl blog published an article entitled “The Mother-Daughter Pilot Team Breaking the 30,000-Foot Glass Ceiling Together”. Do read this article to learn more about these women’s stories, and to get book recommendations for children’s books about pioneering female pilots. Subscribe to the A Mighty Girl newsletter to receive emails about blog articles and other updates.

A Lovely Letter About Why We Read, Just In Time for Literacy Night

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Literacy Night at the East Boston EEC is happening Wednesday, April 3, 2019 (update). I recently came across a letter on Brainpickings that illustrates the remarkable power of literacy, and thought this would be a great time to share it with my YSI readers. Please enjoy the reading below, along with images of our Young STEAM Inventors sharpening their literacy skills in the Science Makerspace.

This excerpt can be found in the article “A Velocity of Being: Illustrated Letters To Children About Why We Read by 121 of the Most Inspiring Beings In Our World”.

Thank you,

~Alicia

 

When asked in a famous questionnaire devised by the great French writer Marcel Proust about his idea of perfect happiness, David Bowie answered simply: “Reading.”

Growing up in communist Bulgaria, the daughter of an engineer father and a librarian mother who defected to computer software, I don’t recall being much of an early reader — a literary debt I seem to have spent the rest of my life repaying. But some of my happiest memories are of being read to — most deliciously by my grandmother. I remember her reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to me, long before I was able to appreciate the allegorical genius of this story written by a brilliant logician.

 

 

My grandmother, an engineer herself, had and still has an enormous library of classical literature, twentieth-century novels, and — my favorite as a child — various encyclopedias and atlases. But it wasn’t until I was older, when she told me about her father, that I came to understand the role of books in her life — not as mere intellectual decoration, but as a vital life force, as “meat and medicine and flame and flight and flower,” in the words of the poet Gwendolyn Brooks.

My great-grandfather had been an astronomer and a mathematician who, in the thick of Bulgaria’s communist dictatorship, taught himself English by hacking into the suppressed frequency of the BBC World Service and reading smuggled copies of The Catcher in the Rye, Little Women, The Grapes of Wrath, and a whole lot of Dickens and Hemingway. This middle-aged rebel would underline words in red ink, then write their Bulgarian translations or English synonyms in the margins. By the time he was fifty, he had become fluent. When his nine grandchildren were entrusted to his care, he set about passing on his insurgent legacy by teaching them English. When the kids grew hungry during their afternoon walks in the park, he wouldn’t hand out the sandwiches until they were able to ask in proper Queen’s English.

 

 

Continue reading

Onward and Upward! A Constructivist Approach to Physics with Young Children

“What is desired is that the teacher cease being a lecturer, satisfied with the transmitting ready-made solutions. [Their] role should rather be that of a mentor stimulating initiative and research.”
~ Jean Piaget, To Understand is To Invent

“To know an object is to act upon it and to transform it.”
~ Jean Piaget, Science of Education and the Psychology of the Child

 

As a constructivist science teacher, I believe that children “construct” their understanding of the world through the process of creating, testing and refining (the engineering process) with their own ideas about how things work.

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Here is what our young physicists wanted you to know about The Three Billy Goats Gruff:

  • “Some of us designed and build bridges after reading different stories about The Three Billy Goats Gruff. We designed our bridges, had to figure out what went wrong when our idea didn’t work and then build it again.”
  • “Some of us used the Three Billy Goat Puppets and told one of the stories we read. We liked reading the book with Ms. Alicia. We got to say, ‘Who’s that trip-trapping over my bridge,’ by the troll in the story. We got to be the Billy Goats and use our feet to go trip-trap, trip-trap, trip-trap, and cross over the bridge. That was fun.”
  • “We read the Arabic story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff and saw Arabic writing. We learned that you read Arabic the opposite from when you read English. It was cool because we have kids in our school who learn and speak Arabic at home. Like Morocco and Algeria.”

