School principals have tough jobs. When you are responsible for hundreds of students and parents, dozens of staff, and countless stakeholders in the community – including those in afterschool programs – maintaining order is a constant challenge. From teacher evaluations to handling serious discipline issues, principals have various responsibilities and are rarely appreciated for their work.
October is National Principals Month! It’s an opportunity to say “thank you” to principals everywhere and honor their hard work and dedication. After school professionals should mark this special month to recognize and show appreciation for the support principals provide in helping to assure their programs are aligned with the school’s curricula in order to provide seamless, high-quality learning experiences for children and youth. But how can you acknowledge their work in a way that would be meaningful and memorable for a principal?
Dr. Paul Young, author of Principal Matters and Lead the Way! (and a past president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals) suggests these five strategies:
- Plan a celebratory program or assembly. Principals often plan events for others, but rarely does anyone plan one for them. To make it special, allow the kids themselves (with your supervision and guidance) to plan, organize and play key roles in expressing their appreciation for their principal. Effective principals are kid-focused, and seeing and hearing what their students feel about them and their support of the after school program will be certain to touch their hearts. Together with your students, don’t limit your imagination. Good planning and execution will make this program unique, remarkable and unforgettable!
- Give them flowers. Anyone can buy flowers from a florist. Instead, allow your students and staff to make their own flowers as a special art project. These will likely receive a more prominent display in the principal’s office and generate more conversation than anything you might purchase. And the special thought will last much longer.
- Give them candy. But wait, candy might not fit your program’s healthy eating guidelines. Be creative and make “candy” into a healthy snack or celebratory food that can be made, served and shared with the principal by the students in your program.
- Sing their praises. Music touches the soul. What you can’t easily say about your principal in words, do with music. Create your own song, jingle or rap, or cover a recognizable song or tune that the kids can easily perform.
- Share the celebration. Encourage students to create special invitations to the program for the principal and invited guests. Encourage kids to make their own awards and certificates of appreciation. Then, don’t fail to capture the special celebratory moments on video to archive and share in a variety of ways through social media and other outlets.
Creating fun and celebratory experiences should be a regular feature of after school programming. They provide opportunities for kids and adults to showcase what is best about after school. Principals relish genuine and heartfelt appreciation. Let them know how your program – and their support of it – is remarkable!
“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” – Rita Dove
There’s more to poetry than rhyming and crafting “Roses are red, violets are blue” poems. Poetry is a form of written expression, which consists of words arranged in patterns of sound and imagery to evoke an emotional response. There are also positive benefits of teaching poetry to students. In Edutopia’s “Five Reasons Why We Need Poetry in Schools,” the author suggests reading and writing poetry promotes literacy, builds community and fosters emotional intelligence. For National Poetry Month, bring poetry to life by participating in the Poet-to-Poet project by Poets.org.
Poet-to-Poet is a multimedia project that encourages children and youth in grades 3-12 to write poems in response to those shared by award-winning poets, such as Pulitzer Prize-nominee Ron Padgett and Poet Laureate of California Juan Felipe Herrera. If chosen, student poems may be published on Poets.org in May 2014.
To participate in the project, students must:
- Watch the videos of the poets reading and discussing their poem.
- Write their own poem in response.
- Email their poem to email@example.com by April 30, 2014, and include their name and the name of the poet who inspired their poem.
Poets.org also provided a series of Common Core aligned activities for educators to incorporate poetry into the classroom or afterschool program. To join the project, visit http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/639.
How do you plan to celebrate National Poetry Month in your classroom or afterschool program? Share with us below!
Engineering puts the “E” in STEM, an acronym used to describe the study of science, technology, engineering and math. STEM careers are rapidly growing, and engineering represents a majority of these STEM jobs. (To learn more, read Computing and Engineering in Afterschool). In order to prepare our students for a STEM-driven economy, educators must provide activities that spark students’ interest in STEM. Afterschool is a great catalyst for students to explore engineering though hands-on, student-centered activities.
Here are five ways to incorporate engineering in afterschool:
- Educate. Many students do not know much about engineering or what an engineer does. Once they discover engineering, students may develop an interest in the topic. Check out this video by NASA to introduce students to engineering.
