Healthy Student Treasure Hunt

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Reading outside can be healthy and enjoyable, providing fresh air and vitamin D from the sunlight.
Studying and exercising in safe areas outdoors can be healthy and enjoyable, providing fresh air, sunshine and vitamin D.

When 161 Baltimore City Schools closed in response to COVID-19, about 70,000 schools opened in the homes of our students. The district has scrambled to provide meal services, computers and internet access to students. But what have we done to keep our students engaged and healthy?

Here are four areas where we could help students protect and improve their health and learning over the next four months.

1)Create safe and effective home learning environments. Baltimore has a legacy of lead poisoning and childhood asthma rates that are twice the state average. Lead poisoning can lead to permanent learning disabilities. Asthma is the leading health cause of school absences.  Now that school hours are spent at home, students who live in homes with existing health hazards have extended exposure to harm.  What is we used home health as a science project? Students can use an online survey to assess whether their homes have health hazards. The students who find mold, water leaks, pests could request a video conference tour where they could show home health experts the conditions and receive advice on what their family can fix or whether they should have help from professionals at the Green and Healthy Home Initiative. Another way to help students is to challenge them to create good places to study, avoid distractions and take breaks to keep themselves happy and alert.

2)Chart exercise, nutrition, sleep, friendships and fun. This is a great way to teach students to collect and chart data and it can help students build healthy behaviors. For students that seem to need help, reach out to education students and retired teachers for mentors that can help students thrive.

3)Educate students on COVID-19 health strategies and encourage them to create videos on the best ways to stay safe at home and school. Students are more likely to listen to their cool peers on what they should do, so please don’t wait until students return to school to get students on board on how to be safe. They really need to know this now for their safety and the safety of their families.

3)Involve students in planning for the return to schools. Students are able to see problems that teachers and administrators miss, and they are great at finding solutions. If you keep students out of the loop, you will have problems that you could have avoided.

4)Engage students in monitor health conditions at the school when they return. Students perceive problems quickly and are eager to help solve them. Making this a science project for one class or even a small team of science students would enable students to monitor crowding, ventilation, cleaning and health behaviors at the school and innovate to improve the safety of students.

COVID-19 is terrible, but it is also a perfect authentic learning project that touches every subject and every student. Let’s not miss this opportunity to help our students learn and thrive.

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The Learning Project that could Save Your Life –and help your students thrive.

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Remember when the biggest fears of going back to school was whether your classroom was organized or your child had all the right supplies?   This year the questions are tougher:

Will returning to school sicken or kill you, your students, their parents or grandparents?

 If we don’t return, will our students lose the social interactions, safety, nutrition and learning which they need to grow?

If our goal as educators is to help protect and nurture our children, (and not die), we need to redesign how we engage our students.  We have to stop teaching subjects and start helping students solve problems.  As we switched to distance learning, some teachers joined together to create fabulous online lessons and projects for their students.  Some teachers have found ways to engage their students in social interactions, stress reduction, and ensured that they received food, computers and internet connections.   But way too many teachers have simply been trying to simply replicate their old classroom lessons online.  And way too many students are simply not showing up.

For years, we have talked about the benefits of student projects which span multiple subjects, of teaching to the whole child, of improving the health of our children because these things help our children thrive.  These were great ideas before COVID-19, they are absolutely vital now.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the ultimate breakout room exercise.  We have to solve a myriad of complex problems to be able to escape to safety.   No need to pay hundreds of dollars to get locked in a room with your team needing to solve problems–we are already in lock down.   

Been searching for an authentic learning project for our children and for educators?  How’s this one?

How can we improve our health and safety and thrive as learners and problem solvers?

During distance learning, here are steps that can help you and your students thrive.

