April 11th, 2019

2019 Migrant Education and English Language Development Conference

2019 Migrant Education and ESL Conference April 2-3, 2019

Each year the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Center for Schools and Communities host a Migrant Education and English Language Development Conference in Harrisburg.  This conference allows me to gather with Pennsylvania educators in my field, and to discover promising practices in support of my English Language Learners.  During the conference, I was specifically looking for ideas to develop and support a Family Engagement Program for our English learner (EL) population in South Western School District.   Communicating with families who speak a language(s) other than English can be challenging, but it is our legal responsibility to include EL families in the education process by providing access to information and activities in their preferred language.

On the first day of the conference, I attended an all-day institute titled:  It Takes a Village.  This session focused on building positive relationships within the school between the ESL teacher, staff members, the students (ELs and non-ELs), EL families, and the community that surrounds them all.   Katherine Musselman and Holly Niemi, ESL Program Specialist from Baldwin-Whitehall School District near Pittsburg, emphasized that building positive relationships can increase the success of our ELs.  Positive people have the power to inspire and create everlasting and sustainable change.  We have the ability to turn problems into challenges and create critical thinkers, not critical people.  Throughout the day, attendees examined how they, as ESL teachers, currently connect with school staff, students, EL families, and the outside community.  Next, the presenters gave examples of how to connect with these four different groups.  In the end, we were able to collaborate with colleagues on how to transform these relationships to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of immigrant, refugee, and native-born ELs.   I walked away from this day with plans to create an ESL Google Classroom as a resource for content teachers, and ideas for Family Engagement Nights to build strong and meaningful relationships with families and parents.

On the second day of the conference, I attended three different sessions.  Two of these sessions continued to focus on family engagement, and the third session was about using oral language activities to support ELs in building academic language.  I was most excited about our round table discussion on how to communicate with families who speak a language other than English.  This discussion provided access to information on how we as individual teachers might improve our communication methods with families.  It gave us ideas on how to encourage and increase EL parents and family to become more involved in our district while meeting the demands of language accessibility.  I walked away with resources and plans to establish a Family Engagement Night in the fall.  With the help of interpreters, we can review information in the Schools’ Handbook, and show parents how to access Sapphire information and how to communicate with the school and teachers.  I also have ideas on how to integrate EL families to the outside community.


April 5th, 2019

Diversity by Design- Pennsylvania School Librarians Association 46th Annual Conference

Diversity by Design- Pennsylvania School Librarians Association 46th Annual Conference March 28-30, 2019

The K-12 Library team was fortunate to attend this year’s conference in its entirety or in part, to attend relevant workshops of our choice, to peruse pertinent vendor offerings, and to network with other colleagues across the state. The following workshops were attended or presented by one or more of our team:


After a further explanation of the new AASL National Standards and how they align with the PA CORE Standards as well as ISTE and Future Ready Standards, we partnered with other similar grade level librarians to take the lesson plan(s) that we brought and worked to turn them into an action plan that we can use in collaboration with classroom teachers for increased information literacy competencies for our learners. It was also shared that our PA Model curriculum is going to be updated beginning this summer.


Notable blogger and ultimate book fan, John “Mr. Schu” Schmacher serves as the Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs.  His expertise in children’s literature coupled with his passion for reading promote a culture of reading among students, staff and parents.  He discussed the importance of telling a school’s story and librarians walked away inspired (and some tearful!) to implement heart-growing literacy practices that make the world better and brighter for readers.  Very inspirational and motivational.


Park Hills librarian, Shannon Resh, presented this workshop for the second year in a row to compliment the conference theme of Diversity by Design.  Attendees explored the concept of using literature as “Windows and Mirrors” into the world as the perspectives of others is such an important and relevant topic today. Diversity by design happens when pairing readings with text that showcases a continually diverse and ever-colorful world as well as reaching out within the school culture and surrounding community to provide opportunities for conversations and experiences that combine resources.


STEAM/Literature activities along with two specific STEAM units were shared that followed the 5 E’s : Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate with an emphasis on UbD. The district these librarians were from have a partnership with Delaware Valley University through which they acquired a STEM specialization. Their focus to “stemify” lessons for the library- a user-centered flexible space that encourages reading, facilitates higher engagement, and is a safe place to fail.


