Syncopated sounds of computer programs alerting students of correct responses rang in room 203. Some used their index fingers to quickly tap on the mouse pads. Others had their small hands cuffed on laptop keyboards. Instead of seeing students embarrassed to raise their hands and answer a question when called on, technology has changed that dynamic at Philip H. Sheridan Elementary School. Now, students from kindergarten to fourth-grade are working at their own varying paces and are focused on individualized lessons.
“There is not one child that isn’t on task. They’re all engaged. They love this. The kids can work independently, and they’re not threatened by, ‘Oh, you know this answer or you have this,’ or not raising their hands and being identified in a negative way,” technology teacher Marsha Ryan said.
Known as the traveling technology teacher, Ryan has spent 20 years observing how technology is helping with students’ learning. From the vast array of programs available to students, Ryan said she likes that they are learning basic keyboarding skills, spelling, math and reading.
“It’s fun. I like what we learn. I like the math and reading,” second-grader Serenity McCorey said.
Having laptop charts on each floor and five smart boards throughout the school, Principal Awilda Aguila said technology is important to Sheridan.
“The fact that we really promote technology use is big. It’s just really neat,” Aguila said.
By reducing the school’s suspension and detention climate, allotting preparation training for teachers during and after-school and instituting several initiatives to raise PSSA standings, Aguila has implemented many changes to Sheridan within the past two years.
“This year’s focus is instruction,” Aguila said.
One system that was put into place was the Five Bees. This is a behavioral system for students to earn 12 loose bees given by the assistant principal, nurse, counselors and teacher leaders. Whenever a student is being respectful, responsible, positive, being a peacemaker and an active learner, a bee is handed out. Classes must fill their “Buzzin’ Dozen” to get a class treat. Treats are usually an extra 10 minutes of recess.
Another incentive is for students to have perfect attendance. In each class, there is a pizza pie chart, which is colored every time all students are present for class. Winners are rewarded with a pizza party.
Additionally, the school participates in the monthly Fact, Add vocabulary, Measurement, Estimation (FAME) initiative in order to increase academic standings. In January, classes focused on mathematics. In February, the focus is on literacy.
There are five areas of socialized recess organized by colors. Areas for soccer, hop scotch, jump rope and hula-hoop are separated. There is also an area for those who want to read quietly.
To help implement these programs at Sheridan, Aguila gets help from the teaching staff. This year, there are a lot of new teachers.
“I like my new staff because they’re very excited, motivated [and] they want to do things differently,” Aguila said.
Second-grade teacher and grade group leader, Margaret Breen was recently named a Nationally Board Certified teacher through Temple University.
“We’re really proud of having her here. I’m hoping she promotes it and gets other teachers motivated to do that,” Aguila said.
Additionally, there are two teachers who are specifically focused on increasing PSSA math and reading scores for students.
In room 308, Theresa Montgomery did “centers” with her third-grade students. For 45 minutes during the day, students worked on literacy skills. Montgomery used a smart board during instructional periods.
Teaching at Sheridan for 15 years, Montgomery said her most memorable experience was seeing former students.
“The kids that I’m teaching, I taught their older brother or sister. So, they come back and you get to talk to them and find out that they’ve been successful. That makes you feel good,” Montgomery said. “Seeing the kids successful and moving onto bigger and better things is always a joy.”
Nashyah Cooper-Long said she likes Montgomery’s class.
“I have many friends, it’s nice. Everyone is nice to me. Everyone is sweet and kind, and it’s just going great. I love this school,” Cooper-Long said.
In room 301, Megan Melnick and fourth-grade students reviewed PSSA practice target questions deciphering between facts and opinions. With seven years of teaching experience at Sheridan, and previously teaching first grade, Melnick said the students are responding well to the practice questions.
“I’m noticing that they like it. They like the challenge of it. They try. I love fourth-grade. I was nervous when I came here. I was afraid that they would be afraid of the test, but they’re looking at it as, try to reach for the top. They’re very responsive,” Melnick said. “I put a lot of extra effort into researching and try to create a good classroom environment and always constantly learning new things to implement. I think I build a good rapport with the students and I’m constantly joking with them.”
“She teaches in a fun way,” fourth-grader Karizma Naples said.
“She teaches us everything we need to know for fifth grade,” Tionya Murrell said.
Proving that a high school can have a cheerleading team even when there are no school teams to cheer for, girls from Camelot’s Excel Academy North have formed the school’s first cheerleading squad. To celebrate the team’s formation, four cheerleaders from the Philadelphia Eagles visited the school on Bustleton Avenue to share some dancing tips and life advice.
