Be Brave! The Harvey Year

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It’s been a full year since my last post.  Having taken some time off with family for vacation, it is time to get back to work.  As always, time off helps clear the mind.  Summer is a great time to reflect on the past year before the list of preparations for the next school year begin to pile up.  It was during this reflection time that I realized I had not posted since last summer.  My first response was:  It was a Harvey year!

In late August, Hurricane Harvey brought us about 50 inches of rain causing roughly 1/3 of the homes in Friendswood alone to flood.  Many of our students and staff were directly affected by having their homes flooded causing them to find alternative living accommodations.  Families moved, families welcomed others into their homes, loaned cars, helped tear carpet and sheetrock, provide food, money or whatever the need was.  Friendswood High School turned into an emergency center for many, including a retirement home that had elderly residents some with critical medical needs.  It was an event that the effects of which are still ongoing.  Some families reported that they were still working with contractors at the end of the June.

The impacts of this event are too many to detail, but there was an immediate change in focus from the traditional meetings and plans that Cline had.  We were now focused on how we could help others, provide a “as normal as possible” environment for students and community.  Our staff met prior to students coming back to school in preparation for the returning students, we held an impromptu meetings with the PTO to adjust our prior plans for our yearly fundraising event – Clinefest and teachers readjusted their plans to allow for time to “meet the needs” of our students.  Our PTO was simply outstanding in being so sensitive to those who were effected by the hurricane by halting all ongoing fundraising and helping to raise funds for the “Harvey families”.  Mrs. Bowman, Cline’s counselor, shifted some of her many duties to make room for being the liaison between donors and the families in need, making sure they properly received the items they needed.  Our staff remained positive and strong for the students often requiring great flexibility.  Throughout the year, all decisions were through the lens of “Harvey effects”.

As news made the headlines around the country, I began to receive emails from schools wishing to help in anyway they could.  It was amazing to see how other schools from around the country, who sent a banner of encouragement, handwritten letters by students, and financial assistance (i.e. Home Depot cards).  A special thanks to the following schools for their moral and financial support for our families and community:

Key Club – Jefferson Academy K-12, Broomfield, Colorado

Consolidated School in New Fairfield, CT

Ecoff Elementary in Richmond, VA

Reflecting on the past year, I know that the effects of Hurricane Harvey will diminish over time as many are back in their homes, but they will never be forgotten.  Harvey changed the community without a doubt, but I feel that this event made us all better.  It brought the community together through service and selfless giving to others, it helped us to focus on the most important things in life, it reminded us of the good in humanity when we choose to do what is right, despite what we see in the media.

As a principal, I will always remember the feeling of receiving help from schools around the country and how that made our families and students feel.  The next time there is a disaster in the news, no matter where it is, Cline Elementary will seek to respond in kind and to support others in need.  As a bucket filling school, we have a tradition that we sing one of the bucket filling songs to those that have filled our buckets.  After receiving the packages from other schools, we recorded our Kindergarteners and first graders singing I’m all filled up by Red Grammer. Although this year’s events I would wish on no one, it has made us stronger in many ways and we have learned first hand that we do have the power to change the world and to make the world a better place.

 

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Money, money, money!

Recently Kristi and Kenny Koncaba, CEO and President/COO of Texan Bank came to Cline Elementary to talk to our 2nd graders about financial literacy.  They discussed where money comes from, how people get money, options for one to manage and save their money, and the cycle of money.  They also brought piggy banks, play money, and pencils for the students.   

This is such an important skill that everyone uses throughout their life.  This reminded me of a report that I saw recently on TV about how families very seldom talk about money with their children.  The video below shares some wonderful examples of how you can support the school in teaching financial literacy, which is one of the math TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skill) that Texas schools are to incorporate during math instruction.  We want to thank our local experts Kenny and Kristi Koncaba for their involvement and support of education.

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June 8, 2017 · 8:45 PM

A Garden of Possibilities Part II



In my last post A Garden of Possibilities Part I, I described the basic connections one can make when having a garden at school.  The basic ideas of plants, their beginnings and lifecycle along with the addition of having the high school programs assist us in realizing a “farm to table” concept.  Since then, a lot of work has begun on the garden!  The landscape timbers had served their purpose, but a more durable solution was chosen by the Friendswood High School FFA program.  The high school students came and cleaned out the area, prepping the area for the new cinder blocks.

Cline Elementary is teaming up with the high school FFA students to plant and teach our students the basics of gardening.  Students will be able to see the life cycle of plants and also see how a plant grown from seed ends up on the table by our high school students in the culinary arts program.