Collaboration between a Franklin Institute teacher and an elementary librarian brought forth a plethora of STEM activities that were paired with favorite children’s books.  The presenters discussed each of the children’s books individually and how they would connect a STEM activity to each book. Time was then given to walk around and try many of the STEM activities that were discussed for each book.


Four Pennsylvania Librarians shared different ways to connect the ISTE and AASL standards to makerspace projects.  Multiple projects and activities were discussed, showing how the projects can be connected to the standards to make the activities more meaningful.


To prepare students to do more than read- to also think, do, and create- a whirlwind of children’s books were presented with ideas to incorporate no, low, and high technology. Csunplugged.org, Storyboardthat.com, Blabberize.com and Flipgrid.com were referenced as resources.


This session challenged participants to review the cultural norms centered in learning environments and teaching practices; reviewing if collections reflect students’ diverse needs and identities; and how to work to engage in critical conversations about bias, racism, and equity, all with the ultimate goal of developing a more culturally responsive approach to text selection and instruction.


Ever since the new Standards were published in 2018 librarians across the state have been learning how to integrate and align the standards into their lessons and curriculum.  This session was an extension of an earlier session which was an introduction to the new framework. Attendees learned how to analyze the new standards and how they correlate to lessons they already teach.  The proper citation format was also explained.


The PSLA Literature Review committee reads and reviews hundreds of books each year.  In this session they booktalked the best in fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels in grades K-12.  The focus was on books that included diversity in character, settings, and genres. The session handout included all the books that were presented with cover photos, book review, book talk, and the reviewers own thoughts about the book.  Also included with each title were ideas to make connections to other books or learning activities, lists of starred reviews, and awards. The handout is especially helpful in choosing new titles for the library collection.


This elementary focused session took a look at the challenges of librarians feeling obligated to provide books that students will read verses feeling obligated to build a collection of books that reflect broader representation of the world. The answer can be both. Attendees looked at literature through a more critical eye to determine if a text was written to learn more about culture, by a person in the culture sharing a story, or an everyday occurrence that happened to have diverse characters -and the need for all three in collections.  Many book lists were provided.


Diversity in the library needs to go beyond having diverse books in the collection but should also include the physical space, interaction with students, technology, and electronic resources.  The presenter first asked “What is culture?”. We usually think of ethnicity and race but it also includes ability, gender identity, language, religion, sexual orientation, belief systems, and socioeconomic status.  She also explained that we need to move away from giving students equality (all students are given the same resources – same) and move towards equity (all students are given access to resources they need to succeed – fair).  She charged the audience to work to become more “culturally competent” and to engage in discussions about equity and inclusivity.


Kim Briggs, an author and speaker, shared how females can advocate for their own bodies and voices through the use of literature. She shared books that have strong female heroines that we can recommend and share with our students. There are many ways that a female can be fierce including: innerstrength, strength through intelligence and knowledge, strength of hope and courage, strength by protecting those who need us, strength to admit the truth, strength through special gifts, and strength of those who fight mental illness and loss. Many other librarians in the workshop also recommended titles with strong female characters. The titles will hopefully encourage not only our females but everyone who sees a need to stand up and speak out when needed.


Sandra Reilly, a Pleasant Valley High School Librarian, along with a panel of other grade level librarians shared challenges that they have faced as they have tried to progress to 21st century libraries and how they have overcome those challenges. They offered many ideas and solutions to implement some of which will be helpful in our district libraries. Ideas were shared to make our libraries more comfortable and inviting, with flexible seating, creative displays, collaborative spaces, and STEM opportunities, etc. We discussed some good time management, advocacy, and curricular/collaborative strategies to use in our libraries. We also discussed Google Classroom tips and techniques as well as other tech tools we can use effectively in our setting. She had a great presentation and also provided us with additional reading (both links and print) on these important topics.


