Tag Archives: Panther Picnic

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: How We Do Community

Building Community

We are officially entering the second month of school! The first weeks of school for teachers are always about building the classroom community, as this is an essential building block for the learning students will engage in all year long.

Recently I saw Vivian, our Kindergarten Assistant Teacher, looking at one of her class books (she’s in year two of the BATTI program) in the faculty room, Tribes: A New Way of Learning and Being Together by Jeanne Gibbs. The book isn’t new; in fact it’s quite old as Tribes has been around since the 70s. My parents were Tribes trainers and eventually started their own school based on the Tribes group norms. So I had to smile when I saw that this was a book still being used in teacher ed programs, as I know it well and practically lived it at my dining room table with my four siblings! Seeing that book was a good reminder for me that while there is always new research that must be incorporated into the process of teaching and learning, there are also those things which are not new at all but so very important when it comes to building the foundation of a school community. Things like creating safety, building a trusting and inclusive environment, and sharing ideas in such a way that individuals feel they have influence within the group are critical. These things come about in all kinds of ways at Tapscott – partner projects, group shares, class meetings, buddies, presentations to the school, school families, morning meeting sharing, and more!

I thought you’d all appreciate some peeks around campus as kids engage in building community together. It is a beautiful, joyful thing to see!

This year’s school-wide theme is community – something I can say with certainty that we have as a school, and something that we do not take for granted. Community must be nurtured, supported, and developed every year. This is true not just for the kids in their individual classrooms, but for the faculty and the parents as well. For those of you who made it out to Panther Picnic, you know what I mean! It isn’t just about attending, but also working together, that develops community. In these moments, you get to know others more deeply, and more authentically. Whether you were flipping burgers, teeing up music for performances together, helping others with incredible artistic creations, or helping kids build cars for Nerdy Derby track racing, you were most likely getting to know the community more deeply. I hope that your day was filled with moments where you engaged in something joyful and also got to know someone you didn’t previously know. Many thanks to the team parent effort it takes to put on Panther Picnic – it is a true display of our strong and joyful school community!

A Peek into Program

Sometimes being a school administrator means remembering that while I have hundreds of conversations about curriculum, project ideas, and new lessons with teachers, and therefore have a robust understanding what what we do and why we do it, parents understandably only know what we tell them in the short amounts of time at Back to School night, Open House, and through our written communications.

With new programs, this is particularly important to remember, and I was reminded of this as I read feedback this summer from last year’s parent survey. I want to thank everyone who participated, as this feedback was a good reminder for me that especially with newer programs at Tapscott such as colab and Spanish, parents need to hear a lot about these programs so that they really understand both purpose and philosophy well. This year I will highlight these relatively new programs, sharing about our approach to language acquisition and integration of STEM in ways that most likely aren’t the way you and I learned! Both of these programs are solidly based in research about how kids learn and what is important for 21st century skill development.

Below are just a few “peeks” into our Spanish classroom in room 8. One thing I’d like to highlight is that our Spanish program most likely looks different from how you learned a second language. This is because we use a program that is guided by the idea that kids acquire language over time and through a variety of interactions with the most commonly used vocabulary structures. This means that in Spanish class our students interact with vocabulary in a variety of ways – they hear it, sing in, hear it again in story, write it, and even read it. The goal of our K-4 Spanish program is not to create fluid Spanish speakers by the end of fourth grade, as this would be an unrealistic goal given the fact that we have two touch points (lessons) a week in Spanish! It just isn’t enough time. However, what we do want is for students to have real comfort and familiarity with the most commonly used and needed vocabulary structures in the Spanish language.

Our current third graders are the first group that has moved entirely through our program with Spanish, and we are keeping a close eye on how they will do as they transition over to Avis, where some of the grammar and mechanics, as well as more speaking, is expected of them. So far, the feedback from the Avis Spanish teachers has been impressive in that each year our students can do more speaking and certainly understand quite a bit more in the target language than they did the year prior. This is good news for us, as it means our approach is really having an impact. It also means that as parents there is a degree of patience needed as you hear your child say they can’t really say anything in Spanish – it is the same patience you needed as your one or two year old acquired language. For some kids, they might listen for long periods of time and then all of a sudden burst out entire sentences. Other students might practice single vocabulary words right away and then utter phrases and finally build to full sentences. It is a process of acquiring language through multiple modalities that we are working on. I have been so impressed with the amount of reading and writing in Spanish our fourth graders are capable of, and I’ll try over the course of the year to share tidbits of this learning with you as well!

