Category Archives: News

Smartphones and the abdication of parental responsibility

By: Ira Wells

Like most kids who have recently been given their first cellphones, Andrea’s 12-year-old daughter is pretty nonchalant about the whole thing. When asked what she likes best about her new iPhone, she shrugs. “Feeling responsible,” she says. Besides, since her friends mostly interact over Snapchat and Instagram, the phone is a crucial way to keep in touch. Sure, she’s heard about kids “writing rude things” on social media, and sneaking off to the school bathroom to check their notifications. But over all, she’s not worried.

“Worried,” however, hardly begins to describe the deep apprehension that Andrea feels toward her daughter’s phone. Andrea’s concern, or one of them, is that as the phone replaces face-to-face interactions, her daughter “won’t be able to communicate or develop deeper, meaningful friendships. And it’s easy enough for a grownup to fall into the trap of valuing yourself for your ‘likes.’ How is a hormonal teenager going to handle that?”

Among the infinite sources of anxiety involved in childrearing today, few fill parents’ hearts with icy dread quite like the question of when kids should get their first smartphones. For modern parents, members of the last generation to grow up prior to ubiquitous internet access, equipping kids with their first phone often feels like a momentous decision – one that could impact children’s social development, influence their sense of self, shape their first romantic experiences and even condition their experience of “reality.”

And yet, despite their often-profound misgivings, most parents today act as though the smartphone is simply an unavoidable fixture of adolescence. That is an interesting reversal of expectations. Pop psychology tells us that today’s parents are mollycoddling, hyper-protective control freaks. Yet, when it comes to the signature parenting issue of our generation – the effect of smartphones on children – we have ceded control to the kids themselves, or to the marketing departments of Silicon Valley corporations. Kids are going to “need” those phones, according to the dominant cultural narrative, because the future. Or connection. Or something.

While parents endlessly discuss when kids should get their first phones, there’s no debating that children are getting phones earlier than ever. In the United States, where statistics are more readily available, the average child gets his or her own smartphone at 10.3 years of age, down from 12 just a few years ago, according to the marketing firm Influence Central. In this country, more than one-quarter of Grade 4 students have their own phone, according to a 2015 report by MediaSmarts, a digital literacy non-profit. That number rises each year until Grade 11, when 85 per cent report owning a phone. Of course, simply having a phone does not guarantee participation in social media, but let’s be real. One-third of Canadian children in Grades 4 to 6 have Facebook accounts, even though the site is technically prohibited to those under 13, according to MediaSmarts.

Most parents, educators and experts agree that there is no universal “right” age at which to give kids their first phones. For Alex Russell, a clinical psychologist who works with children and teenagers and author of Drop the Worry Ball: How to Parent in the Age of Entitlement, the decision must be situated within an understanding of the overall maturation of individual children on their path to autonomy.

“Parents are understandably anxious over their children’s online activities,” Dr. Russell said over the phone. “But a healthy development process will involve children taking on some of that anxiety for themselves. We want kids to be playful, but appropriately wary.” In Dr. Russell’s experience, parents tend to get hung up on the alarming (violent or sexual) content of digital media, where they should really be concerned about the form: that is, how digital media can prevent the uninterrupted experience of our own private interiority.

But just how harmful is this new media, really? Few authorities suggest prohibiting smartphones; even the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) suggests that moderation is key, counselling parents to set limits on smartphone usage and “unplug” at least an hour before bedtime, given the melatonin-suppressing effects of cellular devices – although the CPS also acknowledges that the digital landscape is evolving faster than research can measure the effects on children.

That research, however, is starting to catch up – and the results are unsettling. In an article this month in Clinical Psychological Science, the American psychologist Jean Twenge and three co-authors highlight the connection between the recent spike in mental health issues among adolescents and the concomitant rise in electronic device usage. Their study found that four suicide-related outcomes – feeling sad or hopeless, seriously considering suicide, making a suicide plan or attempting suicide – were “significantly correlated” with new media screen time. “The results,” the authors conclude, “show a clear pattern linking screen activities with higher levels of depressive symptoms/suicide-related outcomes and non-screen activities with lower levels.” The negative psychological outcomes were particularly pronounced among young women, who use social media more heavily and are more frequently the victims of cyberbullying than their male peers.

