I wanted to reflect on one of the terrific partnerships the Shaw engaged in at the end of 2019. After studying existentialism in picture books, seniors from Boston Latin School visited with our K1, K2, and 1st grade classes. The 12th graders shared and read aloud the stories they had been studying. This was a chance for students from varying age ranges to interpret the books and enjoy stories togethers. Many of the Shaw students remembered this event from last year and were excited to get to know new Boston Latin School students. They loved showing off their classrooms and talking about what they were learning. Everyone got to share their thoughts about the books while completing book reviews. It was truly a meaningful experience for everyone involved.
Cheers to a new year and more engaging, collaborative learning experiences like this one!
First and second graders had their first Vertex visit of the school year, and it was a resounding success! Volunteers started off by sharing information with students about cystic fibrosis, one of the diseases the company works on. Students then participated in an observation and analysis of simulated mucus samples. Students looked at healthy mucus samples and compared them to mucus samples from people with cystic fibrosis. Students loved describing what the different mucus types looked, felt, and even smelled like!
Students also got a chance to experiment with 3D pens. With the 3D printing pen students were able to draw anything they wanted and watch their creations become 3D models in a matter of minutes.
Thank you Vertex for helping bringing science to life and giving students a chance to use some incredible tech tools!
This past Friday we had our first author visit of the school year. Author, illustrator, and activist Innosanto Nagara came to speak to 2nd and 3rd grade students. Innosanto has written and illustrated five books for children. Prior to his visit, the students and I read his bestselling alphabet book A Is For Activist. We also looked at Counting on Community, The Wedding Portrait, and My Night In The Planetarium, which is on the Boston Public Library’s recommended reading list.
Innosanto spoke to students about activism, the importance of community, and why people sometimes break the rules to make things better. While listening to Innosanto speak, students made connections with the work they are already doing in their classrooms. Students have been acting out plays about freedom fighters and learning about people that fought for change. The students had some wonderful questions for Innosanto about what it takes to make a book, where Innosanto gets his ideas from, what inspires him to write, and what it’s like being an author and an illustrator at the same time.
Our friends at Wondermore helped make this visit possible. They organized bringing Innosanto to the Shaw and even helped bring the incredible gift of books so that all of the students got their very own book to keep!
Last year I started talking to fitness guru and courage architect Ashley Mitchell (read more about her here) in regards to working with some of our students to teach them fitness and empowerment. She is currently teaching a movement class that she developed for juniors and seniors at Roxbury Prep, and also launched her own website. Ashley is now seeing all of our 3rd grade students once a week with lessons focused on movement, journaling, and community building. Students are being exposed to high intensity interval training and yoga poses. They are challenging themselves and making connections between their bodies and minds.
Ashley’s visits have been a resounding success! Students are engaged and participating, and teachers have told me that they noticed a difference in students’ demeanor and focus throughout the day. In just a short amount of time Shaw 3rd graders are already holding themselves accountable for their own personal wellness. Ashley is teaching our students that they have power. She is showing them that struggles are to be expected, but it’s how we deal with these struggles that makes us better people. She is showing our students to value their courage and strength. Ashley is not only a fitness professional, but a truly incredible role model. She is striving to have our students “identify and activate their inner strength through a holistic approach that combines movement with journaling and dialogue to tease out their individuality and innate characteristics of courage.” Thank you Ashley!
Thanks to our amazing friends at Wondermore, last Friday our second and third graders had a special visit from author Paul Reynolds. Paul is the author of Going Places and the Sydney & Simon series. He is also the co-founder of FableVision Studios, a media company he started alongside his twin brother, Peter.
Paul started by talking to students about what it means to “create bravely.” He talked about his childhood and how he has been creating alongside his brother his entire life. When Paul was in the second grade he began writing stories while his brother Peter illustrated them. Students started thinking about creating with a best friend and the importance of kindness.
Paul read The Dot and shared the inspiration for the story. He told students that you don’t have to be good at everything, but it’s worth trying different things to see what you like. He talked about not giving up and doing what you love. He also spoke to students about the work FableVision does creating storytelling technology. Students asked Paul questions, including:
“What inspired you to be an author?”
“When you and your brother work together do you argue sometimes?”
“Did anything in your childhood inspire you?”
“What motivates you to keep writing?”
Paul was truly inspirational. You know it was a fabulous author visit when students were crowding around Paul asking to share their writing and coding projects with him. Teachers stopped by the library to tell me how meaningful the visit was and many students stopped by the library to borrow his books. Students learn best when they’re having fun, and Paul’s visit was definitely fun!
We were incredibly lucky to have award winning author and illustrator Jef Czekaj visit the Shaw. Jef visited a few years ago and it was wonderful to have him come back for another fun and informative author visit. Jef’s humorous and musical writing has found many fans in the Shaw library. His book Hip & Hop, Don’t Stop! is always one of the first books to be grabbed off the shelves.
