Teacher Appreciation: A Tasty Twist

By Anja Filan, corps member serving on the Bank of America team

Whether it be teaching their classes, conferencing with parents, planning lessons, or meeting with students during lunch and recess, teachers are constantly on the move. Because we all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, what better way to thank teachers than by providing them with a well-balanced, healthy start the day?

Overnight Oats are easy to make and filled with fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and, most importantly, are absolutely delicious! Below is the recipe for this healthy, hearty, and delicious breakfast treat—a perfect entrée for a teacher appreciation breakfast!

Chocolate Cake Batter Overnight Oats
(Adapted from Rabbit Food for my Bunny Teeth)

Photo by thebittenword.com (source: flickr)

Photo by thebittenword.com (source: flickr)

2 cups whole rolled oats
2 cups almond milk (or milk of your choice)
4 ripe bananas
4 tbsp chia seeds
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tbsp maple syrup, honey, or agave
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Mix all of the ingredients until blended; then, leave in the fridge overnight. When you take them out in the morning they’ll be a bit more dense and solidified, and should resemble oatmeal. You can either warm them on the stove for 10 minutes on medium-low heat, or eat them cold.

Don’t have chia seeds? Not to worry! You can add flax seeds, hemp hearts, or leave out the seeds all together. Sometimes, I add toasted sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans or almonds for a little extra protein.

If your school is a nut-free environment, you could substitute dates, figs, or apples! The great thing about Overnight Oats is that variation possibilities are endless. Adding fruits, seeds, nuts, berries, or sweeteners of all sorts will not change the consistency and will allow you to put your own special touch on your breakfast creation!

A strong breakfast packed with protein, carbs, fiber, and Omega-3’s will give your teachers a powerful start to the morning. What better way to express gratitude than providing your teachers with the tools to kick-start their day with some power foods!

About the author:
Anja Filan is a 2013-2014 corps member serving on the Bank of America team at Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot K-8 School in Mattapan. 

What Are You Thankful For?

By Rebecca Leclerc

Photo by Golshan Jalali

Photo by Golshan Jalali

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I was curious to find out what the City Year Boston community is thankful for. I asked students, corps members, school faculty and school partners what they are grateful for and these are some of the answers I received:

“I’m thankful for being alive and all the things I have, even if they’re not always the things I want.”
-5th grade student at the Trotter Elementary School

“I’m thankful for all the things our school has, like snack and going outside, because not all schools have them.”
-3rd grade student at the Trotter Elementary School

“I’m thankful for my team for becoming my family when I’m so far away from my own.”
-Ashby Gaines, corps member serving on the Wellington Management team at Trotter Elementary School

“I’m thankful for my life and all the things my mom and dad have done for me.”
-5th grade student at the Trotter Elementary School

“I’m thankful for all the positive energy in my life.”
-Playworks Coach, Coach TK

“I’m thankful for a great start to this year of service and for being able to participate in my fourth year of service.”
-Abe Fox, Program Manager for the Wellington Management team at Trotter Elementary School School.

“I’m thankful for each new day and all the new opportunities offered to me every day.”
-Krystal Figueroa, corps member serving on the Wellington Management team at Trotter Elementary School

“I’m thankful for my family and being able to go to school.”
-6th grade student at Dearborn School

“I’m thankful for my family for always giving me the opportunities to pursue my dreams and goals. I’m thankful for my students, because I am learning so much from them everyday. And lastly, I’m thankful for my City Year team, friends and boyfriend for supporting me everyday.”
-Kim Schneider, corps member serving on the PTC team at Dearborn School

“I’m thankful for Thanksgiving day and the beautiful and delicious abundance of vegetables and grains I can prepare for my family and friends.”
-Ms. Cante, Teacher at Trotter Elementary School

“I’m thankful for being able to play football.”
-5th grade student at Trotter Elementary School

“I’m thankful for coming to City Year and entering a warm and open group of people who share a common goal and look out for one another.”
-Phylicia Bischof, corps members serving on the Bank of America team at Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot K-8 School

“I’m thankful for my fellow 5th grade corps member and the support she offers me in our afterschool program. I’m thankful we balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
-Emily Zinger, corps member serving on the Wellington Management team at Trotter Elementary School

About the author:
Rebecca Leclerc is a 2013-2014 corps member serving on the Wellington Management team at Trotter Elementary School.

5 Tips for Designing Bulletin Boards

By Anja Filan

“What’s an attenda-sauras-rex?” a fifth grade student at Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot K-8 School asked as he passed a new City Year bulletin board. Hearing students’ conversations about bulletin boards is a reminder of just how engaging these carefully designed displays can be.

Designing an effective bulletin board that keeps students interested can be quite the challenge, however. Here are five ways you can design a bulletin board that will keep your students engaged:

Location, Location, Location
Where you hang your bulletin board is just as important as what you put on it.  Location can make or break a bulletin board’s effectiveness. An engaging bulletin board must be located somewhere with high  foot traffic. Always make sure that students can easily see and access the bulletin board if necessary. 

