When a service project comes full circle

After a successful division-wide new sock drive in October (462 pairs of socks collected), a mega food drive where over 3000 food items were collected for a local food pantry in November, and a touching adopt-a-family initiative that supported families in crisis in December, we decided that January’s Lower School community service project should not involve a “drive” of sorts but instead something that Lower School children themselves could do without parent help or monetary support.

After searching for such a project, I stumbled upon “Hugs for Soldiers,” a program “dedicated to offering comforts from home and brightening a Soldier’s day with a care package, card or letter of encouragement.”

Here is an excerpt from a story written about this project:

A January community service project hatched in the Lower School has transformed into a school-wide initiative as students of all ages are beginning to craft and create valentine cards and messages for troops overseas.

From there it took on a life of its own – including the decision to earmark Hamden Hall’s cards and letters to Hamden Hall alumnus Matthew Peterson, who graduated in 2003 and is currently a captain in the U.S. Army. Matthew was deployed in early January to Afghanistan for eight months – his second tour in that country. He was also deployed to Iraq for one year. His mom, Cookie Peterson, is a former second-grade teacher at Hamden Hall who retired in June 2010 after 17 years. Many Hamden Hall faculty continue to keep in touch with Cookie, including Sue Bennett and Sandi Cunningham (with whom Cookie taught second grade for 11 years), who are helping coordinate the Hugs for Soldiers initiative.

So, after Sue Bennett, our Lower School art teacher explained the project to our students as assembly, students began creating the most beautiful and heartfelt cards and notes to be sent to Matt and his unit.  At the end of January, we accumulated over 150 cards and they were sent on their way through the Hugs for Soldiers organization.

In early March, we received this beautiful note along with pictures from Matt and his unit. We shared these at assembly with our students. It was an emotional experience for everyone in attendance and our students sat with wide-eyes as they saw their valentines in the hands of a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. And it was so powerful to have a service project come full circle.

Pretty amazing!


Read more:

Warm Socks and Busloads of Food Foster Goodwill for Donors and Receivers

Valentine “Hugs” Project Send Message to Troops

April Community Service: Take care of our earth!

"Creative Commons Earth Day Poster" by Spacedust is licensed under CC

“Creative Commons Earth Day Poster” by Spacedust is licensed under CC

Part of Hamden Hall’s mission is to instill a sense of social responsibility. It is with this in mind that, since October, the Lower School has participated in a community service/ service learning project each month. The project, its goals, and follow-up information is shared with students at during our weekly assembly. These projects have ranged from school-wide food drives to grade level project such as this one. Our 6th graders have been true leaders throughout the year and have helped to promote and support  these initiatives. What amazing role models for our younger students!

Here are some ideas that I shared with Lower School teachers for April’s  Community Service, which focuses on taking care of the earth! Teachers can choose one of these or come up with their own project. They are encouraged to work with other grade levels and have students involved in the decision-making process. I thought others might find this information useful.

Used Book Collection
Run a gently used kid’s book drive to keep books out of the waste stream. Read to Grow!

Ronald McDonald House Pop Tabs Collection
“Collecting pop tabs is a great way to teach kids about philanthropy and the importance of recycling, and raise funds to help children and their families at the same time. Some of our Chapters raise thousands of dollars with their pop tab collections.”

Nike Reuse a Shoe Program
Nike Reuse-a-Shoe takes worn out athletic shoes and grinds them down to create a new material called Nike Grind, which is used to make high-quality sports surfaces including courts, turf fields, tracks and more.

Nature Walk/ Clean up!
Walk to a local park and help clean up/ recycle any trash found along the way.

Make Homemade Bird Feeders
10 Bird Feeders Kids love to make
Remember: no peanut butter (Crisco is a substitute). Be mindful of seed allergies.

Plan a Lesson/ Activity for a younger grade about Earth Day
Teach others about taking care of Mother Earth! Create a lesson/ read a story/ do a craft from recycled materials.

Educate our Community!
Make flyers to hang around campus to educate others on how to take better care of the earth! Check out these tips from Time for Kids.

Letter Writing
In celebration of Earth Day, have your students research some environmentalists who have made major contributions to our planet. A good starting point would be to view the people listed on the Ecology Hall of Fame. Have each student choose one person. After researching the person’s achievements, students can then write letters to the environmentalists asking for their opinions on a current environmental issue or to share ideas on how to protect the earth. Students can write a friendly or business letter using the Letter Generator. After printing the letters, have students turn their letters into letter poems using the Letter Poem Creator, which will help them change their letters into poetic form. Once the poems are finished, host an Earth Day poetry reading-outdoors if possible. (from Read Write Think)

Early Childhood Service Learning Curriculum for the Environment and Earth Day
There’s some ideas here for some of the younger grades including:

  • Turning Trash into Treasures

  • Creating Recycling Bins

  • Recycling Superheroes

  • Recycled Bird Houses

  • Transportation & Pollution

  • Musical Instruments

  • Cut the Pollution Card

  • Green 100 Lesson & Project Ideas

Encourage children to write and perform an original skit about caring for the Earth. Let each child or group choose their own topic which can range from not littering to preservation issues. Video the performances and let the children watch their own skits to reinforce the ideas they shared. Students can even perform it at assembly!