While the connection between depression and the new media is certainly alarming, it also confirms what many parents have long suspected: our kids’ sense of self-worth is often hopelessly entwined with the “like-driven” economy that governs social media. Children have difficulty negotiating technologies that have been engineered, in the words of Tristan Harris, a former Google Design Ethicist, to “exploit our minds’ weaknesses” through supplying intermittent variable rewards (such as notifications, matches and so on), which operate according to the logic of slot machines to maximize addiction. And kids’ induction into these technologies comes at a tumultuous life-stage of social and intellectual development. “Imagine trying to focus on quadratic equations with your cellphone constantly buzzing in your pocket,” says Lesley McLean, a Grade 11 History and English teacher. Schools are facing a constant stream of issues, she says, from naked pictures to bullying, and no one knows how to cope.

It is a bitter irony that today’s parents – who micromanage every facet of their children’s lives, from their diet and vaccinations to their cultural consumption and education – have nonetheless passively accepted this potentially noxious technology as an inevitable part of their kids’ future. Many parents of teens and preteens are openly thankful that we didn’t have to contend with new media when we were growing up – thank God that our every social feud, silly picture, or foolish remark was not catalogued for posterity online. And yet, when it comes to our children, we quietly relinquish our parental responsibility to U.S. tech companies, whose directives to “innovate” and “connect” now resonate so deeply that, apart from fusty appeals to nostalgia or neo-Luddism, we cannot even conceive of breaking from the narrative. We recognize that social media may be destroying democracy, but presume that its effects upon our teenagers will be nugatory.

That may be starting to change. In a recent talk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice-president of user growth for Facebook, openly advocated for people to take a “hard break” from social media, which he claimed is “ripping apart the social fabric.” “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops – hearts, likes, thumbs-up – are destroying how society works. … There is no civil discourse, no co-operation, misinformation, mistruth.” His own children, he said, aren’t allowed to use social media.

If a former vice-president of Facebook has prohibited his own kids from social media, why does it strike us as inconceivable that we should do the same?

The trouble starts when we tell ourselves that smartphones will make our children safer, that these devices will enable us to monitor their movements at a time when many are starting to walk to school or take the subway on their own. Kids, of course, want the phones for their own reasons, to be able to connect with their peers through social media. We then tell ourselves that it would be cruel to bar kids from doing so; that it might even be socially ostracizing. What parents may fail to appreciate is the severity of the ostracization and exclusion that occurs within the social networks they fear their children may be excluded from.

Parents always begin with the assumption that “their kids will use their phones in a limited way,” Dr. Twenge, author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, wrote in an e-mail. Or they “assume that if they spend lots of time on the phone it’s harmless – after all, parents use social media themselves and are ‘fine.’ It’s easy to be optimistic and not expect your kid to be the one who suffers the consequences.”

But kids may, in fact, suffer the consequences. As we learn more about the link between new media and mental illness, about the ways in which such media has been engineered to addict, parents should remind ourselves that smartphones are a consumer choice subject to parental discretion, not a harbinger of some preordained digital future. We should recognize the distinction between “convenience” and “safety.” We should no longer pretend that the smartphone is merely a tool, that what matters is how it is used – while ignoring the ways in which we are in turn programmed by the devices themselves, the ways that they use us. And we could stand to take ourselves more seriously: If we are thankful for our own unmediated childhoods, why sentence our kids to psychic lives of distraction?

Above all, however, we must no longer passively accept the logic of technological determinism – that our own parenting decisions and values must adapt to serve the economic interests of tech companies. Every technological innovation, Marshall McLuhan once observed, brings about a corresponding amputation. It is the right of every parent to decide not only when those amputations should come, but if they should come at all.

MARKETING 101….IN SECOND GRADE

apple-festival-2016nadiaMarketing 101…in Second Grade!!
by Nadia Russell and company

WANTED: Experienced, business-savvy entrepreneurs with an eye for product development and marketing for exceptional opportunity to raise our company to the next level. Requires completion of first grade, familiarity with apples, and a team-focused strategy. Ability to raise more than $400 in two hours is highly desired.