The Eagles cheerleaders talked about the sacrifices required to become successful. One key piece of advice: more practice and less partying.
The Camelot girls talked about their plans to go on to college and shared some of their original routines with the Eagles cheerleaders. The Eagles cheerleaders in turn, showed the Camelot girls some of the dances they perform at Eagles games, including forming the letters in the famous E-A-G-L-E-S chant.
Excel Academy North teacher Allison Lloyd, who coaches the team, says the get-together worked just as planned and that her girls had a day they won’t forget.
Without traditional high school teams, the cheerleading squad performs at intermural games and at pep rallies.
Camelot accelerated schools work in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia to educate students who have dropped out or fallen two or more years behind in their grade level. More than 95 percent of Camelot accelerated high school students graduate, with most advancing to post-secondary education or the military.
Eighth and quarter notes squeaked out of clarinets and saxophones. Half and whole notes blared out of the trombone and trumpets, as the nine member music class practiced several measures of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
Music teacher, Jesse Mell had the class clap the rhythm of the song.
“Ta ta, ta ta, ta ta,” the class clapped.
On the count of three, a trombone, four clarinets, two trumpets and two saxophones played several measures and periodically stopped to go over playing technicques.
Trombone player, Brittany Washington was a previous violin musician. Although a novice, she kept with the tempo of the band and as her cheeks filled with air, she glided the brass instrument into a serious of sliding positions.
“I was used to holding the violin with my chin. It’s difficult because with the violin all you have to remember is the chords, [now] you have to remember the positions and notes,” Washington said.
She comes from a musical family. Her brother plays clarinet and sister plays violin. Although she practices for two hours a day, Washington said Mell’s assistance is helpful.
“Mr. Mell is an awesome teacher. He’s fun. He tells us when we’re wrong. If you mess up he’s like, ‘OK,’ try again. Let’s see if you can do it again,’” Washington said.
For “Bille Jean,” Mell explained the A flat to C, or position three, for trombone to Washington.
Last year the Jones musical students put on a regional arts festival at the Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School.
“It was really cool because getting everyone a chance to come together and see that we could really have a consistent music program start at the primary middle school level and move up to high school and have that continuity,” Mell said. “Kids get to eighth grade and then they have no options, because if they don’t go to a magnet high school a lot of the time the band program isn’t there in the high school. So we’re trying to make life long music learners.”
Mell said his goals are to encourage students to study music and see the value of playing an instrument.
“Making kids understand that what’s fun is not always worth while and vice versa. I always say, ‘Fun is playing X-box or jumping in a pool, but this is really something that you’re building a life skill for.’ Just getting them to see the long-term vision of where it’s going to take them, the doors that it could open or just the value of sticking with something.” Mell said.
In Lindsey McGarrigle’s reading enrichment class, fifth- and sixth-grade students began reading a new fiction book, “A Likely Place” by Paula Fox.
As students flipped to page 109, McGarrigle posed a question to the class.
“How do you react when adults think they know how you feel?” McGarrigle said.
“I get angry sometimes. If I’m sad they just automatically think I’m happy,” sixth-grader Joshau Berger said.
Fan of science fiction novels, Berger and his peers have tested out of the corrective reading program. During the enrichment course, students are challenged to tackle higher levels of reading and writing. Recently, the class participated in a school wide writing contest in which they wrote scripts for a movie, talk show or courthouse drama based on literature read in class.
“There’s a lot of kids that match my level,” sixth-grader Krizm Rosario said.
The class reads the passage out loud.
“Popcorn, Seriphim,” sixth-grader Umiko Webb said.
Webb passed the reading responsibility to Seriphim Bey, which is an activity that is often practiced during class.
In a third floor classroom, calculators, workbooks and pencils covered the desks of eighth-graders Nazsha Gonzales, Crystal Hernandez and Nilda Mojica. The three girls were practicing scientific notation in preparation for the PSSA tests.
Gonzales said she enjoys math the most, but plans to attend Kensington CAPA and major in dance.
Mojica said she enjoyed the class trips to the Philadelphia Zoo and to a St. Joseph’s University basketball game.
Although schoolwork may seem overwhelming, Hernandez said Jones is preparing her for high school.
“They give us a lot of writing to prepare us. We work more than any other grade in the school. That gives a chance to get use to it,” Hernandez said.
With the rich history of contributions to this country by African Americans, it’s fitting that opportunities to celebrate Black History Month are taking a 21st century turn.
For example, digital cable subscribers can access educational, entertaining and inspirational programming whenever they want just by clicking the On Demand button on their remote control.
