Tag Archives: 21st century skills

Abby’s Corner – Community, 21st Century Skills, and Parent Resources

Building Community
Well, it only took three years but finally Team Tapscott scored a win at the annual Panther Picnic Tapscott vs. Avis race! It certainly helped that I had the support of some of the Tapscott team, as Rachel and Luis helped bring it home for us! It was once again a super fun time, even for our fearless lead racer Rachel who went head first into the ramp, got up within seconds, and was back on her tricycle in no time. As I told the students, it was a perfect example of what we tell students all the time, which is that we all make mistakes and we have to learn to get up, brush ourselves off, and keep going!

As always, Heather and I were looking ridiculous, and I love that our community embraces this. For me, it speaks to our mission and how authenticity is so important in building community. We have to be real, and this includes sharing in moments of laughter together! Thanks for all of the encouragement. Panther Picnic is always such an incredible event. Thank you to everyone who helped make this year’s event a success.

A Peek into Program
Our 21st Century Learning Framework continues to guide our program and the learning experiences students have daily. Our goal to teach the skills students need to build a better world begins with having empathy, and this is developmentally both a natural thing for young children to feel and yet also quite challenging to practice in real time! Having empathy requires moving beyond your own perspective and making room for other opinions, suggestions, or ways of doing something. This is not easy work for adults, let alone elementary aged students, and yet we try to help them practice so that they gain comfort and familiarity when they realize they can incorporate another’s ideas with their own and land on an idea or end result that is even stronger than what they might produce working on their own.

At Tapscott, we work on building empathy by giving students daily experiences working with others – in partners and in small groups. These learning experiences provide opportunities to build 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, innovation/creation, and self-knowledge. Below are some examples of our students hard at work this fall. Their joy, engagement, and focus is truly impressive and inspiring to me!

Third graders show their excitement as they work through a project together in science class.

Fourth graders are incredibly focused as they record ideas during group work in class.

First graders doing partner investigative work in our garden.

Helpful Parent Resources
I’ve appreciated the honest dialogue I’ve had with many parents as hateful events have unfolded recently in our country. It is concerning, upsetting, and hard to know what to say to your young child in these moments. Ultimately, we want our kids to be caring, empathetic, accepting humans who love rather than hate. As a school, we want our community to embrace difference as a positive. I wanted to pass along a great resource provided by our new Tapscott counselor, Sophia Genone. We have always shared the messages with students and families that all are welcome here, and that everyone is encouraged to be who they are every day. My hope is that we continue to work at home and school to reinforce these messages. Below is Sophia’s resource, and I appreciate the way it breaks up tips by developmental stage. Teaching Tolerance is one of my go-to resources as both a parent and an educator.

Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice

Checking In at School Events
In order to build community and make sure that everyone on campus is connected to a student, we’re going to begin having parents, guardians, family members, and friends sign in and put on a name tag when visiting campus for a school or class event, such as a grade level play, Halloween, or PSPA hosted coffee. Please set aside some extra time when you arrive on campus to sign in and put on a name tag. Thank you!

Worth Reading
My daughter read Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson in fourth grade and I just finished reading it this year. For students and adults who want to understand just how easy it is to become homeless as well as the very real challenges many in the Bay Area have, this is a great read. It is one of the better kid’s books I’ve read that does a nice job of building empathy for those who are without a permanent home. It also reminds us all that things may not be what they appear, and that sometimes we have no idea what a friend might be going through personally. I loved this book, and I donated it to our library so check it out sometime!

Abby’s Corner – Winter Performance, Technology, and More

Building Community

As 2017 comes to a close, teachers and students are heavily immersed in our preparation for our Winter Performance, Anansi the Spider. During the two weeks prior to our performance, instead of adhering to our typical class schedule, we employ a project based learning focus and have created 90 minute blocks for students to dive deeply into different aspects of the story. Through this new understanding, they’ll recreate the story using song, dance, and art. Our teachers collaborate to bring this together in the same way our students collaborate to create the final product.

A few years back, our faculty discussed the merits of having a winter performance since some schools don’t do this, and many schools do a spring concert or some other event later in the year instead. Our team felt strongly that our winter break is the longest break during the school year, and therefore an important time to bring our community together to celebrate the kind of learning we value. As a school dedicated to deep, meaningful understanding, our hope is that our winter performance is a chance for you, as parents, to see how the power of a simple story can bring community together while deepening learning and developing skills for students. Our commitment to illustrating the importance of giving students windows to see out into the world beyond them and mirrors to reflect back who they are is something we always strive for. My hope is that you have a chance to come to one of the two winter performances this year!

