Saturday, April 21, 2018

Chapel Hill High School Orchestra Performs in Boston

In early April, 36 orchestra students from Chapel Hill High School spent three days in Boston for a high-octane, high-value experience. On April 6, the orchestra performed at the Massachusetts State House. Corrie Franklin, orchestra teacher, said, “We received the invitation thanks to a parent who had a contact at the State House. When they heard we were interested in visiting and possibly performing, they were able to send us a formal invitation.”
   
“Our trip to Boston was an amazing experience!” said Franklin. “We learned so much about the history and culture of the city, particularly through the musical instruction and performance experiences. One of our favorite highlights from the trip was playing on stage at Symphony Hall (built 1900), which is known for having the best acoustics in the United States.”

The students performed for a masterclass in Symphony Hall under the instruction of Boston Symphony bassist Thomas Van Dyck.
   
"The trip was an eye-opening and orchestra-bonding experience," said Ethan Rayala, sophomore cellist.
   
The orchestra students also enjoyed performances of both the Boston Symphony and the Boston Ballet, as well as historical tours, and a visit to Harvard University. "It was amazing to tour such a historic city. The Boston trip was a great way to end my final year with the orchestra!" Lainie Sopa, senior cellist, said.
   
Franklin discovered that the positive impact her students made on the people they met did not only include their musical gifts. “What stood out to me about our trip was the maturity and gratitude our students showed on every aspect of the trip. I was frequently told by our tour manager, bus driver, and hosts, just how impressed they were by the dedication and discipline of our students. It was truly an honor to travel with the Chapel Hill High Orchestra students!"”
   
"The trip was a nice way to step away from school work for a while and enjoy senior year,” said Iris Chien, senior violinist.

Thank you to Corrie Franklin, her amazing students and all who helped make this trip a meaning and memorable experience.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Offer Encouragement and Receive It In Kind

When we know someone is working hard and taking risks, we have to also realize they need encouragement to keep going. As you look at people you see every day - children, coworkers, neighbors - make sure you are a positive force in their lives, offering them encouragement as they work toward their goals. Then don’t be surprised when they offer you encouragement the next time you need it.



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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

ESL Teacher Will Visit China as Fund for Teachers Fellow

Anne Tomalin, an ESL teacher at Chapel Hill High School, will be spending nearly two weeks in China this June, as a Fund for Teachers Fellow. The $5,000 grant covers the cost of a UNC World View Global Study program called “China: Traditions, Trends and Transformations,” which will allow Tomalin to learn about the country’s educational practices, as well as its culture and language. She hopes to “spark ideas” for ways to better support her Asian refugee students at Chapel Hill High. Although she has taught English language learners for 21 years in our district, she said that with the changing demographics in her classroom, she has felt called to adapt “not only how I teach but what I teach.”
     
Anne Tomalin
The scores on state end-of-course exams have been consistently low for the English learner (EL) students at the high school level, with only 7% scoring proficient in English II at Chapel Hill High last year. The low performance is a complex problem that requires a multi-faceted approach, said Tomalin. “I believe one missing piece of the puzzle is that we don’t have sufficient knowledge of their cultural and educational background, and how that background influences the way they learn. Without this knowledge, we aren’t able to provide them with culturally responsive instruction.”
   
“By observing a completely different educational setting, I hope to cultivate the ability to think outside of the box about how best to serve the needs of our district's EL students," she added.
     
The 2018 Fund for Teachers awards, $2.1 million total, will provide self-designed experiences for 546 educators in the U.S. One of the distinctive aspects of these grants is that they must embrace initiatives to address specific achievement gaps with students and/or with teachers themselves. Salma Zaky, Program Officer for Fund for Teachers, wrote in an email to Tomalin, “From thousands of applications from across the country, your proposal stood out as one that will bring relevant knowledge and skills back to your students.”
     
In her proposal, Tomalin noted that the number of Asian refugees in the district has demanded new approaches to teaching English, since many have arrived with weak academic skills due to interrupted schooling in the refugee camps, in addition to having very little English proficiency. In China, she hopes to gain insights into ways that our educational practices might be a mismatch for some Asian students’ learning styles.
     
Tomalin knew about the UNC organization, World View Global Study, and she chose to apply for the grant in order to cover the costs of the UNC trip to China. Included in the experience is a two-day Professional Development seminar prior to traveling abroad, twelve days of travel in China, as well as a follow-up workshop. The pre- and post- workshops are designed to help participants integrate what they’ve learned during their travels when they return to the classroom.
   