Programs and movies suitable for all audiences include:
• Milestones in Black History: A look at the history of the struggles and strife, the tragedies and the triumphs of African Americans in the U.S., including programming on the Civil Rights era. Everyone in the family can get in on the learning, with documentaries like “The Black List” examining some of the reasons for Black History Month. And kids young and old can take a trip back in time as they understand the importance of historical events with “Seizing Justice: The Greensboro 4,” “On the Shoulders of Giants” and “Birds of a Feather: Tuskegee Airmen.”
• Profiles in Courage: The biographies of influential African Americans come to life with dramatic profiles and stories of acclaimed leaders and others who are not so well known — but perhaps should be, such as that of Lena Baker in “Hope & Redemption: The Lena Baker Story.”
• Dramas: Programs and movies like “Independence Day,” showcasing award-worthy performances from notable African-American actors like Will Smith. You can also explore and share real-life family relationship dramas like “Braxton Family Values.”
• Hearth and Home: Savor shows like “Down Home with the Neelys” that provide a look at the food and other aspects of modern African-American society.
• Of the People: Program content that exemplifies the contributions made by multicultural talent, shows written by, starring, directed or produced by African Americans like Morgan Freeman in “Million Dollar Baby.”
• Powerful Portrayals: Storytelling has always been an important part of African-American culture. Drama fans can enjoy Black cinema offerings, which chronicle the challenges of African-American protagonists in a variety of ways.
• That’s Entertainment: Laugh along with comedy specials such as “Chris Rock: Bigger and Blacker,” or let romantic comedies warm the heart. If music is your thing, there are shows and movies like “Ray,” the story of one of America’s true musical geniuses, Ray Charles, that look into the past and present music-making of African-American artists. — (NAPSI)
To help parents and caregivers faced with the ever-challenging task of preparing healthful school lunches that kids will actually eat, registered dietitian Sarah Wally offers a few tips:
• Include all food groups. A balanced lunch is a healthful lunch. Follow the MyPlate meal- planning model and pack a serving or two from each of the following categories: grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy and protein. Vegetables and fruits should account for roughly half of the meal.
• Keep foods safe. Making sure hot foods stay hot and cool foods stay cool is imperative to keep food-borne illness at bay. Insulated thermoses are a great option for storing soups or warm pasta. Adding a frozen juice box to your kid’s lunch bag creates an instant ice pack to keep cool items chilled and it will defrost just in time to enjoy at lunch. As a bonus, just 4 ounces of 100 percent juice counts as a serving (half a cup) of fruit.
• Get the kids involved. Asking your children to help plan their weekly lunches lets them feel important and in control. Share with them your criteria for a healthy lunch and then give them some options to choose from. Kids will enjoy a break from repetitious lunches and learn a bit about creating healthful meals.
• Use lunchtime as a way to connect. A handwritten note can be a surprising, sentimental way to reconnect with your kids. Use a napkin to write a few words of encouragement before that after-lunch test or important soccer game. It can make their day.
Recipe for a healthful lunchbox
• Choose whole-grain breads and crackers for added fiber.
• Pack 100 percent juice, providing vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds called phytonutrients.
• Stick to low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
• Help your kids to “eat the rainbow” by offering a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
For more information, log on to www.fruitjuicefacts.org.
Mayor Michael Nutter joined Germantown High School (GHS) principal, Margaret Mullen, to recognize students involved with The Stained Glass Project for their recent trip to New Orleans.
Underwritten by Firstrust Bank, students donated stained glass windows to the Morris Jeff Community School, located in a neighborhood that was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. The Stained Glass Project teaches students about the importance of being active members of the community and giving back to others in need.
Students, Oyinkansola Adekitan, Deshawn Brewer, Janai Dallas, Nana Yaw Effah, Cornell Gilliland, Marie-Jean Haba and Dywanne Smith, went on the trip and presented Mayor Nutter with a ceremonial stained glass windowpane during an assembly held at GHS.
The Stained Glass Project is part of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown After-School program. This program is run by volunteer artists who work with teenagers from GHS, most of whom have never made art before. Students and artists are of varied ages, races, religions and nationalities, working in collaboration to make art for children they never met. In previous projects, the GHS students have created stained glass windows for AIDS orphans in South Africa. Artists, Joan Myerson Shrager and Paula Mandel, founded this program five years ago to inspire students to change the world through art.
The Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition has held its first-ever student video contest. Eighty-one inventive videos produced by more than300 middle and high school students from Philadelphia public and charter schools were invited to submit 30- to 60-second videos answering the question, “Why is math and/or science important to you?”
