A New School Year
The start of the school year can be an exciting time. Many children look forward to meeting their new teacher, moving up into the next grade, and spending time with friends. But the start of the school year can also be daunting and stressful for some children. School can be a place where they feel the pressure of keeping up with peers academically, navigating social relationships, and learning new information every single day that they are expected to integrate and build upon. More than just disliking school, for some children it is anxiety producing. Not to mention, education has been a changing environment for children over the past few years and society has expected them to seamlessly transition between different formats, teachers, and settings. As a parent, you want your child to feel happy, confident, and successful. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the start of the school year.
Routine and Expectations
While freedom and flexibility are very important for children, routine and expectations are equally as important. When your child knows what to expect and when, they are better able to make the right choices and confidently move about their tasks. Setting a simple routine for morning and after school hours can help your child focus and get their tasks done with less oversight on your part as a parent. It may be helpful to have a consistent wake up time that allows your child to get up in the morning slowly and have some time to themselves or some time to do an activity they enjoy before moving into their demanding and structured day. Your morning routine may also include eating a healthy breakfast, grooming, and packing up for the day. Some of these tasks may not be independent for your child based on their age, but if they are old enough and capable, it is helpful to practice the routine with them before expecting them to do it on their own. After practicing the routine for a week or two, you may assign one of the tasks for your child to do independently. Then you can slowly offer more responsibility for the other tasks until your child feels confident getting ready for their day on their own. Responsibility is something children crave and offering it in a structured way allows them to learn independence and it allows you to get your morning tasks done as well. If your child is often distracted or unmotivated, offering a reward can be useful. For example, after practicing your routine for a few weeks together, you may offer a reward if your child can get their backpack, put their lunch in it, and put it next to the door.
The same goes for an after-school routine. Including jobs such as putting their backpack in a designated spot, making sure their homework is out on the table, putting their lunchbox by the sink, is an important lesson in organization for your child. You know your child best, so you should plan your after-school time based on what will work for them. If you know your child needs some quiet time, a snack, or some play time after school before tackling homework, then build that into your routine. If you know that too much time in between getting home and starting homework makes it a battle, then make sure your routine involves getting the homework done right away and then having a rewarding activity afterwards.
At the start of the school year, teachers are working on getting their own routines down as well as getting to know all of their students. Although teachers often communicate with each other about the incoming class and what to expect, that doesn’t mean the teacher knows your child. The way that one teacher interacts with a child can be completely different from the way another teacher interacts with and relates to a child. So, your child’s teacher will have a lot of learning to do in the first few months. Communicating with your child’s teacher can go a long way in easing your child’s transition into their class as well as facilitating a good relationship between your child and their teacher. Keep in mind that teachers are extremely busy at this time of year in particular and may not have the time to meet with you. That being said, a couple weeks into the school year, dropping an email or asking to have a quick phone call is reasonable. That will give the teacher time to meet your child and begin to get to know them. If your child has any specific challenges socially or academically, it can be helpful to let the teacher know. Or if there are certain strategies that you find helpful or hurtful in supporting your child or getting them to cooperate with requests, letting the teacher know is a good idea. Most teachers will let parents know what to expect for the school year in terms of classroom culture, homework requirements, and academics. However, if your child’s teacher has not communicated that with you, it’s important that you ask those questions. This way, you know what your child is being asked to do, and you can better support them.
Space and Support
School is very demanding. Your child goes to school for six hours and is expected to sit still for long periods, make connections and socialize, keep quiet when told to, talk when told to, and learn new things all day long. Children need space and play time after a long day at school. Be sure to carve out time each day for your child to have some quiet time when they are not expected to do tasks or jobs or meet demands, and also time when they can play or be active. When you give your child this time, it allows them to be more relaxed and to have a better relationship with their family members. Beyond that, acknowledging all the hard work your child is doing is really important. Let them know you see how much they do and how hard they work. Your child is not going to have perfect behavior and perfect grades all the time but show them that you are proud of them for trying. Children want to be seen and they want your approval. They want to be understood. Let them know that you understand how demanding school is and that you know they are working hard.
Student Writing: Mystery
“Well we’re definitely not doing that,” Rose said with an attitude.
“And why not?” her Science partner replied.
“Because it’s stupid!” Rose shot back.
“Well we are not doing it your way,” said her science partner. Rose didn’t even notice her classmates had stopped their conversations and were all staring. The next thing she knew, she was in the principal’s office being told that she was suspended because that was her last strike.
“Rose, you have had too many detentions. We have no choice but to suspend you,” said Rose’s principal, Mr. Fletcher.
“I don’t care. I would like a day off from this school anyway,” said Rose. Rose left the school hoping that her Aunt was not home to get the message from the principal. Normally Rose would have taken the bus home, but since she was suspended and she didn’t want to call her Aunt for a ride, she walked. Rose was especially grateful to be wearing sneakers that day, although she always dressed sporty. When she finally got home, luckily her aunt was not there. She threw her bag down and walked over to the fridge, hopeful her cousin had left some watermelon for her. It was her absolute favorite food, but her cousin was pretty much the opposite of her favorite anything.