If your child was a second grader at The Meadowbrook School any time in the recent 25+ years, he/she is qualified for this exciting job opportunity. Last week, seventeen 7 and 8 year olds put their minds together to create a new business called the Apple Festival. They did an apple tasting a couple weeks ago and then they did apple pie graphs to graph the results of their apple tasting. In their apple tasting, they found that Honeycrisp was the top scoring apple, with 8 votes. Fuji got 5, Granny Smith got 5, Red Delicious got 2, Golden Delicious got 0, and Gala got 0. Then the group did some research by visiting Styer Orchard, where they learned how apples get picked and that there are many different bins you can use to collect them. They used their marketing research to pick their own apples, choosing the most popular varieties to take home for product development. In a high power business meeting, the students brainstormed product ideas, deciding that past Festivals showed preference for apple cupcakes, candy and caramel apples, and apple cider. Each student worked with an adult to develop an apple product which they planned to sell at the Apple Festival on November 4, 2016. They learned to count money and make change for customers, priced their own products, and enlisted Moms, Dads, Grandmoms, and teachers as sales assistants for their product fair.

Here’s where the marketing came into play. They advertised the Festival by making posters in Computer class and posting them everywhere in the school, making T-shirts and a Festival tablecloth in Art class and performing in Assembly to get students excited about the big event. They learned apple songs in music and even performed an apple song in Spanish and an apple poem in French. It was a highly successful marketing campaign, and even more importantly, it was very fun!

The big day arrived! Products and baskets for money collection were set out on tables, vendors wore their Apple Festival T-shirts and excitedly waited for their first customers. The fourth grade arrived, money in hands to have the opportunity to select apple products and interact with the vendors and their sales associates. In just two hours, the ambitious entrepreneurs processed 104 customers, sending them on their school day full of apple happiness. Customers reported that they “loved all the hard work the second graders put into the Apple Festival”, and nominated apple muffins and mini candy apples as great products. The group raised more than $400 from their efforts, a huge success for their very first start-up company.

The Apple Festival is a striking example of the Meadowbrook focus on problem-based learning that teaches educational basics in math, writing, art, language, science, and technology while providing students with real world experience they will use throughout their lives. Particularly impressive is the cross-curricular collaboration among the Meadowbrook teachers, a commitment and emphasis that provides an integrated learning experience that the students remember forever.

If you’re looking for enthusiastic, hardworking, “commericialling”, creative, fun marketers and business leaders, you only have to make sure your new employees attended the Meadowbrook School!

Click HERE for more pictures!

Fourth Grade Makerspace

fourth graders in the makerspace
Fourth graders in the makerspace

Four years ago, fourth grade started an in-class project that brought our Geography studies to life. During those first three years, we developed Secret Island Maps (SIMs) onto poster board. We utilized geography features that included the map legend, compass rose, map scale, natural and man-made features.

This year, along with the magnificent help of Mrs. Becky Blumenthal and her Makerspace, we are able to create our SIMs projects in a three-dimensional format. We are using recycled materials and different odds & ends that will help the students design their islands.

The students this year are extremely excited and busy creating their islands in groups of two or three. Visit our website to see more pictures.

The Meadowbrook School is proud to have introduced a makerspace to the community this year.  Makerspaces are basically community centers with tools. We plan on growing our makerspace to combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling Meadowbrook students to design, prototype and create works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to students working alone.  With the right tools and encouragement our students will be on the forefront of this new phenomenon. Check back frequently to see what our students can do!

Meadowbrook Chess Tournament

chess-tournament-imageCongratulations to the students who participated in The Tenth Philadelphia Metropolitan Chess Tournament held at Meadowbrook School last Saturday, November 5th. Hutch Loney, Emily Kent, Nelson Cordon, Seamus Brogan, and Logan Kiefaber  competed against other students from New Jersey, Philadelphia, and surrounding area schools. The 121 players, ranging from Kindergarten through High School, followed the specific regulations of the United States Chess Federation. As each student played 5 games of chess with different opponents, hard work and concentration were key elements of the day. Congratulations Team Meadowbrook!  We were especially proud of  Victor Kasian Class of’16 who won first place for 7th grade!