“During the trip I'll blog about my observations and experiences. I'll encourage my students to follow me while I do it, because I think it'll be meaningful for them to see a teacher experience a bit of what they contend with every day - that is, being in an alien environment with limited ability to communicate.”
   
Follow Tomalin on her learning adventure in June!    #FFTFellow

https://travel4learningblog.wordpress.com/

Fund for Teachers strengthens instruction by investing in outstanding teachers' self-determined professional growth and development in order to support student success, enrich their own practice, and strengthen their schools and communities.
http://www.fundforteachers.org/
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Monday, April 16, 2018

CHCCS COMPOSTS A MILLION POUNDS OF FOOD WASTE

In our school cafeterias, every day during lunch time, students scrape and sort and dump their food waste into different bins, including the prized compost bins. Most students have adopted the quick actions as habit, and few are aware that Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools have created one of the most comprehensive and effective composting programs of any North Carolina school district. “It’s a win-win-win,” said Dan Schnitzer, Director of Sustainability (and perhaps local King of Compost!). The district is saving money, students are learning about everything from worm bins to sequestering carbons, and cafeteria scraps are being transformed into high-quality soil instead of ending up in a Sampson County landfill, releasing methane and damaging air and water quality.

“Students feel accountable for composting, and they consider it as a daily routine,” said Laura Fonseca, second-grade teacher at Carrboro Elementary. “This strategy is empowering them, the next generation, to be aware of being environmental friendly.”

Since 2015, when CHCCS began composting with Brooks Contractors in Chatham County, more than a million pounds of compostable waste have been diverted from the landfill. For a little perspective, it would require more than 21 dump trucks to haul that amount of waste, and the carbon emissions avoided by the composting equals the emissions of more than 100 cars driven for a year.

When Schnitzer began his sustainability work in the district more than three years ago, Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese had already laid the groundwork for establishing a composting program. Now that the town of Chapel Hill no longer has its own landfill for public use, the negative environmental impact of transporting food waste to Eastern North Carolina has further increased the motivation to compost. 

Schnitzer analyzed our district’s cafeteria waste by following garbage trucks around and checking how full each dumpster was, as well as how often they were picked up. He found plenty of excess capacity and margins to cut; district-wide, elementary and middle school cafeterias were tossing 158 bags of landfill waste a day. By decreasing the number of school dumpsters and the number of pick up times, the money saved could be applied to the composting expenses, and now the district produces only 18 bags of landfill waste a day from the cafeterias. Each elementary school has reduced its output to about one bag daily. Like he said, win-win-win!

Now that the system is set up, Schnitzer begins each school year by visiting every cafeteria to provide orientations, and to receive feedback on how the composting went the previous year - he’s always eager to hear suggestions for improving the process. 

Once the year is underway, he visits as many classrooms as he can to talk with students about how and why we compost, with slide show presentations and worm bins. He said that the youngest students are often so delighted that they can talk about “worm poop” - and, in fact, repeat the word “poop” again and again. They are transfixed. Schnitzer said he’s lost track of the number of parents who’ve emailed or spoken to him about their children advocating for home composting, setting up worm bins and creating backyard gardens.

Mindy Morton, Math/Science Specialist at Carrboro Elementary School said, “We are definitely ‘All In’. All of our classrooms participate in snack composting as well as the cafeteria composting.”

“Composting has become second nature to the kids here at Northside,” said Elizabeth Symons. “Last year, my third-graders took true ownership in composting when, during our Plants unit in Science, they were responsible for saving compostable materials for a week at home to bring in to add to the compost pile in our garden. Once they learned about the decomposition process, and saw how their ‘waste’ turned into nutrient-rich compost, I saw a noticeable change in my students' behaviors post-snack and lunch.” Symons said that now, when students occasionally eat lunch in the classroom, they'll ask her to go to the cafeteria to compost their leftovers. “The lessons they have learned through the composting process have transferred into their daily lives, as they are more conscious about trash, recyclable materials, and food waste.”    

By next year, classes may be able to take field trips out to Goldston to see where their scraps are being processed into compost. Brooks Contractors is establishing an educational building, and students would be able to view the wind rows and turning machine, as well as examine the various stages of decomposition. But for now, our students are already learning a great deal.   