Just as she realized her cousin had indeed eaten the last bit of watermelon, she heard her cousin approach. “Why are you home so early?” Agatha asked rudely. Rose was sure Agatha would tell on her so the first thing she thought to do was hide the note the principal had given her and tell her aunt the truth when she got home.
“I had a really bad headache so I got sent home early,” Rose answered quickly. She was always pretty fast on her feet, and not just physically. Agatha didn’t seem to care and turned back to the TV room, giving Rose an opportunity to stash the note. Her cousin had a half day and was watching her favorite tv show. Rose was not getting into another fight, and decided to just leave her alone. Rose said “bye” before her cousin could ask questions and went to play in the forest outside.
She was pretending to be a spy and investigator just like her favorite tv shows and books. She was always particularly fond of the Nancy Drew series. She went through the forest, pretending to find clues. Rose was enjoying herself and mostly forgetting about her cousin and the suspension. While she was pretending, she found a note. Breaking character, she opened the note and read a phone number and address. She looked up and a few steps away she saw a key. The note’s address was 37 Brook Street. Rose had never known there was a house number 37 on Brook Street so she read the phone number. The number was 413-780-3478. Rose got the feeling that this could be a real mystery. She liked the idea of solving it. She knew her aunt would not be happy to find out Rose had gone to a random address, but she already knew she was in trouble as is. Rose stuffed the note and key in her pocket and she set off.
She went to the house and made sure she was in the right place. But she could not find the house. So she checked again. This is where it’s supposed to be, she thought. So she went home and made sure to avoid her cousin Agatha and went into her room. She called the phone number it rang but no one picked up. This was getting creepy.
Rose had to go back to school. It was only a one day suspension and she could not just skip. The next day she was getting ready for school and she already had a plan for how she would get suspended to work on her mystery. She got into class and she just started talking and when the teacher started talking about the lesson, Rose got louder just so everyone knows.
Rose’s teacher Mrs. Mascaro had had enough and yelled to Rose in a stern voice, “Go to the principal’s office.” Rose did not think about them having contact with her aunt who she forgot had no work that day. So with excitement for having her plan work ran all the way to the principal’s office without even caring that the other teachers were yelling at her for running down the hall.
When she got to the principal’s office “Your teacher just told me you were coming. Take a seat I have called your aunt,” said principal Fletcher.
“What?” said Rose. Rose knew now that she was not going to get her mystery solved today and she knew that for certain. After a few awkward minutes of waiting her aunt finally came and she was not happy.
When her aunt sat down the talk started about how she had too many detentions and blablablabla that is really all Rose heard. Rose did not really care about the rest of the conversation. She also figured out this time she has 3 days of suspension and she was going to spend that time working on her mystery. The rest was a blur between her aunt’s ranting the whole way home, and Rose’s focus on her mystery. She barely noticed that her aunt told her she had to go to work, and her cousin was babysitting her.
Once she got in the house, her aunt went to talk to her cousin about keeping an eye on Rose. While she was doing that, Rose ran upstairs to change her clothes. She needed a good mystery-solving outfit for running around and perhaps getting a little dirty. Rose never liked dresses anyway. They were too itchy. She threw on a pink t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. Rose went back downstairs and headed for the door just as she caught her cousin staring at her. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“I’m going outside,” Rose answered, annoyed.
“You’re not allowed to leave the house cause you’re in trouble,” Agatha rudely pointed out.
“I’m going to get the mail.” Rose would have to go down all the way to the first floor of the apartment building to get the mail, which could take a while. She knew Agatha would get distracted and forget all about her.
“Fine.” Rose ran out the door. Rose ran all the way to the mystery address or where it was supposed to be. All of a sudden she felt someone watching her. She turned around and saw a boy watching her and then Rose said, “Why are you staring at me?”
The boy said, “I want to help you solve your mystery. I saw you a couple days ago walking around this area. What are you looking for?”
“Well you can stop wondering because I am not planning on having any help,” said Rose.
Rose, not wanting to keep up this conversation, just walked away and when she looked back she saw that boy was following her. Giving up, Rose turned around and asked “Who are you?”
The boy answered “My name is Tom.”
“Well Tom this is my mystery so stop following me,” said Rose. That’s when Rose stepped on a button and opened a door in the ground and getting excited Rose ran into the passage in the ground forgetting about the boy following her. Rose ran down the old worn out stairs of this mysterious passage only to stop dead in her tracks at the sight of what was down there. The boy Tom who was following her, who Rose completely forgot about, started talking randomly about the place they found. That finally broke Rose out of her trance of the stuff she had just found. Rose had had enough of his talking so she very rudely asked him to stop talking which Rose thought was the kind thing to say out of what she wanted to say. Tom shut his mouth abruptly, and continued to look around. Around the perimeter of the room were tables. On the tables sat computers. As Rose walked closer, she realized there were addresses and phone numbers on the screens. Rose was completely creeped out. What started as a fun mystery had quickly turned scary. Then something caught her eye on a nearby table. There was a note, very similar to the one she had found with a phone number and address. She walked over and realized there were several notes like this. She looked up and saw pinned to the wall news articles and various clippings from newspapers. Each one had a headline about a disappearance or a missing person.
