Ozobots? A Hands-on Way to Teach Coding

The 3rd grade class at Meadowbrook has been introduced to Ozobots by our new Director of Academic Advancement. Kristen Haugen has joined our Meadowbrook staff this year to find new and exciting ways to bring technology into the classroom. As a seasoned science teacher, her 20 years of experience and knowledge in teaching a hands-on curriculum has already benefited our students. She incorporated the use of Kindle Fires with SeeSaw in Kindergarten through 3rd grade and has been leading a new venture in Ozobot programming in the 3rd, 5thand 6th-grade classrooms. (Google classroom is being introduced in the 4th grade.)

The 3rd graders are creating a Halloween trail of ghoulish delight for their Ozobots. As the Ozobots travel the path they will be startled and frightened as scary monsters and ghosts pop up. Will they turn around and run away? Will they speed up and run forward? The students will decide based on the color codes that they plant on the path.

Ozobots are tiny robots that use colored pathways to travel. Certain color combinations dictate different commands along the paths. The process of creating paths and commands for the Ozobots teaches our students the basics of coding. Different apps and programs apply! What a great way to have tons of fun and learn at the same time!

 

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3rd graders planning a Halloween trail for their Ozobots.
3rd graders planning a Halloween trail for their Ozobots.

Age-Appropriate Chores to Fit Any Family

Getting help around the house is somewhat of a chore, in and of itself, as tasks that need to be done won’t always fit your “cleaning crew” and their set of abilities; thus, the need for age-appropriate chores grows alongside your family. Small children generally love helping with anything you’re doing, and older children are more likely to need a list and some gentle prodding. Making realistic chore lists for your little ones isn’t as complicated as it might seem to be, however, as the larger piece of the cooperation puzzle is compromise. Making chores reasonable, realistically timed, and fun can drastically improve morale around the house. Here are some age-appropriate chores that each group should be able to achieve:

Age-Appropriate Chores for Ages 3 to 7

Preschoolers and young children are the easiest to get enthusiastic (albeit hyperactive) help from. Though their motor skills and attention spans aren’t yet fully engaged, young children can do their part through short, simple tasks made fun. To kick up the entertainment factor, try playing happy, upbeat dance music while doing chores. The kids will love the opportunity to wiggle and move while completing their daily tasks! These tasks might include the following:

● Making the bed

● Cleaning windowsills

● Wiping lower cupboard doors in the kitchen

● Emptying small trash cans

● Putting folded linens into the proper drawers or on shelves

● Picking up their own toys and keeping their play space neat

● Drying and putting away silverware while dishes are being washed (minus the sharp utensils, of course)

Be sure to make your little one’s jobs easier by giving them a stool to stand on and their own cleaning towels. Bonus fun points are awarded if you can find child-size versions of your adult cleaning tools, such as brooms, dustpans, mops, and gloves! Practicing good cleaning habits with this age group will instill both a feeling of accomplishment and a lasting habit of cleanliness.

Ages 8 to 10

This age group is less likely to just volunteer a helping hand, yet, when given proper direction, tend to excel at age-appropriate chores. Making a chore checklist or rotating chart (for multi-child families) can reduce confusion and teach a lesson on personal responsibility. Older children are likely to want compensation for their contributions, which is part of another lesson in entering the workforce, but should begin to learn the difference between obligations and responsibilities. Remind them that the reward for completing these tasks is, ultimately, a clean and inviting space to live in, something that is taken for granted by a lot of people. Examples of easy tasks for this age group are:

● Vacuuming

● Helping younger siblings complete tasks as a team

● Sorting and pairing clean socks

● Setting and clearing the table after meals

● Bringing in groceries

● Watering plants, both indoors and outdoors

Though teaching lessons about keeping a clean home for yourself are important, a rewards system can greatly reduce your chances of seeing eye rolling and hearing complaints from your preteens. Instead of opting for monetary rewards, try a points system, where an accumulation of points awarded for completing tasks can be “spent” on a reward, such as a family camping trip or a pizza and movie night. Then, the whole family can benefit from the hard work you’ve all been doing!