More pictures can be found HERE!

Makerspace at Meadowbrook

makerspace2The band of pre-historic humans set out on an important mission.  Without the sharpest stones securely attached to the ends of their spears, their village might not survive night time visits from animals 10 times their size. Understanding the importance of their mission, they searched the forests and grasslands, finding ideal natural objects for use in defense, hunting, and communication. Elated at their findings, the band returned to their cave for a celebration, recording the history of their success with their new tools on the cave wall.

It’s 2016 and this band is the sixth grade class at the Meadowbrook School.  They are learning about pre-historic times and how humans lived in harsh and challenging conditions, using only the natural world around them to survive. To complement their learning and give them the opportunity to feel like those ancient people, the brand new Makerspace at Meadowbrook provides them the materials and time to create their own tools and document their historic mission using cave drawings. Throughout the year, the class will progress through history, using the Makerspace to create tools from each civilization and experiencing the realities, challenges and successes of progress through time.

The fourth grade is also hands-on the Makerspace, experiencing the challenges and satisfaction of creating their own cloth, like many of the immigrants from their own families did when they arrived in the United States. Not only does this give the students exciting projects and new skills to develop, but they are connecting in a physical way to their family’s past, imagining what it must have been like to sit and weave for small amounts of money day after day upon arrival in a foreign land.  This entire experience builds skills, teamwork, and the empathy and consideration of others that has always been the Meadowbrook way.

The Makerspace, run by Mrs. Becky Blumenthal, is a new initiative at Meadowbrook designed to give students hands-on experiences that bring their classroom learning to life.  Building on long traditions of authentic career experiences like the second grade post office, fourth grade travel agency, and hands-on engineering of windmills in science classes, the Makerspace will encourage students to work as a community, using their creativity and problem solving skills to accomplish complex tasks. There is no “right answer” or grading in the Makerspace, making it a truly open forum for students to bring their most innovative and forward thinking ideas to light.

Even better, the Makerspace is a collaborative effort between students and faculty at Meadowbrook, with the two groups working together to define a unique Makerspace that will fit the needs of Meadowbrook students as individual inventors.  Meadowbrook has always been a school of integration, with science, art, and culture intertwined in school-wide efforts to teach students that learning is three dimensional. The Makerspace will take learning to the fourth dimension, providing the students time to explore, create, and learn as bands of survivors on a mission to take learning to the next civilization of progress.

Makerspace materials are being assembled on a continuous basis, so if you have anything that might be useful for making tools, using the tools, creating cloth or using it to make other things (e.g. sewing machines, knitting tools, etc). As the year moves forward, students will reach modern times, with telephones, computers, robots, and technology a primary focus.  Technology will be a major component of the Makerspace, so anything you might have will be welcome!  See Mrs. Blumenthal after assembly on Fridays to coordinate.

Summer Summary

A Fun & Busy Summer

Summer Writing Camp –summer writing camp18

The second grade classroom was turned into a camping adventure room this summer as Mrs. Kelly Mosteller hosted Writing Camp. Whether they were gathered around a camp fire or traipsing through the woods, our enthusiastic campers learned how to turn their creative ideas into stories and poetry!

The children learned Opinion Writing by crafting the answer to,  “What are the two most important things to bring with you on a camping trip?” They also learned how to record what they heard, felt, saw and smelled while on their nature walks. They turned those notes into a “Nature Journal” which was covered with a variety of natural materials collected on their hike.

One of the highlights for the children were Story Rocks. The campers painted rocks which magically turned into story rocks with pictures. They picked 4 or 5 of these rocks to start creating their fiction stories.

In addition, the children learned the use of transition words to write directions in a sequential order and may have enjoyed some S’mores as well!

Finally, the children experience poetry writing, fiction writing and narrative writing all under the tutelage of Mrs. Mosteller. The week culminated with the children creating their very own lightening jars.

Want to see more pictures? Click HERE.

