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Friday, October 8, 2010

Power Lunches, Mummified Chickens, and Board Meetings

Thankfully, the three subjects of the title for today's Blog do not go together in any way except for appearing this week in my personal schedule at school. I'll explain each of them, starting with lunch.

I've enjoyed the opportunity to have lunch with several different groups of kids in the last ten days. Any of the Heatly learners, from Kindergarten through 12th grade, can sign up to have lunch in my office. All they have to do is stop by the office and request the secretary to examine my calendar and find a convenient time and day. The person who signs up for lunch then picks three other learners who share the same lunch-time to join us.There's limited seating at the table in my office so the lunch group is restricted to four members.

I have lunch each day, why not have it with kids? It's better than eating alone and allows me a chance to get to know the learners better. We usually begin with different questions designed to serve as dialogue starters. These might include - "What do you want to be when you grow up?" "If you could be any character in any book you've read, who would you choose to be?, and why?" "Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world?, and why?" The answers generally lead to conversations in which all find out more about each other. After the foods gone, I perform a few magic tricks and then it's time for the kids to return to their classroom.

I've also been out of the office, walking the hallways, particularly during class changes in the high school, and looking for opportunities to meet and greet our learners. I've also stopped in and visited classes. I was invited to a class recently that has been studying Egypt. One of the activities they experienced in an effort to learn about the ancient civilization was the Egyptian practice of mummification. To gain a better understanding of how the Egyptians engaged in the practice (they had already studied the culture and customs of the Egyptians), the class was divided up into groups. Each group was given a whole chicken (4-5 pounds), plastic gloves, a large baggie, salt, and (I believe) baking powder. They cleaned out the chicken, dried it off, patted it down with rubbing alcohol, and then filled its body cavity with salt. Next, they poured baking powder into the baggie to complete the process. They will be examining the chickens at regular intervals of time to check on the effectiveness of their work.

During this group project, the learners demonstrated cooperation, communicated with one another, followed directions in appropriate sequence, assumed varied work roles, and engaged in problem solving. These are all characteristics and skills that transfer to many other learning opportunities. Group projects such as these assume a more realistic work environment than the traditional classroom where learners worked independently as individuals ("Keep your eyes on your own paper, and work quietly!"). A growing number of companies involve employees in dynamic, interactive, skill oriented work groups which produce a synergy that extends performance levels beyond the stretch on one worker. It was an exciting and interesting class experience.

Last night's Board of Education meeting featured several different contributions from Heatly learners (and one Green Island resident who now attends Tech Valley High School, a regional "magnet" school centered on technology). The Tech Valley learner shared a power point presentation with accompanying narrative of a recent school trip to China. It was informative and entertaining. Two members of our Senior class made an appeal to the Board for approval of a senior outing to New York City. The itinerary was comprehensive and revealed a great deal of preparation. Their sales pitch was effective and subsequently received confirmation from the Board. Two of our Juniors provided updated information on the activities and future plans for the Student Council (including: collecting slightly worn Halloween costumes to redistribute to those in need, a campaign to add books to our library, and a trip to a high ropes course as a team building exercise). The same two Juniors offered input into a recent District Leadership Team goal setting session (they are learner representatives to the committee that also has parent and staff representation as well). One of the Juniors also described his initial experience as an intern with the Albany County legislature, All together, the Board meeting reflected the various activities offered in the school and the participation levels of our learners. It was a meeting that reaffirmed our district's interests and goals. It was a very positive experience.

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