Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Congratulations, Graduates!

Kids aren't the only people in the Perkins community who are going to school. Last Friday, six parents from the Perkins family graduated from the courses they took from Parent University, a program that helps parents and caregivers help their kids grow and learn.

We had six graduates, but also many others, sometimes up to 20 parents, who met at the Perkins during the ten weeks of the Parents Math Class held there.

Research has found that when parents are involved in their children's education, the kids do better. And that's true no matter what a parent's level of education may be.

Lots of parents also find it hard to help their kids with their homework because they learned it a different way--way back when. To help explain it the "new" way, they need a refresher course.

So some parents took on the challenge. "I have learned so much in this class!," said Kim Mulligan. "It is sad to see come to an end. I have learned so much that I can sit down with my girls and help them with their homework. I did not know that "fractions" were my thing!!!

Erin Mayes is planning ahead. "Even though my son is in K2," she said, "I have learned many things that will help me help him in the future."

Parent University doesn't just run in the academic year of 2010-2011. Parents who are interested next fall, can call 617-635-1638.

As parents from the Dever school said at the graduation: "Esta clase a sido muy buena. Aprendi muchisimo y espero poder cojer mas clases en el futuro." (A translation: This class has been very good. We have learned a lot and we hope that we can take more classes in the future.)

We hope so too.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Construction Book Still Continues...

Perhaps you know that Ms. Murphy's second grade class is working on a book about our construction workers. If you don't, or would like to refresh your memory, here is the first post about it and then the most recent.

Like all writers, the second graders are finding that there are a lot of commitments that can get in the way of finishing a project--everything from April vacation to things like math and spelling. But they are back!

They had already done a lot of research, interviewing workers and watching them work. But it never hurts to do some more, especially on a beautiful sunny day when the workers were putting up the wood townhouses directly across from our school's front door. So off they went!

The second graders have learned that observation, or looking at things very closely, is a very important part of research. The kids immediately saw that THREE cranes were very hard at work. Since the bodies of the cranes were blocked from view, they wondered which one was the Big Giraffe. Andrea looked carefully at the walls going up--inside and out. She commented that the insides look like hay.

Then one student asked why two of the buildings have walls (actually frames) built with steel while all the other buildings have wooden ones. Good observation. The kids talked about this for a while and finally thought of the story, The Three Pigs, in which three piglets build three houses--one out of straw, one out of sticks, and one out of bricks. They wondered if steel would make a stronger building compared to wood.

Nice question, Ms. Murphy's class, you aren't the only ones wondering about it. Luckily we have the answer for you in our last Ask The Expert post. Take a look!
Meanwhile be certain that no Big Bad Wolf can blow ANY of these houses down!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

There's Going to Be a Phase Two!

Our readers from the Boston area might already know the news. Perhaps they read it in the newspaper, or saw it on TV. For the rest of you, we're happy to say that the federal government is supplying another money to do Phase 2 of the Old Colony renovation project. If you want to know the rest of the official story, you can click on the story written by the Boston Globe.

What's our news at the PerkinsBlog? People from the federal government actually came to the Perkins School to give the check to people of the government of Massachusetts! The Perkins kids got to see the ceremony and listen to all the speakers.

It's a really big check, isn't it? It's big in two ways--a lot of money (22 million dollars!) and big in size. It turns out this is just a check for the ceremony. But one student turned to another and asked how they were going to deposit it in the bank!

There were a lot of speeches. Some people said this was a wonderful day because it was going to supply more jobs for our construction workers. We're glad for that. It will be nice to keep them around. Other people said that it means more people from Old Colony will have better places to live. And that it will help the environment and because the buildings will use much less energy.

Stephen Lynch is the person who stands up for our part of Boston in the United States House of Representatives. When he got up to speak, he said that he had grown up in Old Colony. He lived in an apartment for fifteen years with his parents and his five sisters.

Then he pointed to the metal picket fence at the edge of our playground. He remembered a time when his friend somehow pushed his head through and got it stuck. Luckily that hasn't happened around here for a long while!

When the speeches were over, the kids got to talk to some of our important visitors. One student was a little disappointed, though. There weren't any limousines lined up in front of the school.

Mayor Menino gave out a lot of high-fives. And when someone tried to tell him about the PerkinsBlog, he said, "I know all about the blog. I know that these kids voted for the Big Giraffe!" (If you want to know what he's talking about, click here.)

Our United States Senator, John Kerry, didn't know about the Big Giraffe, though. So the kindergarteners told him about how they voted for the name of the biggest crane across the street by secret ballot--just like a real election.

Senator Kerry seemed very interested. He also noticed that one student had an untied shoelace, and tried to give him some help.

Soon it was time for us to get back to school. When asked what he thought the morning was all about, Jaymil might have made the best speech of the day. "This is happening, so people can have nice homes," he said, "and live with their heads kept up."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Building with Steel? Or Wood?

On May 11th, our post asked the question: Why are the construction workers building houses out of wood now when they were using steel before? We decided it was time to Ask the Expert!

So we decided to contact John O'Toole, the Senior Project Manager of the Old Colony site for Suffolk Construction. This question was a very easy one for him!

Choosing to use steel or wood has a lot to do with the height of a building, says Mr. O'Toole. Steel is very strong. In fact, it is so strong that it can support the weight of a skyscraper that's over a quarter mile high (for example, the Willis Tower in the city of Chicago)!

So it's not problem making the four- and six-story steel buildings at the Old Colony construction site.

Wood is a fine, safe material for building houses too, Mr. O'Toole explains. It's lighter than steel and a much easier material to work with. You can cut it with less trouble than a heavy steel beam. You can put different pieces of it together with just nails. That takes less time than drilling holes into steel and using bolts.