K0/K1/K2: Ramps, Balls and Pathways

Students will study is an inquiry-based, hands-on, science curriculum designed to
offer students with exciting science experiences that extend their natural curiosity with the world and help them learn science skills, exploration and discovery. Students will use new and interesting materials to investigate phenomena and explore physics. They will develop abilities and understandings by observing, questioning, trying out ideas, and making mistakes, and by discussing, analyzing, and communicating their thoughts and discoveries with their peers.

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Here is what our K0/K1 and K2 students had to say about this new unit:

  • “We explored and did magnet challenges.”
  • “Some of use worked on designing ramp challenges.”
  • “Some of us designed ramps that we wanted to make and started building them and drawing them.”
  • “Some of us worked on Lego challenges to build moving robots.”

Grade 1: Air and Weather Investigations

The Air and Weather Curriculum will cover four investigations, each designed to introduce concepts in earth science. The investigations provide opportunities for Young Steam Inventors to explore the natural world by using simple tools to observe and monitor change. Students will continue to develop an interest in Air and weather, experience air as a material that takes up space and can be compressed into smaller space. They will observe the force of air pressure pushing objects and materials, compare how moving air interacts with objects, and  become familiar with instruments used by meteorologists to monitor air and weather conditions. They will organize and communicate their thinking through drawing and writing while acquiring and expanding their vocabulary associated with properties of air and weather conditions. Students will use what they already have learned and what they observed in the course of figuring out how things work to draw conclusions about air and weather.

Young SPACE Inventors

March was National Women’s Month. In the Science Makerspace, we spent time celebrating the inventions and achievements of women from all around the world. We particularly discussed female astronauts and the moon walk that was canceled.

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Here is what our Young Space Inventors want you to know about the last week of National Women’s Month:

  • “We girls worked with GoldieBlox materials to design and build our own ideas. We had to first try one of her ideas by thinking like architects, engineers and builders. We designed and built cars, flowers and other cool stuff.”
  • “We learned about the first women who were suppose to do a moon walk that got canceled. We were mad because we wanted all week and they didn’t have a size to fit one of the woman astronauts. That’s not fair or equal.”
  • Says one male student:  “Yeah! I agree about the women astronauts. They had suits to fit the guys but not the girls. That’s just not right!Thats not equal.”
  • “Ms. Alicia had a space center where we could learn about the space station, astronauts and what they do and eat in space. When they brush their teeth they have to swallow this special astronaut tooth paste.”
  • “They sleep upside down sometimes in space, and they exercise and talk on the phone.” “They get energy from the sun and the solar panels to use inside the space station.”
  • “We read space stories and we got to draw about what we read, or make space books if we wanted to.”
  • “Some of us started working on a space station in the block area, and some of us started building a space station out of Legos.”
  • “We learned about four famous scientist that helped us get to space. They are so special that Lego made Lego people after them. That’s cool.”

The Learning Continues: Exploring Paper and Wood Through Japanese Origami

“I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.” 

~ Confucius, Chinese philosopher

Just like the last post I made, our Young STEAM Inventors wanted to share what they have been thinking and learning for the curriculum unit on Paper and Wood. We have been studying and creating Japanese origami, the art of paper folding. The following quotes are in their own words:

Young STEAM Inventor Wondering #1

“We learned about different types of paper and did experiments with Ms. Alicia. We tried to write on different types of paper:  we learned about origami paper, and that it’s a Japanese word that means “folding paper”. We learned that origami paper came here from Japan. We learned where Japan is on our map and read books about Japan.

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Origami can exist in cake form, too!

Young STEAM Inventor Wondering #2

“We learned that Bonsai trees mean little tree in Japan and that they don’t grow that tall. We did a lot of part experiments and then got to design and create our own paper sculptures. That was fun!  We are engineers and artists like Frank Lloyd Wright, but kids have better ideas.”

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Young STEAM Inventor Wondering #3

“We read books about STEM girls, too. This month is to celebrate strong girls and Women’s month around the world.”

For beautiful posters to download, print out and hang up around your classroom, your school, or on your fridge, check out the “Women You Should Know” website!

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