Category Archives: Uncategorized

Social Emotional Learning & NSCS SAFE Groups

Written by Pam Heintz, Head of School

The COVID pandemic has brought to light some interesting things. For example, we have learned that you can never have too much toilet paper in your linen closet, it is difficult to understand someone while they are wearing a mask, and we all measure 6-feet differently.  Regardless of the COVID takeaways we will all be left with when we are on the other side of this pandemic, one thing is for sure, school-aged children have been emotionally affected by COVID.  It has infiltrated their world, and for many of them, they have needed a safe place to process the many implications of this virus, as well as the social and political climate we currently find ourselves in at this juncture in history.  NSCS was able to respond to this need by providing a safe place for our students.

We are thrilled that we were able to accelerate the launch of a new program at NSCS, as we responded to the need to provide Social and Emotional support to our students, and NSCS was able to open our doors in September with 100% in-person learning and our new SAFE Groups!

What is SAFE Group?  SAFE stands for Students and Faculty Engaging.  Twice a week our Middle School faculty team and their students hop off the academic track.  Gathering in small breakaway groups, our faculty provides a safe space and critical time to engage students around social and emotional issues.  Research supports the fact that students must have SEL (Social Emotional Learning) opportunities that are authentic and leave room for students to ask questions and wrestle with important, and often difficult, ideas, concepts, and experiences in a safe space.  Especially now, during a pandemic and post-pandemic, students will need time to process and purposefully engage in community building efforts that support emotional well-being.

Research indicates that providing these intentional times for students will aid in increasing student learning by 11%, and will make for stronger communities.  NSCS is thrilled to be on the cutting edge of this type of critical learning and student engagement.  Our Deans of Students take very seriously their responsibility of providing the structure and oversight to these important groups, as well as being available to students as they provide emotional support.

SAFE Groups seek to foster Five Key Areas of important development for middle school-aged students; Self Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, & Responsible Decision-making Skills.  In keeping with our school Mission and our Four Pillars of Distinction, our SAFE Groups are facilitated through the lens of a Biblical World View, helping to shape confident, well-rounded, & faith-grounded children!

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/why-sel-essential-for-students-weissberg-durlak-domitrovich-gullotta

Letter From HOS to begin Black History Month

Dear Families,

February 1 marks the beginning of a special month. Black History month is a very important month. It provides an opportunity for our country to reflect upon the past contributions of many, many outstanding Black individuals.  Men and women who blazed uncharted territory in the hopes of creating a pathway for others to follow…a path that would be smoother, and perhaps contain less obstacles, and this fight continues on today.  You can read more about Black History Month by clicking on the link.

Recently, Ms. MacDavitt, our Dean of Students and Middle School Team Leader on our Beverly Campus, asked her students to write an essay responding to one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quotes.  I was very impressed when I read a few of the students’ responses, so much so I have included excerpts from Daniel Gardner’s essay (grade 6).  This is exactly the type of deep thinking we want our students at NSCS to engage in.  We want our students to be aware of their history…a history that includes many diverse people, and how God might be calling them to respond in the present. Daniel based his essay on the MLK quotefollowing quote by Dr. King, Jr.; Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.  Dr. King, Jr. had a faith steeped in the tenets of the Christian faith, and while Dr. King, Jr. exposed light on the travesties of what was happening in our country in regards to racial inequality, it was King’s faith that also was exposed, reminding us time and time again, that we fight battles without a guarantee of the outcome or where it will take us, but by faith we respond.  Here are some of Daniel’s reflections;

“We also need to trust in God during this time of hardship and struggle (COVID).  We may not know when we get not to wear masks or go into public indoor spaces or feel like it was like before (COVID), but we can however, hold it in God’s hands…we may be discouraged or uneasy at times…but, He is our everlasting Lord and Savior who is always on the throne, who we can give our worries to and lean on…This (quote) reminds me that through all circumstances, big or small, we can say with confidence that our Lord and Savior will be there every step of the way.  Who gives us faith in our hearts so that we can take the first step.  Though the staircase may be foggy, I am thankful that we have a God who we can always, always put our trust in.”

Hearing a student express these sentiments is heartwarming, and encouraging.  To think that we have students who recognize that life will hold hard battles, but by faith we are called to participate nonetheless. We have indeed been called to commit to fighting battles for the good of others, and for the hope of a better world.  We can fight the battles that come our way by taking the first step, without seeing the whole staircase, because we have the help of a good and faithful God.  May this generation of children be the ones to fight bold battles in the name of God.