Jennifer Hendry, from Milton Hershey School, and Jane Farrell from Dallastown Intermediate School shared pertinent information about staying relevant by providing student centered digital resources in school libraries. These resources can be accessed 24/7 and can satisfy the diverse population of learners we all work with. Redesigning your website and library spaces to include eBooks, STEM and STEAM, Breakout EDU activities, and educational research databases will not only enhance your program, but they are necessary to meet the needs and interests of our students and staff. We are definitely ramping up our digital resources at SWSD, but I learned about some new tools as well as ideas for implementation. Jane Farrell was also named PSLA’s 2018 PA School Library Innovator and a great person to reach out to for inspiration and support.


Newbery Award winning author, Matt de la Pena shared his personal journey from reluctant reader to writer, with a focus on the barriers against working class men and boys when it comes to literacy. His moving and poignant story of coming from a working class, mixed-race, mixed-culture family left many participants eager to do more for children and literacy.


As a member of the Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award, grades 3-6 Committee Strand, Park Hills librarian, Shannon Resh, participated in this panel sharing.  Attendees were given an overview of this statewide program and how books are selected before breaking into grade level strands. In smaller groups, committee members and attendees discussed the fifteen titles on the 2019-2020 reading list, as well as programming ideas for implementing PYRCA in individual schools.


As librarians, we have the opportunity to reach a tremendously diverse audience.  Stories aid students in empathizing with “the other” – those whose lives either through circumstance or choice may vary greatly from their own. Resources were explored to better aid in studying these topics.  There was a focus specifically on Holocaust studies, as the presenter was a former fellow through the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum.


In addition to making the Keynote Address, John also presented a session booktalking some of his favorite reads and authors. He shared a number of titles that will be released this year, many sequels and must-haves for every school library. In addition to upcoming releases, John showed book trailers and activities that could be added to school library programs. His love of reading and excitement for these new titles was infectious!


Collette Jakubowicz, from the Wilson School District, shared how she incorporates centers into her elementary library classes. Her use of Google Classroom helps her manage the activities and track each student’s learning progress with the paperwork. Some of the topics she covers in the centers include research, resource citations, and digital citizenship. This concept allows students to work at their own pace where they earn badges as they complete the various centers.

April 4th, 2019

Teaching American History.org Seminar – The Great Depression and the New Deal

The TeachingAmericanHistory.org Seminar series for educators is sponsored by the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. The Ashbrook Center was established in 1983 with a goal to restore and strengthen the capacities of the American people for constitutional self-government and American history. The Ashbrook Center fulfills this mission by offering educational programs nationally for students, teachers and citizens through a variety of mediums, such as the TeachingAmericanHistory.org Seminar series, the Ashbrook Academy, the TeachingAmericanHistory.org Website and its Saturday Webinar series. As a result of its efforts to promote the use of primary sources nationally, the Ashbrook Center has found itself as a leader in the efforts to prepare future American History and Civics teachers to educate future generations of students in the United States.

The seminar that I attended was on the New Deal and was conducted by Dr. Eric Pullin, Professor of History at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The seminar discussion was based on the use of primary sources found in the book, “The Great Depression and the New Deal,” by John E. Moser. The first session was titled: Hoover, the Depression and the Election of 1932. This session compared and contrasted President Herbert Hoover with challenger Franklin D. Roosevelt. The  discussion revolved around a number of primary sources that compared election data from the 1928 Presidential Election to the results of the 1932 Presidential Election. The readings were designed to illustrate the differences in the strategies for dealing with the effects of the Great Depression that Hoover and Roosevelt had campaigned on in 1932. Dr. Pullin broke down each of the primary sources during this part of the seminar. I found this to be enlightening as the participants were able to discuss each of the primary sources with Dr. Pullin serving as the moderator and often stimulating new discussion with thought provoking information in regards to presidencies of Hoover and FDR.

The second session, “The New Deal and its Critics,” was supposed to be designed around primary sources that covered the “First One-Hundred Days” of the Roosevelt Administration. Due to the lengthy discussion on the “Election of 1932,” this part of the seminar was cut short. Dr. Pullin did lead a discussion on the  “First One-Hundred Days” that was centered around primary sources such as FDR’s “First Inaugural Address” but it was cut short due because so much time had been taken up by the first session of the day. The session ended with a brief discussion of the problems that they New Deal faced in the Supreme Court. This discussion was centered on a series of political cartoons that were critical of the NRA and the AAA. I found that cartoons to be an interesting way to stimulate discussion amongst the students as to why the cartoonist would be comparing New Deal figures to Hitler or Joseph Stalin.

