Monday, October 31, 2011

Middle School on This American Life

Curious how this compares with parents memories, with FSP kids experiences, with the experiences of kids in general... Wonder if we could get Linda Perlstein for P4P?

Middle School :  This American Life

Host Ira Glass interviews a 14-year old named Annie, who emailed us asking if we would do a show about middle school. She explains why exactly the middle school years can be so daunting. (4 1/2 minutes)
In an effort to understand the physical and emotional changes middle school kids experience, Ira speaks with reporter Linda Perlstein, who wrote a book called Not Much Just Chillin' about a year she spent following five middle schoolers. Then we hear from producer Alex Blumberg, who was a middle school teacher in Chicago for four years before getting into radio. Alex's takeaway? We shouldn't even try teaching kids at this age. Marion Strok, principal of a successful Chicago school, disagrees. (6 1/2 minutes)

Act Two. Stutter Step. We sent several correspondents straight to the epicenters of middle school awkwardness: School dances. Producers Lisa Pollak and Brian Reed, plus reporters Eric Mennel, Rob Wildeboer and Claire Holman spoke with kids across the country during the nervous moments leading up to the dances. And Lisa even ventured inside, to the dance itself. (9 1/2 minutes)]
When Domingo Martinez was growing up in a Mexican-American family in Texas, Domingo's two middle school aged sisters found a unique way of coping with feelings of inferiority. This story comes from Martinez's memoir The Boy Kings of Texas, which Lyons Press will publish in July 2012. (11 1/2 minutes)

Play Again- the movie

What are the consequences of a childhood removed from nature? At a time when children play more behind screens than outside, PLAY AGAIN  explores the changing balance between the virtual world and the natural world. 

Wednesday November 2nd, 7:00 - 8:30PM, Cumberland Land Trust, Cumberland Congregational Church - dessert served - FMI Call 699-2989


Monday, November 7,  2011  7:00 – 8:30 pm Breakwater School, 856 Brighton Avenue, Portland, ME - Presented by Breakwater School in collaboration with Portland Trails and The Nason’s Corner Community Park Project.To attend this FREE event, please email Molly Thompson or call 772-8689, ext. 230. (On 11/7 Producer Meg Merrill and Outreach Coordinator Greg LeMieux will be here to facilitate a discussion and answer questions following the 50-minute film.)

Note: This film is not recommended for children under 12.

What they do not value, they will not protect. And what they do not protect, they will lose.  
       ~ Charles Jordan, PLAY AGAIN

Saturday, October 29, 2011

XC into Nordic!

Wow, what a season it's been! Friends hosted our first XC meet ever on the island yesterday, with extra steps and precautions required by the state. Also participating in the meet were teams from Memorial MS (South Portland), Greely, and Southern Maine Catholic, plus one fifth grader from South Portland.

Huge thanks to XC families, who came to the island for a pre-meet trail clean-up on Saturday and also helped out at the meet itself. Whoever knew that handing kids popsicle sticks could be so stressful? The team celebrated the end of their season with pizza and a movie.

We are all so grateful to John Marble and Pete Curtis for working with the team all season in all kinds of weather. Whatever magic it is they have that gets fifteen middle schoolers out running their hearts out around our beautiful island day after day, I want some!

A reminder that the fun can continue: There is still time to sign up (grades 6 - 8) for Portland Nordic ski team. Formal practices (in a very informal way) start December 1st. There will be informal practices twice a week starting this coming week. That snowstorm is coming just in time... Find Maya, Four, or Moriah for more info about the team.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A big piece of learning from Books to Bridges

I hope others will take the time to read Annie's blog post "They Don't Get That From Me" where she reviews some of what Professor Krista Aronson presented to us about how kids learn stereotypes and prejudice.  The idea of breaking silence and exploring what kids are learning from the world seems so important for all kinds of issues, race included.  What do they know about sex/gender that might differ from our "everyone's equal" discourse.  What do they know about how we feel about the planet that might differ from our "Protect Mother Earth" bumper stickers. How do we acknowledge the dissonance that children intuit between intention and action in the adult world? How do we shape learning to better engage the hopeful possibilities than reproduce the old patterns because they were left unexamined?