Blessings,

Pam Heintz, Head of School

Music blog pic

Adapting Music Education to a Pandemic

By Darby Martin, Music Teacher on Lynn & Beverly Campuses

No singing, no sharing instruments, no cross-classroom movement, no touching, stay six feet apart, masks on. Seems like a recipe for a very boring and unproductive music class…but not necessarily! Music educators all over the world have been thinking of new and exciting ideas to keep music class fun, but also safe amidst a pandemic. This year at NSCS, I’ve tried my best to incorporate some of those lessons. Here are a few that I’ve tried this year that the students have loved!

Instead of singing this trimester, we are learning American Sign Language signs to the worship song “What a Beautiful Name” by Bethel Music. Students in grades K-5 on Lynn campus and K-4 on Beverly campus will be learning the signs and I will be recording some of them performing. This is a safe way to have students participate in music making without singing. Last trimester before Christmas break, the students had the option of participating in a virtual choir experience for the virtual Christmas concert. Several Concert picstudents submitted a video of themselves singing “Silent Night”, and I edited together the different videos to make a choir. It was amazing and enriched the students experience. Students in middle school learned various Christmas tunes on Tone Chimes and performed those in the concert as well. Though perhaps not apparent at first glance, there are so many options for students to learn music without singing and maintaining social distancing!

In February and March, 1st – 4th graders will be learning about instruments of the orchestra in various capacities. 1st and 2nd graders will be studying Camille Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals as well as Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. In these units students will analyze how each instrument represents a different animal or concept, based on the timbre of the instrument (or group of instruments). For example, the Wolf is played by “three mean French horns”. 3rd – 5th grade on Lynn campus and 3rd and 4th grade on Beverly campus will be studying instruments of the orchestra through interactive videos, research and even seeing some live orchestra instruments (they will not be shared, however).

Also, in February and March, 7th and 8th graders will be studying film music as well as music by Black composers to celebrate Black History Month. In addition, middle schoolers will be learning Bucket Drumming (drumming on buckets with drumsticks) and recording a mini performance later this spring.

Pre-K and Kindergarten students have been and will be working on movement-based learning, performing movements to classical music, and practicing dynamics (soft and loud) and tempo (fast and slow).

These are just a few of the musical activities the students at NSCS have been working on this year and will continue to explore and discover the rest of the 2020-2021 school year. I am so excited to share more videos and pictures of their hard work and determination in the future. Each day the children are proving that even during a pandemic, music class is fun!

 

 

Christmas Musings

by Kathy Ely, Assistant Principal and Kindergarten Teacher

I love this time of year for many reasons. One of the most important reasons is that I get to teach my Kindergarten students the story of Christmas. I always begin with Zechariah the priest. It is in this context that we first see heaven breaking through to earth in the appearance of the angel Gabriel. He was sent from the throne of God to bring a message of hope and joy to Zechariah. Not only was the content of this message for Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, but it was also for the nation of Israel who had been waiting for the Messiah to come for hundreds of years. The message was that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth would have their prayers answered and that Elizabeth would give birth to a son. This son would grow up to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. Zechariah’s response was “How can this be, since I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years?” Gabriel instantly rebukes Zechariah for his lack of faith and pronounces judgment on him declaring that he would be mute until the baby is born. 

We next see Gabriel appear to Mary in her house in Nazareth. The same angel appears to her and announces that she will give birth to a Son and He will be the Savior of the world! Mary’s response to this was to basically ask the same question but for a different reason, “How can this be?” I used to wonder why Zechariah incurred judgment and Mary did not. Didn’t they ask the same question? I decided to look at it more closely.

 Zechariah’s posture was “This can’t happen. I am too old and so is my wife. This can’t be true. It’s impossible.” Zechariah wanted to be sure this word was from God. He doubted the angel’s message. He promptly received a rebuke from Gabriel for his unbelief and then a consequence. Mary, on the other hand, didn’t doubt the angel’s word to her, she simply wanted to know how God would do this thing since she was a virgin not if He could do it. Gabriel’s response to her was, “With God, nothing shall be impossible.”