Ages 11 to 13

Teens are often focused on friends and cellphones more than family and cleanliness, but that shouldn’t stop you from including them on the roster for the Clean House Dream Team! Since they’ve willingly taken on the title of “teenager,” their responsibilities can shift into a new direction, building on lessons learned from their previous chores and responsibilities. For example, simply feeding the dog can turn into caring for Fido’s basic needs in general, like cleaning up pet waste, brushing the dog, and keeping toys and pet beds tidy. A new set of more detailed responsibilities shows teens their own capabilities and can impress upon them the intricacies of growing up, like learning new skills and wearing more hats (metaphorically). Teenagers can aptly complete tasks like:

● Taking out the garbage

● Minding their younger siblings while you complete tasks elsewhere in the house

● Cleaning the bathroom

● Pulling weeds in the garden

● Cleaning windows

● Preparing small, simple meals for the family

● Folding and putting away clothes

As teenagers are subjected to homework and extracurricular activities, balancing housework and other obligations can be tricky. While trying to remain fair to the other members of your chore warrior tribe, remember that your teen will have to be flexible with chores and not with homework and school, which might mean putting tasks on hold to avoid interfering with good academic performance. Planning chore lists according to your teen’s school schedule can make for less hassle and more productivity, which makes for better attitudes all around!

Teacher Spotlight: Mrs. Amanda Provost

amandaThis month the spotlight is on our new Fifth Grade teacher, Mrs Amanda Provost.

1. What is one item on your bucket list?

An item on my bucket list is to see Billy Joel live in concert. I have loved him since I was a little girl. I am hoping now that I am closer to New York City I’ll have to opportunity to see him at Madison Square Garden very soon.

2. What book are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This sci-fi story is filled with video games and 80’s pop culture. Two of my most favorite things!

3. Who is your mentor? Why?

The AMAZING Debbie Fletcher has been the most incredible mentor anyone could ask for. She has spent so much time guiding me, answering a million questions, and supporting me from the moment I started my Fifth Grade journey at this wonderful school. She has helped to make this transition an easy and exciting one. There are not enough words to express how fantastic she has been and I will never be able to thank her enough.

4. What would your superpower be?

My superpower choice is always a toss-up between flying and teleportation. Flying would be an incredible experience. However, being able to teleport from one place to another would be so handy. Think of all the amazing places I’d be able to travel to in an instant! As much as I love traveling, I think I’d have to choose that option.

5. Where is the best place you have traveled to and why?

The best place I have travelled has to be New Zealand. It is easily the most beautiful place I have ever seen. The landscapes are breathtaking – rolling hills covered in wildflowers, ocean waves crashing on rocky shores, deep underground rivers with nothing lighting the way except glow worms shining like stars in the sky, erupting geysers in geothermal parks, incredible mountaintops, and frozen glaciers. Everything you could possibly want to see can be found in New Zealand. Plus, I was able to visit Hobbiton and many of the other locations used in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies! (Got to cross that off the bucket list!) It was truly a vacation of a lifetime!

6. If you could do any job for just one day what would it be?

If I could do any job for a day, I would want to be an astronaut. How awesome would it be to be among the stars looking down at Earth? The idea of space travel and exploration is fascinating to me, so it would be great to experience it.

7. Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

It often surprises people when I tell them I have had 141 dogs. While 137 of them were temporary, I feel that they still count as being mine. My husband and I have been working with Tampa Bay Beagle Rescue for the last six+ years. Taking these dogs into our home is the most rewarding and heart breaking experience, though the good far outweighs the bad. We’ve taken in the young and happy, to the scared and broken, and everything In between. No matter how long they would stay with us, whether it was less than a day or more than a year, I loved them like they were my own. When our fosters would get adopted, they would take a piece of my heart with them. It was bittersweet, knowing we had to say goodbye but also knowing we saved their lives and they were on their way to their happily ever after made it just a little easier. Yes, they may not have been our forever dogs, but they will be in my heart forever. So it totally counts!