The mission of the Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition is to engage youth and increase their interest in learning mathematics and science. The Coalition wants students in Philadelphia schools to excel in these areas.
After a public online vote and final judging by a panel of Apple representatives, two winning student-created videos were celebrated at James Dobson Elementary School and Boys Latin of Philadelphia Charter School. Ceremonies were held at separately.
Emceed by the Philadelphia Phillies’ Scott Palmer, the events featured appearances by the Phillie Phanatic, the Science Cheerleaders and the contest judges from Apple.
The “Radical Math” video from eighth-grade students Rebecca Gallagher, A’Jahnae Adams, Imani Collier, Timothy Mitchell and Trevor Loughrey of Dobson was selected as the winner in the middle school division. Their teacher, Allison McConnell, sponsored them.
As a seventh- and eighth-grade math and science teacher at Dobson, McConnell said she frequently hears her students asking the purpose of math and science in their daily lives, and was thrilled when she came across this contest.
“It’s one of the biggest questions I get. I thought this would be a great opportunity for the kids to explore why [math and science] was important to them,” McConnell said.
She credits the video entirely to the efforts of the students. Next year, McConnell said she would encourage more students to submit videos.
“I think that a piece of it is because they created it, it allowed them to have more pride. Rather than me say, ‘How about you do this?’ I really left it up to them, and it was entirely student-guided,” she said.
In the high school division, “A Letter Made Possible with Science” video from tenth-grader Alec Stith of Boys Latin won. His sponsor teacher Trey Smith supported him.
Student winners received $100 in iTunes gift certificates, $250 worth of classroom materials and a class trip to a professional recording studio donated by recording artist Jill Scott.
The Philadelphia Education Fund is a nonprofit organization that provides funding for various educational programs and initiatives. In 2005, the Fund assembled the Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition to address the quality of math and science instruction in schools in lieu of a national demand. The Coalition has partnerships with representatives from corporations, universities, nonprofit organizations and the School District of Philadelphia.
Five students simultaneously plucked the strings of their guitars as sneakers tapped the floor to keep the song’s tempo. Their eyes shifted to follow the chords written on the sheet music as Alandra Abrams led the ensemble by playing her black guitar.
The semi-circle of seventh-grade musicians played “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” the theme song from the “Lion King” and “My Heart Will Go On,” theme song of the movie, “Titanic.”
Praise Idowu, James Lee, Iris Green, Niaundria Stevenson and Laurencia Duroseau were a part the ensemble of musicians who spent their lunch period practicing.
“When you play guitar, sometimes it can soothe you and make you feel better when you’re feeling down,” Green said. “It’s actually fun playing the guitar — and it’s actually fun learning how to play different kinds of songs, so I like this music class.”
“I think the excitement that they bring when they finally get it — just to see them shine. They come in excited. If I tell them we’re not doing guitar, some of them actually have a fit,” Abrams said.
Abrams has taught at Tilden for 17 years, but has been teaching for over 23 years. After attending a weekend workshop sponsored by the School District of Philadelphia, Abrams began teaching guitar to students. Receiving funding from the Little Kids Rock grant, a classroom set of guitars was purchased for students.
“They can express themselves in ways they can’t if they don’t have an instrument in their hands. I rather see them have a guitar and express themselves this way through music than aggressive ways,” Abrams said.
She also teaches choir to the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grades. In the afternoon, sixth-grade classes learn to play bells, recorders and receive technology-based music learning on computers. Seventh-graders receive guitar and keyboard lessons during class.
“You bring the atmosphere to your kids. If you have the right attitude as a teacher you can change their behavior and I think music is a perfect way to do it because it gets to them,” Abrams said.
Some of the students are novices to guitar playing, but others have grown-up in musical families. Lee’s father played guitar. Duroseau’s mother played the harp. She now plays four instruments: piano, harp, cello and guitar.
Stevenson’s father and grandfather have played guitar. She said she would like to play clarinet and flute, but guitar is her favorite so far. She even uses her grandfather’s personal guitar to play in class.
“I grew up doing it,” Stevenson said. ‘My family is basically all about music so that’s why I play guitar.”
The first instrument that Idowu learned was guitar. He began playing at 7 years old.
“Watching people on the TV sing songs and play guitar sort of pushed me to be educated about the guitar,” Idowu said.
Through personal experience, Abrams said her middle school teacher encouraged her to be active with music. Abrams said she wants to translate the lessons she learned from her former teacher to her students at Tilden.
“I’m tough on them, but she was tough on me. She showed me love, and I show them love. I’m tough, but I show love and they know it,” Abrams said.