All said more eloquently and concretely on Annie's post :

Monday, October 24, 2011

Parents' Forum Tuesday November 1st, 6:30 p.m.

We'll be talking about the role of the arts in our children's school: why, when, how much, what kinds, and how do we balance nurturing creativity with skills development? Christina and Celeste will be giving brief presentations on the current arts philosophy and status at FSP to start the meeting. Childcare is available by reservation, $10/child at

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Sale

We have a few books left from our book sale that seem like they might be great gifts... if you'd like a copy, talk to Kim ASAP.

What Will You Be, Sara Mee?  $16.95

After Gandhi $24.95 

The Legend of Hong Kil Dong $16.95 / 8.95

And my personal favorite baby gift : Welcoming Babies  $7.95

Welcoming Babies - book cover

For the book list of recommended titles, see Annie's blog

Play - November 2

 Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust offers "Screen time" vs. "Green time."

PLAY AGAIN - Award Winning Documentary:
First Screening in Maine will be shown at 7pm, Nov. 2nd at the Congregational Church of Cumberland - 282 Main Street, Cumberland, ME. Hosted by CCLT. Dessert and refreshments will be served. The event is FREE and Open to the Public.

Click on the link below to read the latest about this Award Winning Documentary: "Screen time" vs. "Green time."

FMI: Call 699-2989

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Implicit Bias

There is so much to debrief from last nights presentation by Anne Sibley O'Brien and Krista Aronson.  They were truly brilliant!  I will post more notes and links later but will start with the implicit bias test that was mentioned several times.

This study, out of Harvard, measures rapid responses from individuals attempting to capture our unconscious preferences, attitudes, and biases.  This is important for two reasons.  One is that many people know in their conscious mind that discrimination is unfair (and illegal) and would never intentionally practice bias but might be unwittingly making snap decisions and judgements that go unexamined because of an assumption that "I'm not prejudiced."  If we recognize that we might, in fact, carry unconscious bias and that it is not our fault (initially) we might take more responsibility for examining our histories, our stories and our prejudices without guilt and shame but with ummph for aligning our intention and our action.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Books as Bridges, tonight

Register before noon to save a seat!  

Reflecting on our Parenting for Peace series helps me better understand my parenting stance today.  Susan Linn introduced is to the importance of pretend play (free from corporate influence);  Sandra Steingraber pushed us to become activists in the environmental health movement; David Sobel reminded us of the important of "Wild Play" for our kids (and ourselves); and Alfie Kohn encouraged us to practice democracy and compassion within our families and schools.  (Use the comments to suggest speakers for next year!).  Although I do not do all these things well, I've tried to incorporate much of the overall theme (more open space, less corporate influence) into my families lives.

I think that our time with Anne Sibley O'Brien and Krista Aronson might feel different from these earlier lectures.  Although we are likely to still leave inspired, thinking a little bit differently, and more connected to our community (goals of the overall program), our whole selves enter the conversation about race and racism in a way that we haven't had to before.  That is, the focus is not simply on what we can do for our children, but also on what we might learn about ourselves.  We all have unique experiences and racial identities and yet we also all swim in shared waters now.  Here at FSP we have a commitment to fairness, equality, acknowledging the light in everyone and doing what we can to have individual gifts shine.  Learning how to talk about race with our kids, and ultimately how to help dismantle racism, is part of that overall project of building inclusive communities. I welcome this prompt and hope that we have ongoing opportunities to learn from each other about personal identity and patterns of inclusion/exclusion for a long time.