Also, here’s a link to Earth Day Books for Kids.


If you have any additional ideas, please share them!

Pi Day 2014

This year’s pi day celebration was awesome! Students really enjoyed celebrating, especially since it was the last day of school before Spring break.  We started our class watching this video, talked a little bit about the history of pi, and then we had the “pi recitation” contest. (see video below) This year, I was astounded at how many students got “into it!” The winner, a 6th grader, recited pi to the 82nd place! The 2nd place student made it to the 61st place and the 3rd place student recited to the 42nd place. Pretty amazing!! We then went on this scavenger hunt. When students returned to class, we calculated the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of each of the circles they measured and most got “a little more than 3!” We ended with eating PIE for dessert. We had a blast!


No longer “Acting!”

I’ve never been good at acting anyway!

I am so excited that it’s official.  I feel privileged and honored to be able to continue to work with such an amazing faculty, awesome students, and their families in our Lower School. Sometimes life has a funny way of sending you down a path that was not originally planned. The result for me, in this case, has been life changing on many levels. I am looking forward to all that lies ahead! 🙂


#NAISAC14: Opening General Session with John Chubb and Lyn Heward

daretoexploreThe official opening of NAISAC14 was filled with excitement and energy. John Chubb’s first remarks as President were critically analyzed by everyone in the room. I was impressed with his tone and enthusiasm and liked what he had to say. And while I felt Lyn Heward’s (COO and Creative Content Division Director for Cirque du Soleil)   talk went on a bit too long, she offered some inspiring words on creativity and risk-taking. Both helped set the tone for the conference opening. I was a little disappointed, given the theme was “Dare to Explore and Discover” and we were so close to the Kennedy Space Center, that an inspiring talk from an astronaut was not on the opening agenda.

Here are my notes:

#NAISAC14: The Distraction Addiction w/ author Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Although I couldn’t stay for this entire session because I needed to set up for my presentation, Alex’s talk was intriguing and I didn’t want to leave.  His book is now on my “to read” list. Being that I consider myself a self-proclaimed “multi-tasker,” I really had a lot to listen to. I also admit that, since this session, I am more aware of the fact that I do hold my breath when my email is loading… and I know that I look at my phone more than 150 times a day. #beinghonest

Here are my tweets from this session:

#NAISAC14: Teachers Unplugged

Session leaders Jenni Swanson Voorhees, Chris Bigenho, Jill Brown, Liz Davis, Sophie Halliday and Linda Swarlis led us in an amazing conversation where WE got to choose the topics!

Here’s the description from the conference blog:photo (30)

“Connect with colleagues and join innovative conversations in this new participant-driven session for teachers. Based on the “unconference” format, this session offers you the opportunity to drive discussion topics, share knowledge and passions, and find solutions to problems. Learn from colleagues and share your expertise with others. After a fun introduction to the open session format, join conversations on topics that you choose.”

The round table discussion I was involved in was entitled: “How to stop doing what we know we should not be doing.”  I have very few tweets from this session because it was hard to tweet, talk. and listen at the same time. I didn’t want to miss anything that anyone in this circle was saying! We were all noting that we wished that there were more sessions of this type throughout the conference– as opposed to a “sage on the stage” model. Our own professional development should model what we want our classroom to look like! 

My favorite tweet is the first one in this list! As a new person to the Lower School world, I couldn’t agree with it more!

#NAISAC14 General Session: John Chubb/ John Quinones

photo (31)Here are my notes from Friday Morning’s General Session with NAIS President, John Chubb, and Featured Speaker, John Quinones from ABC News. John Chubb shared the vision of NAIS and talked about the importance of quality teachers. John Quinones gave a heartfelt reflection on the impact of teachers in his life and  the power of making mistakes and learning from them.


#NAISAC14 “Beyond These Walls: How Augmented Reality Can Promote Your School’s Message”

Justine Fellows (Greens Farms Academy) and I presented at the Speed Innovating Session at NAIS (Disney World!). The session is set up much like “Speed Dating.” Attendees pre-register for three topics they want to learn more about and presenters have 15 minutes to share their topic. When the 15 minutes is up, participants move to their next topic of choice.  There’s a large, (very intimidating) stop watch on the screen at the front to keep everyone on schedule.

We started with a 3 minute description of augmented reality and then let our participants “play” for 5-7 minutes. We had iPads (yes, we lugged them from CT), headphones, and our trigger images all ready to go. We spent the next 5 minutes sharing ideas we had for using Augmented Reality to promote our school’s message, and we ended with a “share” of ideas that participants offered. It’s high energy, a lot of fun, and attendees learn just enough to figure out whether they want to learn more about the topic. They now have a contact person at another school to reach out to so they can. We had a blast! 

Here is our presentation along with handouts.

#NAISAC14 “Yikes! What have I gotten myself into?”

Here are my notes from this amazing session led by Peggy Campbell-Rush, Director of Lower School at Gill St. Bernard School (Gladstone, NJ). Every minute of this session was filled with great advice!

My favorite tweet from this session:


Here are the rest of my tweets: