Meet with Dr. Tina Chekan, CEO and Superintendent of Propel Schools, at our final Propel Connections event of the series. The event will begin at 6 p.m. at the Car Barn on 2nd Ave. We look forward to hearing from you!
By Barbara Vargo – Kindergarten Teacher – Propel Northside
Throughout the month of June, Kindergarten students at Propel Northside participated in the “When I Grow Up Summit.” The summit connected the year’s learning with long term goals by inviting community leaders (including parents and family members of Northside students) to give guest lecturers and participate in Q & A sessions about their jobs.
The Kindergarten students were visited by many interesting professionals including: a firefighter, a police officer, the Pittsburgh Pirates community outreach coordinator, a bus driver, a postal worker, a graphic design artist, a baker, a playwright, a singer/songwriter, and many others! Learning about the first hand experiences of these community leaders was an engaging and authentic learning experience enabling our students to envision their futures and their potential for impact within the Northside Community and beyond.
The summit was a wonderful learning experience connecting our classroom to the outside community. Each day, students sharpened their writing skills by jotting down their perspectives on why each guest’s careers were important. Furthermore, listening and speaking skills were practiced through the question and answer sessions, and students enriched their understanding through participating in hands on activities connected to the various occupations (decorating a cupcake, reading Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, creating their own business logos, etc.) The interactive summit culminated with our Kindergarten Promotion ceremony which had a “When I Grow Up” Theme.
Involvement and support from One Northside and the Sprout Fund permitted our kindergarten classes to conclude their year in fashion (literally). A generous grant from One Northside enabled Mrs. Ward and I to purchase costumes for all of our students who proudly showed off their dreams to friends, families, and community members. Students were then able to keep those costumes as a memento of the successful completion of kindergarten and as a reminder that Propel Northside and community at large believes in their dreams.
Watching the students share their aspirations, favorite memories from the year, and showcase their learning through song, dance, and drumming was an inspiring and beautiful way to conclude the school year. Although our kindergarten students are little, they are fierce! With continued belief and support I am certain these young scholars will grow up to be exactly what they want to be …even the little guy aiming to be an intergalactic police officer!
In the last of a series, Ms. Barbara Vargo tells us about the delicious wrap-up to a great season of learning!
The Sturdy Roots Meetings for the 2015-2016 school year concluded with an interactive cooking workshop co-hosted by Community Kitchen. Believing in the age old proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” this school year Tiffany Ward and I have expanded our practice beyond the walls of our classrooms this year in order to strengthen our relationships with families and the Northside Community.
Kindergarten is a giant milestone in a child’s education as it sets the tone for each young scholar’s academic future. Recognizing the need to support our students both in and outside of the school, Mrs. Ward and I have been working diligently to build another bridge in our city. We have been working to bridge the home to school connection.
One heaping cup of collaboration, four tablespoons of professional development, and a dash of fun– the final Sturdy Roots Meeting was served smokin’ hot on the evening of Monday, June 6, 2016. Under the guidance of Community Kitchen Chef, Emily Voelker, Propel Northside students in grades K-2 made a uniquely healthy and delicious dish of apple and cheese tacos. The event required students to measure, follow directions, and try something new. They also were education on healthy habits by playing and participating in the sugar game! A fun game enabling students to estimate how many grams of sugar are in each of their favorite foods. The sugar game was an enlightening experience encouraging conscious consumption of foods that are often mis-conceptualized as healthy.
At the end of the meeting, every student in attendance received a Peg + Cat take home math kit to prevent against summer slide and to encourage the practice of early math skills such as measurement, addition, subtraction, and fractions over the summer months. The materials were provided through a partnership with WQED’s math iQ. Additionally, educational prizes including Lego Read and Build kits were raffled off to six lucky winners.
Receiving an Innovation Grant for the Sturdy Roots Project enabled Mrs. Ward and I to host interactive events enabling us to connect with families in an authentic way. The Sturdy Roots Project mutually benefitted parents, teachers, and students. Through being a charter school, students come to Propel Northside from many different neighborhoods. Using our building as an academic institution as well as a space for community gathering has greatly assisted in bridging the barrier between school and home. Given the ongoing transformation of the traditional education system informing parents of new teaching and learning methods resulting from the Common Core Standards is essential in ensuring each student is given adequate at home support.
The Sturdy Roots initiative provided a platform to cultivate community, enrich student learning, and connect families and teachers. Thankful for the opportunity, we look forward to continuing the project next year and have already begun cooking up some great ideas to advance student learning and community involvement!
You may have read about ASHS’ bread-baking efforts in previous blog entry ( http://propelschools.org/the-best-crumby-class-ever/) and we have another student-baker’s perspective on the experience:
Full Name: Chase Cannon
Home Neighborhood: Braddock Hills
What have you learned?
I learn about all types of bread recipes that I can make on my own and bread making is a very good thing to do. Bread making is worth it because it can be a great experience. Also I learned how to score bread, I learned to make polish, which is fed sour dough starter, how bread making requires a lot of patience, and to make an oven fire, because that’s important for the bread so it can cook. Also you always have to check on the fire every 20 minutes.
What’s surprised you about it?