On the other hand, says Mr. O'Toole, wood isn't quite strong enough to stack countless stories of it, one on top of the other. There are no skyscrapers built from wood. But there are lots of three-story buildings--just like the ones they are constructing for Old Colony.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Letters to a Butterfly

If you look at the post just below this one, you'll see that Ms. Haney's first graders watched caterpillars transform into beautiful Painted Lady butterflies. And then they released them out into the world.

Saying goodbye to the butterflies was hard. It helped to write them letters. Here are some of the letters the kids wrote. If you have a hard time reading one, just click on it to make it larger.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bye, Bye Butterflies

It started when five tiny caterpillars, less than a half inch in length, took up residence in Ms. Haney's first grade classroom. Even though the classroom's volunteer, Ms. Flaherty, explained that these little guys were going to turn into Painted Lady butterflies, it seemed almost impossible. Yet, every time the kids peeked into their cage, the caterpillars were eating. And growing. And eating some more.

Then one day they inched their way upwards. They attached themselves to the paper top. Soon the caterpillars’ skin split open, revealing a shiny green case underneath—the chrysalis. This would protect them as they changed into butterflies. See them up there!

If kids staring at them would have helped, those Painted Ladies would have hatched in less then a day. But nature has its own timetable, so the caterpillars needed seven to ten days to hatch into butterflies. While the kids waited, they read books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

Suddenly a chrysalis began to vibrate! And then another! And another! The kids got so excited, they began to vibrate themselves. Then the first butterfly broke free. Its wings were soft and crumpled. It was tried from all that hard work but slowly unfolded its wings to dry.

Soon the first butterfly had four companions. Ms. Flaherty dipped some carnations in sugar water so the butterflies could have something to eat.

The kids knew they were going to have to let the butterflies go free. Sometimes it's hard to let go of something or someone important. So all the kids wrote goodbye letters to the Painted Ladies.

Last Thursday was the Big Day. The kids gathered in a circle in the schoolyard's Science Garden. They each took turns saying goodbye. Some of the kids read their letters. Others said, "I'll miss you!" Or, "Have a nice trip!"

Then Ms. Flaherty opened the cage and the first butterfly crawled onto her finger. All the kids hoped a butterfly would come to them and sometimes it did!

And then they were off. "Goodbye butterfly." "Have a nice trip!"

This is already a long post. So we'll publish some of the kids' butterfly letters another time soon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Buildings are Taking Shape!

While Ms. Meadows' third graders are busy learning about the different countries visiting our blog, and Ms. Murphy's second grade class is working on its book on construction workers, and so many of our students are taking MCAS this week, the construction company has been busy doing their work too.

Wow, things have really been happening. Just take a look!

Now there are also buildings that are made of wood, not just ones of steel. What's going on? Why are they different? It's time to Ask the Experts!

But before we do, just take a look at the views some of our residents will have from their new homes!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's the Culture Alert!

Ms. Alert's third grade class is studying culture. They are reading books, thinking and talking about what it means to have a culture. What kind of customs and practices make up a culture. How all these things help create people's ideas and attitudes and make them who they are.

When Ms. Goodman, Perkins' author-in-residence, heard about these lessons, she knew she had something to contribute. She brought one of her books to read to the class. Chopsticks for My Noodle Soup is the story of 5-year old Eliza who moved with her family from the United States to live in a jungle village in Malaysia for a year.

The kids in Ms. Alert's class discovered that kids in Malaysia (and all over the world) do the same kinds of things each day, but they often do them differently. People in Malaysia live in houses of course, but many of them on stilts. And the people prefer to sit on the floor instead of couches. Eliza ate rice for breakfast instead of the cereal she would have had at home. The kids at Perkins thought that was weird at first but then they realized it was just different. And that rice is pretty tasty! They thought that having a toilet in a separate little house was odd too, but they were definitely jealous that kids could buy as much candy as they wanted at school!

Noticing that the kids in Ms. Alert's class looked like a mini-United Nations, Ms. Goodman asked how many of them had parents who had not been born in the U.S. Close to half of them raised their hands. Then she asked how many of them had grandparents who hadn't been born here and even more hands reached toward the ceiling!

That was when the Culture Alert Project was born. After MCAS, the kids are going to learn even more about different cultures by interviewing their own families and sharing the results.

Stay posted!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tracking Our Visitors: Another Geography Lesson

Here's the map again--the one that identifies where in the world our blog visitors come from. Perhaps you remember that the kids from Ms. Meadows' third grade class are researching each one of these countries and some of the amazing things that happen in them.

Georgia, for example, learned that the world's largest insect egg comes from this Malaysian stick bug. The egg is about the size of a peanut!

Angel learned that Spain has a national holiday on October 12th because it was the date that Christopher Columbus landed in the New World.

What other cool things have the kids learned about the world? Check it out!
(And remember to click on the pictures to make them bigger.)

And don't think this is the last post about this project. There are a lot more countries to go! By now, people in 33 countries around the world have checked out the Michael J. Perkins School Blog. How amazing is that?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Helping with the MCAS

As everyone from Massachusetts knows, Spring is the time when many of our students take the MCAS tests. Our third, fourth, and fifth graders have already taken part of the exam and will dive back in next week. Since these statewide tests measure a student's and school's performance, they can feel like a very big deal.

That's why there are new items papering the Perkins' entrance way along with its bulletin board full of announcements. The hall in encrusted with letters from parents cheering their test-taking children on. There are many lovely notes, you should see them. But we only have room to show you a few samples in this post.

(Don't forget, they are easier to read if you click on them to make them bigger.)