• Students enjoy playing on natural features in their playground.

  • I grew this! Students in school gardens grow their confidence, scientific knowledge and math skills. They feed their understanding of nutrition, too.

  • Students practice their leaf calls by blowing air across a blade of grass held between their thumbs.

  • Students paint storm drains to remind people that pollution and trash can flow directly into the harbor.

  • Mapping a garden combines geography, botany, spelling, math and art.

  • Turning algae into I'll go, students learn how to derive energy from algae.

  • Spat on the half shell. A baby oyster (spat) will be grown on an oyster shell in an oyster cage suspended in the Baltimore Harbor. Oysters filter sediment and pollutants from the water.

  • Gardening gives students a chance to investigate the natural world with awe and intense interest.

  • Scott Hartman takes students outside to learn about gardening, nutrition, biology, cooking and math. When he asked one class of students why the chickens were kept in a fenced in enclosure, a student anwered, "Because it did something really bad?"

The Kirwan Commission, Waiting for Godot, part II

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Two months ago, Baltimore City removed four Confederate statues from their pedestals.                                                                      Now,  if you want to see monuments to racism and inequity in our city, you can just walk to the nearest Baltimore City Public School.  Poor performing, highly segregated schools are the real monuments to injustice in Maryland.

I applaud the work of the Kerwan Commission to devise a more equable formula for school financing.                                               This is not easy.  A chart showing state, local and federal funding sources and formulas has all the impossible complexity of a Rube Goldberg plumbing diagram.  Adjusting it toward equity creates a tug of war over resources with competing school districts and state and local governments. 

Should the State of Maryland increase it’s share of funding for students with learning disabilities or increase the per student payments?    Should it increase funding for schools with concentrated poverty?  Or should it ask counties to increase their share of the costs?  Do we go back to when the state reduced the cost of living increases, or start from where we are today? 

With all this complexity, how would you know if you are doing it right?                                                                                               Will nudges of the funding formula solve our problems of entrenched segregation, high dropout rates, unemployment and poverty?

They haven’t yet.  There is little evidence that they will.

Why do we spend our time with small nudges in the funding formulas if they don’t solve our problems?

The real test of this funding formula is not whether it produces equal finding, but whether it produces positive results, especially for those who have been left behind. 

Here is how to tell if the funding formula is working:

  • Does this funding significantly improve attendance, test scores, graduation, college attendance and employment rates?
  • Does this funding ensure that every student experiences the same environmental conditions and educational opportunities?

If students in impoverished or highly segregated areas are having to learn in buildings that are too hot or too cold, or unable to take advanced classes that lead to better futures, the formula isn’t working.  

Our test for school funding shouldn’t be the equality of the funding, but the equity of the results.

 

Four Recommendations

  1. View education from a student perspective, not a school perspective.                                                                          Too often we fund schools without solving the education, health, career and higher education needs of our students. When we look at how to solve student needs with funding, we can create effective and cost effective solutions tied directly to the needs, goals and outcomes of our children.   

  2. Fund education, not school districts.                                                                                                                                              Out of School Time Programs, online learning, certification programs provide innovative, low cost solutions to fulfill educational   needs of students throughout the year.

  3.Support community schools.                                                                                                                                                        Wrap around health and social services at schools can help students and families access the services they need.  

  4. Fund to create results.                                                                                                                                                                In most areas of life, we try to match the resources to the challenge.                                                                                                    If we are losing a battle, we rush to supply troops with the needed equipment and reinforcements to win.                                             But if a school is failing we often do nothing, or worse, reduce the resources they have.                                                                       Why are we so eager to surrender on this most important battlefield? 

 

Here are the four ways that the Kirwan Commission will know if it’s work is effective:

  1. Real estate signs won’t list County Schools on their home for sale signs.
  2. People with good jobs will send their students to city schools.
  3. The conditions in the Baltimore City Public Schools are as conductive to learning as schools in wealthy districts.
  4. Test scores, graduation and employment rates are consistent across the state.

 

Education is our most important investment in our society and our economy.  This is our opportunity to strengthen every part of our state, especially the children and the impoverished areas we have left behind. 

Thank you and good luck.

Shan Gordon                                                                                                                                                              www.coolgreenschools.com

 

 

 

                                                                                          

Renewing our Vowels

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Renewing Our Vowels:  A study of life goals.

 

Truth can be a trickster, revealing itself in unexpected moments.

It snuck up on me at a Hope and Help Festival at Lafayette Park in Baltimore. 

Leaned up against the wall, was a line of boards with lines of sentences, each starting with  

“Before I Die I want to” followed by a line, waiting for a chalked in answer.

One of those answers made me smile, “Renew my marriage vowels.”IMG_9566f2 by .

 

 

Had someone misspelled “vows?” 

Was this a licensing requirement for a scrabble player? 

