Open letter to my co-teachers today

I felt the need to hold my own private pep rally as we prepare for another year at the Home of the Otters…I’ve just made the switch at my school to full-time S.T.E.A.M. coordinator (that means, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math for those who think I’ve just managed to get a day spa doing in the school…not a bad idea though…ask any teacher!) and I feel like a kid myself getting ready to start a new school.  Totally excited and terrified at the same time: what if it doesn’t work? What if the kids don’t like me or think I’m boring? What if the other teachers think I’m stupid?  EEEKKKK!!!!  Now what?  We’ve even got 4 out of 6 classes starting off the year with new teachers! We could teach the current US administration a few things about “Hope and Change”!  So as you head back to the classroom, or prepare to send your youngun’s back to school, enjoy this little peek into what went through my heavily caffeinated brain this evening. (names changed to initials to protect my co-workers from embarrassment) Image


Right, it just wouldn’t be “Back to School” time without your resident nerd bombarding you with “stuff”  🙂  But this topic is just me sharing what I can see “down the road a piece” as we prepare for an exciting NEW school year (see what I did there?!)  I mean seriously? How much more “NEW” can we get? Four NEW grade level teachers, a NEW music program, a NEW art space, a NEW lab space for collaboration and exploration, a NEW approach to ACE, a NEW science program…I could go on and on, but I’ll rein it in a bit.

I’m sure you’re all dying to know just what I’ve got up my sleeve with all the rearranging and sorting and such going on the in the lab.  You know what?  I’m dying to find out too!  No, this doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about (okay, obsessed about) how to make this the best experience possible for everyone.  I have.  Trust me.  But you know what I realized as I read more blogs, books, articles and Tweet-ups (look it up…it’s really cool) than even my geeky self wants to admit, I knew this couldn’t be “Dell’s baby”…this has to be OUR journey.  Okay, perhaps I was gifted (thanks Dad), with more than my fair share of “Dude! What would happen if we do THIS?!”, but I want to know….strike that….I NEED to know how I can help YOU make your day to day teaching more exciting, more engaging, more…just MORE what you want it to be!
So, what on earth does this crazy chick who lives in the lab, guzzles coffee by the gallon, and frankly, would be happy teaching classes all day with a bucket of junk from a recycle bin, a chest full of tools, and a lesson plan that read simply “What can we learn from THIS?”  want from ya’ll?  Simple really…it’s a REALLY short list….ready?
1. Your topics for the next couple of weeks at a time.  No, not your lesson plans, but your general topics and themes for all subjects.  T has a GREAT system she used to communicate with Title 1 and me last year in tech.  So simple, but perfect.  Bribe her with chocolate.  I bet she’ll share 🙂
2. Share #1 with me, A., G…..believe it or not, we talk and like to swap ideas for how to support each other and tie lessons together.  Might not work all the time, but when it does…WOW!!!  Case in point…think about the 4th grade trout project.  We made art, related to trout habitats, that got turned into a quilt…a REAL piece of quilt art!  It will be shared soon 🙂
3. Send ME cool ideas, clips from Pintrest, Facebook, whatever ya got, I want to see it!!
4. Indulge me a bit…I raised by an engineer for a dad and an incredibly patient saint of a mom who managed to side step all manner of projects, models, piles of books, animals….so I’m a bit “weird”…but in a “Let’s see what happens if we do this—what do YOU think will happen if—I’m not going to tell you the answer, YOU come up with a solution and see if it works” kind of way.  If you will all make me these promises, in return, I will promise you…..
Our students will be:
– Problem-solvers
– Innovative thinkers
– Communicating experts
– Productive team members
– Multiple idea-producing whizzes
– Confident decision-makers
I can’t think of any greater measure of our success as teachers, than to have students graduate St. Andrew’s, with THOSE skills!  WE can make that happen!
End of pep rally…see you Wednesday 🙂

Siemens We Can Change The World Challenge

UPDATE!!!!  As of May 14th, our SAS Fab 4ths are National Finalists/State winner for VA in the 3rd through 5th grade division!  WOOHOO!!!!  Check back on May 30th to see if we won 1st-3rd place!  So proud of these kids!!


Siemens We Can Change The World Challenge.

Playing around a bit on Twitter today, I ran across a contest for schools that caught my eye, the Siemens, We Can Change the World Challenge.  Always being up for a bit of a challenge, I figured I would take a look…anything that might be an engaging project for my students and help them work on team building is ALWAYS of interest to me!

I was really excited to learn that the theme for this challenge is sustainable projects, research based, that the students investigate, execute, and report.  The theme in particular is of extreme interest to those of us at St. Andrew’s School, environmental conservation/sustainability.  See, our building, I’m fairly certain, could have served as the model for Hogwart’s in the Harry Potter franchise…3 floors plus basement/maze plus rooms tucked away in odd spots and stairways that appear around corners.  Then there’s the attic…still haven’t ventured up there yet.  We have massive glass skylights, enormous heavy wooden doors…the school is absolutely beautiful and full of more charm than you can possibly imagine!

We’ve already started a few programs within the school to help reduce our impact on the surrounding community such as recycling (although the company that picks up and pays us only wants white paper…that’s it…nothing else), and we have a new lunch program (prior to this year, students were required to bring their own lunches) that includes freshly prepared, healthy lunches (Jamie Oliver would be so proud!).  We serve lunch on plastic, reusable trays with real utensils and plastic cups.  The only things “disposable” from lunch are the napkins, uneaten food, and the trash from the children who elect to bring their own lunches.  Hummmm…..

This got me to thinking, how much trash do we generate still that could be reduced even further?  What if we had a better company/resource to pick up recycled items? How about if, like the school my daughter attended when we lived in Nashville for a year, any lunches brought from home had to be packaged in reusable containers with real napkins…nothing could be disposable? And finally, what if we were able to create a system for composting food waste in the dining hall, rather than disposing of all of it? After all, our school does have a beautiful garden plot in the middle of the city, right next door, that could certainly make use of compost.  Heck, we could even perhaps start our own worm farm from the compost!

So, I’ve registered my 16 4th graders for this challenge and will present the contest to them Monday morning.  Only wish I had found this sooner since we will obviously have to come up with a project quickly that can be  started and completed (for the most part) by the March 15th deadline.