A Peek into Program

Using Technology

One question often asked when prospective parents tour Prospect Sierra is what our approach to technology use is at our elementary campus. Like many other areas of curriculum, I often share that our choices about what technology we use and when is deliberate and reflective. For example, at times we use technology in order to integrate 21st century skill development into what kids are learning at school. Integration of STEM into project work with tech tools can promote creativity, encourage mistake making, help develop a growth mindset, and often require collaboration in real time.

Robotics programming through Dot and Dash, for example, allows our students to work with other students in colab to map routes and then program Dash to actually do something. I’ve watched our second graders this year, and often this work requires them to fail several times, collaborate and share new ideas, and then finally get the robot to do what they want. This type of activity instills in students an understanding that learning requires failing and making mistakes in order to get to a final goal. It also helps them practice using their social emotional tools like the Patience Tool and the Listening Tool, and may require them to regulate their emotions when the first attempt doesn’t work! Tech tools and activities that bring together 21st century skill development with social and emotional skill development are the types of technology tools we find particularly useful as they allow our teachers to demonstrate in a hands-on way why your Patience tool, for example, is a tool that can help you in moments when you are trying to do or make or build something. In learning too, we want to demonstrate that all of these skills come together to help a person do what they set out to do.

Screen Time

We limit how often students are on screens as passive viewers rather than active creators when engaging with technology. For example, a teacher might show a short video clip using Apple TV in science to demonstrate what happens in the brain when new pathways are being created and areas of the brain actually light up on MRIs. This can make a piece of abstract learning extremely concrete, which is necessary for young learners who often need a visual aid or to do something hands-on in order to understand what is being explained. Students could then apply this to an experiment or data collection of their own. The video was a helpful tool to give them enough understanding to connect their next piece of learning to a larger learning objective. In this way, technology can be quite powerful and a good use of class time. Most of the time, we want our students actively engaging in learning, and sometimes a short video clip can illustrate something that a book can’t do as well. Other times, the tech tool itself provides a hands-on way for them to do the learning.

It’s worth noting that most of our class time is spent free of technology, as there is still powerful learning to be had through books, paper, pencils, dry erase boards, turn and talks with partners, and group conversations where ideas are shared and often recorded. Shared reading and writing experiences continue to be the norm at Tapscott, with students engaging with mathematical thinking, mentor author texts, or independent reading literature more often than not.

As a school, we want to support you as you consider technology tool choices at home. For many students, much technology use tends to happen outside of school. To that end, our tech team will offer a parent training in February about general technology use, what kids are interested in doing, and ways parents can best monitor this aspect of development. In the meantime, here are some suggestions we think will help guide you over the next few weeks and especially over the winter break.

  • Ideally, devices live in public spaces within the home (not bedrooms).
  • There is open discussion between parents and children about what each wants and needs, so that agreements and expectations can be made in advance.
  • Your digital footprint must be discussed, as elementary students do not always understand that anything they say or do online lives forever and is connected to them. This must be discussed repeatedly as it is still a developmentally tough concept to grasp for most third and fourth graders. (This is the age at which we are noticing many students now engaged in apps that allow them to communicate within a game, for example, text friends, and other online activity that requires more sophisticated communication skills and awareness than most elementary students have.)
  • All forms of communication with others via text, chat, email, etc., should be closely monitored by an adult or avoided completely at this age. This means that if they aren’t comfortable with you reading or seeing what they are sending, it probably isn’t a good idea to send.
  • Parents should have passwords and access to all devices and accounts so that you can regularly monitor what is going on. (There are also new tools to help parents monitor online activity, and we’ll review some of these at our February parent presentation.)
  • When something comes up that feels like it could be going down a wrong path, it is helpful to reach out to parents of students involved to be sure they know as well. Parents need to work in collaboration so that your children know you are all talking together.

If your schedule allows, please join us on Friday, February 9 from 8:30-9:30 a.m. for a parent presentation at the February PSPA meeting: Prospect Sierra’s Best Practices on Technology and Social Media Use. Mark Basnage, Kathleen Arada, and Sandi Tanaka will present valuable information and suggested guidelines to support you and your children so that they can venture into technology use in a way that is healthy and safe.