Our K1, K2, and 1st grade students spent the past few weeks preparing for the author visit by reading some of Jef’s books including Hip & Hop, Don’t Stop!, Cat Secrets, Yes, Yes, Yaul! and Oink-A-Doodle-Moo. All of that reading prompted some wonderful discussion. Students also came up with questions to ask Jef during his visit. Questions ranged from what inspires Jef to asking about how he comes up with his raps. During the visit Jef talked about how even as a kid he always enjoyed drawing and writing stories. He went into detail about his writing process and how he practices drawing on a daily basis. Jef read one of his stories aloud to the students; he played music and rapped Yes, Yes, Yaul! Teachers and students alike were out of their chairs dancing and shouting along.
Jef also showed students how he goes about illustrating characters. Students shouted out character traits and Jef combined their ideas to make a brand new character on the fly. It was fast-paced, interactive, and fun. At the end of the visit every single student was given their very own copy of Hip & Hop in the House!
Everyone is still sharing accolades with me after the visit. Jef definitely made a lasting impression on the students. It was a fabulous time and we are so grateful to Wondermore for making the visit possible.
The Shaw was lucky enough to be chosen as one of Vertex Pharmaceuticals partner schools for the 2018-2019 school year. Volunteers had their first visit at the Shaw last week and helped integrate technology into the classrooms. First and second graders were introduced firsthand to 3D printing technology and how it can be used to create all sorts of objects.
The pens allowed students to illustrate in 3D. Students were able to draw a variety of shapes and recognizable items, including movie characters and New England sports logos. They worked on problem solving and critical thinking exercises. Once students became comfortable using the pens, they were given the challenge of building a tower or a 3D cube. Many of the students jumped at the opportunity to take on this difficult task. It required everyone to be patient, concentrate, and persevere.
The 3D pens blended math, science, and art in a creative and user-friendly way. Everyone had so much fun with the volunteers and we can't wait to learn something new next month!
I wanted to take a moment to recognize the importance of collaboration and its ability to give deeper meaning to learning. Through the collaborative efforts of Boston Latin School and the P.A. Shaw, an engaging and interactive partnership took place! Seniors from Boston Latin School visited with our K1 and K2 classes. The visit was the culmination of Blake Barich's existentialism unit for her 12th grade English classes. Her students spent weeks analyzing works by existential thinkers and then compared those with a children's picture book. The 12 graders ultimately wrote an essay arguing whether or not their picture book of choice was existential. The visit to the Shaw was an opportunity to read to a young child and see how the book was interpreted. It was also a chance to simply enjoy a book together. Over 160 students from both schools participated.
For our own students at the Shaw, the visit was an opportunity to practice our hosting skills, show off our school and get to know older students. Everyone got to hone their critical thinking and writing skills while completing book reviews. It was amazing to see such camaraderie develop. Many of our students have asked when their “reading buddy” is coming back to visit! All of the students were engaged.
The visit was mutually beneficial for both schools and highlighted on Boston Public Schools social media. This visit goes to show that when schools work together to support learning, everyone benefits!
One of the biggest problems I see as a school librarian is the lack of access to diverse books. The scarcity of children's literature that is representative of urban children, people of color, and the broad diversity of society is real. This is worrisome because as Rudine Sims Bishop said, "when children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about who they are devalued in the society of which they are a part of.” With help from our amazing friends at Wondermore, we decided to end the school year with an author visit from Susan Tan, giving students a chance to meet an author they could connect with.
As Toni Morrison wrote, "If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” Susan Tan did just that. Susan Tan is the author of Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire and Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book Is A Classic. The third book in the Cilla series will be released in 2019.
Tan showed the students a day in the life of a writer. She showed students where she gets her inspiration and how she goes through the writing process. Students loved learning that Tan writes on her phone and does some of her best work while on the go. Tan mentioned that students might even see her writing while riding the T! Tan drew from real stories to write the Cilla series, explaining to students that her work is based on her own life and family. Students loved learning that the chapter where Cilla puts sparkles in her hair is something that actually happened in Tan’s childhood!
The books available to students need to be as diverse as they are. Many of the students were able to personally identify with Tan’s story and characters. She inspired many of them to continue working on their own creations and let them know that they are ALL writers. Her books are culturally-relevant and resonate with students’ own experiences. I believe that in order to make our students be passionate readers, it is important for them to feel that they can make connections.
This past Tuesday we were able to host an incredible event at the Shaw called HERStory. HERStory was a chance to share the mission of celebrating women’s achievements and empowering our female students in particular. Teaming up with the BPS Office of External Affairs and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, we were able to work with some wonderful volunteers and bring in guest readers to every classroom.
Vertex “has grown into a leading global biotech that repeatedly innovates to bring transformative medicines to people around the world.” All of the volunteers that came for this event were women working at Vertex. The shared with students STEM-related picture books that had strong female characters.
Students were then able to ask the volunteers questions about their careers and how they reached the point where they are now. Some of the women shared photographs and talked about where they went to college. A few even shared their personal struggles throughout their own school experiences. Some of the classes are currently studying community helpers and jobs, so this was a great tie-in with what they are learning.
Women and men of color are grossly under-represented in STEM careers, so one of my personal goals is to help my students develop an interest in these fields. This event was great exposure to people and careers in STEM! It was a chance for our students to meet strong, dynamic women making a difference.
Mrs. Keohane is the School Librarian at the P.A. Shaw. She loves hockey, going to the beach, and reading (obviously!)