This seminar was designed to expose the teachers who attended to a variety of primary sources that are found on the Ashbrook Center’s website and provoke discussion amongst the participants on their meaning. It was very informative from an academic standpoint. Although this approach led to great discussions on the whose approach was better for the United States at the time, it was also part of the reason that Dr. Pullin failed to cover the majority of the topics and primary sources that were listed on the syllabus for the seminar. The seminar did not present any new strategies for using the primary sources in the classroom. I believe that the TeachingAmericanHistory.org Seminar Series has a lot of potential for our teachers at South Western and highly recommend them. However, they are more about expanding the knowledge base of the teachers and exposing them to primary source materials, than presenting them strategies to incorporate their use in the classroom.

March 25th, 2019

PSEA Special Education Conference 2019

On March 23, 2019 Ashley de Salis, Heather Cooper, and Lauren Cromer attended the PSEA Special Education Conference. The sessions were very informative and led to many great discussions. The following notes from each session were compiled.

PSEA Special Education Board Meeting

During the board meeting, the staff reviewed things that their schools are doing right now. A lot of regions are having substitute issues. Others are working on changing their school times to late starts. Some other schools are working on changing how paraprofessionals are used and limiting their time off. Most of the regions shared that they are having similar concerns with behavior issues that are not being handled properly in the school setting due to more prominent mental health issues.

One member shared her unusual journey to becoming a Special Education teacher because of her child’s health challenges as a small child. She suggested that teachers simplify their language so that parents can understand what is happening or going to happen with their child.

Applied Behavior Analysis for Educators: A Review of Philosophy, Concepts, and Efficacy

Dr. Bieniek is a professor at Slippery Rock University. He has a lot of experience in working children on the autism spectrum. Dr. Bieniek spoke about the science of ABA, assessment, intervention, and data use.

ABA was described as the study of socially important behaviors. B.F. Skinner explained that scientific attitudes such as determinism, empiricism, experimentation, replication, parsimony, and philosophic doubt guide scientific work. Watson also asserted that subject matter for psychology should be the study of observable behavior as opposed to mental processes.

The seven dimensions of ABA were explained. These include: applied, behavioral, analytic, technological, conceptual, effective, and generality. When looking at intervention, the environment should be considered. A review of concepts such as antecedent, behavior, consequence, stimulus, response, reinforcement, punishment, functional behavioral assessment, and positive behavior support plan.

There was a reminder to think about the context of the student’s life before placing demands throughout the day. There needs to be motivation for students to perform the desired behavior. A discussion of reinforcement versus punishment revealed that positive reinforcement is the most likely method to help the child modify behavior.

Assessment in the realm of ABA typically takes the form of a functional behavior assessment. They are legally mandated and need to be done effectively to help students meet their behavior goals. We need to choose a functionally equivalent behavior goal that serves the same function as the undesired behavior. There needs to be a replacement behavior for escaping the room instead of forcing the child to jump right to completing the assignment in the room without a constructive way to escape.

The session ended by explaining that ABA is truly a science that takes time and energy to use. We need to persevere in helping our students to be successful in the school setting.


On My Grid – Dr Gina Scala, department chair at East Stroudsburg University

Iceberg graphic – Dr. Scala stressed that the paperwork and labels is only the smallest piece of the puzzle when it comes to special education placement and scheduling.

Special Ed needs to be equal at the table in all things – scheduling, placement, co-teaching.

Co-teaching – Dr. Scala talked about co-teaching and stressed that it is not the special ed teacher working only with the special ed students or, worse yet, acting like a paraprofessional.  True co-teaching takes time and effort and a commitment from the administration.

Mental health needs – why is money reactive not proactive?

Giant shortage of teachers in Pennsylvania now and in future yet Pennsylvania is issuing emergency certificates like never before. Unfortunately, the most needy students get the least qualified teachers.

Our time is precious and taken up by so many demands so how do we effectively collaborate? Dr Scala presented several ideas for mini professional development. Some of these were quite unique and easy to implement.