We have had a great response to this program - unless causeway traffic is too frustrating we expect we might have a full house - come early, shop the book sale, and enjoy the company!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Singapore Math Gets Praise

Letter: 'Reform' mathematics is not the only answer | The Forecaster
Eva J. Szillery PhD praises Singapore Math, the curriculum used at FSP. She is the Maine State Director of the Mathematical Association of America and shared her views as part of a larger set of letters surrounding Portland Schools process for choosing a math program.

Eva also recently sent out information about opportunities to participate in a National Math Competition:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- PRESS RELEASE Free To Students -- American Mathematics Competitions coming to USM Portland, Husson University and Umaine at Presque Isle NOVEMBER 15, 2011

The American Mathematics Competitions ( AMC ) is the oldest and most prestigious nationwide mathematics competition in the United States. It started in 1950 and it is and has been the exclusive pathway for a student to advance to the USA Mathematical Olympiad. Activities like the American Mathematics competitions organized by the Mathematical Association of America allow and encourage students to excel in an academic sphere. The contest is a rewarding experience where mathematical curiosity and skill are stimulated. AMC is designed to inspire an interest in mathematics that will lead to academic success, scholarship and a rewarding career. Competence in mathematics and mathematical understanding lead to success and an enriched life. For Maine students, The Advanced Structures and Composites Center and DeepCwind Consortium offers a paid internship for the two top scoring high school students of the AMC 10 or AMC 12 Competition. Interns at the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center gain hands on work experience on cutting edge engineering and science programs. Each paid internship is valued at approximately $20,000 for four years.

The competition year starts on November 15th with AMC 8, the competition for grades 4-8. Students may participate at their school, if your school is registered for the competition.If your school is not registered,you may participate at the following locations: Students of age 8 through 14.5 may take AMC 8 at University of Southern Maine in Portland –Payson Smith Hall, Room 303 starting at 1:15 pm. The parents and children may first come to Payson Smith Hall, Room 301A if they arrive before 1:15 pm. Room 301A will be used for a reception/waiting area from 12:45 - 2:30 pm. Parents may wait there for their children to complete the exam. These rooms are adjacent to each other. AMC 8 at these locations is free of charge (the registration has been paid by USM.

Space is limited. If you have a student who’d benefit from participating, please call or e-mail Eva Szillery at

Friday, October 14, 2011

Listen to Anne Sibley O'Brien talk about Parenting for Peace

on 207

She is so smart - I can't wait to hear her whole talk -- and Krista Aronson has a brilliant reputation too!

We are worried that we might reach capacity - please preregister if you plan to come

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Robin Brooks Op-Ed

Teacher and parent voices are missing in learning accountability debate
By Robin Brooks, Special to the BDN
Posted Oct. 10, 2011, at 6:13 p.m.
The debate about education is heating up again, with editorials from the Bangor Daily News (Sept. 13) and others suggesting ways to improve our public schools.

Some of the measures being discussed, including merit pay and more stringent teacher evaluation tools, already are being implemented thanks to financial incentives from the Obama administration. The expressed intent of these reforms is to make teachers “more effective” (Read: improve test scores).

The Augusta school board already has implemented a merit pay system with a maximum $4,000 bonus going to principals, administrators and the superintendent for increasing scores on high-stakes tests and making annual yearly progress toward the proficiency goals of No Child Left Behind, our federal education law.

Advocates of merit pay claim that if only our public schools were run more like businesses, with pay bonuses going to highly effective employees, then our schools somehow would produce children capable of grappling with the demands of our complex 21st century world.

But the research on such measures is inconclusive at best. In the 2010-2011 school year, my elementary school had a 30 percent turnover in our student body from September to June. What this suggests to me is an extreme level of instability in families who are struggling just to maintain basic human needs such as food and shelter. It is no wonder our school did not achieve annual yearly progress in 2011 because of attendance, never mind our students’ test scores.

Blatantly missing from the national debate on education is the passionate voices of teachers and parents, not to mention the children who have been suffering for too long under the oppressive testing regime that dominates today’s classrooms.

