BES Computer Education Week December 2018

This past December, new Tech Integration teacher, Peter Osiecki led a school-wide introduction to Computer Education Week; Robotics, Coding, Vitual Reality, and more were featured activities that students Pre-K to Grade 8 were participating, we even had a visit from PMHS with their robot competitor, BOB!

And don’t forget to sign up for BES Twitter feeds!

BookTalk #3

Check out the latest videoblog , BES BookTalk #3 with Tim Rice, Phil Giunta, and Ryan McKenna


You probably heard it from your own parents: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But now you’re the one saying it — to your sleepy, frazzled, grumpy kids, who insist “I’m not hungry” as you try to get everyone fed and moving in the morning.

Even if you eat a healthy morning meal every day, it can be tough to get kids fueled up in time for school, childcare, or a day of play. But it’s important to try. Here’s how to make breakfast more appealing for everyone.

Why Bother With Breakfast?

Breakfast is a great way to give the body the refueling it needs. Kids who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall and are more likely to participate in physical activities — two great ways to help maintain a healthy weight.

Skipping breakfast can make kids feel tired, restless, or irritable. In the morning, their bodies need to refuel for the day ahead after going without food for 8 to 12 hours during sleep. Their mood and energy can drop by midmorning if they don’t eat at least a small morning meal.

Breakfast also can help keep kids’ weight in check. Breakfast kick-starts the body’s metabolism, the process by which the body converts the fuel in food to energy. And when the metabolism gets moving, the body starts burning calories.

Also, people who don’t eat breakfast often consume more calories throughout the day and are more likely to be overweight. That’s because someone who skips breakfast is likely to get famished before lunchtime and snack on high-calorie foods or overeat at lunch.

Breakfast Brain Power

It’s important for kids to have breakfast every day, but what they eat in the morning is crucial too. Choosing breakfast foods that are rich in whole grains, fiber, and protein while low in added sugar may boost kids’ attention span, concentration, and memory — which they need to learn in school.

Kids who eat breakfast are more likely to get fiber, calcium, and other important nutrients. They also tend to keep their weight under control, have lower blood cholesterol levels and fewer absences from school, and make fewer trips to the school nurse with stomach complaints related to hunger.

Making Breakfast Happen

It would be great to serve whole-grain waffles, fresh fruit, and low-fat milk each morning. But it can be difficult to make a healthy breakfast happen when you’re rushing to get yourself and the kids ready in the morning and juggling the general household chaos.

So try these practical suggestions to ensure that — even in a rush — your kids get a good breakfast before they’re out the door:
stock your kitchen with healthy breakfast options
prepare as much as you can the night before (gets dishes and utensils ready, cut up fruit, etc.)
get everyone up 10 minutes earlier
let kids help plan and prepare breakfast
have grab-and-go alternatives (fresh fruit; individual boxes or baggies of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal; yogurt or smoothies; trail mix) on days when there is little or no time to eat

If kids aren’t hungry first thing in the morning, be sure to pack a breakfast that they can eat a little later on the bus or between classes. Fresh fruit, cereal, nuts, or half a peanut butter and banana sandwich are nutritious, easy to make, and easy for kids to take along.

You also may want to check out the breakfasts available at school (or daycare). BES offers breakfasts and we provide them for free or at reduced prices for families with limited incomes. If your kids eat breakfast outside the home, talk with them about how to make healthy selections.

What not to serve for breakfast is important too. Sure, toaster pastries and some breakfast bars are portable, easy, and appealing to kids. But many have no more nutritional value than a candy bar and are high in sugar and calories. Read the nutrition labels carefully before you toss these breakfast bars and pastries into your shopping cart.

Breakfast Ideas to Try

The morning meal doesn’t have to be all about traditional breakfast items. You can mix it up to include different foods, even the leftovers from last night’s dinner, and still provide the nutrients and energy kids need for the day.

Try to serve a balanced breakfast that includes some carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. Carbs are a good source of immediate energy for the body. Energy from protein tends to kick in after the carbs are used up. Fiber helps provide a feeling of fullness and, therefore, discourages overeating. And when combined with healthy drinks, fiber helps move food through the digestive system, preventing constipation and lowering cholesterol.

Good sources of these nutrients include:
carbohydrates: whole-grain cereals, brown rice, whole-grain breads and muffins, fruits, vegetables
protein: low-fat or nonfat dairy products, lean meats, eggs, nuts (including nut butters), seeds, and cooked dried beans
fiber: whole-grain breads, waffles, and cereals; brown rice, bran, and other grains; fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts

Here are some ideas for healthy breakfasts to try:
whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk topped with fruit
whole-grain waffles topped with peanut butter or ricotta cheese and fruit
whole-wheat pita stuffed with sliced hard-cooked eggs
hot cereal topped with nuts or fruit sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, or cloves
half a whole-grain bagel topped with peanut butter and fresh fruit (banana or apple wedges) and low-fat milk
breakfast smoothie (low-fat milk or yogurt, fruit, and teaspoon of bran, whirled in a blender)
vegetable omelet with whole-wheat toast
bran muffin and berries
sliced cucumbers and hummus in a whole-wheat pita
lean turkey and tomato on a toasted English muffin
heated leftover rice with chopped apples, nuts, and cinnamon
low-fat cream cheese and fresh fruit, such as sliced strawberries, on whole-grain bread or half a whole-grain bagel
shredded cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla, folded in half and microwaved for 20 seconds and topped with salsa

And don’t forget how important your good example is. Let your kids see you making time to enjoy breakfast every day. Even if you just wash down some whole-wheat toast and a banana with a glass of juice or milk, you’re showing how important it is to face the day only after refueling your brain and body with a healthy morning meal.