“We should get out of here,” Tom spoke up.
“Sure,” Rose replied. As she was about to turn and leave, she had a thought. She turned back and snatched up the notes and the news articles. They ran up the stairs and shut the trap door.
“Let’s go to my house. We should figure this stuff out,” Tom said.
“I never agreed to working with you,” Rose said.
“Well, I guess I already know too much,” Tom replied with a smile. Rose rolled her eyes. She figured it could be helpful for the mystery to have a sidekick.
Tom and Rose walked down the street to his house. “I’m a little creeped out that that weird underground room is on my street.” Rose didn’t answer as the continued down the street. Once they arrived at his house, Tom offered, “We can hang out in my living room.”
“Sure,” Rose replied. As they entered the house, Tom started talking. Rose wasn’t really listening to him. She was too focused on the notes she had found what all this could mean.
“Are you gonna answer me?” Rose was jolted out of her thoughts.
“What kind of snack do you want?” Tom asked again.
“Watermelon would be great.”
“My mom just bought watermelon yesterday!” Rose felt like his enthusiasm was annoying, but she also didn’t have many friends, and he was trying really hard.
“That would be great. “ said Rose in her sweetest voice. But Tom just ended up looking at her like there was something wrong. Rose did notice that it sounded a bit forced but she did not think it was that bad. Rose, now mad that she was trying to be sweet, got a look like she was crazy. “ We are not here to chat about snacks, I am here to solve a mystery like you told me we would do.” said Rose in her meanest voice.
Tom felt so confused it took him a couple seconds to respond “ Okay I will grab our snack and we will go right in to trying to solve your mystery. Now Rose felt bad he was the only person that did not yell or fight with her when she had an outburst like that but she was not going to say sorry she felt bad and she felt that was punishment enough she was not going to torcher herself with saying sorry.
When Tom came back ready to solve a mystery he saw the thing Rose did not the address it was sent from. Rose was so frustrated with herself that he out of all people saw the address and she did not. But Rose could not dwell on that fact. She had to solve the mystery and she was one step closer. So she read the adress it was on the same street that they found all these clues.
“We found these clues on the same street the notes were sent from. They could have been watching us.” said Tom.
“Wouldn’t they try to stop us if they did see us?” said Rose
“Maybe we should go to the address and see who is there,” said Tom.
“That is a terrible idea we could get caught,” said Rose.
“ Not if we are smart .” said Tom
“Fine.” said Rose
Rose and Tom walk to the house and are surprised to see there is nothing creepy or weird about this house; it is a plain light blue house with its curtains closed. There is a small driveway that leads to the house. The front lawn is nice because all the grass is green. Rose thought they were at the wrong house; she had to double check the address. “This is the house. I guess it is not creepy at all.” said Rose.
“Are you sure this is the right address.” said Tom
“I already checked to make sure this is my mystery, remember I would not mess it up,” said Rose. Rose, trying to be the brave one walks up the driveway to the house and knocks on the door while Tom follows behind. A friendly looking woman came to the door and upon opening it, stepped aside as if to let them in, which Tom found odd but Rose seemed to find perfectly fine. As Tom and Rose stood in the entryway, Tom wondered why she would let them in without even asking a question.
“Hi my name is Rose,” said Rose and before she knew what was going on the woman shut the door.
“What can I help you with?” asked the woman. Rose, confused, answered without thinking.
“I found this address and it led me to your house,” said Rose.
“Where did you find that address?” asked the woman.
“In the woods,” Rose answered reluctantly.
The woman looked at Rose first, a little bit aggravated, but changed to a smile too quick for Rose to notice but Tom who had been watching the whole time noticed and was now scared.
The woman then said sweetly, “I think I might have something that could help you. It’s just this way.” Without waiting to see if they followed, the woman turned and began to walk down a hallway. Rose just followed the woman and Tom, a little scared and confused, followed Rose. When walking down the gray, tiled hallway Rose noticed it was weirdly dark and dingy, but she was too focused on the chance for clues to care.
Rose, now annoyed at how long it was taking, started to realize other things like it smelled strongly of cleaning products and was not as welcoming as the room they were just in. Rose was starting to get a little suspicious but not enough to turn around they had to be close by now.
The woman told Rose, “We are almost there. We are going to that door at the end of the hall.” Rose did not answer. Once they got to the door, which was a strange metal door that had taken up a lot of space and was locked, the woman took out her keys. She unlocked the door and before Rose or Tom could think they were being shoved into a dark room. Then, a door slammed in their faces.
Rose tried opening the door several times with no luck. She knew they were trapped and she knew the address was correct. Rose was terrified. She had no clue what was happening and she was starting to rethink everything she had done. She did not know why she didn’t think when the woman had opened the door and led them down the hall and Rose also knew she would be trapped like everyone else. Rose hadn’t even saved anybody; all she did was get her and Tom trapped.
Rose looked at Tom and said, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to get us trapped.”
Tom answered, surprised, “I didn’t expect you to say anything and it is fine.”
That’s when all of a sudden Rose heard sirens and heard the front door open and shut a bunch of times. Rose did not know what was happening but Tom looked relieved. Actually he seemed to know exactly what was happening.