Thanks to Kelly Mosteller for the fabulous writing camp. My son raved about it and felt so much more confident with his writing by the end of the week. He also enjoyed reconnecting with his Meadowbrook friends. Highly recommend this camp! – a Meadowbrook parent

 

Math Camp with Mrs. Linkmathcamp

It was a fun filled week during math camp with a different theme each day.   The campers planned  a summer party and totaled the cost with coupons. They held an Olympics day which included the kids participating in different Olympic activities and graphing their results. They had a baseball themed day when the students practiced how to budget at a baseball game, as well as basebmathcamp2all statistics. We also did plotting points on a coordinate plane to make summer pictures. We concluded with fraction activities with food such as pizza, M&Ms, and ice cream sundaes.

 

Math Camp was a great experience! Mrs. Link did a wonderful job with all the students and I hope she does it again next year. It was a great brain jolt at the end of the summer.

– a Meadowbrook Parent

Spanish Evening Class
Meadowbrook offered summer evening Spanish classes this year that took place on Wednesday evenings in July and August. Emma Stern, of the graduating class of 2014 came back and taught the classes with Profesora Cordon. Each week focused on a different fun summer theme such as Animals at the zoo, the beach, knights and princesses, shopping at the market place and we ended with una gran fiesta!  During each immersion style class, we played games, had cool summer treats, went on scavenger hunts and talked completely in español!  It was a blast!spanish

New Hires Update

MarissaWelcome Marissa Rohner!

Marissa is an alumna of the Meadowbrook School, class of 2004. After graduating from Meadowbrook, she attended Springside School (now SCH Academy) and Franklin & Marshall College. At F & M, Marissa earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a focus in Creative Writing. In addition to her studies, Marissa played Varsity Tennis and was the founding member and First Executive Vice President of the Theta Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority. Marissa joins us after working as a journalist for Star & Wave Newspaper, a photographer for South Jersey Marina and most recently a program analyst for Applied Engineering Management Corporation. Eager to work with children and move into a career in education, Marissa accepted a position to serve as the Kindergarten Teaching Assistant this year. She is thrilled to be back at her alma mater!

carrieWelcome Carrie Smeltzer!

Carrie Smeltzer has accepted the position to serve as our new Early Childhood Learning Center Teaching Assistant. Carrie has been teaching at Silver Springs Martin Luther School in Plymouth Meeting as well as at the West Chester Area Day Care Center this summer. Carrie earned her Bachelor’s degree in Music from West Chester University. In college, Carrie performed in the Wind Symphony and Inter-collegiate Band. As a musician, she has also been part of the Symphonic Band and Flute Ensemble, and taught children an array of music theory and music appreciation, as well as singing and dancing during her student-teacher training. Although Carrie initially applied for the vacant music position, she became really intrigued about the preschool opportunity. Based on her current work with toddlers, Carrie will be primarily assisting in preschool; however, she will also help with our school musicals and support Joyce during Extended Day. We’re very fortunate to have another versatile and enthusiastic employee.

Welcome Samantha Bradley

Samantha Bradley is a recent graduate from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Hispanic Language and Literature. In addition to being fluent in Spanish and focusing a good portion of her studies on Adolescent Psychology, Samantha is also well-versed in technology, critical thinking, and leadership. In fact, Samantha is also well-versed in American Sign Language and the Deaf culture. Samantha will replace Dorothy as the new computer teacher, and may offer some unique skills to Meadowbrook students (ie. honors spanish) down the road. 

 

New Hires at Meadowbrook

 Welcome to Lindsey Wooler!

Wooler-Lindsey-HR (1)Lindsey Wooler is a recent graduate of Cairn University. Lindsey received her Bachelor of Music in Music Education and a Bachelor of Science in Bible Studies. At Cairn, Lindsey received the President’s Scholarship, Daisy Bell Jack Scholarship and Cairn Merit Academic Scholarship, as well as Magna Cum Laude, with a 3.85 GPA. Lindsey is a state certified music instructor, who will serve as both the music teacher and primary librarian at Meadowbrook. Along with other new teaching aides, Lindsey will maintain the traditional school musicals, but is also looking to add some new dimensions to Meadowbrook’s Music program. Lindsey completed her student-teaching at Upper Moreland Primary School, Cheltenham Elementary and Open Door Christian Academy. Lindsey has also been a private voice teacher. Outside of work, Lindsey is an avid reader who loves singing and flying kites. In accepting the position, Lindsey said, “I’m thrilled to join such a nurturing and supportive school environment.” We also share our very best wishes with Lindsey and her fiancé Dan, who were recently engaged!