BES BookTalk#2!

Here is the latest BES BookTalk#2 featuring Tim Rice, Phil Giunta, and Ryan McKenna

Please let us know what you think and if you would like to be a part of BES BookTalks as a guest reviewer.

Thank You!

Social Media and BES!

BES is jumping into the social media and rolling out a new Twitter account as well as using video logs (VLogs) to share what’s happening in curriculum, school and community events, professional development, and an evolving series of communications such as this first VLog of Tim Rice and Phil Giunta doing a review of books they are recommending to students and staff.

Here is the link to the first VLog, BES BookTalk#1

We look forward to feedback and if you would like to be a guest book reviewer please let me know!

Thank You!

BES & Next Generation Science Standards

Focus on Science: Next Generation Science Standards

New Standards Adopted

In November 2016 New Hampshire State board of Education officially adopted new academic standards for NH science education standards.

K-12 teachers across New Hampshire have been working towards 21st century learning experiences for our students for many years now. On November 3rd, 2016 the NH State Board of Education adopted New Academic Standards for Science. Guidance for these new Standards was provided by the Next Generation Science Standards which were developed through the input of many teachers across the US and from New Hampshire. Public forums were held around the state to learn about the direction for our new K-12 NH Science Standards and more than 600 educators from every school district in NH informed the decisive work.

The NGSS integrate high leverage content with scientific practices and cross-cutting concepts that nurture and challenge students with deepened opportunities for learning by thinking, designing and doing. This three-dimensional focus on learning science is a direct translation of the inquiry practices that science teachers at all levels have been advancing over the last decade.

What We Are Doing in Barnstead?

Here in Barnstead, we have embraced these new standards with a thoughtful and steady approach to implementation. Not surprisingly, we started with Education. This was a perfect opportunity to model the fact that learning is life long and one person’s experience and training can be shared to improve the community in practical and economic ways. In our case, this began with top training in the new standards led by Principal Rice who attended a rigorous, four day training in Baltimore MD through the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). There he learned all about the new standards, but more, he learned to “Train the Trainor”. This allowed Mr. Rice to return to Barnstead ready to teach the teachers about this new standard and how to pass it on to the classroom and community; proving everyone is a student, from Principal to our teachers, children and parents. We are all part of the team when it comes to academic advancement and modeling.

Starting in the academic year 2017- 2108 Barnstead put this training to work and began implementing the NGSS in grades 6, 7 and 8. The more hands on curriculum has been well received and has brought excitement to our science classrooms. In 2018-2019 the district introduced the standards to grades 4 and 5 with the goal of moving into the primary grades in the next few years.

Effective implementation demands a great deal of collaboration and patience and so the learning will continue as we expand the program across the grades. In fact, On January 11th our grades 4-8 science teachers (Ms. Roberts/Grade 4, Mrs. LaRoche/Grade 5, Mrs. Bourque/Grade 6, Mrs. Raymond/Grade 7, and Mr. Rayno/Grade 8) attended a training offered here in New Hampshire under the umbrella of the New Hampshire Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (NH ASCD).

What are The Next Generation Science Standards?

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are K–12 science content standards. Standards set the expectations for what students should know and be able to do. The NGSS were developed by states to improve science education for all students.

Why Change Things?

A goal for developing the NGSS was to create a set of research-based, up-to-date K–12 science standards. These standards give local educators the flexibility to design classroom learning experiences that stimulate students’ interests in science and prepare them for college, careers, and citizenship.

Science—and therefore science education—is central to the lives of all Americans.

A high-quality science education means that students will develop an in-depth understanding of content and develop key skills—communication, collaboration, inquiry, problem solving, and flexibility—that will serve them throughout their educational and professional lives.


The NGSS call for a three-dimensional approach to K–12 science instruction. This represents a significant transition from previous state standards. That’s why effective implementation demands a great deal of collaboration and patience among states, districts, schools, teachers, and students.

Districts like Barnstead will use thoughtful and coordinated approaches to implementation that will enable educators to inspire future generations of scientifically literate students. That is the vision of the NGSS.

If you would like to learn more about the standards here are a few resources:

Check out this video; the Importance of the Next Generation Science Standards

For samples of elementary standards:

Parent Guide for grades K-2

Parent Guide for grades 3-5

It Takes a Village: How parents and schools can work together for success

We’ve all heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. If this is true, it follows that collaboration between our “village members” is at the root of success for our children.