“Oh thank god the police are here, they got my call,” said Tom.
“What are you talking about?,” said Rose.
“I didn’t trust that woman,” said Tom.
Rose did not say anything. She was so relieved and confused and mad he didn’t tell her earlier. Right when she was about to answer Tom, the door opened.
A police officer said, “I found two more.”
Rose ran out of that room with Tom behind her and made it all the way outside in the fresh air and saw that there were a lot of people out there and not all of them police. Rose came to the conclusion that those were all the people who she found numbers. They must have been trapped in a different room, thought Rose.
That is when Rose realized that Tom had saved everybody including herself. If he had not called the police, they both would still be stuck in that room with no way out.
Rose turned around and looked at Tom and thanked him for all the help with the mystery which she is not claiming to be hers anymore.
Are You Ready For The Start of School?!
When I think of getting ready for the upcoming school year, memories of being a kid come flooding back. I remember back-to-school shopping for school supplies and picking out the one clothing item we were given a choice on: shoes (I went to a Catholic school). Interestingly, although it was the only variety I could add to my wardrobe, I chose the same brown suede buck shoes for 5 years in a row. I also had the same bowl cut for about the same length of time, by choice (sad but true). I think most kids get excited to pick out their new clothes, backpack, and supplies! There’s also the less exciting task of making sure all of the summer work requirements are complete. I distinctly remember crying over a math packet that I told my parents I’d been chipping away at all summer, and spending the last week of summer going into 6th grade tackling an enormous amount of math that I’d mostly forgotten how to do. We also had reading requirements which I managed to put off until the final days leading up to the start of the school year. Needless to say I was not a very committed young scholar. While getting all of those work requirements done is important, what may be even more important is having your child enter school with confidence in their skills. Over the summer most kids regress in their learning if they don’t practice their basic math and reading skills. Learning regression is not ideal, but it’s also not unusual. Summer is a reprieve for kids and provides much needed freedom and play time. If your kids spent their summer in a similar way that I spent my childhood summers (swimming, sailing, playing in the woods, holding beach Olympic games with my cousins), then they may benefit from a quick brush up before heading back to school. Brushing up on some basic math and reading skills can help your child feel confident and ready for the start of school. Two areas I recommend focusing on for elementary students are sight words and math facts. There are some quick and easy ways to practice these skills and even make them fun.
For early elementary students, reviewing sight words is important. They make up most of the words kids will see in text. For the most part, sight words can’t be sounded out and need to be memorized. Check out the Dolch Sight Word Lists to see which words your child should be able to recognize based on the school year they completed in the Spring. The link provided also has sight word games to make review more fun and engaging.
Math facts are easily learned and quickly forgotten! For early elementary students, reviewing Make 10 Facts and Doubles Facts is a good way to prepare for the upcoming school year. For students entering 4th through 6th grade, reviewing multiplication facts is a good area to focus on. Since math facts are learned through memorization, they can be quickly acquired. Luckily, there are plenty of games to play to brush up. Click the link for some ideas or try the two below!
- Go Fish: Make 10 or Doubles
A “pair” would be two numbers that add up to make 10. The player must ask for the number that would make 10 when added to the card they have. For example, if the player has a 7, they need to ask for a 3 to make 10. Or, a pair can be two of the same numbers (doubles facts). The player must ask for the same number they have, and tell the answer of the two numbers when added.
War: addition, subtraction, or multiplication facts
Each player flips two cards. Add, subtract, or multiply the digits. The goal is to get the largest answer. The winner of each card flip takes all the cards. If you get the same answer, each player should put out 4 cards face down. Then each player chooses two to flip and combine. The player with the largest answer takes all the cards! Stop the game at any time and count up your cards to see who has the most!
Student Writing: Behind The Scenes of Zoos
Behind The Scenes of Zoos
Zoos are a place where adults and children can interact with animals and scientists can learn about different species of animals. They keep several species in captivity and sometimes breed those animals. Zoos are also places where animals are taken from their families and homes to be displayed. Some people think that zoos are a great place to explore different kinds of animals, but they might not think about what happens to the animals. Other people think about how the animals are harmed, and choose not to support zoos. They do not want to support the abuse and tight confinement of wild animals. I think zoos should shut down because they are harming animals, making money off of animals that aren’t their property, and abusing animals.