She also explained the leading by convening way of collaborating and implementing initiatives.

Dr. Scala is a trainer in suicide prevention and the question persuade refer technique. She talked about that and showed a graphic on the increase in mental health issues. Highest risk age group is 10-14.

Overall, many great take aways for working as a group to support students.


Striking A Balance: Managing Compliance, Achieving Results!

Ann Hinson-Herman discussed Special Education and the legal implications as well as getting results with and for kids.  Ann delineated 6 elements to a compliant but exceptional Special ed system. These include: programs, achievement, transition, behavior, community relations, and compliance.

On the topic of programs, inclusion was discussed. Inclusion is a concept. Ask – where can the student be successful without accommodation? Then ask – where can the student be successful with SDIs? Then ask – where can the student be successful and maintain the LRE?

On the topic of parent partnership, team members were discussed. PEAL parent Education and advocacy leadership is the state parent outreach and education group. Training materials and trainers are provided.

Take away quote – compliance is crucial but it will never be enough to improve results.

Math – CRA concrete representational abstract on PATTAN website. Free techniques available. The state has very low proficiency in math among Special ed students. Mostly because we skip representational step.

Schools should have:

Welcoming climate

All kids considered

College, career, and community readiness – Good quality employees come from good quality training

Daily preparations

All invested people working hard

People who follow the rules

Quality instructional time

Prepared teachers

Good decision makers

Take all students and “grow” them from where they are

Special ed monitoring for compliance is changing. Data being used to tier districts. Days for monitoring will be leveled by the data. Exciting possibilities. More information forthcoming.


Trauma Informed IEPs

When talking about trauma, we’re talking about kids who do not have regular meals, kids who do not know where they are sleeping at night, kids who deal with substance abuse situations, kids who deal with varying degrees of abuse, and kids who do not have traditional family living arrangements. This breakout session will discuss classroom and school-wide practices designed to meet the social emotional needs of students.

Shift from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

Trauma is not one of the thirteen Special Education category, but it does impact academic performance and social relationships. Some impacts on academic performance include reduced cognitive capacity, sleep disturbance, difficulties with memory, and language delays.  Some impacts on social relationships include need for control, attachment difficulties, poor peer relationships, and unstable living situations.

Students who have experienced trauma are two and half times more likely to fail a grade, score lower on standardized achievement tests, have more receptive and expressive language difficulties, get suspended more often, and are more likely to be referred for Special Education services.

Responsive schools benefit all children whose history is unknown, whose trauma my never be identified, and who are impacted by their traumatized classmates.  

We have to focus on the alterable, not the unalterable.

Positive steps to create a trauma sensitive and responsive school:

  1. Engage leadership
  2. Perform needs assessment
  3. Review literature
  4. Provide training so all staff are aware of the impact of trauma on behavior and learning and can help to develop strategies to support these children
  5. Implement classroom strategies to establish safety, empowerment, collaboration, choice, and trust

We are the most structured part of life and nurturer for some of our kids.

504 Accommodations Guide authored by Dr. David Bateman, professor of Educational Leadership and Special Education at Shippensburg University will be released next week. It will provide examples of disabilities, resources, and lengthy accommodation lists.

School-Based Strategies and Interventions

Tier 1 – Universal Strategies: morning meetings and mindful moments

Tier 2 – Selective Classroom Strategies: collaborative problem-solving

Tier 2 & 3 – Targeted Counseling Strategies: individual counseling

Rather than simply reducing a behavior, a trauma-informed IEP focused on skill building; and in this case, such an IEP could focus on building self-regulatory skills and identifying alternative behaviors to interrupting. Student IEPs should also consider the educator’s role in achieving goals.  The IEP can specify the role of the educator in his consequences are administered. Simply reducing a behavior benefits the educator, though building skills and establishing adaptive alternative behaviors benefit both the educator and the student.

Goals should be measurable and related to academic performance and/or functional performance. Functional goals include skills or activities that include a focus on reducing/preventing triggers, increasing predictability, providing opportunities to assist others, building peer supports and relationships, collaborative and ambitious goal setting, and movement and sensory opportunities.