Helpful Parent Resources

If you want to research more in the area of developmentally appropriate technology use, Common Sense Media is a great tool for parents and teachers. We use this resource often and feel that it’s a reliable source in terms of identifying appropriate ages for things such as online games, movies, and much more. They have reviews of current books and movies with age suggestions that are not by reading level but rather by content and include information on language, violence, etc. They have a parent concerns tab that has everything from suggestions by age to articles about very specific questions you might have around technology use.

Here are a few articles and resources that I recently found very helpful:

  • This article about a few simple steps to take as a family to consider ways to set up a healthy family media diet, similar to a balanced food diet!
  • Another article with recommendations such as no screens before bedtime and ideas for  co-viewing and co-playing as a way to monitor the creative screen stuff that is available!
  • A guide on Youtube given some of the news that came out about Youtube kids
  • Family Time with Apps – great questions to ask when evaluating an app to download, the three C’s for apps
  • Parent Minecraft guides
  • Parent guides on some popular apps

Worth Reading

Encourage your children to be producers, not just consumers, of technology! I love this message as it really looks at technology as a tool to develop 21st century skills that link technology to creativity and innovation. This is certainly our approach at Prospect Sierra, as we want students to see technology as one of many tools they can use to do something, not just watch something. This is worth a quick read!

And if the upcoming winter break affords you and your family time to travel, consider new devices for your home, or co-view some cool apps, please check out some of the articles below that can guide you in these endeavors. I cannot stress enough the importance of educating yourselves before you allow your kids online. In the same way you might review a product for its age appropriateness and alignment with your values (think movies, books, toys), the same degree of evaluation should occur for every site, app, and activity your child wants to engage in online.

  • Apps for family travel
  • What to know before buying Echo or Google Home
  • New healthy media habits
  • This NY Times article mentions apps to be aware of. While focused on slightly older students, and teenagers, it is worth a read as it highlights what is going on for older students and the complexity of social media use for children growing up today. Starting early with plenty of conversation can be one way to really increase their understanding before they are engaging in social media, owning cell phones (my advice – wait!), and playing games that allow for communication with others online.

Thanks for reading everyone. Wishing you a wonderful winter break!

From Simple Addition to Multiplicative Thinking – How Our Curriculum Spans the K-8 Years

A comprehensive K-8 curriculum map had long been a goal for Prospect Sierra. Our teachers excel in their planning, implementing, and evaluating of their curricula, and Abby Guinn, Heather Rogers, and Katherine Dinh shared a vision of an interactive virtual document that would serve as a glimpse into the scope and sequence of Prospect Sierra’s progressive, research based, and student centered teaching.

Three teachers, two from the elementary campus and one from the middle school campus, set out to gather and synthesize all that we do at Prospect Sierra. Our teachers are dedicated to meaningful and rigorous curricula, so formatting the map proved to be challenging. Much of what we teach is integrated in one way or another with another subject area, and all of what we teach falls under our 21st Century Skills. Once it all came together, it was impressive to see how it flowed and really did create a snapshot of our teaching. The team used previous curriculum descriptions and their own knowledge of the school to create a rough draft of the map.

After a presentation to the senior administrators, the map was shared with the faculty on both campuses. Teachers were asked to edit the sections they teach and provide feedback. The grid layout was also difficult for teachers who were eager to add more to the descriptions of their curricula. Upon sharing the vision for the project, which was to give both current and prospective parents a window into the curriculum year to year,  faculty collaborated to ensure that their sections were accurate.

The draft of the curriculum grid then moved on to editors and graphic designers who published it on the newly launched website. The curriculum map is meant to be a live document, with annual updates and opportunities for elementary and middle school faculty to provide feedback. Perhaps the most impressive take away from the curriculum grid is that the team was able to map out a K-8 scope and sequence for our changemakers and social justice curricula (located under “Prospect Sierra Values in Action”).

Our passion for educating students ready to create change, in direct connection with our 21st Century Skills, is what sets us apart from other rigorous independent schools. After creating the map, we were able to see that we really do integrate and balance our curriculum across the spectrum from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Check it out and lest us know what you think!

Beth Hall, Second Grade Lead Teacher