Visual interest is the key to keeping children engaged. An engaging bulletin board should be colorful and captivating. A colorful bulletin board will be sure to turn the heads of students passing by. If your aim is to catch eyes and grab students’ attention then use bright colors, which will be just as captivating as your text. If your board is informative, keep colors simple to draw eyes directly to the text. If your board is carefully themed make sure that your colors correspond to your theme.

Themed bulletin boards are fun to read and can sometimes help carry academic lessons into hallway displays. But be sure to think outside of the box and look for themes beyond seasons, holidays and lesson plans. At Young Achievers, for example, our “Attenda-saurus-rex” themed board encourages students to save knowledge from extinction by attending school.

Display Student Work
An engaging bulletin board should contain some student word. Students can be motivated by public recognition. Knowing that their hard work is on display for the whole school to see makes bulletin boards more exciting and interactive within the school community.

Thought Provoking
Bulletin boards that leave students thinking by asking questions or offer open-ended responses are engaging and interactive. Students will make their way back to the board to reread questions, consider possible answers, and will continue thinking about the board even after they walk away. On one of our English language arts boards, we challenged students to use their detective skills to solve a mystery. After reading through information on the board, students may gather clues and submit written predictions to a small bag attached to the board.

For Bulletin Board inspiration, check out:

About the author:
Anja Filan is a 2013-2014 corps member serving on the Bank of America team at Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot K-8 School in Mattapan. 

Five Ways to Make Every Day Earth Day

By Colin Stoecker
Colin Stoecker is 2012-2013 corps member serving on the Bank of America team at the Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot K-8 School in Mattapan.

The school gardens in early spring.

The school garden in early spring.

At the Young Achievers K-8 Science and Math Pilot School in Mattapan, almost every grade completes an environmental stewardship project. On Earth Day, students come together to pick up trash and collect recycling around their school. Below are several other “green” initiatives that help us inspire our students to become environmentally-friendly citizens. We hope you’ll share these projects with your students to help them make a tangible impact on their own communities.

  1. Recycling. The recycling initiative with the seventh graders started at Young Achievers this year and is part of a larger initiative withing the Boston Public Schools system. Every week, the students fill the 10 blue, 32-gallon recycling bins with paper and cardboard. As a whole, the school recycles about 300 gallons of paper a week. “Recycling is a way for [the] seventh graders to take accountability for their school and planet while exercising leadership,” Ian Philbrick, a corp members assisting the initiative, said.
  2. Gardening. As part of their environmental stewardship, the first grade grows salad greens in the gardens behind the school in the spring to be eaten by the school community at the end of the year. The third grade also plants a “three-sisters garden” (a traditional Native American way of planting corn, beans, and squash together). The gardens are part of a yearlong study that teaches the students how food gets from the farm to the market.
  3. Understanding Water Conservation and Ecosystems. Water conservation is also an important 21st century issue. As a part of their life sciences unit, the seventh graders are studying water conservation and growing salmon from egg to fish. The seventh and eight graders also take an annual trip to Thompson Island to participate in education and awareness programs centered on marshes and tidal ecosystems.
  4. Studying Wildlife. Young Achievers scholars also participate in a number of outdoor immersion projects throughout the year, mostly in conjunction with the Boston Nature Center. Kindergarten through second grade participate in insect collection and study the gardens at the Nature Center, allowing them an opportunity to experience the environment in a hands-on way.
  5. Planting Trees. The fifth and eighth grades have planted trees at Boston Nature Center and have been a part of their community orchard project in past years.  Bo Hoppin ,  Experimental Education Coordinator, said that in his hard efforts to make Young Achievers a “greener” place, progress has been made and continues to be made.  Despite challenges like trash accumulation on the playground from litter and wind-blown trash, the Green Boston Schoolyard Initiative built three green areas around Young Achievers in the last two years. Also, the Young Achievers Wellness Committee has planted about 20 fruit and 30 shade trees around the school grounds in the last two years.

Many of these school-wide ideas grow out of the teachers, faculty, and groundskeeper’s pride in the school and its surrounding community, and is attempting to instill this love for the environment in their students.

Book Review: Silent Star

Reviewed by Colin Stoecker
Colin Stoecker is a 2012-2013 corps member serving on the Bank of America team at the Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot K-8 School in Mattapan.

Many of our students are avid baseball fans—a side-effect to living in Red Sox nation.  To spark our students’ interest in reading we began looking for baseball themed books. Silent Star by Bill Wise is an enthralling account of major league Washington Nationals player, William Hoy. With impressionist-style illustrations by Adam Gustavson, and a thrilling biographical portrayal of the deaf player’s struggles and triumphs, the book is a must read for children and adults alike.

William Hoy was born in Houcktown, Ohio, and was not born deaf. He lost his hearing at age 3 after a serious case of childhood Meningitis. He attended the Ohio School for the Deaf in Columbus, and it was there that he developed a love for baseball. After graduating from high school and becoming a shoemaker, Hoy began playing in the minor league. Eventually he was recognized by the major league and was drafted to play for the Washington Nationals.