One person approached their situation with faith and one with doubt and unbelief. Even though Zechariah was a priest and ministered before the Lord, he did not believe the Lord. Mary was full of grace. Grace embraces faith because we cannot receive anything from God unless He gives us the grace to do so. It is the Law versus grace.

Where are you today in your relationship with the Lord as the day hastens to celebrate His coming into this world? Do you approach Him with doubt and unbelief or do you walk in the grace that He has lavished on us?  He is still full of grace and truth. Come to Him with a humble heart and receive His grace anew! Perhaps you will see impossible things happen in your life!

 

Back To School Parent Communication

August 28, 2020

Dear Families,

We are excited to be standing on the threshold of another school year!  As we scrub our campuses, mark the floors for appropriate social distancing, and streamline our At-Home Learning efforts, all of us here at NSCS can emphatically say, “We can’t wait for school!”

School provides a healthy rhythm in the week for both children and parents.  It sets the tone for what needs to be accomplished in a day.  Patterns, routines, and expectations are among the healthiest things we can provide our children.  It builds confidence and sets the mind at ease to know that life is somewhat normal and predictable.  And so, whether your child will be joining us from their living room, or from the classroom, we believe that God has called each family who has enrolled their child at North Shore Christian School, and we celebrate every family, be it our returning families or new ones.  All are welcome!

As we prepare to open our school doors, please take time to read through this letter that contains important information, as well as the additional information that can be found by accessing the link below. This link contains  information that you will need for the start of the school year, such as Dress Code Policies, Drop-off/pick-up Procedures, PE T-shirt form and Supply  lists. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1yobhch7tt0HAKMnKdzVTMPTvwzdnUk88?usp=sharing

If you have not completed the required Risk Waiver form you may access it by using the following link. https://forms.gle/iwWWukXuX9hY7rEs6

NSCS builds its annual plans, programming, and budget primarily around our enrollment numbers.  We are a tuition-driven school.  That means your commitment is vital to the excellent work that takes place here.  With that said, we did relax our deposit policy for a brief period of time this summer while many families sought to figure out their school plans for the fall.  Our policy clearly indicates that deposits are non-refundable and that enrollment contracts are in full force for the entire school year after July 1st.  Due to the uncertainties of COVID, we extended this deadline to September 1st, so that families who had re-enrolled or recently enrolled could have additional time to solidify their plans for the fall.

What does all this mean?  Come September 1, 2020 your deposit will be non-refundable and you will be obliged to pay the remainder of your child’s tuition for the Academic Year 2020/21*.  We know that COVID-19 makes it extremely difficult to make plans with any measure of guarantee.  With that said, NSCS has committed to the education of your child this year, be it in the classroom or at home, and we have made staffing decisions based upon your child’s enrollment and we are excited to set this partnership in motion during the first week of school beginning on September 21, 2020.  Should you need support around enrollment please reach out to Christine Saia at csaia@nschristian.org.

As way of reminder regarding the use of masks while at school, all students in grades 1 though 8 will be required to wear a mask.  Students in grades Preschool through Kindergarten may wear a mask if you so choose.  We will fully support your decision either way.  All of our faculty and staff will be required to wear masks, as will any adult who enters our buildings.

Students wearing masks must wear either a 3-ply disposable masks, or a fabric mask that is at least two layers.  Reusable masks must be washed daily.  There will be ample mask breaks, and as we safely social distances outside and engage in learning there will be even greater opportunity for mask breaks.

Our Parent Teacher Fellowship (PTF) will be selling both child and adult-sized masks with the school logo on them, and we are excited to make these available for purchase in the coming weeks.  Be on the lookout for more information!

Additionally, Mrs. Lowe, our Lead Principal, will be working with our teachers to provide a time prior to the first day of school, for you and your child to visit and see some of the creative ways we are preparing for a school year that includes the reality of COVID.  Our teachers have gotten pretty creative!  I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised by the ways in which they have sought to keep the classrooms kid friendly, while respecting the Virus. Be on lookout!

Finally, for some of our families the attached Student Supply List may be a new concept.  This year we have made the decision that all students, grades Preschool through 8 will bring in their own student supplies, so that we can limit cross contamination by not having general student supplies in the classroom.  NSCS will be supplying the pencil boxes for each grade, so that school supplies can be easily labeled, stored, and washed and our middle school students can easily tote their supplies from classroom to classroom.  A portion of your child’s Annual Student Fee this year will be used to help alleviate the expense of additional PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

As we each wind down our summer, might I just say what a joy it has been to be back on our three campuses.  Our faculty and staff are eager…very eager to see your children.  As we have been praying for all our families and our efforts here at school, please continue to pray along with us that God will bless the work of our hands as we continue preparing to receive your children for an exciting year of learning and growing together!