  • Engage students in talking about their needs and wants during the pandemic.  What type of services, learning and contacts do they need? 
  • Create a dialogue and charting for a variety of success factors for students.  Nutrition, sleep, exercise, social contacts, volunteering.   By focusing on the factors that determine student performance, we will set up students for lifetime health and success.  Healthy students and teachers are less likely to catch and transmit COVID-19 and far less likely to die if they do contract it. 
  •  Engage students in learning how to improve the health and learning conditions at their homes. Baltimore’s childhood asthma rate is nearly twice the state average.  Learning how to improve the home air quality, how to create a study schedule, and how to create an effective study space can help students succeed.
  • Engage students in learning and communicating proper health behaviors to their peers.  Students more likely conform to a social norm from their peers than a rule by a school official. 
  • Share information on social and emotional resources: food, medical services, COVID-19 testing, where those with COVID-19 can go to isolate from their families.
  • Create teacher teams to produce the best lessons and the best social/ emotional support for students.  Frankly, some teachers are great at presenting material, and some are better at nurturing, guiding and supporting their students.  Distance learning enables teachers to work in the roles where they are most successful.
  • Engage students in teams to increase social interactions and learning as they study and solve complex problems together.
  • Engage students in talent and show and tell performances for their peers. 
  • Engage students in peer tutoring and knowledge exchange. 
  • Engage students and experts in health, building engineering and operations, data science, and social policy in understanding and improving factors that influence their health, safety and success.  (i.e. technology equity, resources, transportation and health care).
  • Collaborate with these same experts and students in developing a plan to reopen schools with safe behaviors and operations.  Students would prepare a plan for safe transportation, social distancing, disinfection of touch points, air ventilation and air flow, and alternative outdoor classes when appropriate.  Students and teachers would learn how to monitor health and safety factors for their school environment and operations. 

As schools reopen, students would monitor the health and safety factors at their schools and collaborate with school officials to offer suggestions and innovations to increase health and safety for students and school staff.

Let me know if you would like some help in doing this.

Shan 

410-336-8239

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The Yin and Yang of COVID-19

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The “No” Hypothesis

 “I don’t think it will work”.  was neatly printed across the answer box, under the word, hypothesis. I looked up from her worksheet, bent my eyebrows into a question mark and punctuated it with a “huh?” The student shrugged a shoulder, but her face was sure and solid. “ I don’t think it will work.” “Nothing is going to happen.”  Her tone wasn’t angry, or even disappointed.  Just calling it the way she saw it.  Seemed like she’d seen a lot of “nothing is going to happen,” and this just seemed like the next one in line. We’ve been working in her class to help students study and improve the conditions in their school. We’ve talked about things students wanted to change at their school and how we can study them, and innovate to create improvements.  One group of students wants to make school lunches better.  Another group wants to find a way to control the temperatures in their classrooms.  A third group wants to reduce asthma triggers and asthma attacks. This student had noticed that the bathrooms were a mess.  Some of the sinks didn’t work. The toilets were often plugged up, and toilet paper could be missing.  Sometimes there wasn’t even a bathroom monitor around to open the door. Her project was to check the bathrooms and report on their condition to the janitor and the bathroom monitor.  But “nobody’s gonna do anything.”, she said.  Matter of fact. Science is supposed to be calculating and methodical. Just the facts, based on what we know.   Based on a long line of “nobody’s gonna do anything,” her hypothesis that “It won’t work” is a likely outcome. But the soul of science and innovation is hope—that we can find ways to make things better.                         Poor health and learning conditions in our schools steal from our children. When students swelter through heat waves and shiver in the winter; when poor ventilation and asthma triggers sap the energy and health of students, there are no sirens that alert us to this theft.  No data is collected to show us the loss of potential caused by these conditions.  In the city with the highest asthma rates in the state, we don’t even track absences due to asthma at our schools. When these poor conditions become the expected norm, it breaks the hope which is fundamental to science and education.   If nothing’s going to happen, why try? I don’t know which hypothesis is more likely to prove true.  But whether students can create their own improvements and hope in Baltimore schools—that’s a very important experiment.  Science teachers, consider trying it with your students.

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 for your consideration and your service.

Shan Gordon                                                                                                                                                              www.coolgreenschools.com

 

 

 

                                                                                          

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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 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:

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“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

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

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What is your thinking and decision making style?

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 WordCamp:

 

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.

 

    

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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