March 22nd, 2019

Math Modeling & 3D Printing Workshop

On March 22nd, two EHMIS teachers, Brent Barge and Jana Bonds participated in the Penn State University workshop on “Teaching Mathematical Modeling through 3D Printing” at Penn State Harrisburg.

The day began with opening remarks from 3 of the professors at Penn State Harrisburg and an overview of the day. We continued with a survey on prior knowledge on Mathematical Modeling, which at least for Mrs. Bonds was a bit outside of her wheelhouse.

Mrs. Bonds and Mr. Barge were lucky enough to be selected to work with and be trained with Dr. Reuben Asempapa, professor of Mathematics and a specialization in Mathematical Modeling for our first session. We quickly learned he was an “awesome – papa” as he referred to the pronunciation of his last name. Working collaboratively with another math and technology education teacher from Northern Lebanon SD we progressed through the morning defining what math modeling means in schools, looking at how it is defined, and how it applies to the standards of mathematical practices, and where it appears in the NGSS standards.

A majority of the workshop was learning exactly what math modeling is. We discovered with the help of Dr. Asempapa that math modeling has two pillars, the real world and the math world. How do we take a situation from the real world and take that into the math world to investigate it. Models come in to play when we investigate, manipulate, and visualize the problems that occur in the real world or math world. It is a process where one identifies a situation in the real-world, makes certain assumptions and choices, and then uses a mathematical model to obtain a solution that can be translated back into the real-world. It is a process that uses mathematics to represent, analyze, make predictions, or otherwise provide insight into real world phenomena. Math modeling has 3 components: a process, mathematical equations, and real-world applications. Modeling is critical to student learning because it builds student communication, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and iteration to name a few.


The afternoon session was led by Dr. Tyler Love, Professor of Education in Elementary/Middle Grades STEM. He specifically covered using the MONOPRICE, MP Voxel 3D printer we will be receiving and also how to use various 3D printing software. We began with an overview of TinkerCAD software and learned how to make a basic cube shape with subtracting material. We also covered using the SketchUp software and OnShape Software. It seemed that TinkerCAD was the most user friendly to use, but is more about combining shapes than it is designing from scratch. The OnShape seemed to be the most advanced software and what would allow the most detailed designs. This left Sketchup as the middle of the road software. Overall this session was very technical on what we would need to run the printer and how to use the software. It was pretty overwhelming with the amount of information taught, but we were given a flash drive with lots of files to access as a review and more help if needed.

The final session of the day was building lessons and design challenges that are collaborative and can be used with what we learned during the workshop today. Because of time constraints we were showed some examples and then only given 30 minutes to work together to brainstorm some ideas about how we could use these tools at EHMIS. We thought that having the 7th grade students in Mrs. Bonds Tech Ed class  and/or 7th grade Mr. Barge Math class do one of the following.

  1. Once they have completed their full scale model prototype for their boat, they go back through their initial designs and use their knowledge of proportional scaling of an object to create a 3D file to be printed and then tested at the half scale.
  2. After completing research, students would design and 3D print their own propellor (air or water) to be used with their propulsion system.
  3. Students work to model the most efficient layout for a new cafeteria using given criteria. Students work on maximizing area and geometric design. Students would then create and print a 3D model of their proposed design for a presentation.

So why should we teach 3D printing and math modeling? There are many answers to this question, but a few answers we pulled from this are: Students can understand formulas and the volume of shapes much easier as they see the full object begin modeled via the 3D printer, there are real-world connections that can be pulled from the use of the 3D printer while using mathematics to aide in correct design and touch upon many concepts, and finally this process is incredibly engaging and show students the connections between content areas and that STEM is everywhere in their lives.  We are extremely excited to continue to collaborate and learn about the possibilities between mathematical modeling and 3D printing.