With Love and Thanksgiving,

Pam Heintz, Head of School

 

* Should an extended school closure be mandated due to COVID-19, and NSCS is required to move toward an At-Home Learning model temporarily, special accommodations in regards to the enrollment agreement will be given to those families enrolled in our Early Childhood Education program.

March 12, 2020 COVID-19 Letter from HOS

Dear NSCS Families,

I want to keep you all apprised of recent decisions and considerations that have been made by the Board and Administration.  Please keep in mind that the COVID-19 pandemic is dynamic, and things can change hour-to-hour, so please check your email frequently for updates.

As of Thursday evening, March 12th, all three of our campuses will remain open tomorrow, March 13th.  Tomorrow the administration, along with Board approval, will make a decision as to future school closings, and we will inform families either by Friday night or Saturday morning of our decision via email.

With that said, teachers will be sending school-work home tomorrow with students in grades K through 8.  This work will be enough for about two-weeks.  NO DECSION has been made yet about a school closure, however, should one be made over the weekend we want to be prepared.  Additionally, any parent/guardian who desires to keep their child/ren home from school tomorrow, or at any time during the pandemic, may do so without having the absence recorded on their child/ren’s school records.  All absences will be considered excused.

As always, please never hesitate to reach out to me at pheintz@nschristian.org with any questions or concerns you might have.  We are all committed to working through this together as we mutually support each other’s efforts.  This is a difficult time for all of us we navigate a situation that has no script.  However, we move forward trusting that God is in control.

Below is a letter that I had written to all our families this morning, with the intention of emailing it out by noon today, but my day ended up holding many distractions and conversations around this pandemic.  I have decided to send it out anyhow hoping that it will prove to be a source of encouragement to you.

With Blessings,

Pam Heintz, Head of School

——————————————————————–

Letter to Families- March 12, 2020

Dear Families,

I was driving to school today and feeling a bit scared.  There, I’ve admitted it.  I was feeling scared, insecure and uncertain.  I was tired of turning on the radio or TV and hearing about the Corona Virus and its far-reaching effects, its unknowns, and the chaos it seems to evoke.  I was feeling like the whole world had gone mad!

As is my routine to pray during my commute to work, I said a quick token prayer out of obligation.  I asked God to bless and protect my family, our school, and the country, and then I said, amen.  Following this prayer, I immediately turned the radio on to hear the news, and learn about what might have changed in the past three minutes since I last tuned in.   As I listened my mind traveled to all the what-ifs.  Letting one’s mind travel to the what-ifs is always a dangerous place to go.

I arrived to our Beverly Campus and Chapel soon started. I really wasn’t up for Chapel today.  Please don’t judge meJ  It was simply that my head was filled with other thoughts and distractions.  I was self-focused thinking about how I needed to manage things at school and at home in the midst of a pandemic.  As I walked into Chapel my spirit immediately soared. Our Student Worship Team was already singing, and what a melodious sound it was!  I took my place and stood in a pew with some older students, and was swept up in the moment of being present before the Lord.  As I looked around the room, I saw students worshipping a mighty God.  I witness children unabashedly singing out in confidence to their Savior.  Teary-eyed I asked God to forgive me for being so fearful and to fill me with His peace which passes all understanding.  I asked God to take my feet and plant them securely upon the rock, that is His Son Jesus.  I asked God to allow me to be a witness to those around, and especially during this time.

As I left Chapel, I felt uplifted and ready to face life’s challenges.  I soon stepped into a meeting with Christine Saia, our Director of Admissions.  We made small talk, which included a brief conversation about the Corona Virus, as every conversation these past several days has.  Mrs. Saia shared with me that while she was praying with her own children this morning, who had questions and concerns about the pandemic, the Holy Spirit spoke to her heart.   Mrs. Saia was able to share the most insightful and wonderful message with her children. She explained to them that the word corona is a Latin word meaning crown.  Mrs. Saia proceeded to tell her children that only our God wears a crown worthy enough for the King of kings.   She expressed that only our King has control over all things.