8. What is your favorite thing about Meadowbrook?

It is so difficult to pick one thing I love most about Meadowbrook. I fell in love with it the moment I walked through the doors the very first time. The list of things I love is a mile long, but I think the best thing about Meadowbrook is the sense of family here. The staff, students, and parents all come together so beautifully to make Meadowbrook feel like home. It is the perfect environment for children to flourish not only academically, but socially and creatively too.

World Maker Faire

maker spaceMrs. Becky Blumenthal, Meadowbrook art teacher and director of maker space attended the 8th annual World Maker Faire at the Hall of Science, in Queens New York September 22-24. This event was billed as the greatest show and tell on earth and that was an excellent description! The goal of the Maker Movement is to create more makers, or people who create as well as consume. Mrs. Blumenthal’s goal is to inspire our children to think creatively, push through obstacles and become life-long learners. Picasso said “All children are Artists.” Mrs. Blumenthal says, “All children can be makers. It takes only curiosity and exposure to take something apart and put it back together in a new way or for a new purpose.” Mrs. Blumenthal continues, “As part of our maker space program, we can peak their interest in fields that before now may not have been seen as fun by a wide range of people.”

At the Faire, it was hot and crowded but the energy was amazing, and all who attended were excited about innovations in health care, sustainability, food, crafting, robotics, and electronics. There were hands on activities and play zones and giant fire breathing machines. A chair was turned into a musical instrument, and clothing lit up for nighttime use. maker space4

maker space2At Meadowbrook, we are excited for Mrs. Blumenthal to bring this to our children and she is excited too. As she says, “The best thing about my position is I don’t have to stay grounded for long. We touch ground then bounce off to allow for creativity, exposure and hard work to lead our learning! It’s a great time to be in the STEAM fields and I’m so excited to bring that enthusiasm to your children!”maker space3

Our Science Teacher Learns New Tricks!

ScienceMrs. Janice Mockaitis, Meadowbrook science teacher since 1998 attended a course called A Vision and Plan for Science Teaching and Learning. This multi day course started during the last school year and ended with a final follow up session this summer. The instructor, Brett Moulding, compiled his teaching experience and research to formulate a process of teaching science which engages the students to build up on their natural curiosity about the world around them. Using the students desire to understand and make sense of the phenomena in their world, Mr. Moulding taught how to develop science lessons based on asking good questions, finding patterns or cause and effect relationships, and then combining these with basic core concepts or facts.

Since this course, Mrs. Mockaitis has worked on tailoring more of our science lessons at the Meadowbrook School to include this new vision for teaching our students. It is exciting to see that some of the benefits of using this method include the students having a better understanding of science related events in their world, increased student participation, and continued desire to learn why or how things happen.

The Hidden Benefits of Reading Aloud — Even for Older Kids

Educator Jim Trelease explains why reading aloud to your child, no matter what her age, is the magic bullet for creating a lifelong reader.

Jim Trelease is the author of the respected, Read-Aloud Handbook, which some parents have called the “read aloud Bible.” The book is packed with information — from what really makes kids love reading, to tips for luring kids away from electronics and onto the page, to hundreds of read aloud titles. The Handbook’s seventh edition will be published in the spring of 2013 and, at 71 years old, Trelease says it will be his last.

Can you explain the link between reading aloud and school success?

It’s long established in science and research: the child who comes to school with a large vocabulary does better than the child who comes to school with little familiarity with words and a low vocabulary.

Why is that? If you think about it, in the early years of school, almost all instruction is oral. In kindergarten through second and third grades, kids aren’t reading yet, or are just starting, so it’s all about the teacher talking to the kids. This isn’t just true in reading but in all subjects; the teacher isn’t telling kids to open their textbooks and read chapter three. The teaching is oral and the kids with the largest vocabularies have an advantage because they understand most of what the teacher is saying. The kids with small vocabularies don’t get what is going on from the start, and they’re likely to fall further and further behind as time goes on.

