Monday, March 31, 2014

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day: Wear blue!

autism light.jpg
“Our world is made up of many different kinds of people. Each one of us is special in our own way, but we are all very much alike. We all have friends and families, go to school, and have hobbies such as soccer, art, or music. Children with autism may look like other kids, but if you met them you would find they are different in some ways. It may be hard for them to play, to make friends or to learn new things. Some may have trouble talking or understanding what people say. Some may talk too much about a favorite topic. But, just like you, children with autism are very special in many ways. They have families who love them very much, they go to school, and they have special interests.”

Star Academy will be lighting it up blue to raise awareness and promote acceptance for children with autism during the month of April. At school, students will hear a message about kindness, acceptance, and love for all students- and that each of us is unique and special. Our Star Academy blog will feature an eight post series about autism by Jenifer Pearsall and Diana Patterson, two amazing Star Academy parents. Our hope is to promote kindness to all and also to provide educational information to families about autism.

We’ll start off Autism Awareness month by wearing blue on Wednesday April 2nd as we join the world in lighting it up blue!

Flicker image credit: Venspired

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Family Blogging: Raising autism awareness one post at a time

Flickr image credit
In early January, our school kicked off our very first Family Blogging month in an effort to get our families excited about our newly created classroom blogs. Teachers and students posted throughout the month, and learned the art of quality commenting. Student bloggers wrote posts at home and emailed them to their teachers via their Gmail accounts and the topics ranged from writing about yogaSkypevocabulary words, and even Minecraft. We also had Andra Goodwin , a parent, post on our school blog during that first month about the learning going on in her daughter's first grade class. During the month of January, our school wrote 66 blog posts and 356 comments, with over half by students. 

Almost three months later, student blogging has taken on a life of its own and the posts keep coming. Something that surprised me, though, was the excitement about blogging that has spread to our families. Last week, two of our first grade parents approached me about the possibility of doing some blogging about autism to coincide with April and Autism Awareness month. We met last week, and they walked into my office with books to share and a plan to share their story and information through an eight blog series on autism! Amazing! I am so excited to have them posting as guest bloggers for our school. Today, I received the first post that is scheduled for April 2nd, World Autism Day. I seriously get chills thinking about the power of writing and sharing and how our little Family Blogging month has turned into a vehicle for sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings for everyone in our school community. 

Please join us in raising autism awareness! Our school will be wearing blue on Wednesday April 2nd in celebration of World Autism Day 2014. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

NCS Minecraft Workshop 1- #gettingschooled

Natomas Charter School is amazing. There is a school-wide expectation of innovation that permeates the classrooms, administrator meetings, and conversations from the staff lounge to the board room. Change is the only constant- and I love it. Risk taking and failure are encouraged. I have never experienced anything like is in my 17 years as an educator. And that was before Minecraft.
27 teachers. 27 kids. Awesome!
We blog. We tweet. We Skype. We create and build. Everyone is a learner.

Today I got schooled. And it was EXACTLY what I signed up for.

Along with 26 other teachers, we had our first Minecraft workshop. Every teacher had an individual mentor. My mentor was Serena, a brilliant 7th grader. She had her work cut out for her. Although I previously attended Diane Main's Minecraft workshop at Fall CUE, I pretty much only remembered how to dig. Joe Wood and Joe Cook led the workshop, taking us through Minecraft world with the hope that we would learn how to walk, run, climb, build, and hide. 

Raining on my Minecraft world
Everyone learned something new. All were successful, and yet not all survived. Here's my top ten list from Minecraft day 1.
Can't see anything? It's dark in my world and I have no torches!
1. I can walk, jump, climb and back up. I can also dig and chop down trees. 
2. When it's dark, you need a torch. If you don't have one, you just have to wait until morning. Or, if you are lucky, someone will give you one!
3. Pigs and cows run away from you. You have to chase them!
4. The + thingy is very important! It tells you where to place wood and dirt when you build something.
5. You can chat! Which means if you need something, you can ask for help and just maybe, if you are lucky, someone will send you some coal to light your way!
6. It's hard for kids to teach us. I could see Serena wanting to grab my mouse, but she didn't! It was hard for her to explain to me what to do... she was so patient!
7. Teaching 52 people at once is hard. And getting the attention of a totally engaged crowd is even harder- especially if they are facing their computer and away from the teacher. It reminds me to consider our classroom configuration and how it works with collaborative learning and tech.
8. In Minecraft, friends can save you! 
9.  I need to buy a mouse! Two years with a trackpad. Minecraft needs a mouse. So much easier.
10. I died at the hands of a creeper! No worries... I will still return for the next class!

I have so much to learn and am so lucky to have my own mentor leading the way! I know we have some awesome Minecrafters here at Star Academy! Leave a comment-- I'd love to learn with you!