When Schools, communities and Parents join forces for the good of children, their odds of success improve exponentially. It all begins at home where parents set the standards and compass. However, as children leave the nest, extended family, faith programs, schools, clubs and community programs all begin to have an increasing role in the raising of our children. No one can do it alone and collaboration can be the key to helping kids do well; that’s certainly true when it comes to academic success. A child’s day begins and ends at home, so academic life must recognize that and parents and schools need to partner for children’s success. Parent support can make all the difference. published an article Reviewed by: Kathryn Hoffses, PhD, listing 10 ways parents can put their kids on track to be successful students.

We have adopted this and offer the following 10 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed at Barnstead Elementary School

1. Attend Open House and Parent-Teacher Conferences

Kids do better in school when parents are involved in their academic lives. Attending the Barnstead Open House at the start of the school year is a great way to get to know your child’s teachers and their expectations. We have found this visit can reduce student jitters and open lines of communication for parents and teachers.

Attending Parent-Teacher conferences is another way to stay informed. These are held twice a year, in October and January at the trimester progress reporting periods. The conferences are a chance to start or continue conversations with your child’s teacher, and discuss strategies to help your child do his or her best in class. Meeting with the teacher also lets your child know that what goes on in school will be shared at home.

If your child has special learning needs, additional meetings can be scheduled with teachers and other school staff to consider setting up or revising individualized education plans (IEPs), 504 education plans, or gifted education plans.

Keep in mind that parents or guardians can request meetings with teachers, principals, school counselors, or other school staff any time during the school year.

2. Visit the School and Its Website

Knowing the physical layout of the school building and grounds can help you connect with your child when you talk about the school day. It’s good to know the location of the main office, school nurse, cafeteria, gym, athletic fields, playgrounds, auditorium, and special classes.

On the school website ( , you can find information about:
the school calendar

staff contact information

upcoming events like class trips

testing dates

Teachers maintain their own websites that detail homework assignments, test dates, and classroom events and trips. Special resources for parents and students are also usually available on the district, school, or teacher websites.

3. Support Homework Expectations

Homework in grade school reinforces and extends classroom learning and helps kids practice important study skills. It also helps them develop a sense of responsibility and a work ethic that will benefit them beyond the classroom.

In addition to making sure your child knows that you see homework as a priority, you can help by creating an effective study environment. Any well-lit, comfortable, and quiet workspace with the necessary supplies will do. Avoiding distractions (like a TV in the background) and setting up a start and end time can also help.

A good rule of thumb for an effective homework and/or study period is roughly 10 minutes per elementary grade level. Fourth-graders, for example, should expect to have about 40 minutes of homework or studying each school night. If you find that it’s often taking significantly longer than this guideline, talk with your child’s teacher.

While your child does homework, be available to interpret assignment instructions, offer guidance, answer questions, and review the completed work. But resist the urge to provide the correct answers or complete the assignments yourself. Learning from mistakes is part of the process and you don’t want to take this away from your child. BES is a Google Classroom school, so sending an email to your teacher anytime you have a question is a great way to communicate.

4. Send Your Child to School Ready to Learn

A nutritious breakfast fuels up kids and gets them ready for the day. In general, kids who eat breakfast have more energy and do better in school. Kids who eat breakfast also are less likely to be absent, and make fewer trips to the school nurse with stomach complaints related to hunger.

You can help boost your child’s attention span, concentration, and memory by providing breakfast foods that are rich in whole grains, fiber, and protein, as well as low in added sugar. If your child is running late some mornings, send along fresh fruit, nuts, yogurt, or half a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Kids also need the right amount of sleep to be alert and ready to learn all day. Most school-age kids need

10 to 12 hours of sleep a night. Bedtime difficulties can arise at this age for a variety of reasons. Homework, sports, after-school activities, TVs, computers, and video games, as well as hectic family schedules, can contribute to kids not getting enough sleep. TVs, computers, and video games should never be in a child’s bedroom.

Lack of sleep can cause irritable or hyperactive behavior and might make it hard for kids to pay attention in class. It’s important to have a consistent bedtime routine, especially on school nights. Be sure to leave enough time before bed to allow your child to unwind before lights out and limit stimulating diversions like TV, video games, and Internet access.

5. Teach Organizational Skills

When kids are organized, they can stay focused instead of spending time hunting things down and getting sidetracked.

What does it mean to be organized at the elementary level? For schoolwork, it means having an assignment book and homework folder to keep track of homework and projects.

Check your child’s assignment book and homework folder every school night so you’re familiar with assignments and your child doesn’t fall behind. This also helps to underscore the importance of routine for your child and to establish accountability.

Set up a bin for papers that you need to check or sign. Also, keep a special box or bin for completed and graded projects and toss papers that you don’t need to keep.

Talk to your child about keeping his or her school desk orderly so papers that need to come home don’t get lost. Teach your child how to use a calendar or personal planner to help stay organized.

It’s also helpful to teach your child how to make a to-do list to help prioritize and get things done. It can be as simple as: Homework, soccer, put clothes away,…
No one is born with great organizational skills — they need to be learned with modeling, practice and accountability.

6. Teach Study Skills

Studying for a test can be scary for young kids. Introducing your child to study skills now will pay off with good learning habits throughout life.