First, zoos are problematic because they harm animals and are bad for animals’ health. Animal health in zoos is a serious issue; they are confined in small spaces and don’t eat a lot. An article by sentientmedia.org proves that, “Zoos claim to save wild animals, but wild animals in zoos are reduced to commodities and given inadequate habitats. Many animals in zoos are “charismatic megafauna,” such as lions and elephants, because they attract visitors. Charismatic megafauna are wild animals that interest humans, such as giraffes and tigers. Once cubs become adults they start to draw less attention and so the zoos kill them. That’s why zoos need to change and start caring for animals the way they should be taken care of. Even though cubs attract more people at zoos they are not treated any better. The humane society found two zoos where cubs were regularly abused. This occurred at Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia and Tiger Safari in Oklahoma. The cubs were punched and smacked to prevent them from playfully scratching or biting people. One cub was used for 30 photo sessions and five 30 minute play sessions in one day. Separated from their mothers, cubs are robbed of nutrition and regular feeding. Many baby animals suffer from trauma of being taken away from their mom in the wild. Baby chimpanzees especially have trauma from seeing their mom being shot right in front of them. Author and animal advocate Rob Laidlaw says, “Some animals can be upset just by people looking at them.” Animals welfare groups say the practice of roadside zoos are widespread and harmful. 75 roadside zoos have removed hundreds of cubs from their mothers to allow visitors to handle them. This interrupts the feeding cubs receive from their mothers and alters their behavior. Now cubs younger than 4 weeks old can not be removed from their mothers and handled by the public. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had decided that this violates the Animal Welfare Act, a law that protects animals. Zoos must make sure cubs are kept with their mothers and sheltered properly. In addition, the cubs may be handled with care by zoos workers only.
Secondly, zoos make money off of animals that are not their property. These roadside zoos have made large amounts of money allowing people to feed and play with exotic cats. Zoos have allowed visitors to have pictures taken with tigers, lions, leopards and cheetahs. The humane society said visitors paid $50 for a photo session and $300 for a play session. At that rate, one cub could earn the zoo $65,000 over the course of a single summer. If zoos keep getting the money they get now then they will keep abusing animals. When you go to a zoo you are paying money to see something that already exists in the wild, locked up in a cage. It’s like paying money to go to a tree museum when you can already see them in the wild. Not only that, but the animals you see locked up are not healthy. They are healthiest in their natural habitat. Your money is better spent doing a safari where you can drive through the animals’ natural habitat, and your money is supporting true conservation efforts. The animals are healthy and in the wild. In the future, if zoos keep taking animals from the wild then zoos will have more and more power. They will overrule the laws that are keeping animals in the wild at all. Soon you will not be able to go on safari’ and see animals because zoos will have them. That’s what will happen if you keep spending money at zoos.
Lastly, zoos are not good for conservation although they claim to be. Many people believe that because zoos keep endangered animals in captivity and breed them there that they are helping conserve populations and protecting endangered species. Some zoos claim that breeding in captivity allows them to release animals into the wild successfully later. In an article by How Stuff Works, the author Jennifer Horton writes, “After 10 years of working to strengthen the population numbers of the endangered California Condor, a type of vulture, the Los Angeles and San Diego zoos were able to rebuild a population of fewer than two dozen birds to around 170 birds.” However, “About two-thirds of them were actually strong enough to survive in the wild.” According to the same article, in the last century, there have been 145 reintroduction programs, 16 of which actually were successful. Zoos also claim that the animal’s habitat in zoos have improved over the years. David Hancocks, a former zoos director, argues that the animals’ conditions in zoos are not getting better, and still need much more improvement. “Indeed, many captive animals exhibit signs of severe distress: People have witnessed elephants bobbing their heads, bears pacing back and forth and wild cats obsessively grooming themselves.” If you think conservation is good and you support it, then do not go to zoos. They are the opposite. Conservationists are trying to help animals and not keep them caged up, whereas zoos are caging up animals and taking them out of the wild.
Zoos are not beneficial to people or animals. There are three main reasons why zoos are bad. They are dangerous and harmful to animals’ health, they are profiting from animals every day, and they say that they are doing good for animals when they are just ruining conservation efforts and killing animals. That’s why you should stop supporting zoos and start supporting wildlife conservation organizations. When you want to see different species of animals in the wild you can look at National Wildlife Refuge System, and find a place near you to support the preservation of wildlife. You can volunteer and help them instead of just paying to see the animals. Animals can be exciting to see, but you want to make sure that these animals are being treated with respect and care instead of walking away and knowing that there being abused.
Horton, Jennifer. “Are zoos good or bad for animals?” How Stuff Works. 2021, https://animals.howstuffworks.com/animal-facts/zoos-good-or-bad.htm.
Milman, Oliver. “Young cubs: So, cute but you can no longer hold them.” Science. April 11, 2016, https://newsela.com/read/zooanimal-photos/id/16342/?search_id=6164999d-2eb6-41c2-bf51-0b5ee0b9293e
National Wildlife Refuge System.” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. May 5, 2021, https://www.fws.gov/refuges/.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “In the zoo or in the wild. it’s a tough life for the polar bear.” Science. March 5, 2016
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Copenhagen Zoo kills a giraffe, shocks many.” Science. February 25, 2014,
Rosenberger, Zoe. “Zoos Cause Animals Far More Harm Than Good.” Justice. June 9, 2019,
Student Writing: Understanding Elephants
Elephants have been endangered and abused for more than 4,000 years. Elephants are an extremely important part of the ecosystem. They may not be a part of your life, but they are a huge part of the environment and other animals. There may be people who help elephants and try to make a difference, but there are also a lot of people who put elephants in bad captivity. Elephants are amazing and elegant creatures that we need to save. Humans need to help elephants and stop putting them in captivity, abusing them, and destroying their habitat.
