It Takes Caddisfly Larvae to Raise a Child

By SUSIE DENEHY , Staff Naturalist/Teacher, Harris Center for Conservation Education

We stand in the flowing waters of No-Name Stream in Antrim’s McCabe Forest. Our feet rest on the slippery cobble and the brook’s current tugs at us. We are dressed for a raging river, with full body waders, life jackets and mosquito netting. Yet, here we stand in water no higher than our ankles. We laugh, pointing at each other’s new attire. One fifth grader says, “Imagine if you had to dress like this every day.”

I can imagine it. I would gladly don rubber pants and sport high geeky galoshes, just to spend my days exploring the rocky shallows of our local streams. I am hoping that by the end of the day, my students will feel the same way, that they, too, will become stream-walkers and brook readers. Continue reading

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Smaller Schools Build Close-Knit Communities and More Positive Learning


“The size of the school does not inhibit personal interaction; it encourages it. Small schools typically serve a community nucleus. This invites strong support from parents and community members as well as closer working relationships among the school staff. In a small school it is not unusual for teachers, administrators, and school board members to know each other well. This can lead to easy acceptance of new ideas among friends as well as a strong sense of identification and belonging.” — ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools Las Cruces NM.

I’ve been closely following the school improvement plan in my town of Ipswich, Massachusetts. As an early childhood educator for the past 15 plus years I take a natural interest in all things school related. I own and run a small progressive preschool in a neighboring town and many of our students go onto Winthrop or Doyon or other local public schools.

I also live in town and will eventually have two little ones in the school system and need to keep in myself in the loop with what our community is doing for it’s children. I’ve attended the meetings, read the letters to the editor, and followed on social media. I am in favor of keeping two smaller schools in our community. (not consolidating) Continue reading

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Special Early Bird Registration Rates CWI’s 2019 Summer Institutes

CWI Summer Institutes are about connecting core academic and social emotional goals with compelling student-centered learning projects, teaching for empathy through powerful community focused experiences. The Institute provides expert training, experienced guidance and support, with inspired collaboration. learn more:

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Applying Public Health Strategy to Support Youth in Poverty


The Democracy Collaborative is hosting a Hospital Anchor Network Convening in Chicago this week. I’ve been interested in hospitals as leaders in building and sustaining networks of mentor-rich non-school programs in their trade areas since learning about the Hospital Youth Mentoring Network in the late 1990s.

I created this concept map to point to some of the articles and resources that I’ve collected and shared, with the goal that hospital and university leaders would become anchor organizations, and include a Tutor/Mentor Connection component in their strategies.

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Student Leadership Development and Community Engagement

by Beth J. VanDerveer, PhD, Associate Professor, Coordinator
Recreation Studies Program/Gerontology Certificate Programs, Ohio University

During National Library Week, “Celebrate Reading,” a collaborative partnership with students in a Recreation Leadership course and faculty at Ohio University, Ohio University- Friends of the Libraries, Athens County Public Libraries, and Friends of the Athens Public Library was implemented in the rural Appalachia town of Athens, Ohio; home of Ohio University. This community activity was a meaningful leadership opportunity and cultural sensitivity program for the students and the rural Appalachia community folks. “Celebrate Reading” provided leadership opportunities as a means to connect theory with practice. Student learning objectives included: (1) to expand their experiences at the local community library; (2) to state an understanding how reading has changed over the years; (3) to explore their attitudes towards reading; (4) to know how this community engagement experience applies to leadership; and (5) to identify the diverse community needs and discuss in a paragraph how to meet these needs. At the local library, the program activities were open to the public and included: Circle Discussions About Reading, Lapsit Storytime, and Making Bookmarkers.

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Bringing Together the Resources Students At Risk Need to Succeed


Educators labor for students to succeed in a context of significant pressure to achieve academic outcomes (Daly et al., 2006). Our work is often times made more difficult by personal and environmental risk factors in students’ lives. Specifically, students’ behavioral and emotional needs often significantly interfere with their educational success. This article presents one youth’s idea for helping students to cope with environmental and personal risk factors, briefly depicts current student mental health issues that our students face, and describes the second author’s work on policy change that emphasizes a systemic approach to addressing these complex issues.

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Mapping McCabe: Connecting Curriculum and Community Through Environmental Education


photo courtesy of Forest Society

The Reintroduction of Students into the Landscape
Dorothy McCabe, thin, strong and well-preserved as a cedar post, had us captivated with her stories. We sat in the parlor of her old home twelve years ago in what had just become the Forest Society’s McCabe Forest Preserve. “I remember when I was a girl and it was a hot May afternoon. We all had a favorite swimming place down by a bend in the river — near the old oxbow. It was sandy there and deep enough to dive into. When I got there I noticed three big funny-looking water bugs perched on the water. I was going to investigate, but the black flies were so bad, I decided just to strip down and jump in the water. Well, as soon as I jumped in the river, I was scared by the ferociously churning water — like the Loch Ness monster was coming to the surface. And then three deer charge out of the water and stampede into the woods. Turns out those three water bugs had been their noses and they had been suspended in the water, just their noses sticking up so they could breathe. This is how they got a bit of respite from the black flies.” Continue reading

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The Child Behind The Grade


One Principal’s Perspective on Teachers Going Gradeless

Teachers don’t generally like to come down to the office. In fact, most people (even as adults!) still have negative feelings about seeing the principal. They believe when they are in that space that they are ‘in trouble’. This is a large reason why I like to engage with students and staff in their spaces as opposed to mine, and why I have attempted to make my office be more like a place to relax and hang out (treats, comfy chairs, kid’s art) than the seat of discipline.

However, there is always one point in the year that I have a steady parade of teachers, educational assistants, and early childhood educators waiting to see me: the week before parent/teacher interviews in the Fall. Invariably, they want to talk about where, how, and what to share with parents with regard to student progress and achievement.

I always begin with the same question: what do you know about the student? Continue reading

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