Ask the teachers and they will tell you that it is the culture of high-stakes testing that is the real problem. Ask the parents and they will tell you that their children are increasingly discouraged by the onerous pacing schedules and narrowed instructional focus of their children’s classrooms. But no one is asking us.

All children are born with the inborn capacity, indeed drive, to explore their environment, to make connections and to learn with joy. This is a biological fact, notwithstanding the myriad of birth defects, learning disabilities and health problems such as neglect and malnutrition that plague our children.

The arts are one of the few areas that have maintained the spirit of playful exploration and discovery in the classroom that is the innate, biological basis for authentic human learning. Sadly, many of our nation’s schools already have eliminated or greatly reduced the arts and physical education, another basic human need, in favor of “skill and drill” and test prep. Our children deserve better.

We need our children to establish habits of inquiry, to develop their capacities as creative and critical thinkers and to work collaboratively with their peers to solve problems. Some higher education officials are speaking out to say that our children are ill prepared for the rigors of college for want of these skills.

Children must be allowed to connect mind and heart as they follow their educational journey. It is past time for President Barack Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Congress to relegate No Child Left Behind to the dustbin of history. If we are truly committed to improving education for all children across our nation, we need to renew our respect for teachers and join in nascent efforts to remove the yoke of high-stakes testing from the backs and necks of our children.

Please visit and and consider joining the grass-roots effort to save our schools.

Robin Brooks is an artist and art teacher who lives in Topsham with her husband, who also is a teacher, and their son. Her work can be seen at

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Natalie McMaster at Chocolate Church

Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy, Masters of the Fiddle, will be on our stage on FRIDAY November 4th at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets have been flying out the door this week, and this show is headed to a sell-out!  Don't wait!  It's not too late - there are still some left, but you need to call NOW (442-8455) or go online to purchase them at Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 at the door - although we doubt there will be any available at the door!  Don't miss your chance to see this amazing Celtic duo and the step-dancing that comes with it too!

Farms and Fables -

"Of Farms and Fables combines the efforts of professional and non-professional artists by engaging artists in farm work and farm workers in storytelling and acting. The result will be an original performance in October of 2011 which will engage performers and audience in dialogue about local agriculture, farming, and the future of small family farms in Maine."

Farms & Fables
written by Cory Tamler
directed by Jennie Hahn
    Thursday, October 27, 7 pm
    Friday, October 28, 7 pm
    Saturday, October 29, 2 pm
    Saturday, October 29, 7 pm
    Sunday, October 30, 2 pm
    Camp Ketcha
    336 Black Point Road
    Scarborouth, Maine  04074
Tickets and Reservations:
    Tickets are $15 or Pay-What-You-Can
    For Reservations, please visit:
    For Information, please call:  (207) 200-6982

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


 Lee truly fires kids up!

How to Color Fire
Green fire is easy to make and doesn't require any hard-to-find chemicals.
Green fire is easy to make and doesn't require any hard-to-find chemicals.Anne Helmenstine

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

1 week until P4P

Preregister for Books as Bridges : Children's Literature and Anti-Racism Education now - seats are limited! 

And, as a teaser, check out the prejudice reduction program Roots of Empathy coming out of Canada.  This program brings babies into classrooms:
At the heart of the program are a neighbourhood infant and parent who visit the classroom every three weeks over the school year. A trained Roots of Empathy Instructor coaches students to observe the baby's development and to label the baby's feelings. In this experiential learning, the baby is the "Teacher" and a lever, which the instructor uses to help children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others. This "emotional literacy" taught in the program lays the foundation for more safe and caring classrooms, where children are the "Changers". They are more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy) and are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically and emotionally hurt each other through bullying and other cruelties. In the Roots of Empathy program children learn how to challenge cruelty and injustice. Messages of social inclusion and activities that are consensus building contribute to a culture of caring that changes the tone of the classroom. The Instructor also visits before and after each family visit to prepare and reinforce teachings using a specialized lesson plan for each visit. Research results from national and international evaluations of Roots of Empathy indicate significant reductions in aggression and increases in pro-social behaviour.
Read more about the program and watch founder Mary Gordon's TedxTalk at Greater Good