We need elephants on the earth, they too contribute to our ecosystem. For example, they are the world’s largest herbivores and are very good seed transporters. If they eat a fruit, then they have to poop it out and the seeds in the poop spread. That is how we have so many fruit trees now. It might be gross to us but their dung is also great food for a lot of insects. Elephants also dig waterholes, this benefits other animals a lot and helps them. Elephants are the biggest mammals on Earth so there’s not much that can get in their way. When they travel they make paths for other small animals who have a much harder time going though brushes and large grasses. When elephants trudge through tall grasses they allow the sun to help plants grow on the forest floor. But elephants’ contributions don’t stop there. In an article by 4elephants.org, the author sheds light on elephants’ climate change impact through helping forests store more carbon. “Elephants stomp their way around forests stepping on small trees that could become a competition to larger trees. By eliminating smaller trees, larger trees can continue to grow in diameter and total biomass. These types of trees tend to live for extended periods and can store large amounts of carbon.” Based on this information elephants are crucial to their habitat, but our habitat on this planet.
Endangerment is a big issue for elephants. They have been on the endangered list for 23 years now. 90% of african elephants have been wiped out in the last century from loss of habit, poaching, and many other reasons. Elephants’ habitat is affected by humans. According to an article by Treehugger, “Their habitats are increasingly shrunken and fragmented by agriculture, logging, roads, and development for residential or commercial use. Elephants are migratory animals who depend on large, contiguous territories, and this trend robs them of vital resources like food and water.” Land and habitat are being taken away from them as well as food and water. It’s estimated that elephants could become extinct in 20 years. In the 19th century there were about 3-5 million elephants in the wild. Now in the 20th century there are about 400,000 left in the wild. Climate change is one of the biggest threats that elephants and many other animals face. There are many reasons that elephants are dying; such as loss of habit, starvation, pollution, and rising sea levels. That’s why we need to act now. We need to start helping them instead of killing them, because a world without elephants would be devastating.
A reason that elephants are taken from the wild is to be put in captivity. There are two different kinds of captivity, good captivity and bad captivity. People capture elephants from the wild, and force them to race each other and perform in circus acts. Elephants are chained up and put in small cages where they eat, drink, and sleep. The only time they are free from the cage is to perform circus tricks which is not much better than being in a cage. Humans often use physical punishment to train and control them. Good captivity is when someone cares for an elephant if they are hurt, then releases them back in the wild once they are able to fend for themselves. The website elephantvoices.org states that elephants don’t do well in captivity. “Historically, elephants have never bred well in captivity and, consequently, a continuous supply of elephants captured from the wild was needed to maintain or increase the captive stocks.” Breeding in captivity and captivity for human gain has never benefited elephants and never will.
Elephants feel lots of emotions like humans. They can feel joy, love, grief, stress, anger, and compassion for others. When elephants are happy or joyful they flap their ears, widen their eyes and wag their tail. If an elephant’s tail becomes stiff they are feeling anxious or scared. If they are feeling love for another elephant they flap their ears and intertwine their tusks with one another. Elephants are very intelligent and they can sense when another elephant is feeling any of these emotions. According to an article by 4elephants.org, elephants are top on the list for most intelligent animals. “Elephants are considered to be one of the most intelligent animals. African and Asian elephants have large and well-developed brains. Their large brains have around three billion neurons, which is three times more than humans. They are some of the few animals who can recognize themselves in mirrors. Elephants show their emotional intelligence through the sense of touch.” Elephants’ emotional intelligence is incredible and even more complicated than humans.
If humans continue to destroy elephants’ habitat, put them in captivity, and abuse them, there will be negative consequences for us and them. The destruction of habitat has worsened their endangerment, which is affecting the ecosystem. People think putting elephants in captivity is preserving their numbers when it is not helping them. They don’t breed well in captivity and they are mentally suffering as well. You can do small things to help elephants and other animals. Some ideas are: do not support businesses that threaten endangered species, donate money to groups that help care for elephants, research and learn about endangered species. You may think your part is small, but if more and more people do this then the effect is more powerful.
McLendo, Russell. “Why elephants are under threat.” June 18 2020,https://www.treehugger.com/are-elephants-endangered-5025729
Morfeld, Dr. Kari. “African elephants impact on the environment blog.” October 9 2019, https://www.4elephants.org/blog/article/african-elephants-impact-on-the-environment
Lindsay, Dr. Keith. “ What would happen if there were no elephants.” February 22 2019, https://africanelephantjournal.com/what-would-happen-if-there-were-no-elephants/
“Elephants emotions.” October 11 2010, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/echo-an-elephant-to-remember-elephant-emotions/4489/
Student Writing: Hip Hop In The Classroom
Many people believe hip hop does not have a place in the classroom or in education. Some people claim it promotes violence and mistreatment of women. Other people claim that hip hop can help some students learn, who would otherwise be disinterested. I believe that hip hop should be included in classroom education because it’s more relatable to students, it reflects real life while classroom culture is out of touch, and it’s fun and exciting.
Hip hop being the most popular genre of music touches a younger audience and is more relatable to students. According to the Nielsen’s Annual music report, hip hop is the most popular genre in America since 2018. If teachers added rap music to the curriculum the students would be more interested in what they are learning about. Hip hop increases social consciousness for students, which means raising awareness about what people actually have to go through such as drugs, money, and violence.
