Monday, February 22, 2010

Principal Johndrow's March Message

Since November, I have had the pleasure of working with your Board of Education and its new members. One of the topics board members were interested in was just how does Ashford School communicate with parents? After surveying the staff it became abundantly clear that depending on the grade level, the subject, the audience one wants to reach, Ashford School has a multitude of ways in which we foster positive school to home communication.

We begin the school year with school-wide summer mailings, followed in September with two nights of Open House. Report cards go out quarterly. Midterms are required in grades 6-8. In November there are two days of parent conferences.

There are many ways in which teachers deliver individual student information. The list varies according to grade level. The following are examples: phone call to parents, notes home, daily check sheets individual parent conferences by appointment, daily journals, student of the week letters, Student-parent shared-weekly challenges, team meetings with parents (grades 6-8), progress reports. With technology email is fast becoming a very effective and common form of communication.

News about classes may take on a different look. In the technology world we have Online Websites and weekly Email Blasts. Parent informational letters at the beginning of the year, daily newsletters, weekly or bi-weekly newsletters quarterly newsletters, and reminder notes on specific events are the many ways you can keep informed about what is going on in your child’s class.

A student knowing what their homework is, as well as parents knowing what student’s have for homework, has in many cases moved into technology too. There are online homework assignments, daily blogs, and weekly web pages as well as the more conventional forms such as daily, weekly homework forms, Homework planners provided to all students in grades 4-8 and homework folders.

More topic specific areas for communication include the Round Table Discussion with High School students held in the fall, Night at the Museum (8th grade), Write Night. Science Night, Math Night and Invention Convention all are venues to let you become involved with your child’s education.

And of course our 12-Kk Alert for school closings and other important information.

Is it Fact or Opinion?

Reality shows, afternoon talk shows, websites, magazines, commercials, and even the television evening news shows seem to focus more on other people’s opinions instead of the facts about or details leading to an event or a person.

Some media give their “view” or “take” or “sense of what’s going on” rather than focus on the facts. Sometimes TV stations cleverly use glitz and graphics to disguise opinions as actual facts, and kids are sometimes not sophisticated enough in their development to realize the difference. Although an opinion format can be entertaining, you might consider discussing with your kids the differences between fact and opinion.

The best approach to making your child aware of whether something is a fact or opinion is with “on the spot” casual conversations of the issue. Discuss the actual facts, and then share your opinion using-- “I think...I feel…in my opinion…or I could argue that…” These are effective examples of how to do it. Your job is to encourage your children to discover the facts embedded in issues and to develop their own viewpoints.

Dealing with facts and opinions will be a challenge for your kids as productive citizens and as consumers in their future. However, for now, an awareness of fact/opinion will help lay the

foundation for persuasive speaking/writing at school. As part of this process, students think about the facts of an issue, and categorize them into a pro (for) or con (against) list. Students form their own opinions about an issue and support them by using facts as actual evidence. This teaches them how to use and practice effective methods to persuade an audience (for example, students, parents, or friends) to their way of thinking.

Forming opinions, beliefs and values with others is an important aspect of being in a family, a school and/or a community. Knowing the difference between fact and opinion can be a steppingstone to making good, independent decisions for your child on a daily basis.

Try out this fact/opinion process whenever you can. Have fun with it; and don’t be surprised if your child takes to it quickly if you approach it as if it were a game. Let me know how you make out doing some part of this with your child. I’d love to hear from you.

Ashford Youth Services

Ashford Youth Services has some very exciting activities this month. If you have any questions please call the Youth Service office at 429-6410.

Play Group

Youth Services will host a playgroup for children birth to age 5 on Wednesday mornings in the lower level conference room of the town Office Building from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. The group will include songs, finger plays, crafts, free play, and snack. Parents are welcome to participate in the activities or sit and chat with other moms. Please come and check out the group! Registration is required. Please call 429-6419.

Stay & Play

Grades 1 through 4 are invited to spend three Thursdays after school participating in cooperative games, crafts, and fun. The activities will run until 4:30 p.m. and parents will need to pick their children up in the lower lobby. Fourth graders met on January 7th, 14th, and 21st . Third graders will meet January 28th, February 4th and February 25th. The second graders will meet March 4th, March 11th, and March 18th. The final session is for first graders and they will meet on March 25th, April 1st, and April 8th. Look for permission slips to go home in your child’s backpack.

