Look For the Helpers

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“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

Art Literacy: Greek Vases

Special thanks to Lynn, Maria, Tamara, Laura, Darren, and Colleen for coming in and helping the fourth grade learn about Greek art. We appreciate your help as we created vases influenced by Greek style.

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My Pal Finn

“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” – Chuck Swindoll

My pal Finn Mooney is a neat kid. I got to know him very well last year when he was in my fourth grade class. His smile is infectious. When you see him, he smiles (always), and you have no choice but to smile back. The kid just spews positive energy.

Finn has faced many challenges in his life, having gone through thirteen surgeries on his heart. Each time, my resilient friend bounces back and keeps moving forward, forcing smiles out of everyone as he goes.

So I was happy to see his giant smile grow even wider last year when he told me that he was going to get the opportunity to design his own shoe at Nike. Finn had been chosen as one of the six designers for Doernbecher Freestyle, a program that partners with Nike to create shoes that are sold to benefit Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

Finn’s shoe was recently unveiled and went on sale. It was a huge success for a huge little man. Please take the time to learn about Finn’s design process and more importantly, take the time to learn from Finn’s positive attitude.

About Doernbecher Freestyle: Nike/Doernbecher Freestyle Shoes

About Finn: Meet Finn

About Finn’s design process: Designer Focus: Finn

The Indestructible Soccer Ball

I came across a pretty cool article today about a man that created a durable soccer ball, capable of lasting 30 years. He got the idea after seeing a video of children in Darfur playing with a ball made of trash. He mentioned that many of the donated soccer balls that make it to these parts of the world are rendered useless after a short period of time due to the rough terrain.

In class today, we read part of the article and related information about the design process of the ball to what we have been learning about in science. It was a good real-world application of what the students are learning and a reminder of how science can be used to solve problems and make a positive impact on other people.

Here’s a link to the article, and check out the accompanying video too: Joy That Lasts, on the Poorest of Playgrounds

Many students expressed interest in purchasing one of these balls, known as One World Futbols. For every ball purchased, one is donated to children around the world. Kind of a cool way to give back. If you would like to purchase a One World Futbol, you can do so here: Buy One Give One

Just an aside: The article reminded me of my trip to Costa Rica in 2007. I jumped at an opportunity one afternoon to play in a pick-up soccer game with some local kids in a village called Boruca. The conditions were not third world by any means, but they were not posh either. We played on an old concrete court and were easily defeated by the skilled group of teenagers. I gave one of the three soccer balls I brought on the trip to the boys in my host family, never considering it would possibly be useless in a matter of weeks or months. Below is a picture from the game, with an arrow pointing at me (I’m not very good at soccer, by the way).

Teaching Character

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When I was a child, anytime I failed or had to deal with a difficult situation, my dad always had the same response: “It’ll build character.” I was never allowed to mope or whine. I was taught to learn from adversity and to try to gain something positive from all of my experiences. I am forever thankful to my dad for teaching me that lesson.

I thought about my dad when I saw this piece from Rock Center with Brian Williams a few weeks back. Many teachers and schools around the country are making the extra effort to value character and perseverance as much as grades. We often get caught up in the importance of getting good grades, but we need to always remember that teaching students to be good people needs to be a very high priority, if not the highest.

4A Prayer

At the beginning of the year, I asked the students of 4A to work together to write a prayer that we would say at the end of each day. The idea was to make a prayer that would be more meaningful and personal.

We brainstormed some ideas as a whole class and decided on a few topics we believed needed to be included.

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Then we split off into groups to write different parts of the prayer.

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A few students then took the different parts, edited, and meshed them together so it would flow smoothly. Finally, a few students transported our message onto a large sheet of paper and decorated it for display. Below is a photo of the finished product.

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What is Khan Academy?

If you haven’t noticed, I have included a few “Helpful Links” on the site. One of those links is to the Khan Academy, whose goal is to provide “a free, world-class education for anyone everywhere.” I recommend Khan Academy to my students looking for extra work in math (other categories tend to be higher level – math begins at basic arithmetic). Whether you are struggling or excelling, Khan Academy is a great place to practice skills and push yourself to a higher level of understanding.

It’s very simple. You choose a category, watch a tutorial video, and practice problems until you prove your proficiency in that area. To learn more about how it works, feel free to watch Salman Khan explain Khan Academy at TED 2011.