How does a child develop a large vocabulary even before school starts?

Children who are spoken to and read to most often are the ones with the largest vocabularies. If you think about it, you can’t get a word out of the child’s mouth unless he has heard it before. For example, the word “complicated.” A child isn’t going to say the word unless he has heard it before — and in fact to remember it, a child probably has to hear it multiple times. (That’s not true with swear words, of course. If a child hears his parent swear he’ll remember it the first time, and happily repeat it whenever he gets the chance.) But kids have to hear most words multiple times, so it’s important that their parents talk to and around them from the time they are very young, because that’s how they learn words.

Reading aloud: an advertisement for books

So parents need to talk to their children — but reading aloud is important, too. Because where are children going to be hearing the most words? In conversation, we tend to use verbal shorthand, not full sentences. But the language in books is very rich, and in books there are complete sentences. In books, newspapers, and magazines, the language is more complicated, more sophisticated. A child who hears more sophisticated words has a giant advantage over a child who hasn’t heard those words.

Reading aloud also increases a child’s attention span. Finally, reading aloud to your child is a commercial for reading. When you read aloud, you’re whetting a child’s appetite for reading. The truth is, what isn’t advertised in our culture gets no attention. And awareness has to come before desire. A child who has been read to will want to learn to read herself. She will want to do what she sees her parents doing. But if a child never sees anyone pick up a book, she isn’t going to have that desire.

Why do you think it’s important to read to older kids, too?

People often say to me, ‘”My child is in fourth grade and he already knows how to read, why should I read to him?” And I reply, “Your child may be reading on a fourth grade level, but what level is he listening at?”

A child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until eighth grade. You can and should be reading seventh grade books to fifth grade kids. They’ll get excited about the plot and this will be a motivation to keep reading. A fifth grader can enjoy a more complicated plot than she can read herself, and reading aloud is really going to hook her, because when you get to chapter books, you’re getting into the real meat of print — there is really complicated, serious stuff going on that kids are ready to hear and understand, even if they can’t read at that level yet.

Reading aloud to your kids is also are good way to grapple with difficult issues. For example, you can tell your child, “I don’t want you to hang out with so and so,” but that’s a lecture that will probably go in one ear and out the other. But if you read a book about a kid who gets in trouble by hanging out with the wrong crowd, your child is going to experience that directly, and she’s going to experience it with you at her side, and you can talk about it together. You can ask questions like: “Do you think the boy made the right choice?” “Do you think that girl was really her friend?” When you talk about a book together, it’s not a lecture, it’s more like a coach looking at a film with his players, going over the plays to find out what went right and what went wrong.

Books to blow your mind

Someone once said that books allow you to examine explosive situations without having them blowing up in your face. Books allow you to develop awareness of people outside your experience and develop a sense of empathy. When I was growing up, I wasn’t rich, but by reading books I learned that there are kids out there who are a lot worse off than me, kids growing up with real disadvantages. The wider your world, the more you understand and the more you can empathize.

Another advantage of reading aloud: if you weren’t a reader yourself growing up, reading to your kids gives you the chance to meet the child you used to be and read the books you never read. I hear from people all the time, especially fathers, who say, “Wow! I never read The Secret Garden as a child, and I had no idea what I was missing!”

I’ve had that experience myself, and I was an avid reader as a child, but I mostly read boys’ books, like The Call of the Wild. I didn’t read the classics like The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy, so it was great to have the chance to read them with my kids.