Ashford School Participates in the Geography Bee

The Puget Sound Lowlands are a densely populated region in which U.S. state? Devin P.'s knowledge of the Pacific Northwest helped him clinch the 2010 Geographic Bee championship at Ashford School when he responded. “Washington.” Devin faced tough competition from runner-up Brian B., a fifth grader. Eighth grader Josie B. placed third.

Both veterans of previous Bees, Devin and Brian knew that Nepal is home to eight of the ten highest mountain peaks in the world, resulting in a tie at the end of the championship round. In an exciting contest, it took seven tiebreaker questions for Devin to be declared the winner.

Other young geographers participating in the Bee included fourth grader Lyn R., sixth graders Kolby C. and Emma P., seventh graders Austin G., Ron L. and Kyle St., and eighth grader Kelly P.

The Bee is a program of the National Geographic Society for students in grades four through eight. Google is the sponsor of this year’s events. Bee questions address the physical and cultural aspects of both United States and world geography. Eighth grader Devin P. has completed a challenging written exam, aiming to qualify for the state Bee in April. Good Luck, Devin!

All winners are eligible to compete for the national championship in Washington, D.C., where the first-place prize is a $25,000 college scholarship and a trip to the Galapagos Islands. “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek will moderate the finals in May. Check local listing for televised dates. You can also test your geography knowledge with the GeoBee Challenge, an online geography quiz at The game poses ten new questions a day

5th Grade Mashantucket Pequot Field Trip

Children were involved in their daily lessons. One youngster studied how each part of the deer is useful to his people. Another youth practiced using a bow and arrow. Yet another learned how to make a corn soup called succotash. If you think that these lessons are not found in a typical classroom in the 21st century, you are probably right. These "children”, statues actually, were part of a Mashantucket Pequot village exhibit and a guided tour called “Through the Eyes of a Pequot Child.” This exhibit gave students from the 21st century an idea of what life was like for the Mashantucket Pequot child in the 16th century.

In October 2009, the Ashford School fifth grade, which has been studying Native Americans as a part of their social studies curriculum, journeyed to the Mashantucket Pequot and Research Center in Connecticut to explore the Mashantucket Pequot culture. In addition to the guided tour of the village mentioned above, students took part in an interactive workshop entitled “Life Without a Super Market.” What if you were living in the 16th Century and there wasn’t a Stop and Shop or a West Farms Mall? How did the Pequot’s get the materials they needed? This workshop focused on answering these questions. Students broke into four groups. Each group was given a box of artifacts, which centered on different aspects of Pequot life; constructing canoes, building houses, enhancing personal appearance, and preparing food. Students examined the materials in the box using museum displays as guide, determined a possible use for each item. After completing the task, students reported their findings to the rest of the group with guidance from the museum leader.

Science Bowl Team

The Ashford Science Bowl team is still going strong and has even expanded its horizons this year to include members who will be working on challenges set forth by the Connecticut Science Olympiad. Some Science Bowl members will still be competing in the Regional Science Bowl competition scheduled for February 27th at UConn. As in past years, Ashford will be sending two teams: one to answer rapid-fire questions in the Quiz Bowl competition and the other group will design a car that will enter the Solar Car Race. For the Connecticut Science Olympiad competition to be held at UConn on April 10th at New Britain High School, Ashford will hopefully send three teams. Science Olympiad members have chosen to work on the "Junkyard Challenge", the "Science Crime Busters", and the "Road Warrior" events. Mrs. Perkins and Mrs. Moran are this year's coaches.

7th Grade Science

The seventh grade has been very busy in science class with many projects going on right now. First of all, we have just finished our science research. Each student chooses a topic of interest and spent the last few months doing a detailed search for facts and information. This work is now going to be used to create displays for our Science Research Night on February 11th. We are also finishing up our study of life science with a dynamic experiment, Feel the Beat. It involves an investigation into pulse rate and the body's response to outside stimuli. Lastly, we are beginning a new unit on ecology with the arrival of our salmon eggs. Over the next few months, we will raise these eggs into fry that will be released into the Salmon River in Colchester.