Marjorie Burns Knight & Anne Sibley O'Brien's book Welcoming Babies is a great bridge book for kids, drawing on this innate response to babies (Tilbury House shares a teachers note).  Book sale / program attendees will have the opportunity to buy their own signed copy - an awesome baby gift and a book that even big kids love to read. 

Meet Zoe Weil

Zoe Weil, founder of the Institute for Humane Education, will be in Falmouth on Thursday night - if you'd like to meet her, chat about FSP with like minded folks, and learn more about the Institute, email Kim for more info!

Zoe's Tedx Talk :

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bradbury & Pineland

What beautiful albeit chilly weather we're going to have for these fall outings!

Outing Club hike at Bradbury Mountain this afternoon - yeah for dry weather!

Family Meet-Up @ Pineland (meet at Smokehouse @ 10am) tomorrow (in-service day) - a great chance to connect with other families and to learn about the animals!  The Y is having a share-a-visit pass -- if anyone wants to go swimming or bowling afterward, try to find a Ymember to give you a pass!  Families with older children might still enjoy exploring the trails and cheese samples and meeting others for lunch.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Chris Van Dusen at Longfellow Books!

Chris Van Dusen at Longfellow Books!

The day is nearly upon us ... cancel any plans, round up the kids, grab a coffee and treat at Foley's Bakery and then come meet one of the masters of children's books, Chris Van Dusen. Chris will read from his newest book, the hilarious King Hugo's Huge Ego and will be signing copies for all his fans! Plus, we'll have juice and cookies for all! If you have kids, like kids or just kind of want to pretend to be a kid again for a little while, join the fun Saturday, October 8th at 1:00 back in the kids room at Longfellow Books.

Contra Dance for Habitat for Humanity

If you loved the contra dancing - or your kids did - at last week's potluck, there is an opportunity to connect with Habitat for Humanity while dancing again:
Contra Dance:   Would you prefer to strap on your dancing shoes rather than your tool belt?  You're in luck!  The Women Build Kick Off event will continue into the evening!  From 6pm-9pm on Oct. 29th, the Women Build Steering Committee will be hosting a family-friendly Contra Dance at the Freeport Community Center.  Packed with music, desserts, dancing and prizes this is sure to be fun for the whole family.  Every ticket sale will contribute to the construction of the Women Build house on South St.  Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children, 12 and under and can be purchased at the door.  Costumes are welcome and encouraged! 
Last year the 1-2 and 3-4 classrooms did a year long service learning project with Habitat for Humanity and both Kate and I were impressed and moved by the work being done.  Check out more at

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Niobe Way - Portland Public Library

Niobe Way's new book Deep Secrets has been getting a lot of press attention, and she's live in Portland on October 20th!

( ** It would be so interesting to have a follow conversation about ways that FSP allows boys friendships to develop or ways that cultural constraints still make it difficult for boys in their preteen years- Maya, maybe a sexism and stereotypes forum sometime?)

The Maine Boys Network (educational group affiliated with Boys to Men) is co-hosting an exciting event here in Portland. Come join author and NYU professor of Applied Psychology, Niobe Way, most recently featured in the New York Times, to learn about ground breaking findings that will challenge long-held stereotypes about boys and men.

Thursday, October 20th, 7-9pm  ~  Portland Public Library

The presentation will be followed by a question and answer period with author Niobe Way.

Please RSVP by October 14 as space is limited

Admission is free with donations accepted at the door

Hosted by Boys to Men, Colby College, Great Schools Partnership, Maine Boys Network
and the Portland Public Library

New Yorker Excerpt here

New York Times Learning Network Section