If your child is interested in revisiting some of the songs and stories from class, you can click here (username and password is tparentspanish – prospect2017).

And here’s a short video from Spanish class as well!

Helpful Parent Reminders

Parents often ask how they can support their child’s learning at home. There are lots of ways, really, from creating a family charter to talking about how you want to feel as a family to taking time to read books together! Another important but often overlooked moment is dinner time. Families sitting down to eat is a wonderful way to connect authentically with one another. Often, dinner time can be a moment to really listen to what might be on your child’s mind. Recently, my daughter and I went in search of new ideas for family dinner conversation starters. We do “Roses and Thorns” regularly as a way to share about our day, and we wanted to change it up a bit and do something different. We found this resource, the Family Dinner Project. It includes Roses and Thorns, as well as things like “Would you rather…” and other fun ways to make dinner time an opportunity to share with one another and practice both listening and contributing to a group conversation. These skills are worked on daily at school, and the dinner table is just another moment in the day when these skills can be practiced in a way that also builds a sense of inclusion for children and adults alike. Check it out if you have time!


Worth Reading

Our students are readers, and they love to share their reading with friends, buddies, and teachers. In the spirit of sharing, I have two book recommendations. First, my book club read the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It is very appropriate for upper elementary readers through adults. I loved it and highly recommend it! I also recently read the book Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It is beautifully written and I can honestly say one of the more powerful books I’ve read in a long time.

I hope you have a great October, full of reading, community, deepened learning, and interesting dinner conversations!

Our Community: The Raja Family

When you hear the words Panther Picnic there are a few things that instantly come to mind: Paws, talent show, sno-cones, burgers, and CAFE RAJ! This is the Raja family’s last year at Prospect Sierra, and given this year’s school-wide theme of community, we thought it only appropriate to do a Community Profile of the Raja family as we celebrate one last year with them at Panther Picnic. For those of you who enjoyed Panther Picnic this past Sunday, you now know how delicious the food was, thanks to the Raja family and their restaurant, Cafe Raj. We thank them for being such a cornerstone of the Panther Picnic, and of our community at large, for so many years. It goes without saying, we will miss you!

How many years has your family been at or a part of Prospect Sierra?
Our family has been at Prospect Sierra since 2007 when our oldest daughter, Bella, started kindergarten.

How many years have you participated in Panther Picnic? How did you first get involved?
We have been attending the Panther Picnic from our first year at the school and have always enjoyed this wonderful day of fun and community building. We were first asked to provide food in 2010 and have been happy to contribute to this beloved event in a meaningful way.

What are some special memories of Panther Picnic for you over the years?
We have so many great memories of the picnic, including our kindergarten daughter dancing in the talent show, both our daughters helping out with games and activities, and lots of good times with friends and family.

Tell us a little about the behind the scenes of getting all that food ready.
A badly-kept secret is that Raj has to stay up the whole night before to prepare all the food for the picnic in time for lunch. It’s a true labor of love!

Are there any moments you would like to share about your overall time at Prospect Sierra as your youngest daughter looks to graduation this year?
It’s hard to believe that this is our last season at Prospect Sierra after so many wonderful years! Our time in this special place will live on in our daughters who have learned to be the compassionate, engaged changemakers that our world needs so much.

How would you define community? Are there some examples during your PS years that really exemplified community?
To us, community is a place of belonging and shared vision. It’s a place where we can bring our joys and our sorrows and know that we are seen and heard. Community is a place to be challenged and to grow into our best selves, learning from those who are taking this journey with us. Prospect Sierra has been all of those things to our family and has left an indelible mark on us all.

*Thank you to PS parent Jamie Kennedy for sharing this interview.