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Grade II Student Reports Chicks Hatching!

The chicks are here! The chicks are here! Lower School is abuzz with the arrival of baby chicks in both Ms. Gilligan’s and Ms. Siverls’ Kindergarten classes. Students and families in the Lower Division have all been excited by the arrival of these “Cuties,” but none more than Blake. This week I’m turning my blog over to Grade II student and investigative reporter, Blake Dinwoodey, who chronicled the arrival of the first four (now SIX) chicks in Ms. Gilligan’s classroom in his very own handwritten newsletter The Park Student.

Here’s the text of Blake’s article, spelling and punctuation left as it was written.

Moonlight Turns Into Four Cuteys!
By Blake Dinwoodey
Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mrs. Gilligan’s Kindergarten class received a big present-from nature! Four chicks popped out of the eggs after 22 days, one more than the average number of 21.  The Chicks (A.K.A. Chick Cuteys) debuted into the world on the 28th of April 2016, looking basically the same. “I can’t even tell if they’re boys or girls!” Park Student Reporter Blake Dinwoodey says of the Chick Cuteys. Tony Gilligan, who is in her 19th and final year, says of the chicks “A perfect final-year present!” Half of the eggs started in a incubator that was revealed to be broken, forcing Gilligan to transfer the eggs to a new incubator immediately.  Those were peeping but not cracking, and the other eggs were cracking but not peeping all yesterday.  They all cracked out unexpectedly overnight. More chicks could hatch… Read The Park Student tomorrow to keep updated on the chicks!!!!!!

Moonlight Turns Into Four Cuteys!

Chick2 Chick1

To see a short video clip of the Chick Cuteys click HERE



Behind Every Great Idea is a Child!

The fantastic posters and sign up sheets!

The Genesis of an Idea

A student in the Lower Division had approached me about wanting to start an Inventor’s Club. After lunch last Friday, he came to my office to discuss what an Inventor’s Club would entail. When I asked about possible inventions, he said, “Invent a way to make spinach taste good!” I said I didn’t think we were going to have access to spinach. He said he would be agreeable to inventing things with everyday materials. I was relieved. We discussed location. He said, “The gym.” I said, “I think my office would be a good place for our first meeting.” That led me to my next question which was, “How many children do you think will attend the first meeting?” His answer, “46.” I smiled and then thought to myself I think he needs to adjust his expectations. I said, “I believe that we should aim for ten students at the first meeting, and once kids learn more about what you can do at the inventor’s club it might grow a bit in size. I think ten would be a super number of attendees as you get the club underway.” He looked as if he wanted to argue with me about ten being acceptable but just nodded his head. I quickly changed the subject to how he should advertise the club and what day we would start. We agreed on two days that would work well for his schedule (my schedule was an afterthought!) He decided the next step would be to make posters to hang around the School advertising the club and necessary details. He was excited, and so was I. The meeting came to an end, and the posters were made. He got the permission of his teacher, and he and a friend traveled all around the School hanging posters with a sign-up sheet.


I returned to school after the long weekend and smiled as I passed many signs in the hall advertising the Inventor’s Club. The additional sign up sheet with hand drawn lines hanging below remained empty. I was secretly breathing a sigh of relief as 46 students would have been a lot to organize. Then on Wednesday, I passed a poster with a number of names written below. I was happy we would have a few attendees; the club wouldn’t be a bust. As the week progressed, I began to see a lot more names accompanying the posters, and I was starting to get a bit nervous. I stopped the club’s founder in the hall and said to him, “I think you should go around and collect the names of the people who have signed up, so we have enough materials.” He was happy to take a friend, clipboard in hand and write down the names of all the students who had signed up for Friday. Later, he burst into my office and said, “We have 50 kids signed up! I told you it was going to be popular!” I looked at him in disbelief and smiled. He had been right my office would never work.

The Big Day!

Friday arrived. The club creator was in his element. K-II Math Specialist, Katrina Mills and Grade II teacher, Sarah Bourque came to the rescue and joined us as we headed outside to collect materials. We brought sticks, pinecones, rocks, string, bark, and a glue gun out to the Pre-K/K playground and began to invent. Children began to design boats, marble chutes, and catapults. Because of the idea of a motivated student, children were collaborating and enthusiastically designing inventions. I thought to myself this is why I love leading at Park. We let children believe they can, and we support them while they do. To see a short video of one of the creations click HERE

Other lessons learned:

Never underestimate the power of a child and a great idea

Always have a Plan B

Glue guns are a marvelous tool

Looking for materials

Looking for materials

An invention in progress

An invention in progress

A beautiful day to invent!

A beautiful day to invent!

A very proud inventor

A very proud inventor


What Do Teachers DO on Tuesday Afternoons?