Hip hop could allow students to relate to what they are learning about so they can achieve more.
Classroom culture is out of date, while hip hop culture is more like real life for people. Classroom culture is out of touch with reality because it hasn’t changed in over 100 years. Meanwhile, hip hop is modern and speaks to the youth. School culture is out of touch with the real world, especially Waldorf education. They teach you old things that aren’t in touch with the real world, like knitting. They haven’t even thought about slavery and injustice and it isn’t discussed in class. Hip hop talks about racism and injustice while schools dismiss that.
Hip hop is very fun to listen to, and says important things that are happening in the world. Kids would be more excited to go to school if hip hop was relevant and not frowned upon. If we had rap music in music class, other classes would not be as boring. Some critics of including hip hop in school claim that hip hop glorifies gang violence and bad behavior. If gang violence was discussed in the classroom it wouldn’t be glorified. All rap music is not just about gang violence. There are positive songs that contribute as well.
Rap music should be taught in a classroom because it teaches lessons on real life. People hear about gang violence and how it’s so terrible, and people from schools in areas where there isn’t gang violence may not understand it or may even glorify it. I’ve been around it and don’t glorify it. It needs to be taught and gang violence and gang problems should be talked about so kids don’t make the wrong decision. Not all hip hop is about violence and it’s meant to reflect real life.
Growing up just outside of Boston, I had never spent much time in the woods. My siblings and I weren’t completely deprived of nature, though. We spent blissful summers swimming and sailing on Cape Cod and almost never spent a day indoors, June through August. It wasn’t until I moved to Western Mass to attend college that I experienced the woods. And even then, I didn’t go on my first hike until my junior year. But once I had a taste of being in nature in that way, I wanted more.
Over the years, I’ve come to love the escape. Hiking, biking, camping, canoeing, snowshoeing, running, and fishing have now become a regular part of my life. Being outdoors and experiencing the natural world is now one of my very favorite things to do. In the same way I didn’t really understand what I was missing before experiencing it, it’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t spent time in nature the kind of joy, invigoration, and connection to life you feel. It’s just something you have to feel for yourself. And while these kinds of positive feelings may not be familiar to everyone, most Americans are not strangers to anxiety, stress, sedation, and lack of inspiration. These negative feelings are considered a given in our culture and have become the norm for many people. Now, with most of us quarantining, and having an increase in screen time, the effects are more prevalent.
While virtual learning has provided an avenue for many children to continue their education, I see that it’s being used not as a tool, but as the center of the educational experience. Some elementary students spend six or more hours a day on a screen. Not only is this unhealthy for the average person, but it’s particularly detrimental to a developing brain. According to Pediatrician Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, “The growing human brain is constantly building neural connections while pruning away less-used ones, and digital media use plays an active role in that process. Much of what happens on screen provides ‘impoverished’ stimulation of the developing brain compared to reality. Children need a diverse menu of online and offline experiences, including the chance to let their minds wander. Boredom is the space in which creativity and imagination happen.” In my experience with students, I’ve seen children developing depression, anxiety, behavior issues, learning regression, and addictive-like behaviors towards screens. When I hear parents tell me that their 4th grader has a melt down when they’re not allowed to play their favorite video game after doing six hours of virtual learning, that tells me there is something seriously wrong. But it’s important to remember that we are all struggling during this time and making the best choices we can. It’s nobody’s fault and assigning blame is not helpful.
What I have found helpful is seeking more balance between screen time and outdoor time. Unfortunately for some, getting out into the woods for a hike or nature walk is a luxury. There are many parents who are working full-time jobs and do not have the time to take their children out, or the access to outdoor spaces. I am grateful that I live in a semi-rural area where hiking trails are a-plenty and there are many spaces to enjoy the outdoors. But even for some local parents, having the outdoors right at their fingertips doesn’t make it easier. Parents are pushed to the max right now with taking care of family, working or finding work, and supporting elderly family members. It becomes even harder if you have a health problem.
This inspired me to offer my outdoor adventures program. I wanted to create a space for children to get outside and take a break from all of the pressure and stress. I also believe that people are more inclined to see the value in nature and want to protect nature when they have a strong connection with it. The outdoor adventures program provides an opportunity for children to learn about nature and how to interact with nature in a safe and respectful way. Each workshop has a theme. The children get to learn a new skill, such as how to build a fire or a shelter. Each child is given the space to try, fail, succeed, and come to their own level of proficiency in a non-competitive and open atmosphere. They are encouraged to share their own knowledge of the outdoors and help their fellow group members. I want to show children that nature has something very special to offer that you can’t find anywhere else.
If you are interested in learning more about my Outdoor Adventures Program, visit my page or contact me directly to learn more. Comment below to share how being in nature has helped you or changed your life in some way!
The Choice To Homeschool
Homeschooling your child is a difficult choice. The opportunity to bond with your child, give your child choice in their learning, and watch them grow may not be enough to quell your anxieties. But hopefully these three tips will open up a new perspective.
