Musings from the Classroom

  • Opposite Ends of the Spectrum, Commonalities Regardless—Tied Together by Transition

    Posted by VFES Communications at 9/8/2015 7:55:00 AM

    It’s compelling to consider the beginning of the school year and the end of the school year. On one hand, they truly are undeniably different in a number of regards.

    The beginning of the school year holds a wealth of possibilities.

    How can we grow? What can we learn? Where is our path going to lead us? How many hiccups will we navigate along the way?

    Are my teachers going to be nice?

    Am I going to make any new friends?

    On the other side, the end of the year is filled with reflection—opportunities to consider one’s successes and accomplishments as well as the curve balls thrown along the way.

    And in all the ways they are different, they are also the same in a number of respects.
    For in both, there is a eagerness, an energy that cannot be matched. One that makes your body tingle and keeps you alert to take it all in. Smiles undeniably abound just as much on the first day as the last day. And every day in the books is a win in and of itself; for there cannot possibly be a day that goes by where one learns nothing. On the cusp of starting something new, a requisite transition period is full of a lot of gains—no matter how bumpy it is along the way.

    Perhaps the greatest struggles lie in the fear of the unknown and discomfort in trying something new. How can we ease transition and use it to our advantage?

    • Practice a day with school or a day without school. Use a visual schedule to help your son or daughter know what to expect and at what time. Go through the motions of getting ready or filling a lot of perceived down time.
    • Break the transition down into smaller steps. Offer incentives for accomplishing each; e.g., tokens which can add up and be cashed in for a larger payoff, from a toy to an outing to the movies.
    • As difficult as it may be, stay as positive as possible and avoid saying no. Sometimes being negative feeds into an aggravated cycle. Praise your son or daughter for what he or she is doing/has done nicely.
    • Employ a favorite toy or electronic device. Keep it on hand and use it as an impetus for completing a difficult next step in the day.
    • Make time seem more tangible. If your son or daughter knows how long five minutes will be by experiencing it and tracking it on a clock, time-driven blocks of time become more relatable. “You know how quickly that clip from Frozen went? That’s just five minutes. You can do it.”
    • Create a Social Story to help your son or daughter make better use of his or her communication skills when moving from something comfortable to something unfamiliar. Here are some resources: http://www.autism.org.uk/living-with-autism/strategies-and-approaches/social-stories-and-comic-strips/how-to-write.aspx and http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2013/02/11/12-computer-programs-websites-and-apps-for-making-social-stories/.

    Exploring all the ways in which something novel can be fun and how to harness the energy solicited by the first day of school or the last day of school can be an excellent way to assuage concerns of the unknown and appreciate the day for what it is: the beginning of opportunities versus the ending of something new and unique.

    First Day and Last Day Blog full of Transition  

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  • Life Imitates Art: Creating Really Cool Things During ESY

    Posted by VFES Communications at 8/5/2015

    This summer’s art program run by Ms. Fell presented a robust slate of methods and mediums through which students could engage in artistic endeavors.

    From Australian nature sculptures and block prints to printmaking and sketching, students in the Middle and High Schools and the VTC had varied opportunities to try something new. Students learned about the nature sculptures of Andy Goldsworthy—a British photographer and sculptor who produces land art in natural environments. After studying his work, students ventured outside to make their own nature sculptures.

    To learn about the concept of positive and negative space, students discussed Goldsworthy’s use of these elements in his piece entitled Rain Shadow. Classes also explored Australian Aboriginal cave hand paintings and compared Goldsworthy’s use of positive and negative to what the Aboriginals produced. After much discussion, students made a stencil and paint in spray bottles to produce their own positive and negative space hand paintings.

    During week three of ESY, our older students furthered their understanding of positive and negative space as they were introduced to the process of printmaking using block prints. Students sketched and drew on foam printing blocks, creating the negative space of their print. During weeks four and five, the students rolled out ink to make multiple prints of their image and made frames for their prints.

    We’re delighted our students were able to explore new mediums, gain an understanding of novel concepts and expand their appreciation for the art of other cultures.

    Honorable mention: Students in our Elementary School explored textures, colors, shapes and dimension, making sea creature friends to comprise an ocean-themed mural. Construction-paper fish were adorned with ripped pieces of colored tissue paper, making these aquatic animals quite animated. Turtles fabricated out of paper and egg cartons leapt off the board. Fluffy clouds floating above the oceanic world, with cotton balls utilized to add dimension and create cumulus clouds.

     Middle and High School and VTC Art
    Students Work from the Middle and High School and VTC
     
     Elementary School Art
    Student Work from the Elementary School 
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  • Supporting Innovative Educational Initiatives: Students Collect Caps for Kits

    Posted by VFES Communications at 9/19/2014 3:00:00 PM

    Sometimes the simplest of things lend themselves to the greatest ideas.

    High School students in Ms. Seel’s class spent time collecting, washing, sorting and labeling bottle caps that had been amassed from locations around campus over the course of a few months.

    Their efforts support the Caps Program, a project initiated by a West Chester University professor and student that utilizes recycled caps from water, milk, juice and other beverage bottles in sensory-learning, play-based activities to build literacy, numeracy and sequencing skills. The caps are affixed with a letter, number or symbol to comprise an alphabet kit and a number kit. The alphabet set contains three of each vowel, three of the more popular letters and two of the remaining letters. Number kits include three each of numbers one through zero and two each of various mathematical symbols. There are also 20 blank caps for folks to exercise their creativity and make their own additions. Included along with the caps in a zip-lock bag is a resource guide for parents and teachers that provides some sample, basic ideas and serves as inspiration for creating endless activities.

    Kits are collected from those who volunteer their time and energy to create them then distributed to schools, literacy programs, domestic violence shelters and even Costa Rica and other locations in South America. They’re great learning tools for places with minimal resources; and even for those with extensive resources, the vast possibilities for educational activities bolsters children’s creativity. From matching shapes and sorting consonants from vowels to engaging in imaginative play with pretend money and using caps as problem-solving tools when learning basic number sentences, the caps can be utilized in myriad subject areas.

    With something so easy make, it’s hard to resist the urge to make a kit for your own child or student.

    Here’s a picture from when representatives from West Chester University visited campus to meet our students and collect the kits.
     
    Students and WCU Representatives  
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