In elementary school, kids usually take end-of-unit tests in math, spelling, science, and social studies. Be sure to know when a test is scheduled so you can help your child study ahead of time rather than just the night before. You can do this by…..

You also might need to remind your child to bring home the right study materials, such as notes, study guides, or books.

Teach your child how to break down large tasks into smaller, manageable chunks so preparing for a test isn’t overwhelming. You also can introduce your child to tricks like mnemonic devices to help with recalling information. Most of us learned our colors of the spectrum by learning the mnemonic imaginary rainbow man; ROY G. BIV. By remembering his name we learned the order of the spectrum was: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. You can have fun with your child as you come up with rhymes, catchy songs or silly sayings to memorize information for tests.

Remember that taking breaks is an important way to help kids process and remember information. Younger children will need more frequent breaks as older children will be able to maintain concentration for longer periods. Even by middle school, children should aim to take a ten minute break every 45 minutes or so.

Your child will be introduced to standardized testing in elementary school. While students shouldn’t study for standardized tests it’s important that parents know when testing is taking place so they can be sure their child comes to school well rested and prepared for the day.

In general, if the prospect of standardized testing or studying and testing becomes a source of stress for your child, discuss the situation with your child’s teacher or our school counselor.

7. Know the Disciplinary Policies

Schools usually cite their disciplinary policies (sometimes called the student code of conduct) in student handbooks. The rules cover expectations, and consequences for not meeting the expectations, for things like student behavior, dress codes, use of electronic devices, and acceptable language.

The policies may include details about attendance, vandalism, cheating, fighting, and weapons. Many schools also have specific policies about bullying. It’s helpful to know the school’s definition of bullying, consequences for bullies, support for victims, and procedures for reporting bullying.

It’s important for your child to know what’s expected at school and that you’ll support the school’s consequences when expectations aren’t met. It’s easiest for students when school expectations match the ones at home, so kids see both environments as safe and caring places that work together as a team.

8. Get Involved

Whether kids are just starting kindergarten or entering their last year of elementary school, there are many good reasons for parents to volunteer at school. It’s a great way for parents to show they’re interested in their kids’ education.

Many grade-schoolers like to see their parents at school or at school events. But follow your child’s cues to find out how much interaction works for both of you. If your child seems uncomfortable with your presence at the school or with your involvement in an extracurricular activity, consider taking a more behind-the-scenes approach. Make it clear that you aren’t there to spy — you’re just trying to help out the school community.

9. Take Attendance Seriously

Sick kids should stay home from school if they have a fever, are nauseated, vomiting, or have diarrhea. Young children who lose their appetite, are clingy or lethargic, complain of pain, or who just don’t seem to be acting “themselves” also might benefit from a sick day as a first step.

Sometimes students want to stay home from school because of problems with classmates, assignments or grades, or even teachers. This can result in real symptoms, like headaches or stomachaches. If you think there’s a problem at school, talk with your child — and then perhaps with the teacher — to find out more about what’s causing the anxiety. The school counselor or school psychologist also might be able to help.

Otherwise, it’s important that kids arrive at school on time every day, because having to catch up with class work and homework can be stressful and interfere with learning. If your child is missing a lot of school due to illness, make sure to check with the teacher about any work that needs to be completed. It’s also a good idea to know the school’s attendance policy.

Also try to avoid late bedtimes, which can result in tardy and tired students. A consistent sleep schedule also can help students.

10. Make Time to Talk About School

It’s usually easy to talk with elementary students about what’s going on in class and the latest news at school. You probably know what books your child is reading and are familiar with the math being worked on. But parents can get busy and forget to ask the simple questions, which can have an effect on children’s success at school.
Make time to talk with your child every day, so he or she knows that what goes on at school is important to you. When kids know parents are interested in their academic lives, they’ll take school seriously as well.

Because communication is a two-way street, the way you talk and listen to your child can influence how well your child listens and responds. It’s important to listen carefully, make eye contact, and avoid multitasking while you talk. Be sure to ask questions that go beyond “yes” or “no” answers and then let your child go. A good rule of thumb is to listen twice as much as you talk, but remember, you may need to prompt the conversation.

Besides during family meals, good times to talk include car trips (though eye contact isn’t needed here, of course and may even help some children bring up topics they find awkward), walking the dog, preparing meals, or standing in line at a store. These are also great opportunities to tickle your child’s curiosity and imagination. As your child to count the number of rows in the grocery aisle or ask your child, if you could be any food in the store what would you be? You would be amazed at what you can learn from silly prompts and conversations about day to day activities.

These early years of schooling are an important time for parents to be informed and supportive about their child’s education and to set the stage for children to develop and grow as young learners. If you have questions about how you can help your child thrive and achieve, we encourage you to contact your child’s teacher, or reach out to a member of our administration or counseling team. We are here for your children, which mean we are here for you.