Meadowbrook Students Ranked Nationally in Le Grand Concours

frenchcontestZara Clark-Schecter of North Wales has ranked in the 95th percentile nationally in the 82nd annual event earning a gold medal. Isabel Lucas of Philadelphia and Nelson Cordón of Abington have ranked in the 90th percentile nationally earning silver medals. Gabriella Cordón of Abington has ranked in the 85th percentile nationally in the 82nd annual event earning a silver medal. Elizabeth Grohsman of Meadowbrook, Delaney Stout of Hatboro, and Nicole Villa of Abington have ranked in the 80th percentile nationally in the 82nd annual event earning bronze medals according to Lisa Narug, National Director of Le Grand Concours.  Le Grand Concours is a national competition sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French.  Students were evaluated for their written, oral and listening comprehension skills in French.   More than 85,000 students in all 50 states competed in the 2017 event. Zara Clark-Schecter, fourth grade, Nelson Cordon, fourth grade, Isabel Lucas, first grade, Gabriella Cordon, second grade, Elizabeth Grohsman, second grade, Delaney Stout, second grade, and Nicole Villa, second grade, are students of Suzanne Cordón.

AATF President Catherine Danièlou indicated:  French students who rank nationally in Le Grand Concours demonstrate a superior level of global responsibility, integrative cultural competence, language skills, and commitment to excellence and dedication. They significantly increase their community’s international profile. Their French teachers, whom they honor, work hard to produce responsible world citizens with multilingual capabilities. Le Grand Concours participants and winners all embrace an appreciation for other cultures, strive to continually learn and improve, and value the study of French. We are very proud of them and admire their commitment to both contributing to a better world and serving as exceptional ambassadors for their schools.

For more information about the National French Contest, please visit our website: www.frenchteachers.org/concours.

5th Grade Dissection

dissection3Fifth grade students enjoyed dissecting flowers today as part of their Flower Unit in Science. While studying pollination and fertilization of flowers, they were able to locate all of the essential flower parts using the microscopes. Plus, while observing pollen on the anther of the stamen, they now understand why so many people have allergies to pollen this time of year!

Why are our children so bored in school, cannot wait, get easily frustrated, and have no real friends

by Victoria Prooday, Occupational Therapist

I am an occupational therapist with 10 years of experience working with children, parents, and teachers. I completely agree with this teacher’s message that our children are getting worse and worse in many aspects. I hear the same consistent message from every teacher I meet. Clearly, throughout my ten years as an Occupational Therapist, I have seen and continue to see a decline in kids’ social, emotional, and academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.

Today’s children come to school emotionally unavailable for learning, and there are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this. As we know, the brain is malleable. Through environment, we can make the brain “stronger” or make it “weaker”. I truly believe that, despite all our greatest intentions, we unfortunately remold our children’s brains in the wrong direction. Here is why:

1. Technology

Using technology as a “Free babysitting service” is, in fact, not free at all. The payment is waiting for you just around the corner. We pay with our kids’ nervous systems, with their attention, and with their ability for delayed gratification. Compared to virtual reality, everyday life is boring. When kids come to the classroom, they are exposed to human voices and adequate visual stimulation as opposed to being bombarded with the graphic explosions and special effects that they are used to seeing on the screens. After hours of virtual reality, processing information in a classroom becomes increasingly challenging for our kids because their brains are getting used to the high levels of stimulation that video games provide. The inability to process lower levels of stimulation leaves kids vulnerable to academic challenges. Technology also disconnects us emotionally from our children and our families. Parental emotional availability is the main nutrient for child’s brain. Unfortunately, we are gradually depriving our children of that nutrient.

2. Kids get everything they want the moment they want

“I am Hungry!!” “In a sec I will stop at the drive thru” “I am Thirsty!” “Here is a vending machine.” “I am bored!” “Use my phone!” The ability to delay gratification is one of the key factors for future success. We have the best intentions — to make our children happy — but unfortunately, we make them happy at the moment but miserable in the long term. To be able to delay gratification means to be able to function under stress. Our children are gradually becoming less equipped to deal with even minor stressors, which eventually become huge obstacles to their success in life.

The inability to delay gratification is often seen in classrooms, malls, restaurants, and toy stores the moment the child hears “No” because parents have taught their child’s brain to get what it wants right away.