- You will not be good at everything
One of the big concerns I hear parents express when they are considering homeschooling is that they will not be good enough or will not know how to teach something. One thing I want you to take away from reading this post is…that’s ok! You have a lot to offer your child in terms of learning. You may not even realize your own strengths and talents. However, it’s important not to compare yourself to other parents or teachers. Even teachers who are trained professionals are not great at everything. It’s also important to recognize that just because you’re not good at something does not mean your child will not be good at it. If there is an area you particularly struggle with and prefer not to teach, reach out to your local homeschool community and see if there are co-ops that offer instruction in your weak areas. You could also hire a tutor. The important thing is that you recognize the areas that are hard for you and find an alternative for your child.
2. Focus on skills
Branching off of the idea that you’re not going to know everything, is the idea that content is not as important as skills. So what if you don’t remember all the events leading up to the American Revolution. Your child can read a book about that or watch a documentary. Focus on the skill you are teaching. You want your child to be able to read a nonfiction text and extract important information. You also want them to find meaningful ways to connect with any text so they can remember what they learn. Don’t worry about what your child is learning, but rather how. Choose a skill to focus on and let your child pick the subject matter.
3. Don’t compare yourself to school
The structure and environment of school is very different from that of home learning. Being at home affords you flexibility, choice, and the opportunity to build your own structure and routine that works for you and your family. I emphasize to parents that routine and structure are important, but don’t model it after that of school. Children crave predictability and organization. That’s not to say spontaneity is bad or you can’t cancel plans once in a while. But for a child to develop good executive functioning skills and maintain a low stress level, they need to have some idea of what to expect. The structure of school is very rigid and can be anxiety producing for children. Don’t try to mimic it. Also recognize that schools spend a lot of time organizing large groups of students, doing behavior management, moving from place to place, and making sure everyone is on the same page. At home, you don’t need to do all of that. The six hours your child would spend in school is not all learning time. So at home, adjust the amount of academic time based on your child’s stamina, ability, and schedule. Keep it simple and stick to a basic routine.
Now is the perfect time to get outside and leave the stresses and confines of quarantine at home. While we may still feel the pressure to socially distance and be mindful of our health, especially at this time, enjoying all that nature has to offer is a great way to calm the mind and ease the spirit. Learning is happening all the time, but it is important to draw your child’s attention to the world around them in unique ways. This doesn’t have to be explicit, formal instruction (although there’s undoubtedly value in teaching skills like planting a flower or drying herbs), but a way to open the door to further inquiry and discovery. Here are some ways you can help your child look at their surroundings with new eyes.
Recreating nature through art is a wonderful activity that can build fine motor skills, attention to detail, and artistic ability. Sometimes I hear from students, “I’m not good at art”. But what they don’t realize is that drawing a picture of something is a skill that takes practice and is not necessarily reliant on raw creativity. It’s like playing a piece of music. You learn the piece by practicing it over and over and then you are able to play it well. You are not writing a piece of music, but rather replicating what’s already there. Anyone can learn to draw and you don’t need to be super creative to do it.
One of the projects I loved while I worked at Brookwood School in Manchester, MA involved art and science. Students chose one spot outside and their task over the course of the school year was to periodically draw that same place over and over. With the changing seasons, each place transformed over the course of the year. This is a great project to replicate with elementary and middle school aged children. Your child could choose a tree, plant, or any place outside and over the course of the summer, draw a picture of the same place weekly. This could be done using the same medium, or you could change it up. Maybe one week your child uses watercolor, and the next markers. Their art will look different anyway, because different plants bloom at different times, weather changes, and nature is constantly shifting.
Language plus experience is what allows children to understand and communicate. Pre-K and Kindergarten age children sometimes struggle to comprehend words like: on, in, below, under, above, over, across, before, after. These prepositions can be difficult unless your child has the experience to create a context. Simply drawing your child’s attention to these words by saying things like “I see you are on the slide” or “I notice you went under the monkey bars” can help them develop understanding of how to use these words. A fun way to incorporate them into your outdoor time is to play Simon Says. Using commands like “hop on one foot” or “stand on the porch” gives children different contexts for the same word and provides deeper understanding of how these words are used.
For children in elementary grades, boost their vocabulary by creating a chart of adjectives, or describing words, like the one below. Your child can move around the yard feeling, touching, and writing down or drawing pictures of what they find that fits those descriptions. It may be helpful to give them examples first. You might point out that a basil leaf is smooth. Ask, “What else can you find that feels smooth?” Be sure to forewarn your child of any plants they should not touch.
|Describing Word||Example||Your Find|
Scavenger hunts encourage children to notice their surroundings in new ways. Kids love the challenge of completing the list and they can do it on their own or with a partner. This Reading Mama has great ones for younger children. For elementary children, there are lots of different scavenger hunts you can put together. A scavenger hunt featuring different shapes challenges children to spot polygons in unusual places like in your yard or in the neighborhood. You can go simple and have a color scavenger hunt or a number scavenger hunt. There are lots of different ways you could structure this.
These activities are great starters for having fun and learning outside, but you also want to be open to ideas your child may have. Brainstorming together is quality time spent, and helps you better understand what kind of learner your child is. For more ideas, check out Jennifer Findley’s post on outdoor learning.
Comment with your favorite outdoor learning activity or share this post with a friend!