Often times, people think of gardening as old fashioned and not for the modern world. Some might even think the pursuit in horticulture or botany has limited potential.  On the contrary, our modern world is full of future problems to be solved through the study of horticulture and botany.  The video below shows some ways schools are starting to prepare students to think differently about plants.




Learning new ways to think about plants and the natural world around us allows for the true creativity in children to be developed.  New ways of recycling every day containers can be both whimsical and stunningly beautiful.  Just imagine what this new generation can think of if exposed to such opportunities and problems to solve beginning in Kindergarten.

 

Due to advances in technology, modern food production has begun to show some real potential.  This video shows a large scale hydroponics operation, something I remember going to Epcot Center as a child and seeing for the first time plants growing without soil.  What will our current students see develop in their lifetime?

In addition to the many academic “object lessons” that can obviously taught in a garden working, planting, harvesting, or simply observing – the garden can provide many other opportunities for personal benefit. 

People of all ages can enjoy gardening, but children in particular will have lots of fun and gain special benefits. Gardening is educational and develops new skills including:

Responsibility – from caring for plants
Understanding – as they learn about cause and effect (for example, plants die without water, weeds compete with plants)
Self-confidence – from achieving their goals and enjoying the food they have grown
Love of nature – a chance to learn about the outdoor environment in a safe and pleasant place
Reasoning and discovery – learning about the science of plants, animals, weather, the environment, nutrition and simple construction
Physical activity – doing something fun and productive
Cooperation – including shared play activity and teamwork
Creativity – finding new and exciting ways to grow food
Nutrition – learning about where fresh food comes from.”

(source: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/gardening-for-children)




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PTO Trifecta

Even though it is just the beginning of November,  Cline PTO has already put on 3 amazing events.  Under the leadership of PTO Co-Chairs Kristin Enochs and Lauren Durso, the PTO held a Fun Run (inaugural year), Clinefest Carnival, and a Silent Auction.    The Fun Run was organized by Ashlee Fisher.  This was the first fun run held at Cline Elementary and it was a huge success with 600 participants.  The next weekend, Ashlee Fisher and Laura Brown organized another Clinefest Carnival that was packed with families and friends.  The organization of such an event is simply mind boggling and a true testament to how dedicated our parents are.  The third event, the Cline Silent Auction, was held at a nearby hotel and was organized by Beth Clark and Bridget Hill.  It was a great event and a chance for the adults to gather and socialize while giving back to the school.

Once again I am reminded how lucky we are in Friendswood.  Friendswood is a community of like minded people that supports it’s schools like no other.  The work that our families put into these events is just amazing.  What I have noticed as principal the past 4 years, is that each group of organizers not only work tirelessly to put on such great events, but they do it for all the right reasons.  They do it for their community and for the kids.  No one has it better than Cline Elementary!

 

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A Garden of Possibilities! Part I

Cline Elementary and Friendswood High School are beginning a joint venture with Kindergarten classes and students in the FFA program at the high school.  We are excited with the many new possibilities of education through this collaboration.  

Each generation has it’s own unique challenges.  As educators, using a garden as a starting point to teach basic concepts, skills and to make connections to learning in the classroom is nothing new.  In fact, at Cline Elementary, we have had a garden for several years.  This new partnership, however, will allow high school students to be a part of teaching our Kindergartener’s and at the same time our Kindergartener’s see the full cycle of garden to table.

It is not difficult to notice that many children are lacking the experiences of having grown their own vegetables or fruit even if it is in a small backyard garden or container.  They are simply missing many important lessons about the world around us.  Due to the modern lifestyle of eating “on the run” or simply the increasing trend of eating out in restaurants, our connection with food and nature has become skewed.  

These observations are not unique to this generation.  John Dewey made similar observations nearly 100 years ago as families were moving from the farms to industrial modern cities and lifestyles.  

“Those of us who are here today need go back only one, two, or at most three generations, to find a time when the household was practically the center in which were carried on, or about which were clustered, all the typical forms of industrial occupation.  The clothing worn was for the most part not only made in the house, but the members of the household were usually familiar with the shearing of the sheep, the carding and spinning of the wool, and the plying of the loom.  Instead of pressing a button and flooding the house with electric light, the whole process of getting illumination was followed in its toilsome length, from the killing of the animal and the trying of fat, to the making of wicks and dipping of candles.The supply of flour, of lumber, of foods, of building materials, of household furniture, even metal ware, of nails, hinges, hammers, etc. was in the immediate neighborhood, in shops which were constantly open to inspection and often the centers of neighborhood congregation.    … We cannot overlook the factors of discipline and of character-building involved in this:training in habits of order and of industry, and in the idea of responsibility, of obligation to do something, to produce something, in the world.”
“No number of object-lessons, got up as object-lessons for the sake of giving information, can afford even the shadow of a substitute for acquaintance with the plants and animals of the farm and garden, acquired through actual living among them and caring for them.  No training of sense-organs in school, introduced for the sake of training, can begin to compete with the alertness and fullness of sense=life that comes through daily intimacy and interest in familiar occupations.”
Dewey, John, and Martin Dworkin S. Dewey on Education: Selections. New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia U, 1959. Print.