3. Kids rule the world

“My son doesn’t like vegetables.” “She doesn’t like going to bed early.” “He doesn’t like to eat breakfast.” “She doesn’t like toys, but she is very good at her iPad” “He doesn’t want to get dressed on his own.” “She is too lazy to eat on her own.” This is what I hear from parents all the time. Since when do children dictate to us how to parent them? If we leave it all up to them, all they are going to do is eat macaroni and cheese and bagels with cream cheese, watch TV, play on their tablets, and never go to bed. What good are we doing them by giving them what they WANT when we know that it is not GOOD for them? Without proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep, our kids come to school irritable, anxious, and inattentive. In addition, we send them the wrong message. They learn they can do what they want and not do what they don’t want. The concept of “need to do” is absent. Unfortunately, in order to achieve our goals in our lives, we have to do what’s necessary, which may not always be what we want to do. For example, if a child wants to be an A student, he needs to study hard. If he wants to be a successful soccer player, he needs to practice every day. Our children know very well what they want, but have a very hard time doing what is necessary to achieve that goal. This results in unattainable goals and leaves the kids disappointed.

4. Endless Fun

We have created an artificial fun world for our children. There are no dull moments. The moment it becomes quiet, we run to entertain them again, because otherwise, we feel that we are not doing our parenting duty. We live in two separate worlds. They have their “fun“ world, and we have our “work” world. Why aren’t children helping us in the kitchen or with laundry? Why don’t they tidy up their toys? This is basic monotonous work that trains the brain to be workable and function under “boredom,” which is the same “muscle” that is required to be eventually teachable at school. When they come to school and it is time for handwriting their answer is “I can’t. It is too hard. Too boring.” Why? Because the workable “muscle” is not getting trained through endless fun. It gets trained through work.

5. Limited social interaction

We are all busy, so we give our kids digital gadgets and make them “busy” too. Kids used to play outside, where, in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practiced their social skills. Unfortunately, technology replaced the outdoor time. Also, technology made the parents less available to socially interact with their kids. Obviously, our kids fall behind… the babysitting gadget is not equipped to help kids develop social skills. Most successful people have great social skills. This is the priority!

The brain is just like a muscle that is trainable and re-trainable. If you want your child to be able to bike, you teach him biking skills. If you want your child to be able to wait, you need to teach him patience. If you want your child to be able to socialize, you need to teach him social skills. The same applies to all the other skills. There is no difference!

You can make a difference in your child’s life by training your child’s brain so that your child will successfully function on social, emotional, and academic levels. Here is how:

1. Limit technology, and re-connect with your kids emotionally
•Surprise them with flowers, share a smile, tickle them, put a love note in their backpack or under their pillow, surprise them by taking them out for lunch on a school day, dance together, crawl together, have pillow fights
•Have family dinners, board game nights (see the list of my favorite board games), go biking, go to outdoor walks with a flashlight in the evening

2. Train delayed gratification
•Make them wait!!! It is ok to have “I am bored“ time – this is the first step to creativity
•Gradually increase the waiting time between “I want” and “I get”
•Avoid technology use in cars and restaurants, and instead teach them waiting while talking and playing games
•Limit constant snacking

3. Don’t be afraid to set the limits. Kids need limits to grow happy and healthy!!
•Make a schedule for meal times, sleep times, technology time
•Think of what is GOOD for them- not what they WANT/DON’T WANT. They are going to thank you for that later on in life. Parenting is a hard job. You need to be creative to make them do what is good for them because, most of the time, that is the exact opposite of what they want.
•Kids need breakfast and nutritious food. They need to spend time outdoor and go to bed at a consistent time in order to come to school available for learning the next day!
•Convert things that they don’t like doing/trying into fun, emotionally stimulating games

4. Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future “workability”
• Folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table, making lunch, unpacking their lunch box, making their bed
•Be creative. Initially make it stimulating and fun so that their brain associates it with something positive.

5. Teach social skills
•Teach them turn taking, sharing, losing/winning, compromising, complimenting others , using “please and thank you”

From my experience as an occupational therapist, children change the moment parents change their perspective on parenting. Help your kids succeed in life by training and strengthening their brain sooner rather than later!