Sunday, June 29, 2014

Games people play...

As part of the Connect Learning MOOC I am participating in this summer, we are exploring many ways we can connect our teaching through technology, making, tinkering, writing, or what-ever we can create.  

#clmooc — Making Learning Connected

This week we are exploring using games and play.  In my life, "games" meant Board Games, usually Monopoly, Life or Sorry, the games that came out during the rainy days at the shore, during hurricanes when it really wasn't safe to be sailing, after a family gathering, after dessert; games are a very important family tradition.  It was not my experience to see "games" as electronic (maybe because Atari hadn't been invented yet).  Last year during this MOOC one idea that came up was "tinkering" with the "rules" of a game.  I loved the idea so much that I went to a few yard sales, purchased a few games and brought them into my classroom.  My goal this year was to give the games to the students and have them create new rules, combine games, or whatever.  What I got though was a group of students who wanted to play "old school", using the originally designed rules.

I had the pleasure of sharing my classroom during "Homeroom" and the game of SORRY was discovered the first day of the school year.  It was fun to watch a group of 8th grade boys run into the classroom to get a game started before the day began at 8 AM. This behavior continued the entire year, with some true strategies for success being designed.

I am a firm believer that games are important in a class which has the title "Skills for Life" because of the social skills and ethical behavior that is learned through the process of "playing".  Students become engrossed in the game, learn how to deal with success as well as defeat.  When the period ends, they have engaged in a social experience that will benefit them in the future - just don't tell them that - let them think it is for FUN!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Old School... Really?

This past week Michelle Obama stated that we need to find a way to teach children how to prepare their own food as another way to eating healthy. Check out the WSJ piece: Old School.  She went on to say that we can't call it "Home Ec" because of the "bad" connotation.

So here are my questions to her:
1.  Are you aware of the thousands of Family and Consumer Science educators who are doing just as you requested on a daily basis, with dwindling budgets and support?

2.  How will you fund after-school projects when students don't want to stay after? or they are too busy with sports? or they need to take care of their siblings?

3.  Why do we need to re-invent the wheel - for 100 years Family & Consumer Science (Home Ec) has been working in the schools to educate our future adults?

4.  What will you be doing to help keep Perkins funding that funds these programs?

 If you want a team to support your Let's Move and Eating Healthy campaigns, you already have us, trained and working.  We are in the trenches, working hard to reach your goals, while at the same time trying to save our programs from the cuts that come when funds need to move to testing initiatives.  

Mrs. Obama, please do not tell me that Home Ec has a "bad connotation", or that we are "old school".  We are teaching these "Healthy Eating" mandates daily, while combining decision making, resource management, career exploration; you know, those life skills needed to turn all of into self reliant citizens.  Come see our classes, I don't think there is a FCS teacher who would not want to show off what they are doing in the classroom; just be prepared to work hard!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Happy Lunar New Year!

So... it is a New Year!  Today begins the Year of the Horse!

Since I seem to have lost about 2 months in my posting, I will eliminate the traditional Holiday Greetings!
Needless to say, I hope I did not offend by forgetting this traditional time.

 I love the Lunar New Year as it gives me a chance to regroup myself after the craziness of the end of our traditional calendar year - 15 days.  It also helps that I love Chinese Food, and it gives me a reason to order out Lemon Chicken.

I will begin my New Year, as always trying to organize myself, my mind, and my environment so I make better use of all.  This seems like a tall order, but with everything that goes in in my life, it will become necessary.

My stitching continues on fast an furious; learning to make those great traditional holiday stockings like my grandmother made; practicing the art of "double knitting" for warm hats, re-upholstering chairs and making throw pillows.  My students continually surprise me with what they want to make, so as they challenge themselves they challenge and inspire me.  

I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on the Master's Capstone Project - Linking Family and Consumer Science with STEAM education. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics).

The results of my research show a direct correlation, but the implementation of the integration is lacking. So now I have to ask:
  • Have we silo'd  education so much that the practical applications have become so far removed that students can not see the links?  
  • Have we as FCS teachers done such a good job that we have created our own obsolescence?  
  • If the above is true, then why the high levels of obesity, lack of financial literacy, and screams for teaching Critical Thinking and Creativity?
So my year of the Horse will gallop on at breakneck speed - I just hope I can hold on for the ride!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Presentation Week

I've been teaching for nine years in New Jersey and I am blessed.  Even though teachers are much maligned as being selfish, lazy and basically unfit to teach our children, I do not see it.  I don't say this lightly as I have experience the business management side of life also.  There are bad seeds in all professions but those bad seeds do not define the profession.  Unfortunately for teachers, we are paid by the taxpayer; the taxpayer who believes they know how to teach better than the classroom teacher - you know - we all went to school so we are experts.
Atlantic City Convention Center

In New Jersey we as teachers are given an amazing opportunity the first week of November.  The NJEA teacher convention.  It's not a great opportunity because we aren't teaching, it is a great opportunity to hone our craft of teaching, without taking the time out of the class.
Nine years ago, 2 months into my first teaching position, I entered a professional development workshop on teaching Financial Literacy.  My life changed.  In that one, 1 1/2 hour workshop I learned more than a book could have taught me.  The ideas I took away that I could easily implement into my classroom were priceless.  The cost of the workshop - FREE!  Learning from your peers was something that ignited a spark.

So this year I am wearing a different hat; I am a presenter.  I have the honor of presenting 3 different times at the convention.

Presenting for the New Jersey Cooperative Education Association I will offer "To Market, To Market", an overview of teaching the entrepreneurial skill sets of creativity through Project Based Learning.  This will give the participants some hands-on experiences that can be integrated into teaching creativity - a 21st Century Life Skill that is cited a necessary for success in the future.    Enjoy playing the Market Game developed for the PBS show "To Market, To Market to buy a Fat Pig"  Game designed by Jared Weinstock of Drexel University (my alma mater! go Dragons!)

 In High Tech Hall, with informal drop in sessions I will be sharing two different Web 2.0 tools that can be used by many educators. - a mindmap tool that includes presentation and collaboration elements.  This tool keeps evolving, with so many ways to put it to use in the classroom and life in general - check it out - there is a free version with limited features. is another tool that I will present.  This government site offers a glimpse into the Dietary Guidelines recommended by the USDA.  There are many wonderful tools that can be incorporated into many different classrooms, at all different levels.

So, I am not taking a vacation.  I am working hard at making sure the presentations are useful to the teachers who attend.  I've come a long way since I walked into the convention 9 years ago and am truly blessed to have this opportunity.  I know that teachers throughout the country would love the opportunity.