- TryEngineering. This organization offers 114 lesson plans designed to get students interested in engineering. Lessons can be selected based on students’ age range and by an engineering topic, like robotics or motion and forces.
- Robotics. Programs like LEGO Robotics pair computing and engineering to tap into students’ problem solving skills. At AlphaBEST, students build and program robots according to step-by-step instructions. With robotics, students explore the basics of engineering by focusing on what makes the robot work.
- Mentor. Leverage community resources to put a face to engineering. Invite parents and other community members to further explain engineering and to discuss their careers with students. There are also programs, such as Engineering for Kids®, that will bring fun, hands-on engineering projects to your program.
- Discover Engineering. This website provides hands-on activities, videos, games, field trip ideas and other resources to discover engineering in your afterschool program. Activities are tailored for educators, parents, volunteers and students, and many of their activities can be translated into other languages.
Educators should build a year-long commitment to spark students’ interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Check out this Pinterest board for 50+ activities to incorporate STEM in afterschool.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. committed his life to service and to promoting peace, equality and justice for everyone. In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday as a national day of service to honor his legacy through volunteerism. Service learning is a teaching method that combines instruction with meaningful community service. It helps to empower students, strengthen communities and create solutions to social problems. This Monday, January 20, celebrate MLK Day by engaging students with service projects in the local community.
10 Service Project Ideas for Students:
- Put on gloves and visit the neighborhood park to pick up litter.
- Gather your favorite classic board games and organize a board game night at your local nursing home.
- Volunteer at the local animal shelter to feed, bathe and pet the animals.
- Conduct a coat drive at your school or afterschool center and donate items to local charity organizations.
- Collect gently used toys, video games and board games, and donate them to patients at a Children’s Hospital.
- Locate a Special Olympics event in your area and volunteer to help or cheer on the athletes.
- Collect aluminum cans from friends, family and neighbors, and donate the money to a local environmental charity.
- Visit a local food bank and volunteer to pack and hand out food.
- Run in a marathon to raise money for a cause.
- Create anti-bullying posters to hang around the school and local community.
For more service project ideas, check out these resources:
366 Community Service Ideas
Global Youth Service Day
On December 5, we mourned the loss of world-famous politician and civil rights hero Nelson Mandela, who died at the age of 95. Mandela, South Africa’s founding father, was a symbol of compassion, courage and commitment. He spent 27 years in prison because of his work to end racial segregation in his home country. Mandela was a great example of the change we can make with unwavering strength, faith and wisdom, and today’s youth could learn many things from his life and legacy.
Here is a list of 10 great resources to teach kids about Nelson Mandela:
- Nelson Mandela Foundation | nelsonmadela.org: A great resource for preparing lessons on Nelson Mandela.
- Remembering Nelson Mandela – Nelson Mandela biographies | Scholastic Parents: grades 1-2; grades 3-5; grades 6-8
- Nelson Mandela: 1918-2013 | TIME for Kids: Read the Nelson Mandela biography and view a slideshow of his life.
- Mandela – History app | iTunes: Discover the story of Nelson Mandela through fun educational games.
- Teaching Nelson Mandela | Education Week Teacher: See a compiled list of resources for bringing Mandela into the classroom.
- Nelson Mandela | BBC – Primary History: Learn more about Mandela through biographies, photos, videos, activities, quizzes, and more.
- Apartheid | BrainPOP Educators: Watch a movie on apartheid to discover Mandela’s fight to end racial segregation in South Africa.
- Nelson Mandela | Picture Book Biography by Kadir Nelson: The life of Nelson Mandela is illuminated and celebrated through words and paintings.
- Nelson Mandela quotes | BrainyQuote: Visualize Mandela’s life and legacy through inspirational quotes and sayings.
- Tribute to Nelson Mandela | ABC News: Kids from around the world say what Mandela means to them over John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Would you like to add any resources to the list? Share below!
Columbus Day is Monday, October 14! Christopher Columbus and his discovery of America are monumental in our country’s history. If you plan to honor the holiday, here are five ways to celebrate Columbus Day in your class or extended learning program. Go beyond the familiar line, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” and teach students about Christopher Columbus’ journey to the New World in fun, exciting and yummy ways!