Summer Math & Science Activities

Summer can be a great opportunity for hands-on science learning
Five Fun Summer Science Activities
Grow A Vegetable Garden
What better way to learn the basics of science and how things grow them to plant your own garden? You can start with fast growing seeds or pick up a few small plants. Sunflowers can be fun too, but they take a while to grow so be sure to include some plants that will give early satisfaction as well. For example, vegetables provide a great opportunity for fun and education and they start to give results quickly, especially if you buy them as small plants instead of seeds.
As you plan and plant your garden you can talk about what the plants will need to grow: air, water, sunlight and nutrients from the soil. Not only will your child will learn where food comes from, but best of all, your child can get to eat the product of their labor!
Collect Bugs
Go to library and get a book on bugs, butterflies or insects. Next, grab a clean glass jar, poke a few holes in it. Add to this, collection of tools a small notebook with a pen or pencil (tied on) and you have all you need to send your young summer scientist into the field!
You won’t need to give much direction as this comes instinctively to curious minds: have your child go out and collect, draw, identify and then release their finds. See how many different spiders, caterpillars or critters your child can find. Discovery which come out at night vs day and if some like a particular area in your yard or neighborhood.
Everything’s more fun with a friend so consider engaging another child or family to partner in your child’s adventuring or maybe even set up a friendly competition. What about a bug party- invite a couple kids over and send them out for a scavenger hunt! Tell them to find:
1 caterpillar
2 spiders
1 bug with six legs
4 worms
You get the idea. They will be running, laughing (and counting, shhh!) before you know it and all in the name of science!
Visit a Nearby Nature Center
There are lots of nature based centers around the state that are free or low cost. Some libraries offer passes to museums and centers so ask what is available before you go. You can explore the woods, lake life, the ocean, or an estuary and all of it is within a 45 minute drive.
Some local ideas include:
McLane Center, operated by the NH Audubon located in Concord
Squam lakes Natural Science Center, Holderness
Squam Lakes Association
Prescott Farm Environmental Education Center in Laconia
Great Bay Estuarine Research Reserve, Greenland
Go to this web site for a complete list of locations with links to the websites for hours, locations, offerings etc.
some of these places also offer camps and day programs for young adventurers and scientist in the making.
Bird Watching
Put out a feeder and a bird house or two (make one out of a milk carton or food container and some string or look on line for directions on how to make houses and feeders out of household objects) and hang them from a tree where you can watch and then keep a journal.
Kick this up a notch and Get a bird guide from the library or your local book shop and have fun identifying your new feathered friends. If you’re really lucky one pair might make a nest! Your child can Draw pictures, write a story about your birds and research their migration path or observe what time of day or type of food they prefer.
For fourth through 6th graders you might think about incorporating the scientific process.
Begin with a hypothesis
Maybe as to what kind of food the birds will prefer?
For example, I think Cardinals prefer thistle over sunflower seeds
with different the two different kinds of food
Observe- what they eat and what disappears fastest
Measure and document the results
Analysis- compare your hypothesis to what you observed, take note of any short comings in the experiment.
For example, did other birds eat the thistle making it hard to tell what the Cardinals preferred?
Conclusion: Can you draw a conclusion?
For example: Cardinals prefer sunflower seeds over thistle
Write a report summarizing the whole thing, add pictures; drawn or photos, make charts or graphs-

Measure Things!
Measuring things can be fun and it’s a foundation for scientific observation. There are so many things to measure. For example:
You could Measure the amount of rainfall in your yard or keep track of the temperature every day at a certain time.
Each day look up a new measurement like- how many miles from your house to Boston, to Chicago and to Los Angeles?
Another day look up how many miles to the moon, to the sun, to mars.
Look up how many people live in your town, in Manchester, in New York City and then In Tokyo, Paris and Botswana.
Ask your child before you leave for the day:
Do you know how many stars there are in the Milky Way?
How many planets in our solar system?
Have them “research” the answer and tell you when you get home or perhaps you could have your child write out the answer.
How many days is one million seconds? How about one billion? You might be amazed by the answer! For children interested in dinosaurs, look up how long ago in time one trillion seconds is! (spoiler alert in the question
Practice Directions and Mapping this Summer
Ask your child to Plan a trip by mapping it out. Your child can pick the best route and explain why he or she chose it. have your child explain to you how many miles you will travel on this route and how long it will take. Let your child be the navigator if you’re brave and drive where he or she directs. Of course, keep safety first!
Have your child write out the directions to making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and you do the same then swap directions and following them precisely. Suspend all you know about how to complete this task and without filling in any gaps in the directions or making any assumptions, make that sandwich. It’s usually a riot. For example, someone will inevitably say “spread the peanut butter onto the bread”, but neglect to say “using the flat end of the knife… “. Be ready to be messy and silly.
Cooking is a great science project with even better reward. The skills in following a recipe, measuring and creating your own “solution” or “chemical reaction” is both scientific and fun!
Why not combine cooking with reading? Our youngest started a summer “Book and Bake Club” one summer with his buddies. Each child took a turn “hosting” which meant he got to choose the book and make the snacks!
Whatever you do this summer, the real lesson is that science and math are everywhere!

Summer Learning Opportunities and Preventing Loss

Summer Learning Loss
(and easy ways to maintain and improve your child’s achievements over the summer!)