Or was this a deeper message about the purpose of our lives and relationships? 

Should we live focused on the I, our personal wants and goals, or centered on the U, helping others?

The answers were chalked in across the board, in a landslide victory for U.

Here is a sampling of the responses:

“Save as many lives as I can”

“See peace for all races!!!!”

“Cure all diseases”

“Heal Baltimore”

“Help the Poor”

“Buy a house for my mother”

“See my children be good people”

“Find Nemo”

“Save a life”

“Help people live a happy life and healthy life”

“Help people”

“World peace”

“Change the world”

“Create change in my community”

“Help more people love others”

“Health, library, recovery services, housing, etc. for Baltimore City.”

“Let people know they are loved.”

Those who view our society as based on acquiring material goods should note that no one wrote that they wanted a better car, more jewelry, or a bigger house for themselves.   

In fact, there only a few responses which even listed personal goals:

IMG_9577fcrop by .

 

 

 

“Skydive/deep sea diving”

“See Paris”

“Run a marathon”

“Be happy”

 

I’m saving a photo of this wish wall onto my desktop to remind me of the real news in our world.

That people are good and they are hoping to help others.

                                                                                            shan

IMG_9570f2 by .

Ideas, Quotes and Ah Ha’s! from the Baltimore WordPress Camp

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Learning events are bright and wonderful–I find myself running about like a child with a butterfly net, trying to capture new ideas and brilliant insights.

Here are a few that I’ve caught for you at the Baltimore WordPress Camp:

 

Design is not making 1,000 ideas, design is making 1,000 ideas 1 idea.

 –Joe Stewart, Work and Company. 

   There is a great short video by Stewart at this link:

   https://www.facebook.com/PandaConf/videos/1783011578696079/

 

   

Designers are dealers of empathy.

–Joseph Carter-Brown

   Carter-Brown argued that designers were tasked with understanding the users of the product, and creating an experience which  helps them.

 

My dog has a twitter account

 

I didn’t ask whether this person wanted everyone to know this, so she and her dog will remain unnamed, but let’s just say that her dog tweets out messages when the formatting of the message is not certain. 

 

It was the worst thing that happened, until it was the best thing that happened.

     A reflection on how flunking out of school taught a presenter the lessons she needed to be successful in college and life.              Her advice for those starting their own companies?  “Embrace the failures.”

  

The definition of an entrepreneur? 

Someone who works 80 hours a week so they don’t have to work 40 hours a week.

 

    

Baltimore WordPress Camp

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Baltimore WordPress Camp

 

It is a joy to see people teaching and learning together. 

The recent Baltimore WordPress Camp in Baltimore, Maryland was a great example of shared learning.   

My favorite part was the happiness bar–a table where you could ask experts your questions in one-on-one sessions. 

WordPress has a tremendous community of people driven to help each other maximize the power of the internet in sharing ideas and information.   The next local WordPress event is a meetup in Washington DC on Tuesday, October 17th at CHIEF.

https://www.meetup.com/wordpressdc/events/243880318/

 

Here are some images from the two day WordPress Camp in Baltimore. 

You can view additional images  by clicking on the following link:
Gallery Link
To download your images for your personal use, enter this password: WordCamp17Saturday

Johns Hopkins Grant Will Help Students Test Their Schools

Students at Patterson High School and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute are about to get new science and environmental health laboratories: their schools.

A Community Research Grant from Johns Hopkins will fund our joint effort to provide students with mentors, testing equipment, and funding so they can study and improve their school environments.

Students will work with Keith Madigan, a building engineer, to collect data on environmental conditions which affect their health and learning. Students will monitor several conditions including: temperature, humidity, acoustics, lighting, asthma triggers, and ventilation.
Two public health students from Johns Hopkins, Arshdeep Kaur and Madison Dutson, will introduce students to environmental health research, demonstrate an environmental health study, and mentor students as they develop and conduct their research projects.

I’d love to tell you what research projects they will be undertaking, but I don’t know, yet. The high school students will propose and conduct their own research projects later in the school year. The grant provides students with testing equipment, $4,000 dollars to study and improve their school environments, and $1,000 dollars to communicate their findings.

This student led inquiry and real world problem solving will offer innovative STEM learning opportunities for students. Researchers and educators may learn important lessons from this project as well. Can collaborative scientific research, focused on understanding and solving problems, be an effective tool in improving education, health, and community empowerment?

Shan

American Dreams

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    I know of a high school student who didn’t go to the hospital when his leg was broken, because he feared that his family would be deported.

    I know of a farmer who would call immigration to deport his workers so he wouldn’t have to pay their summer wages.

     

    migrant farm childrenUntitled-7 copy by .

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     I’ve shivered in the predawn chill with migrant workers waiting to pick strawberries for a few dollars and a plywood bunk bed.

     

    It is time for our laws to become just to those who have fed us while struggling to feed themselves. 