As part of a math project, Ariana V. Flores, a fifth-grade student of the Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP), contacted the Philadelphia Affiliate of Komen for the Cure via email to assist her with a class project. After explaining why she chose the organization because of her grandmother’s loss to breast cancer, Flores met the Komen Philadelphia Affiliate CEO, Elaine Grobman, to learn more about the foundation. Since their meeting, Flores has spent time fundraising and as the co-captain of the “From the Hart” team in memory of her grandmother. Flores was awarded the February Pink Ribbon Honor. Grobman granted her the opportunity to represent Philadelphia in the 2012 Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure Kids Dash.
Loesche students learn to recycle
Judith Rubin at Loesche Elementary helped students complete their first recycle project for the year. Rubin taught her second-grade class about recycling and found that recycled drink pouches make great folders. Students now have the opportunity to earn a drink pouch folder handmade by their teacher. Students also made posters for the lunchroom about how to save the earth. Check out the kids at Loesche and visit www.terracycle.net to learn more ways to save the Earth.
Bridesburg Elementary fights childhood cancer
The Bridesburg National Elementary Honor Society has taken on the challenge to help fight childhood cancer. Students in fourth- and fifth-grades sponsored, organized and ran an Alex's Lemonade Stand and Lemon Face Contest at the school for three days on Feb. 15-17 during lunchtimes and collected $800. They also plan on holding more stands and additional fundraising events throughout the year.
Philadelphia Eagles Youth program selects Comegys Elementary for project
Comegys Elementary School has been selected by the Eagles Youth Partnership to build a playground, paint murals inside and outside the school, install mosaic tile masterpieces and install a 50x75 foot artificial turf field this June.
Drama, literature, music blend with academics
Watch out, Broadway. Feltonville Arts and Science students are adding drama class and choir to their rosters, learning how to write monologues, direct plays and even put on a production of a Broadway musical.
No longer an after-school-based program, classes are taught throughout the week and to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students.
“One of the things that was big for me, of course, academics is the biggest piece of the job, but the fact that the school was called ‘Arts and Science.’ I was like, ‘Why is it called Arts and Science?’ when I first came here because we didn’t have much arts or science things going on,” Principal Michael Reid said.
“So this year we added things to the kids’ roster so the kids could pick stuff that they want to take, almost like a high school roster.”
Lead teacher E. Yaffa-Kremen has been teaching reading, language arts, social studies and drama for 15 years. She said these new programs of academics are geared to encourage students to express themselves.
“The school has definitely started to improve with the implementation of the arts. I think it makes learning fun. It gets kids to want to come to school when they’re involved in something other than sitting and writing. I think it gives them a whole different aspect of learning,” Yaffa-Kremen said.
“Now some of the kids are really involved in the arts. We have a choir. It’s nice to see that there’s excitement in learning, and learning is starting to be a little more enjoyable. Kids are thinking, they’re creating because of that, they’re doing better in their other classes.”
Of Principal Reid, Yaffa-Kremen said his hands-on approach is much appreciated.
“You have to have a principal that’s willing to take chances and trust others. He definitely wants kids to want to learn. He’s always looking for ways to motivate them to want to come to school and want to make it more fun. He meets with me or the choir teacher, he says, ‘What do you need? What can I do to help you?’ He helped all of us clean up after the play and put props away. Not too many principals would do that. I think he’s on the right track to get the staff to want to do more,” Yaffa-Kremen said.
“The last performance we had in the marking period, the winter show and the one we did last year. I like the performances because we have a [teacher] who takes junior Broadway plays and produces some with our kids. It’s really unique to see our kids on stage singing, acting and dancing. There were so many kids involved. It was nice to see our kids in that light,” Reid said.
“She’s really an asset to our school,” Assistant Principal Peggy Klova-Davis said.
Students have done skits for science fairs, conflict resolution workshops and even for the annual holiday show.
The sixth-grade classes are focused on Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and are writing their own dream speeches.
The eighth- and seventh-grade classes are writing their own scripts by taking popular stories and adding their own twists.
Additionally, the eighth-graders wrote a book of monologues that was published by Yaffa-Kremen. This is the first year that she has had the student’s work published.
“I think it builds self-confidence and self-esteem. I think it gives them a different perspective of literature, because usually they’re reading it, almost like a spectator, their just looking at literature on paper. This gives them an opportunity to walk in the character’s shoes. Be the actual character, see what it feels like, experience empathy,” Yaffa-Kremen said.
“I think it makes them better readers, better writers, better literature analysts. In my opinion, theater encompasses such a large spectrum of skills from page to page that makes you a well rounded student.”