Who doesn’t look forward to summer vacation? Summer is a great time for teachers and students alike to relax and unwind from a busy school year. However, A non-academic summer can cause students at every grade level to lose ground in their academic skills. Moreover, many parents notice that as the summer wears on, their children start getting antsy. Children love the carefree days of summer, but they also crave some structure. When the glow of summer starts to fade, some parents find themselves scrambling to find activities to keep their children interested and entertained. A plan for summer learning activities can help with this and do wonders to maintain your child’s academic edge by avoiding summer learning loss. More than that, by setting aside a little bit of time each day, you can give your child the structure they don’t know they are craving and at the same time, help to make the transition back to school in the fall easier and more successful!
Even a half hour to an hour a day can help to close the summer learning gap and perhaps even put your child in a position to return to school in the fall ready to perform at an even higher level during the upcoming school year. Summer is an ideal time for students of all abilities to strengthen their academic skills well still having plenty of time for unplanned and planned summer fun.

Designated time each day for your child to read.
Fifteen to thirty minutes is all it takes to preserve and strengthen your child’s reading skills. A great way to get your child excited about reading is to schedule trips to the public library to check out books of their own choosing or from their summer reading list. Any reading is good reading and the goal is to make it fun. Some children take to books like fish to water, but others need some encouragement and maybe even an incentive. For these students, you might come up with a reward or recognition system based upon your Child’s particular reading goals. Like many of you, when my boys were young they loved video games (they still do). We took advantage of this passion to create a reading incentive. As a way to limit their screen time, but still allow them some freedom, we gave them the opportunity to “earn” screen time by reading books. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we needed to require some “proof“ of completion and comprehension, but once we got past that hurdle, it worked out really well. As it turns out, our daughter wasn’t much of a video game player, so we came up with inducements and forms of recognition that were more suited to her interests. Use your imagination and tailor a plan to your child, but do try to include smaller and larger goals so there are milestones and rewards along the way. The recognition may be as simple as a sticker on a poster placed on the refrigerator or and ice cream cone or for a really huge accomplishment, like completing a larger goal by difficulty, size or number of books, consider planning a family trip to Storyland or some other favorite attraction.
One of the most important things is you can do to encourage your child to read more is to model reading for your children. Let them see you reading regularly and definitely read together. You might set the alarm and sit down side-by-side together for 15 to 30 minutes. The old adage, “Do as I do, not just as I say” can be one of the most effective means of encouragement towards a love of reading.
Finally, read to your children. Most of us understand the importance of reading to our children when they are young, before they can read for themselves, but studies have shown that continuing to read aloud to our children, beyond the age when they themselves learn to read, can be an important factor in a child’s reading success. More than that, it’s a great way to spend time with your child and take them on adventures without ever leaving your house. Finding a book series appropriate your child’s age level and then reading it together over the course of the summer can be a great way to bond and develop a love for reading. Children who read with their parents will associate that activity with a happy memory and will be more likely to develop a lifelong love of reading and who knows, you may find yourself giggling away to Junie B Jones silly misadventures or looking forward all day to your next installation of Little House on the Prairie, Harry Potter or Wind in The Willows. Visiting the land of children through their books can be fun for everyone.

Don’t Forget Math
Working on just 3 to 4 math problems each day during the summer can keep your child’s mathematical skills intact for when they return to school in the fall. As with reading, make sure that the math you work on is appropriate to your child’s academic development. Also, try to think of math as a fun puzzle or challenge for the day as opposed to a “problem”. Math is everywhere and summer is great time to play with math.
For the very little ones you could use everyday objects to introduce math skills and counting. For example, celery sticks or mini carrots can be used to work on addition, subtraction and even multiplication. Ask your preschooler to help make her snack by putting out a specific number of items on a plate: four pieces of banana, one scoop of peanut butter and two apple slices for example.
For your K-1 (or as appropriate) use these same items as tangible representatives of numbers. For example, set out 6 carrots in pairs of two and ask your child to count them up. Take two carrots away and ask your child to count them again and then be sure to tell them how brilliant they are for having just done an addition AND a subtraction problem!
When your child has mastered adding and subtracting carrots, try multiplying them by placing the same 6 carrots in the same groups of two and asking your child to tell you how many carrots there are when you have two groups of two and then ask how many there are when you have three groups of two. Once again, you will want to share your enthusiasm and praise over your child’s amazing ability to “multiply “. 2 piles of x 2 carrots in each pile=4 carrots and 3 piles x 2 carrots each= 6 carrots!
Once your child has mastered their numbers in written form you can start putting two or three problems on a piece of paper. Younger children usually love this sort of thing when it’s presented as a game or a daily “to do“ that they can proudly check off their calendar.
As your child’s abilities increase you might want to make use of a math workbook or make use of math challenges available on the Internet. Again, you will want to do this based upon the child’s academic level. If you are not familiar with what your child is doing currently for math as school, reach out to your child’s teacher and find out. that way, you can continue on by reinforcing the level of math from the previous school year. Middle Schoolers especially should be working on math every day and it only takes a few minutes to do a few multiplication, division or simple algebra problems.