March 18th, 2019

National Art Education Association 2019 Boston/ 5000 art educators/ 1000+ session/ 3 days/ 1 city

Art shapes human potential no matter where you are.  It was a pleasure to attend the National Art Education Association convention in Boston this year and to be immersed with 4,999 other art educators.  Because of communing with those who share the same vision, I know that student artists receive the best possible art education all over the US.  Beginning with Amy Sherald, the artist who was chosen and painted Michelle Obama’s portrait and ending with Dr. Howard Gardner, famous for his theories of multiple intelligences, his work with Project Zero and newer work, The Good Project and the 1000 sessions, it was a busy three days.  The sessions were pertinent to today’s technology and showcased the latest in research, teaching, and assessment of art education.  I am inspired to create the next iteration of the sessions I sat in on, the super sessions and artists’ who talked and inspired with their words.  I’m ready for art to shape human potential in Hanover.

March 12th, 2019

WEB Where Everyone Belongs

Conference Report for WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) Training

Alicia Amspacher, 8th grade math teacher

Jessie Gobrecht, 7th grade school counselor

Andrea LaManna, 6th grade school counselor

Jeffrey Smale, Principal

Travis Wildasin, 8th grade school counselor

On February 24-27, 2019 the 5 South Western employees mentioned above attended a WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) conference at Skytop Lodge in Scranton, Pennsylvania. All staff members listed above contributed to this conference report. At the training we received an official WEB Coordinator handbook, full access to online resources at www.boomerangproject.com, and a book written by the founders of WEB entitled Springboard Quick Creative Activities to Launch Learning. The agenda of this training was rigorous and packed full of engaging practice and discussion.  The days started at 7:00am and worked through to 7:45pm or 8:15pm at night.

The mission of WEB is to help 6th graders create bonds to our school community through the connections they make with their 8th grade WEB leaders.  Potential leaders who are interested in WEB attend an informational meeting and then submit a video application to the WEB advisors (above mentioned advisors and Mrs. Bowman, Mrs. Kauffman, and Mr. Heist).  Seventh graders (soon to be 8th graders) are selected by the trained WEB advisors based on various criteria such as work ethic, enthusiasm about helping our incoming 6th graders, and commitment. WEB leaders are invited to a play day and bowling event to learn about WEB and start making connections to each other.  

Over the summer the 8th graders are trained through a two day process by WEB advisors.  In August there is a 6th grade orientation day where the 8th grade WEB leaders do all of the activities they were trained about earlier in the summer with their assigned 6th grade students.  Throughout the school year the WEB leaders help with social events and teach lessons to the 6th grade homerooms. The WEB leaders also check in with their 6th grade students throughout the year.   

One thing we learned at the conference is that we already have a magnificent WEB team here at EHMIS.  The original group of teachers who were trained over 9 years ago have done a great job in staying true to the mission of WEB.  

Some additional WEB components we learned at the conference to enhance this already awesome organization include the following key items:

  1. Many additional “mojo” and “celebration” activities and chants that are used often to encourage our 6th and 8th graders when they are doing fantastic work.  These activities are vital to helping our students feel connected to others in the school and to also have FUN! We recorded many of these in the “Beg, Borrow, Share” section of our binder.  
  2. We decided to host a staff meeting which we have not done before to revisit what WEB is and the intent of the program.  We also plan on having our staff participate in some of our favorite WEB activities that we do with our students. We hope this will allow our staff to better see the value of this program and see how much fun it truly can be for the kids.
  3. An additional idea we are considering adding to the program are “Legacy Leaders.”  These are former WEB leaders that are now in high school who would come back to briefly talk about WEB and maybe even lend a hand during trainings or orientation day.
  4. We discussed how we can get the word out about WEB to parents, community, and staff  in ways we have not done before which included: Social Media, Newsletters, having a presence at Back to School Night, and attending PTO, Guidance Advisory, and School Board meetings.

On September 25, 2019 there is a Follow Up Conference that is already paid for with the cost of this initial conference. A binder is provided for this portion on the training as well. We hope to all attend this special event as well.

March 5th, 2019

Science Notebooking

On February 26th, I, along with fellow elementary/intermediate teachers, attended a Science Notebooking Conference presented by Brian Campbell at PaTTAN.   The focus of this conference was to promote and reinforce the use of science notebooks in elementary classrooms (K-8).