It is our crown-wearing King that holds all the whole world in the palm his hands, including the Corona Virus.  God knows all things and there is not one tiny microscopic germ that he does not have full authority over.  We can trust God with this pandemic and with all things.  He is a Faithful God.

I want to encourage you to remain calm and hopeful as we trust God to help us ride out this storm.  We have a tremendous opportunity to respond differently than the world.  We can respond with peace, and offer reassuring words to those around us, particularly to our children and students.

I was reminded today, that our students, even the younger ones, sense that something is amiss.  They are feeling the strain of what is going on right now in our world, and unlike adults, they have not fully grown into the capacity to layer what they hear with reason and logic.  As the adults in their lives we must be the voice of reason.  Some healthy behaviors that we can adopt at home, and around our children would be to limit the amount of news that children have access to.  While it is good for them to be aware of what is going on in the world, the content of information needs to be age-appropriate and monitored.  It is also good to connect regularly with your child/ren and asking them if they have specific concerns about the Corona Virus.  Consider making a family contingency plan in case there is a prolonged school closure, and reassure your child/ren that if you still have to go to work that they will be well-cared for by someone else during the day.  Remind your child/ren that they are safe at home and at school, because the adults at these places are doing all they can to make sure these environments are kept clean and safe.  Be sure that your child/ren receive plenty of sleep and maintain a healthy diet – these are good practices for healthy living!  Above all, spend time with your child/ren doing “normal” everyday things like, baking cookies, playing games, doing chores around the house, or reading a good book together.  Life must go on in spite of this pandemic and our children need to see the adults around them still engaging in every day affairs.

I have attached the lyrics to a song that our Student Worship Team sang today, and I encourage you to listen to it when you have the opportunity.  It is a powerful reminder that there is victory in Jesus!

With Love,

Pam Heintz, Head of School

See a Victory, Elevation Music

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNd-PbVhnvA

The weapon may be formed, but it won’t prosper
When the darkness falls, it won’t prevail
‘Cause the God I serve knows only how to triumph
My God will never fail
Oh, my God will never fail

I’m gonna see a victory
I’m gonna see a victory
For the battle belongs to You, Lord
I’m gonna see a victory
I’m gonna see a victory
For the battle belongs to You, Lord (oh yeah)

There’s power in the mighty name of Jesus
Every war He wages He will win
I’m not backing down from any giant
‘Cause I know how this story ends
Yes, I know how this story ends

I’m gonna see a victory
I’m gonna see a victory
For the battle belongs to You, Lord
I’m gonna see a victory
I’m gonna see a victory
For the battle belongs to You, Lord
I’m gonna see a victory
I’m gonna see a victory
For the battle…

 

March 11, 2020 COVID-19 Letter from HOS

Dear Families,
I wanted to provide an update for you all, and will do so periodically so that you will remain informed as to the measures NSCS is taking to ensure the continued safety and well-being of your children.

Our amazing faculty has committed themselves to faithfully disinfecting the hard surfaces of their classrooms each afternoon. Our custodial staff has also provided extra measures of cleaning and disinfecting to all our buildings. Teachers are also being vigilant about reminding students to cover their mouths and noses when they sneeze, with either a tissue or the crook of their arm, and then washing their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds. They are also providing ample opportunities for hand washing and/or usage of hand sanitizer throughout the school day.

Additionally, I have been in close communications with our Deans who are working closely with the faculty to ensure that an Academic Plan will be ready to execute should we encounter a prolonged school closing (week or more). This plan will be dynamic, and teachers have already begun to engage the process.

NSCS would like to encourage Parent support in these specific ways;

  1. Please do NOT send your child to school if they have a cough or runny nose. We want toremain extra vigilant during this especially difficult flu and virus season.
  1. Please do NOT send your child to school if they have been symptomatic with flu-likesymptoms, vomiting, or fever in the past 24 hours – they MUST be symptom free for at least24 hours before returning to school.
  1. If you feel lead to purchase hand sanitizer, tissues, rubber gloves, face masks, or hand soap that has disinfectant properties we would welcome these donations as we work to secure that we have an ample supply on hand at all times.
  1. If you have traveled within the US or abroad, please check with the Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention to view information regarding travel bans and updates, precautions, and actions needed should you or family have traveled to areas that are consider at risk. You can find this information on their website at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices.
  1. Please continue pray for this global and dynamic situation. In times like this we have the blessed opportunity to interceded through prayer and press into Jesus. He is faithful all the time.