Keep in mind, you want to find a balance between giving your child a real challenge that tests his or her ability to independently complete these tasks as a measure of self-discipline and accomplishment, without leaving them entirely on their own. A little frustration can spark effort and it feels great to overcome a challenge, but on the other hand, you want to be sure you are there as a net, to help when the difficulty is too great, by giving hints or direction. It won’t take your child long to complete these daily problems, so stay close if you can; it’s a great chance to sit together for a few minutes.

Summer is a Great Prompt for Creative Writing!
There are so many ways to encourage your child to write. Some kids love to journal so you might start the summer off with a new notebook and Pen for just that purpose. Your child can start the day off by writing down their dreams or what about finishing the day by journaling about what they did that day?
Letter writing, either in the form of an email, or better yet, handwritten (to practice those fine motor skills) can be a great way to work on writing skills while also encouraging your children to reach out to family and friends. Each week your child could write a letter to one person; a grandparent, teacher, friend or even someone famous. For younger children it’s usually best to pick someone who will provide them with a reply or at least an excited response. There are many places you can write and receive free things in reply, like stickers or other items. (We will list some ideas for you elsewhere) Remember, it is never too early to begin writing. For the youngest students, not yet able to write you can help by taking their letter in dictation and then have them sign the letter; seeing their words take form with your help can be so exciting!
For older students, capable of writing paragraphs or more, you might try sparking your child’s creative ideas by providing him or her with a weekly “prompt “.
For example:
The funniest thing I ever saw was….
The place I’d most like to visit is…. and explain why
I get really angry when…
I can’t help laughing when…
The best piece of technology every invented is…
The technology I wish was never invented is…
I am happiest when I….
Come up with your own!
Another fun idea is to do a “mad lib” type story with the whole family. You can start the story with a paragraph of your own creation, but be sure to leave it hanging- for example:
“The noise grew louder and louder until……”
“all at once I knew I needed to….”
“and then I realized it was….”
“when I rounded the corner I….”
Then pass the story on and ask each family member to do the same adding a paragraph with a cliffhanger at the end. You could do one round or several and then get together for a reading of your creation; it’s sure to be a laugh.
Finally, consider including poetry into your summer reading and writing assignments. Have your child read a few poems by different poets, read poems from different genres or styles (your librarian might be a good resource if you feel stuck) and then ask your child to pick a style and write his or her own poem.

Music and Art- it’s everywhere and a great way to build brain power
Certainly, some people have a gift for music or art, just like others have an affinity for reading, math or athletics, but you don’t have to be a prodigy or a master to get the benefits of an education that includes music and art. We know from Research that the developing child’s brain benefits from practice and exposure to art and music. These activities stimulate and develop parts of the brain that are then used for other purposes. The practice and exposure to these activities will be beneficial for every child in ways you may not yet know, so don’t forget to incorporate music and art wherever you can.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a teacher, lessons or a camp that offers music or art that’s one way to incorporate these activities into your child summer. However, Music and Art are everywhere; and a pack of Crayons, a two-dollar package of watercolors, or a pair of scissors and glue could be all your child needs to become an artist this summer.
Likewise, Music can be created with instruments big and small, traditional and not so traditional. You don’t have to have a piano in the house or even a formal instrument, (although that would be great!). Young children can put on a “concert” by gathering household objects and “playing“ your pots and pans, ringing glasses filled with different levels of water or by finding different tones in everyday objects you can find around the house.
Try playing a beat and asking your child to repeat it or ask your child to make a beat twice as fast as yours. After that start with rhythms by playing two beats followed by one, followed by three and repeat. You can alter the level of volume from forte (louder) to Piano (softer), outside is a great place for the Forte! For older children, computers and the Internet can provide opportunities to listen to and recognize relationships between different genres of music like classical, jazz, blues, hip hop, techno, Indi, folk and reggae. Free applications can be downloaded to allow your child to play an instrument and even compose music.
We have only hit the tip of the learning iceberg ideas. We will post about ideas for science learning in another blog. The idea is to keep in mind that while the summer is an important time away from school, it doesn’t have to mean a complete hiatus from learning. With just a small amount of time, a little planning and a dose of creativity, you can create an amazing learning environment in your own home that will give your child the best opportunity to make a great start come fall.

School Safety and Advice For Talking with your Child

A Difficult Conversation

Many parents wonder, Should I talk to my children about school shootings in the news? And if the answer is yes, what do I say?

While school shootings are actually a rare occurrence, sometimes it doesn’t feel that way when we see and hear the news coverage detailing the tragic loss of life in yet another act of violence involving young people. These stories take center stage on television and social media and that can make it hard to protect our children from the associated fear, sadness and uncertainty that come hand in hand with this kind of news. We may not be able to insulate our children as we might wish, but there are things we can do to help them process this difficult information and put it in perspective.

First and foremost, this is a family decision and whether you choose to speak to your child and what you say will depend upon your child’s level of exposure to this information and your child’s developmental readiness.

What does that mean? Well, as with so many parenting decisions about when to introduce a tough topic, your child will likely help guide you, but age and maturity can also be helpful yardsticks.

Preschoolers through Grade one or two

If you’re very careful, and let’s face it, very lucky, you can probably protect your preschooler and primary age students from the topic entirely. Your first and best course of action may be to try and protect your very young children from news media and related conversations if it all possible. The first few days are the hardest, when news is at its peak and conversations most likely to be overheard. Eliminate exposure to TV, commercial radio and social media. Also counsel older siblings to avoid the conversation if you wish to shelter the youngest in your household.