Welcome to Mary Sawyer!

maryMary Sawyer assumes the primary Art position this year. Mary received her Bachelor of Science degree in Fashion Design from Philadelphia University in 2004, and then rushed off to New York City to make her mark before realizing that her true passion was helping children use art as a way to express themselves creatively. Thus, Mary returned to school and received a Master of Arts in Teaching with a focus in Art Education from Montclair State University in 2009. Currently, Mary is certified in both Art and in Family and Consumer Sciences. Previously, Mary worked in Summit (NJ) School District, Springfield (PA) School District, Perkiomen Valley School District and Upper Darby High School before joining the private sector. In fact, Mary comes highly recommended from the Headmaster at Stratford Friends, and will share her talents with both schools this year.

Mary and her husband, Jim, a college guidance counselor at LaSalle College High School, are in the midst of moving to Montgomery County and are thrilled to join our school community. Outside of work and raising her 2 children, Mary enjoys finding ways to integrate her love of the Arts with core subjects that students are learning in the classroom. Mary feels that Meadowbrook will allow her to teach a diverse population of young, impressionable minds. Having instructed students in numerous settings, Mary is very familiar with evolving trends in the industry and also how to meet each child at his/her level. Mary will co-create the Yearbook and collaborate with Becky Blumenthal on the Winter Arts Festival.

Welcome to Diana Caramanico!

dianaDiana Caramanico, will lead the Mindfulness initiative at Meadowbrook. Diana is one of the most accomplished basketball players in the Philadelphia area. A graduate of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, she finished her career as the all-time leading scorer in both the Ivy League and the Philadelphia Big Five. Having been named MVP of each league three times, Diana holds numerous single game, season, and career records for both offense and defense. Most notably, Diana is the leading scorer at Penn for both men and women, and is the leading scorer among Big 5 women with 2,415 career points. As a two-time captain, she led the Penn women’s program to its first ever Ivy League Championship and appearance in the NCAA tournament. Upon graduation, Diana played professionally in Strasbourg, France for two years where she led the league in scoring both years. For the past 8 years, Diana has been substitute teaching an array of subjects at several independent schools. She has also coached girls’ teams at both Germantown Academy (her alma mater ’97) and William Penn Charter. When she ended her pro career, Diana began her own business called, Corpus Mensque (Latin for “body and mind”) to train young people in the competencies of resilience, mental toughness and well-being: skills that are vital, but infrequently taught at any level of schooling. Diana is highly talented and versatile. In 2011, Diana received her Master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. The following year, Diana was inducted into the Philadelphia Big 5 Hall of Fame. At Meadowbrook, Diana will offer upper school enrichment in French, support all grades in Math and provide her expertise in Mindfulness for our entire school community. Diana and her husband reside in Ardmore with their two children.

Matthew’s Mindful Moment

Mathew’s Mindful Moment is a memorial fund started in memory of Mathew Okin. He was a student at the Meadowbrook School from kindergarten through 6th grade.

The mission is to transform the lives of children by providing vital social and emotional programs. Mindfulness has proven success with reducing stress in children. Also, noted was less aggressive behavior and more tolerance for understanding differences with other children. Academic performance had increased and the ability to concentrate and focus. Mindfulness teaches tools and strategies to help children emotionally regulate and build self-esteem and resilience. Presently, it has been instituted in many schools and over 400, 000 children have participated.

The Okin family is excited to bring mindfulness to the Meadowbrook School. We know that our son Mathew would be aligned with our mission to create a world where children can thrive by teaching mindfulness, positive psychology combined with brain science to all our students, teachers and parents.