Do parents ever wonder what the Lower Division faculty does on Tuesday afternoons after 2:00?  Do parents realize how hard teachers continue to work after the children are dismissed for the day? Those were the questions going through my mind as we began our division meeting this week. Katrina Mills, Math Specialist and Susan Segar, Literacy Specialist led two workshops: one on mathematical mindset and the other about reading comprehension strategies. Sue Segar kicked off the afternoon work leading the faculty in a discussion and share about reading comprehension strategies. Groups of teachers across grade level shared reading comprehension strategy lessons they have taught in their classrooms, while others enthusiastically shared how children were building reading strategies and introducing vocabulary like inference, visualizing, and determining importance from the youngest ages. There were thoughtful questions about how to reach all students and what supports could be put in place for a child who couldn’t demonstrate understanding. Teachers shared their lessons in a Google doc, which I am confident will become a valuable resource. The hour passed quickly, and faculty shifted gears. Katrina Mills began the second half of the afternoon with a math question (see the problem below). Groups of teachers eagerly got to work, sharing strategies and talking about different mathematical concepts applied to arrive at an answer. The room was humming with teachers passionately engaged in learning. Once our minds were activated Katrina focused the discussion on Jo Boaler’s book Mathematical Mindsets. Teachers worked in groups discussing pre-selected quotes from the book. Again, the conversation was lively, and the thinking that was being shared was meaningful. Amidst all of this energy, I sat back and  reflected on how fortunate I am to lead a group of passionate, motivated faculty who enthusiastically devote time every Tuesday afternoon to better their skills and the classroom experience of Park students. What an exceptional group of teachers!





Boys Will Be Boys

When I was growing up the saying, “Boys will be boys” was heard regularly. Boys built with blocks and girls played with dolls. It was a rare occurrence in my Kindergarten class to see girls breaking out of these gender stereotypes. But here at The Park School, we realize the importance of breaking through gender roles and gender expectations. Recently, one Lower Division teacher decided that she needed to try something new in her classroom after the boys had regularly been dominating the block area in her classroom. She gathered her students on the rug and made an announcement to the class. The block area would be closed to boys for the week, and only the girls would be allowed to use the blocks. The girls responded with a joyful cheer and the boys sat devastated. One boy just shook his head and said over and over again, “What am I going to do?” The girls quickly dispersed moving towards the block area. They began to build castles, animal shelters, and hotels. Many of the boys sat and wondered what now? The teacher offered a variety of other classroom activities, and she waited. Slowly the boys headed to different activities some begrudgingly, others with curiosity, and others with enthusiasm for trying something new.

When I returned the next day to see what was happening in the classroom, I was amazed by the change in the class dynamic. The boys were painting with watercolors, some were researching favorite animals, others were playing checkers, and the block area was crowded with girls building and designing. When the students were later asked how they felt about the change they responded with comments like;

“It felt great! I have never spent so much time in the block area, and I got to build lots of buildings!”

“It felt weird and different at first at first but not now.”

“At first, I felt mad and then I liked coloring and drawing superheroes.”

“At first, I didn’t want to make the change, and now I love it!”

I love working at a school where teachers aren’t afraid to push kids to try new things, break away from gender roles, and help children discover new interests. One of the boys who was most upset with the change has now started a superhero movement in his class. I look forward to seeing and hearing about all the other ideas that grow from a teacher’s desire to disrupt the notion that “boys will be boys.”

IMG_3232_sm IMG_3177_sm IMG_3176_sm IMG_3170_sm

What Do You Do With an Idea?

In the past few weeks, I have been the recipient of many student ideas. These ideas have been received in persuasive letters, proposals, sign-up sheets, and data collections. The ideas have been generated by individuals, groups, and classes. Giving the children an opportunity to share their ideas has been empowering and has motivated others to think about what they can do with an idea. Lucky me that I get to help!

Here’s what our students are doing with their ideas:

  • Writing a proposal to our Food Services Manager for healthier snacks with funny names
  • Creating the Spread Love Club by a group of students in Ms. Bourque’s class. See a short video about the club HERE 
  • Writing a persuasive letter asking for Pajama Day in Lower Division (I was so persuaded it is happening February 19!)
  • Collecting data about the favorite birthday treat (thanks to one students motivation we now have Tootsie Pops for birthdays!) 
  • Teaching about the Antarctic through a presentation created at Scratch club

If your child is wondering what to do with an idea, I recommend reading What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yomada and discuss all the possibilities about how to bring the idea to life!


Food Services Manager, Sean Callahan meets with a student to discuss snack ideas


The Spread Love Club meets at recess


Spread Love Club signup


Birthday Treat Chart