For me, the biggest take away from this session was that science notebooks should allow students to express their thinking.  The most important aspect of using a science notebook is to provide students opportunities to record their thinking, and allowing students time to do this should come above all else when using a notebook.  It has been shown that more authentic reflection occurs if information is handwritten rather than typed.  Notebooking also increases depth of knowledge.  Brian pointed out that a science notebook is very different from a notebook about science…

Science Notebooks Are: (as taken from Brian Campbell’s presentation on 2/26/19 at PaTTAN)

  • Detailed records of a student’s engagement with scientific phenomena
  • Personal representations of experiences, observations and data
  • An essential part of the process of scientific work
  • Continuously updated to reflect thoughts, and changes in thinking

As teachers, our goal is to scaffold learning and recognize that the function of the notebook is more important than the form. Campbell cautioned against teaching a “format” for the notebook, rather, notes need to make sense to students, and are to be used by the students for their own meaning-making.  Sometimes the notebook might not look as neat as we as teachers would like, but as long as the notebook is useful to students and it promotes their thinking, it will be successful.

Brian led us through a variety lessons/experiments demonstrating how science notebooks can be used in the classroom.  He illustrated various scaffolding techniques and demonstrated how to introduce vocabulary.  He suggests introducing vocabulary terms after the activity has concluded in order to have an opportunity for children to tie in their background knowledge.  He recommends having students describe using their own words (informally) first and then formally introduce the vocabulary word.  After each experiment/lesson, he brought the class together for a “sense-making discussion” in which we shared what we discovered, learned and still questioned.

The day concluded with a review of the various elements of a scientific notebook.  We were also given Brian Campbell’s Book, Science Notebooks: Writing About Inquiry.

March 1st, 2019

LAMP Training

Last week, I attended a two-day training focused on the LAMP (Language Acquisition Through Motor Planning) therapy technique and applying those skills to using an AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) device, specifically the LAMP Words for Life software.

LAMP was initially created to meet the communication needs for individuals with autism; however, the principles can be applied to provide assistance to those with a variety of disorders and conditions including apraxia and severe/expressive language delays. LAMP utilizes motor learning principles to develop consistent motor plans for accessing the most frequently used words in speech (core vocabulary words). Through button selection on a speech generating device, individuals can build sentences using these words to allow them to communicate their wants, needs, and ideas. The training was designed to help speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, teachers, and family become more familiar with the therapy technique and gain hands-on experience using AAC devices.

Over the course of two days, the training provided evidence-based practice and practical tips and tools on how to incorporate these strategies into day-to-day activities. I found this training to be immensely helpful considering our ever growing and changing student population and those who are entering school with more diverse communication needs. I left this training better equipped to effectively and efficiently apply these therapy strategies and use of augmentative and alternative communication devices to my current caseload as well as future students.

February 27th, 2019

2019 K’Nex STEM Design Challenge

The final moment has arrived! After two months of hard work, the K’Nex STEM competition day at Lincoln Intermediate Unit in New Oxford had arrived.

This is our third year attending the competition. This year we entered a fourth and fifth grade team from West Manheim Elementary under the direction of Michelle Krill and myself. There was also one team from each of the other elementary buildings under the direction of Deb Sowers.

Teams from across the state were tasked with making a machine that uses no more than 1,400 K’Nex pieces and moves 3 objects at least 6 inches and then puts them back down. Each of the three objects had to be moved separately! Teams were required to use at least 1 motor, create a blueprint, and maintain a journal of activities during the 2-3 month period leading up to the competition. On competition day, teams from all over the area meet up at the intermediate unit and are given two hours to rebuild their machine. That’s right! Teams deconstruct the project down to individual pieces and then have 2 hours to rebuild according to their memory and blueprints. Each team prepares a presentation to explain their process and they have 2 minutes to share that information with the judges.

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The rubric for the competition includes criteria for: creativity; teamwork; blueprint; journal; design; and the presentation. This year’s challenge proved quite difficult, but the students persevered.  We met 1-3 times a week in the afternoon to first brainstorm ideas, get to know the K’Nex pieces and prototype designs. Once each team settled on a design idea, a lot of time was spent cycling through the testing and improving steps of the design process. Each team experienced design and functionality struggles along the way.

This year, the hard work was rewarded when the awards were presented! The fifth grade team earned the third place prize for their design and the fourth grade team brought home first place. We are so proud of their hard work, dedication and teamwork.

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