In February, the district received the annual delivery of donated compost from Brooks Contractors. “Many schools use that compost to bring their gardens to life and to complete the natural cycle!” said Schnitzer. 

“Composting is a great way to teach kids to be aware of the waste they are creating,” said Arwen Carlin, third-grade teacher’s assistant at Carrboro Elementary. “Diverting waste from the landfill is so important for our future on this planet! By teaching the kids how to compost and recycle, and the reasons we need to do these things, we are giving them a chance create a more sustainable future for themselves.”

“This has truly been a community effort,” Schnitzer said, “and I especially want to thank our district custodians, cafeteria employees, teaching assistants, Amy Brooks of Brooks Contractors and everyone else who has played a hands-on role in bringing this program to life. We will use this milestone as a springboard for continued growth and success.”

Last spring, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools received the Best of Green Schools 2017 Award in the School System category from the Center for Green Schools at the U.S Green Building Council. Nationally, CHCCS was the only “School Systems” award winner.
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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Glenwood Claims Battle of the Books Title

Battle of the Books is a reading competition that takes students on a reading adventure with award-winning books. The goal is to make reading fun and exciting! 

On April 4, six elementary schools, including Carrboro Elementary, Estes Hills, Frank Porter Graham Bilingüe, Glenwood, Scroggs, and Seawell, participated in the district competition. The books were selected by the librarians in the participating schools. 

This year, we congratulate the All-Stars of Glenwood Elementary School for winning the 2018 Battle of the Books competition. Way to go, Glenwood Gators and all of the participating students and schools for their hard work, dedication to reading, and participation in this annual reading program.


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Friday, April 13, 2018

Encouraging Others Also Encourages Yourself

Seeing someone struggling is always difficult, but offering them encouragement is not. Everyone goes about their day, hurrying to get from one place to another, barely seeing those around them. Remember to slow down and take a few moments to help someone, encourage them. You will find you are also helping make your day better.


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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Schools in Session & Start at Regular Time on April 19 / Escuelas abiertas y a la hora regular el 19 de abril

Delayed Opening Canceled on April 19
Thursday, April 19, was originally scheduled as a delayed opening for the purposes of staff development. Instead, it is a full school day. Buses will pick up students at their normal times and all schools will begin at their normal start times.

The January 19 snow day for students will be made up by canceling three delayed openings (January 25, March 15, and April 19).

Apertura demorada cancelada el 19 de abril
El jueves, 19 de abril, estaba programado originalmente como un día de apertura demora con el fin de desarrollo profesional. En su lugar, será un día de escuela completo.  Los autobuses recogerán a los estudiantes a la hora regular y todas las escuelas comenzarán a sus horas de comienzo regulares.

Las aperturas demoradas del 25 de enero, 15 de marzo y 19 de abril han sido canceladas para recuperar el viernes, 19 de enero, de no escuela por causa de la nieve.


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Friday, April 6, 2018

Who Are We Encouraging Every Day?

Encouragement is something we learn at an early age. We encourage family members, friends and sports teams. We encourage strangers whose stories we see in the news or on social media. But are we always encouraging the person working across the hall or the student who is having trouble grasping some new piece of knowledge? Look around you and remember one simple word of encouragement could make the difference in someone’s life.


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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Smith Mathcounts Team - State Champions!

On Friday, March 23, the Smith Middle School MathCounts Team traveled to the NC School of Science and Math in Durham for the MathCounts State Finals.  The Cyclones team came in as one of the favorites - having finished in the top three for seven straight years now, but knowing it was going to be very competitive this year.

Smith won thanks to a very strong Team Round in which they were the only school to get eight of the 10 problems correct.

Student team members include Leo DeJong, Ben Li, Bo Chi, and Michael Dai, and the team is coached by Smith math teachers, Boyd Blackburn and Rachel Haber.

In addition, Ben Li was the individual winner of the Countdown Round which is a fast-paced event in which you try to be the first to buzz in with the correct answer.

In addition, Leo DeJong finished 3rd individually which means he will be one of the four students representing North Carolina at the National MathCounts competition (live-streamed on ESPN) in Washington, DC in May.  Dr. Blackburn will coach the North Carolina team.