As is always the case, I am available should you have questions, concerns, or suggestions.

To God Be the Glory,

Pam Heintz, Head of School

 

History Fair

An Evening of Remaking History

By Liz MacDavitt, 3rd/4th grade teacher

On February 10, 2020 NSCS Beverly celebrated our students’ hard work at the History Fair. It was quite the celebration of what students have been learning this year, with projects representing “The History of Me” (K), “Famous Americans” (1/2), “Fifty Nifty States Parade of Floats” (3/4), “The Civil War” (5/6), and “Unsung Heroes of the American Revolution” (7). Students in all grades worked so hard to produce high quality projects and focused their in-class efforts on strong presentation skills. Parents, extended relatives, and friends enjoyed visiting each class’s displays and revelled in hearing from excited students. The following day, each class visited other classrooms to view each project. This year’s History Fair was a great success!

In 3rd & 4th grade, projects like the “Fifty Nifty States Parade of Floats” allow students to dig deeper into topics studied in class. Students have the freedom to learn more about people, places, and events in history while representing their newfound knowledge in creative and artistic ways. For this project, each student selected one of the 50 states and built a state float to represent important places, natural resources, landmarks, scenic attractions, agriculture, and historical events found in that state. These creative floats were accompanied by a one page essay on their state’s statehood process, or a well-known historical person/event in their state. To add to the fun of this project, students were awarded bonus points for dressing as a famous historical figure or sharing a popular food from their state. All of this hard work and creativity was celebrated the night of the History Fair! Their floats were amazing, eye-catching, unique, colorful, and accurate representations of 25 different states that make up this great country. I was so impressed!

Although projects like this are time consuming and may cause us as teachers to press pause on regularly planned lessons, they are important. Aside from teaching students more about history and their selected topic, this project taught students a great deal about time management as they followed a timeline of due dates, self-starting as they completed the majority of their research outside of the classroom, and that creative, artistic inspirations definitely have a place in the classroom. Some of the steps of this project were new and challenging to some students, but the end results were projects that had been completed carefully and with excellence. As a teacher, I love projects that allow students to display their learning in a variety of creative mediums, and it seems that so many students learn and remember more content when they are given the freedom to create and use their own talents and interests to enhance their schoolwork. This will forever be one of my favorite projects because I can see how seriously students take their research and how much they learn from it as a result. There are older students in this school who had done this project with me in 3rd & 4th grade who still talk about their state float and what they learned! This is a testament to their hard work and to the value of a well-done History Project at NSCS. 

For now, we’re back to regularly planned lessons, which are equally important, but do stay tuned for more creative and exciting projects before this year ends! 

 

Backyard Waterslide Engineering

By Dan Feins, Middle School Science

Engineers ask critical questions about what they want to create, whether it be a skyscraper, amusement park ride, bicycle or smartphone. These questions include: What is the problem to solve? What do we want to design? Who is it for? What do we want to accomplish? What are the project requirements? What are the limitations? What is our goal?

The seventh-grade class at the Beverly campus began an engineering unit in the New Year. After a very brief discussion, the class determined the problem to solve was how can we build a waterslide in our own backyard. Based on previous waterslide experiences, the students’ initial concept was to connect three or four “normal” plastic slides together, support those slides with wooden trusses, and have a long ladder to reach the top. Water would arrive at the top via a series of extension hoses and be deposited at the bottom into a pool.

Practical issues were discussed during the next class. The students were confronted with several issues, most of which involved physics and cost. For example, a person sitting at the top of a waterslide has inertia that they must overcome to start down the slide. Should the water give them a push, or should the person push themselves? Friction needed to be overcome on the way down the slide, and that required more water than could be achieved through a garden hose. And then there was cost. Although no budget had been set at this point, the team knew that money was not going to be unlimited.

Research commenced via Chromebooks. The team determined that a “trash hose” connected to a “trash water pump” would push the water up to the slide and then down the slide with enough pressure to move a person along. Cost comparisons were made in terms of buying or renting the trash water pump. The team leaned in the direction of renting because the waterslide would only be used for certain parts of the year, and even then, on certain days within those parts.