    It is time to end this  nightmare for the dreamers.  –  Shan

Threading Baltimore Together

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Sarah Hemminger is out to save Baltimore the hard way–with the love and care of strangers. 

Since founding Thread in 2004 with her husband, Ryan, the program has been surrounding failing students with mentors to support them through their high school and college years.   

Selecting their students from the bottom 25 percent of their freshman class, few would expect these students to succeed.  But they do. 

Thread reports that 91 percent of the students in Thread for over five years graduated from high school, and 90 percent were accepted to college.

In a district where 30 percent of students fail to graduate, this success with students at the bottom quarter of their freshman class isn’t surprising.  It’s astounding. 

How do they create this success?

“It’s practicing change,” Hemminger states.

“We have found that the key to our young people turning into resilient self-motivated and responsible citizens is that the adults have to model that change.  Success is not just defined as your student succeeding–it’s as your own growth.  If we say we are going to take them to school, we have to show up and take them to school and be responsible ourselves.”

“If we want our students to not give up on themselves, we have to not give up on them.  And when we show up it’s not just about showing up.  It’s how we show up.  Are we vulnerable, do we actually share our challenges and our burdens with them?”

“Relationships are really hard,” Hemminger intones.  “They are not a quick fix, they’re messy, they take time, you have to pay attention to them and they don’t always feel great.”

But they work.

Edward Blackstone, a Thread student, said “When you walk in you have certain expectations.  The sooner you let go of those expectations and accept that person for what they are, and what they define as success, then you can walk out with a better relationship for both of you.” said Blackstone.

By the time his first mentor, a white straight A student, met him, Blackstone said he had dropped out of high school and then dropped out of college.  Blackstone challenged his mentor, wondering if her definition of success was more important than her love for him. It wasn’t.

 “The biggest thing that (she) did for me to grow as a person is that she said, “I will not force you to go to college.  If this is something that you want to do, I will help you along the way, but I will not do it for you.”

“That was the biggest motivating factor for me, because it made me get myself back in college.” Blackstone said.

The power of Thread, isn’t just academic success, but the personal and relational growth between the students and mentors as they redefine their own understandings and expectations through their care for each other.

We must remember, Hemminger says, “It is not just children living in poverty who need these deep interpersonal bonds.  We all do.” 

Can these supportive relationships bring together a city so long divided by race, religion and class?

We may soon find out.  With a goal of mentoring five percent of the students in Baltimore High Schools, Thread is putting their audacious success onto a fast track for more. 

Interested in joining? 

Get Involved

When School Budgets Don’t Add Up To Success

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A recent article in the Baltimore Sun, Small schools, high salaries behind district’s budget gap, pointed to higher costs of small schools and relatively higher costs of salaries for teachers in the district as the cause of the budget cuts and layoffs at Baltimore City Public Schools. This analysis demonstrates three major errors in how we develop school budgets.

First, we only calculate the cost side of the budget sheet.                                                                                                                                                                      In pointing out the slightly higher costs of small schools, the benefits of the close-knit school, high attendance rates and few suspensions are mentioned, but they are not assigned a value on the other side of the ledger.   If we don’t value high attendance and good school culture, what is it that we do value?  This cost-only accounting pervades our educational decisions, shuttering schools and programs that have real value for students and their success.

Second, comparing urban school district to suburban districts ignores the stark differences in their challenges.  This false comparison is invoked to justify giving urban districts fewer dollars than they need to help their students to succeed.  Can we sit every child in Maryland in a desk in a classroom for about the same price?  Sure.  But if we want our children in impoverished, highly segregated and unequal schools to achieve at levels we expect at suburban schools, we need different strategies and different budgets.

Third, we produce budgets that are unattached to goals.  A budget should be more than an apportionment of funds.  It should be an allocation of funds to achieve meaningful social goals. If we want to escape our legacy of failures in urban education, we have to invest in helping students escape the legacy of poverty and segregation.  We need to throw out the flawed accounting that perpetuates failure and invest in the education our children deserve. The waste in urban education is not small schools or teacher salaries. It’s that too many of our children are not prepared to reach their full potentials.

Students and teachers are working heroically to beat the odds against our streets. Is it too much to ask that we invest in them with the same eagerness that we invest in hotels, stadiums and development projects? This is the investment that will signal the comeback for Baltimore.

-shan

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Renewing our Vowels

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Renewing Our Vowels:  A study of life goals.   Truth can be a trickster, revealing itself in unexpected moments. It snuck up on me at a Hope and Help Festival at Lafayette Park... READ MORE

Baltimore WordPress Camp

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Baltimore WordPress Camp   It is a joy to see people teaching and learning together.  The recent Baltimore WordPress Camp in Baltimore, Maryland was a great example of shared learning.    My favorite part... READ MORE

American Dreams

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                                                        I know of a high... READ MORE