Smith's arch-rival, Carnage Middle School in Raleigh, finished second. Phillips Middle School also had a good day, finishing seventh in the state. The Phillips team is coached by Angela Short.

Congratulations to all of our Smith and Phillips MathCounts competitors.
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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Phoenix Academy Hosts Arts Residency

For two weeks in February, the students at Phoenix Academy experienced a daily music smorgasbord, courtesy of award-winning playwright and professional teaching artist, Anita Woodley. Woodley also received a lot of Help from Her Friends - a cast of successful local musicians who represented a variety of musical genres. They arrived each day before lunch, and students seemed to leave with more energy and bounce than when they had arrived. “She was always trying to make me smile,” said one student on his participant evaluation. “So I finally broke out in a smile.”
   
Woodley likes to speak about her goals as a teaching artist as “looking for ways to serve up plates of creativity and positivity.” During her work with the students at Phoenix, she rarely stopped smiling herself, and she sang and danced and exhorted the young people until they had little choice but to sample those plates of positivity. To say Woodley’s enthusiasm for music is infectious is an understatement.
   
A student wrote on the final evaluation, “Thank you soooo much for expanding my horizons,” and another wrote, “I found out how much I love different music.” Although many students were quiet observers and listeners during the first week of the residency, the level of participation increased steadily through the second week.
     
“I always want students to believe in themselves and have hope,” Woodley said. “And to know how to create that in themselves.” She offered lists of positive affirmations, in addition to all of the music, and she spoke each day about how to frame experiences into validating expressions. “Everyone has to have self-love. If you have that, you stop looking outside all the time, thinking about how people are treating you.”
   
The residency was sponsored by the Town of Chapel Hill Community & Cultural Arts, and the choice of Woodley was a great match for the students at Phoenix. “Someone might look at a group of high school students and assume, okay, they all want rap, but then we start to look at diverse tastes,” she said. “You might find inspiration in a mandolin, but you didn’t know.”
   
Lex Parker said that he often turns on the radio when he’s stressed out. “After hearing the bluegrass they played, I realized it was kind of relaxing.”
   
During the first week, Woodley performed a medley of songs that represented some of the genres they’d been exploring, Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” Bob Marley’s “One Love” and “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holliday. She led them through activities for group songwriting and showed them how lyricists, like poets, “make a chain of words.”

The students learned about the history of foot stomping as a musical accompaniment, and Woodley encouraged them to recognize the importance of hand clapping.
   
As the list of visiting musicians grew - Vattel Cherry, Charles Pettee, Yah-I Tafari - the number of instruments also mushroomed beyond guitars and stand up bass. Students also experienced the banjo, flamenco guitar, harmonica, djembe drum and mandolin. Students noted on their final evaluations how much they appreciated learning about different instruments. As Cherry played his guitar the first day, he used his “old school style, it makes you think of cutting grass and delivering papers.”

Throughout the discussion of musical genres, Woodley and her guests shared tidbits of cultural and social history, and they often returned to questions like “How can music be used to comment on social issues and to bridge gaps?”
   
TayNov El, a guest musician who calls himself a “Conscious Rap M.C,” spoke at length about his deep roots in the African-American community of Chapel Hill-Carrboro. “I keep my grandparents’ voices in my head all the time. They went to Lincoln High, right here where we are today.” His grandfather played in a gospel group, and as his website shares, “His uncles used to spit freestyles to him when he was single digit age.”
   
When TayNov was in eighth grade at Culbreth Middle School, he cut his first hip hop album, and later went on to perform as a member of an iconic group, TyFu. He shared many of the lessons he’s learned from integrating music into every part of his life. “When you’re not at peace, not satisfied with what’s going on, music gives you the chance to speak out,” he said. “Hip hop was created out of hard times.”
   
Brenda Whiteman, CHCCS Arts Education Coordinator, said, “I think the biggest thing that the students got from the residency was the opportunity to learn about and explore a wide variety of musical styles and instruments - bluegrass, jazz, hip hop, spirituals - drums, harmonicas, percussion, mandolin, guitar, banjo.  They seemed genuinely interested and many of them learned things about themselves and their preferences.”
   
Anthony Hairston, a freshman at Phoenix, said he really enjoyed the entire experience. “It allowed me to express myself in ways not usually available in schools. To be myself.” On the last day of the residency, as Woodley invited students to engage in a rap battle, Hairston was front and center, full of confidence and energy - being himself.

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