What surprise me about bread making is that if you really pay attention it’s so easy and you always have to follow the steps.
What you like about it?
I like how bread making can make a group of students that you barely know work so close and hard to make wonderful bread.
By Barbara Vargo – Kindergarten Teacher – Propel Northside
On May 16, 2016 the Kindergarten Team at Propel Northside hosted the third Sturdy Roots Meeting of the year. Excited by the maker movement and play based education, my teaching partner, Tiffany Ward, and I planned an after school Maker’s Workshop for Propel Northside’s youngest learners.
Having attended PAEYC’s (Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children) Maker Tots Unconference at the Carnegie Science Center over the weekend, we were excited to share the compelling research and best practices we learned with our students and their families. At the unconference, Sara Wolman of the Lego Foundation, a division of the Lego Corporation whose mission is to establish and implement the strategies and actions to build a stronger future through play, gave the keynote speech. Wolman’s interactive address highlighted the ways play based learning increases student engagement, peer collaboration, problem solving skills, and acts as a natural platform for strengthening speaking and listening skills.
During Maker Tots, Mrs. Ward and I also attended workshops presented by the Children’s Innovation Project and Snapology. These hands-on professional development experiences were wonderful sources of inspiration for facilitating our upcoming Sturdy Roots meeting and for expanding our teaching practices. Furthermore, having had Snapology co-host the previous Sturdy Roots Session, we were excited to bring additional Lego Ed resources and lesson planning materials to our students.
During May’s Sturdy Roots Meeting and Workshop, our students made recycled flower projects alongside their family members through a collaboration with Pittsburgh’s Contemporary Craft, an artists based organization dedicated to engaging the public in creative experiences. Before the hands-on workshop commenced, Amy Masters, our resident artist for the evening, spoke about her fiber-based artwork consisting of sculptures, installations, and photographs which examine play.
A limited number of instructions were given so that students could collaborate with family members to create a unique masterpiece. Scientific elements were explored as students watched in wonder as Miss Amy used her heat gun to alter the form of the recycled plastic bottles composing the project. Through participating in the project, students were able to follow their natural tendencies to be curious and create. The Maker’s Movement is a fantastic step in the transformation of education as the student-centered practices naturally engage the children and encourage them to develop a range of social and character skills. Additionally, educators can strategically plan project based units inspiring creativity that align with the common core standards and complement curriculum.
Before the interactive Maker’s Workshop concluded, parents completed a Sturdy Roots Directory page so that the community building could expand beyond the school year. Additionally, due to funds provided by a generous Innovation Grant, each student and his or her family was able to take home a Maker’s Ed kit. The favors included the option of a make your own stepping stone or build your own robot kit. The stepping stone kit naturally integrates skills across disciplines including measurement, painting, and gardening, while the robotics kit reiterates STEAM based elements including early engineering and problem solving skills. Additional resources reinforcing play based education and the Maker’s and STEAM movements were auctioned off in a raffle. The raffle prizes included Bunchems, a building material encouraging kids to create through imaginative play, and a Goldiblox Kit, another building toy which including a character based story which seeks to get more young girls interested in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math).
Unleashing our imaginations alongside Contemporary Craft, our primary learners, and their families was an incredibly inspiring experience. The Sturdy Roots Project will host its final meeting and workshop on Monday, June 6th. Mrs. Ward and I are excited to partner with Community Kitchen Pittsburgh and cook up some fun at Propel Northside!
Ms. Shala Darwin (Professional School Counselor at Propel Hazelwood) tells us a bit about the program behind the big event coming up on Friday, May 27 at Propel Hazelwood!
Propel Hazelwood Charter School has developed a program titled, Kindergarten to College/Career (K to C), to provide early awareness and exposure to career and college preparation. This program has created a college-bound culture at the elementary level to cultivate and foster scholar success through academic achievement, scholar efficacy, career development, and goal assessment.
The K to C program was developed to plant the seeds of success at the elementary level. This program is an enriching opportunity for the scholars to learn about the advantages of attending college. Not only is the expectation created to attend college or post-secondary education/training, but the program also creates awareness about the different career options available to the scholars. College is an option that is attainable for the scholars at Propel Hazelwood. However, scholars also have the opportunity to learn about alternative avenues available to reach their goals such as technical school, military, business school, etc.
K to C gives educators the opportunity to have scholars become excited about their future and going to college, and to have goals and aspirations. K to C is a way for educators to motivate and inspire the scholars at an early age to reach their goals of attending college, which begins with graduating from high school.
This year, every grade level at Propel Hazelwood will have an opportunity to plant their feet on college ground. We are proud to say that we are the only elementary school within Propel with a college bound initiative. Our journey from Kindergarten to College are as follows:
Kindergarten- Allegheny College
1st grade- Clarion University
2nd grade- Chatham University
3rd grade- Point Park University
4th grade- Robert Morris University
5th grade- Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)
On May 27, 2016, Propel Hazelwood will host their 1st Annual Career/College day. This event will include classroom rotation of speakers, parent workshop (how to financially plan for college), and a Career/College Day assembly. This culminating event is to celebrate the future success of our scholars. We are looking forward to collaborating with the members of the school community and other community professionals to ensure that this event will be a success.