- Watch the Columbus Day movie on BrainPOP Jr. to introduce students to Christopher Columbus and to tell the story of his voyage to the New World.
- Have story time! My First Biography: Christoper Columbus helps younger students understand the story of Columbus and offers a positive message of perseverance. Also, check out Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus which contains engaging, artful pictures and true-to-history text that tells the story of Columbus’ journey.
- Make these veggie boats from the Oh Happy Day blog to represent the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Gather a variety of vegetables, spreads and toothpicks to assemble the boats and make tasty snacks!
- Get students’ creative juices flowing with the Columbus Day Writing Craftivity from Teachers Pay Teachers. This free download will turn students into explorers as they write about what would have happened if they discovered America.
- Telescopes are great tools for exploration! Make the telescopes from recycled household items like cardboard tubes and paper cups.
Find more ways to celebrate Columbus Day on our Pinterest page!
How are you celebrating Columbus Day in your classroom or extended learning program?
National Hispanic Heritage Month is a month-long celebration that begins September 15 and ends October 15. It’s a great time to educate students on Hispanic and Latin American heritage, and to celebrate their contributions to the American culture! From their cultural music to the conquest of Mexico, there are endless activities for students to explore Hispanic and Latin American culture.
Here are 5 ways to kick start the celebration:
- Play A Different Drum to learn about the percussion instruments that Spanish-speaking immigrants of the Caribbean brought to the United States. Listen to the sound of each instrument and then match each instrument with the correct label. It’s also a great vocabulary lesson!
- Take it a step further and make your own maracas! Gather empty toilet paper rolls, uncooked rice, masking tape, crayons and stickers. Cover one end of the toilet paper roll with masking tape. Then, pour the uncooked rice into the toilet paper roll and tape the other end. Finally, decorate the maracas with crayons and stickers. Listen to the Spanish Greeting Song and “shake-shake-shake” your maracas!
- Discover the Conquest of Mexico with paintings from the seventeenth century! The eight paintings illustrate the battles between the Spanish and the Aztecs and other historical moments of the 1521 Spanish conquest of the native Aztec people. The beautiful artistry provides insight on the events leading up to the Conquest of Tenochtitlán (modern-day Mexico City). Challenge students to recreate their favorite paintings!
- Discover Repujado and make Mexican cuff bracelets! Repujado is the Mexican Metal Tooling Art technique which uses a rounded tool on the back side of soft metal to create a beautiful piece of raised art.
- Columbus Day, or the Día de la Raza, is on October 12, so celebrate by exploring Christopher Columbus’ voyage from Spain to America! Students can draw a map of Columbus’ voyage and create replicas of his three ships: the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Click here to see how it’s done!
How are you celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month?
Image sources: Library of Congress, Google image search
September 11 is Patriot Day! This day commemorates the lives that were lost and the heroes who risked their lives saving others during the 9/11 attacks. The topic may be touchy for young students, but educators can celebrate Patriot Day with activities that are age-appropriate and that focus on patriotism.
Here are a few Patriot Day activities and ideas:
Read a book. For a detailed account of the 9/11 tragedy, read America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell, which uses sensitive language and watercolor illustrations to narrate the events of the day. The book touches on everything from the hijacking of the planes to the collapse of the buildings. For a story of courage and bravery, read The Little Chapel That Stood about the historic chapel less than 100 miles from the Twin Towers that remained standing after the attacks.
Watch the BrainPOP video explaining terrorism and recounting the events of September 11, 2001. The video is animated and a great discussion starter.
Visit the National Counterterrorism Center Kids Zone for games and activities, educational resources and a coloring book.
Make an American flag. Trace a flag outline on a piece of white construction paper. Have students tear pieces of red, white and blue paper, and glue them down to form the stripes and blue area of the flag. Use white star stickers to represent the stars on the US flag.
Honor a hero. Discuss patriotism and have students write thank-you notes to heroes in the community, such as police officers, firefighters, nurses, etc.
Sing patriotic songs. Teach students the lyrics to “You’re a Grand Old Flag” or “This Land Is Your Land” and sing the song together.
For more Patriot Day ideas and activities, visit our Pinterest board “Patriot Day Activities.”
Image sources: betterworldbooks.com, kiwicrate.com