The team took some time to view videos of successful waterslides from around the world and from people’s backyards. The students were struck by one video which showed a backyard waterslide that was built on sloped ground, eliminating the need for plastic slides, a support structure, a ladder, and decreasing the size of trash water pump required. The team was introduced to the most critical aspect of engineering: it is an iterative process, meaning that we repeat the steps as many times as needed, making improvements along the way as we learn from failure and uncover new design possibilities to arrive at great solutions

At the next class meeting the old design was scrapped in favor of one that could be built along the ground and run down a hill. The students drafted up some designs and settled on a waterslide that twists and turns and would run the length of the hill, culminating in a shallow pool at the end. During the next class, with some students out due to illness, one of the students worked on their prototype. After several valiant attempts to construct a twisting and turning waterslide, it became evident that such a construction may not be possible for their prototype, given the materials at hand, and it may in fact be prohibitively difficult for full scale construction as well.

The next couple of classes the students turned their attention to building a linear waterslide. Tests of the waterslide were made using water from a pitcher poured down the slide from the top. The students quickly learned that creating a leak proof waterslide required a lot of work and attention to detail. But having stopped the leaks, the next test involved a scale stand-in model (a Playmobile figure) to start at the top of the slide and move down the slide with the flowing water from the pitcher and end in the shallow pool. Several iterations followed as the figure was stuck at the top of the slide or became stuck as it moved down the slide.

The students persevered until the plastic figure completed a transit of the waterslide on three separate trial runs. Success! But now could this be built in the backyard of one of the students? A site was chosen, and the student brought in pictures of where the waterslide Dan's Blogwas to be lodged. Unfortunately, the nature of the incline and the lighting at the time the photos were taken made it difficult to visualize how the waterslide was going to work in that area. There was also the matter of potential environmental issues if the area was going to be dug up and subjected to inordinary amounts of water and foot traffic. The students and the teacher decided that a trip to the proposed waterslide site was warranted.

The class set off a bright and cold February morning to the house of one the students. There, we were welcomed into the student’s home by her mother who gave us a brief tour, including a visit with the resident velvety soft rabbit and working cat. Once in the backyard, we walked the terrain upon which the student had done some preliminary clearing. This made it easy for us to measure the length of the hill (90 feet) and take some Dan's Blogsoil and leaf samples for analysis after February break. We returned to the house to warm ourselves with some freshly baked cinnamon bread. We said our goodbyes to the bunny, the cat, and mom, and returned to the school.

In the best tradition of engineering, the students now have new questions: will the results of the soil and leaf testing be in favor of construction? How much it will cost to build a 90-foot waterslide? How much water pressure do you need to move a person from the top to the bottom? What happens to all that water in the pool at the end of the waterslide? Will Mom and Dad really want to build a 90-foot waterslide in their backyard? Fortunately for the students, engineering is an iterative process, so a “no” at any of those points does not necessarily mean the project needs to be cancelled, only reimagined.

         

Homework

What’s Homework Got To Do With It?

By Anna Heintz, Mrs. Kim’s PreK TA

To give homework or not to give homework? That is the question. Many school districts across the country are asking this very question, and they are finding that the answer is not that easy! There are many educators who believe that homework fosters responsibility and creates space outside of school for students to extend their learning by being challenged to dive deeper in content areas. While this sounds good, there are many educators who believe that homework only extends the work day for students and creates more problems than it’s worth. 

According to an article dated September 27, 2017, entitled 6 of the Most Engaging Homework Alternatives You’ll Find, (https://www.wabisabilearning.com/blog/6-engaging-homework-alternatives), educators argue that homework is not an either-or problem, but rather there is in fact a third option. In her book Fires in the Mind, Kathleen Cushman Book coverprovides the reader with six characteristics that all homework assignments should contain. Her work is research-based and includes her firsthand interactions with school-aged children.  These characteristics are as follows:

 

  • Purpose—It should have a goal, and not just be busywork.
  • Differentiation—Everyone is at a different level and assigning the same thing to everyone is not helpful.
  • Attention and focus—Doing assignments at home when kids are tired, perhaps from after-school sports or music, is not the best time.
  • Repetition and rehearsal—These are mainstays of sports and music regimens and should be with other subjects.
  • Careful timing/proper scaffolding/sequence—Do not give homework at the very end of a semester “just to get grades in.
  • Deliberate practice—This should be intended to lead to new skills. Don’t grade homework.