However, despite your best efforts, it’s hard to enforce this kind of information embargo. As our children age, they go to school, they interact with older children and siblings and they might even have independent access to smart phones or internet and as a result, the bubble of protection is harder and harder to maintain. Therefore, you will want to be prepared to answer questions they may pose and to address any news media they happen to see.

If your preschooler or K-2 child asks about a school shooting, try to keep your reply simple and honest. Acknowledge that it did happen and it was sad, but also do your best to reassure your child that (assuming it’s true) that tragedy took place far far away and that “your school is a safe place.” Make sure you leave an opportunity to let your child ask any questions she or he may have. Ask, “do you have any questions? “. This way, your child will guide you as to whether you need to offer more discussion. Keep in mind, even if they don’t have any questions they may later and you may want to check back. Most important may be that you will have opened the door for later.

Distances can be confusing

Remember, young children often don’t yet understand distances or geography and that can make information about a shooting elsewhere, even one far away in Texas even scarier for them. Be ready with a way to explain the fact that this happened far away and that the person isn’t able to harm your child.

You may want to have an example at hand to help your child understand how far away the shooting really was. For example, you could explain that “this happened very far away, so far away it would take

XXX hours to walk there from our house” if your child is too young to understand how long an hour is, you can break that down by comparing the time and distance to an activity that they are familiar with such as the length of a favorite show on TV. I had an uncle who used to explain time my young cousin by describing how long it would take an ant to walk a particular distance in their house. If you can, come up with your own comparison to help your child gain perspective and understand how far away this event really was. You would be amazed at how many children harbor the fear that that same person might be able to hurt them or people they love and this is something we can honestly and firmly we are sure our children about.

For Children Third Grade and Up

As we have said, always rely upon your child’s own intellectual and emotional development in deciding what conversations are appropriate and whether you should initiate them or, as with younger children, you choose to only address the issue if you know they’ve been made aware of an event.

That said, by the time your student becomes a third grader, given our children’s exposure to television and social media, it’s likely your child will hear about a school shooting, perhaps even before you do. With so many children having smart phones it’s nearly impossible to keep news bulletins and social media postings away from them and then news spreads so fast.

Use your best judgment, but if you think it’s possible that your child has heard about a school shooting, they probably have and in that case, as difficult as it might be, you want to bring the topic up directly with your older elementary school student. You might say something like “something happened today at a high school in Texas, did you hear about it?” By the time your child is in sixth grade (or thereabout), you might start with “there was a shooting at a school in Texas today, did you hear about it? “.

It might also be helpful to have a few basic pieces of information at the ready so that you can answer questions or explain what happened. The unknown can be frightening to all of us and if you can be a source of accurate information and measured emotion, that will go a long way toward calming your child’s reaction.

It’s good to encourage your child to ask questions because that will guide your conversation. With middle schoolers, “active listening“ can be helpful. This means you want to ask open ended questions, listen to the answers and reflect back what you hear your child saying so that they can flesh out their own thinking about the event and articulate the questions that are ruminating in their minds. You might ask your child what he or she already knows, what they think about it and how they feel. Most important perhaps is to then really listen to what your child has to say and How they say it.

You may also want to take the opportunity to become familiar with our school safety plans and drills, if you are not already). Knowing what Barnstead has in place for these types of situations may help make you feel better and it can provide reassurance for your child. The older the child the more detail and factual information may be helpful. For younger children it may be enough to say, your teachers and Principal are there to help you and they have a plan in place to keep you safe.

You can also take the opportunity to talk to your children about the importance of speaking up if something doesn’t feel right or sound right. We’ve all heard that in most school shootings, another child was aware of the thought, the plan or simply that something “just wasn’t right” before the shooting took place. Encouraging our children to speak up is not only a great safety measure for the community, but it can provide children with a sense of empowerment and control in a world that sometimes feels frightening and beyond their control.

Keep in mind, It’s normal for children to formulate more questions over time, especially as the media extends coverage of these events over days and weeks after the incident. As a result, chances are high that your children will not just hear about these events, but that they may be exposed to repeated conversations. Accordingly, once you know your child is aware of a shooting and you’ve already discussed what happened, it’s important to come back to the conversation and touch base occasionally. Ask your child how they’re doing or if they have any new thoughts or questions and ask them again what they’ve heard. Often times rumors circulate and misinformation can create unnecessary worries or fears. Your conversation can go a long way to alleviate that.

Finally, remember whatever your child’s age it’s important to let your child know that they can talk to you about this and indeed about anything. We can’t possibly anticipate every challenge our children may face or every question they may have, but we can try to create an environment where our children feel secure enough to ask questions and speak up. you can do this by reminding your children that you’re always open to discussing their thoughts or worries and let them know that you will do your best to answer their questions, but if you can’t, and there will be those times, you will work with them to get the answer if you can.

Know that you can come to us if you think we can help. We want to respect the role of family first, but we will be here to provide information and help where we can.