 

The year around availability of “fresh” vegetables and fruit from around the world and our ability to eat at a variety of restaurants is a luxury, but a luxury, which has caused a generation that doesn’t really understand where food comes from, how much better home grown fruit and veggies taste than food shipped from thousands of miles away.  It is our intention that we help our students have a better understanding by participating in this process and learning first hand the fragility of nature, food as a sustainable resource, food as something to be celebrated and enjoyed rather than just “consumed”.  

With the Farm to Table and Slow Food movement growing in the United States, we would like to provide our students with a rich learning environment that is experiential in nature and a learning experience that connects everyone from Kindergarten to 12th grade.  The concept is simple.  Grow food in the garden, learn about the growing process with the FFA students, involve the culinary arts program at the high school to then prepare the food for consumption.

In order to make this happen, Mrs. Debbie Woodson, Executive Director of Career and Technical Education, Susan Kirkpatrick, FISD Stem Coordinator, Trevor Rifle, Agriculture Science/FFA Instructor have teamed up with Cline Kindergarten teacher Brooke Holtvluwer and colleagues to revitalize our garden and plan instruction that meets the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and is in line with our STEM initiatives.

Here is a video about the slow food movement and the revitalization of the school garden and it’s benefits.

Here is a video from the library of congress showing America’s history with school gardens.

 

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October 24, 2016 · 11:38 AM

Clinefest Fun Run

This past Saturday Cline Elementary held it’s first Fun Run.  It was a HUGE success!! Race organizer and director, Ashlee Fisher, was amazing. img_0528 img_0537There was a food truck, DJ, the FJH cheerleaders were everywhere supporting the runners and keeping the little ones occupied while parents ran.
The Friendswood Junior High choir was also inspiring as they sang the national anthem before the start of the race.  There were financial supporters and local businesses with”fitness booths” also present showing their support for education and promoting a healthy lifestyle.  It was great to see parents, grandparents and students chatting and having fun exercising together, not to mention we have some future marathon runners!  Way to go Cline PTO and “Cline community”.
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October 5, 2016 · 3:21 AM

STAAR Pep Rally

 

Once again our 3rd grade teachers, literally and figuratively jumped through hoops,  providing a positive atmosphere for our students just prior to the state assessment (STAAR test).  All teachers, from Kindergarten to 3rd grade, worked diligently to provide the best instruction for our students.  In fact, the whole staff is dedicated to that end.  As educators we do not place great value on just one test, which is given on one day, to define our students.  We do, however, place great value on each of our students as individuals who possess a variety of strengths and talents, many of which are yet to be discovered or fully developed.

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This is why we do not emphasize the test during our STAAR Pep Rally.  We are instead celebrating the hard work of our students that took place all year-long, knowing that they are well prepared for any challenge.  Focusing on a test would mean, that when the test was over, there is no longer a reason to learn.  We want our students to focus on learning, which never stops.  By focusing on the whole child, we know that we will help guide students to develop their talents and to follow their passions whatever that may be.  Unfortunately people want to quantify learning by simplifying a complex process thereby reducing a student/school to a number.  When students listen to adults making a big deal about “a test/number”  they often develop unnecessary stress and anxiety thinking their “self-worth” rests on their performance on that one day/test.  It is our task, as educators, to overcome this undue stress often created by adults.  That is why I especially love this “celebration”.  Our whole school participated in this celebration of filling the 3rd grader’s buckets by cheering and making posters in celebration of their hard work.


The Pep assembly was kicked off by a few of the  band IMG_0612members 
from the Mighty Mustang Band.  There  was also a performance by the FHS Wranglerettes and a short play by the FHS IMG_8820PALS, which reminded students about getting enough sleep, eating a good breakfast, and to take time and be thorough when working on the test.   A final video that the 3rd grade teachers made was shown to the students before they marched through the whole school.  This is, once again, proof that our outstanding teachers do whatever it takes to help make our students successful and well-rounded citizens.

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