The book touches on the larger themes of growing up with a physical disability as well as discussing how challenging it is for deaf athletes to break into professional sports. For example, Hoy had to reply on lip reading to learn what call the umpire had made. Pitchers took advantage of this by throwing quick back-to-back pitches when Hoy’s head turned away from the pitcher’s mound.

During his career as an outfielder, Hoy became the first player to throw out three runners at home plate in a single game. Because fans knew Hoy couldn’t hear them, they showed their appreciation by throwing confetti and waving wildly.

Hoy’s story is one of overcoming adversity and winning recognition as well as forging a place for him and other deaf athletes in professional sports. In addition to teaching young readers to persevere and chase their dreams, Silent Star teaches students to be empathetic and strive to not to judge others.

Fighting the Holiday Jitters

By Colin Stoecker
Colin Stoecker is a 2012-2013 corps member serving on the Bank of America team at the Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot K-8 School in Mattapan.

Small group mentoring at the Young Achievers School.

Small group mentoring at the Young Achievers School.

With winter recess approaching, the energy in our school is one of excitement and sheer happiness. Everyone loves a positive school climate; however, sometimes it can be difficult for hard work and concentration to thrive in this environment. The children have waited an entire year for the end of December and the celebrations that follow, and no one wants to be the Grinch in the classroom. But how do you balance this excitement while keeping the students focused? This article offers a few ideas from teachers and school partners to help keep students engaged in learning.

Victoria Laboy, 4th grade teacher at the Young Achievers School said she likes to “keep curriculum focused and engaging.” She stressed the importance of following the normal routine and keeping the work challenging. But she added that it helps to “keep things moving by doing shorter work periods, but with more of a variety of activities.”

Another challenge educators face is the holiday slump where attendance drops as families leave early for holiday vacations. The Bank of America team serving at Young Achievers has planned some holiday incentives, such as a winter dance to help prevent this annual drop in attendance. By rewarding students who have perfect attendance, this VIP dance encourages students to stay in school until the official winter recess begins. Other holiday incentives that encourage attendance include greeting students in the morning with cups of hot chocolate, or hosting holiday parties in your classroom right before vacation begins.

“Exciting incentives always help make students want to come to school,” Amy Steingart, a corps member serving at the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, said. Merit parties promote a positive school climate. Celebrating students’ good behavior and achievements, not only make the students feel proud of themselves, it gives them something to look forward to before winter recess.

Books to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month

By Eric Howell
Eric Howell is a 2012-2013 corps member serving on the Bank of America team at the Young Achiever’s K-8 Math and Science Pilot School in Mattapan.

Did you know that November is Native American Heritage Month? One way to introduce your students to Native American history and culture is through reading. Here are five books to help you start the conversation:

A Kid’s Guide to Native American History by Yvonne Wakim Dennis
This book is full of great information, activities, games and crafts that introduce children to many aspects of Native American culture.  The work explores many geographical regions, diving into a variety of communities and tribes throughout the United States.

A Kid’s Guide to Native American History also describes the people, events and happenings that helped to shape America both from the Native American and English viewpoints.

Notable events and Native American figures are discussed, along with their contributions to the culture as a whole. Topics include: Navajo code talkers, Native American removal and the Trail of Tears and  the first Native interactions with European settlers.

The book is especially child-friendly, covering topics that appeal to them (such as arts, games, food, clothing and celebrations).  The book  interacts with kids more on their level as well as commanding their interest by allowing them to experience elements of Native American culture and history through easy-to-understand and hands-on activities.

Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation by John Ehle
This book explores the history of one of the most influential and significant events in Native American history:  the forced evacuation during the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which came to be known as “The Trail of Tears.”

Illuminating several aspects of the Cherokee nation, this text explores religion, legend and lore to deliver to the reader a dramatic tale that shaped not only Native American culture, but also played a vital role in the early interactions between Native American peoples and the settlers.

Spirit of the New England Tribes: Indian History and Folklore, 1620-1984 by William S. Simmons
This book would be a great read for anyone interested not only in Native American legends, myths and stories, but also how those examples of folklore have evolved through the cultures of major Native American groups in the New England region.

The book spans the earliest interactions with European settlers to the present detailing of how those events helped shape Native American folklore. Based on a variety of sources including unpublished manuscripts, local and personal histories and first-hand anthropological research studies, this book would be amazing for a reader looking to go beyond the “what” of Native American stories and explore more of the “how” and “why.”

Turtle Island:  Tales of the Algonquin Nation by Jane Louise Curry
This book is great for anyone looking for true-to-form Native American storytelling, legends or myths.  The Algonquin are a family of tribes who were widespread across the Northeastern, North Central, and Mid-Atlantic United States and Canada.  Included within this family are tribes connected to the Massachusetts area, such as the Wampanoag. Turtle Island is a collection of over 25 tales that are sure to fascinate and delight anyone interested in Native American myth and lore.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is Dee Brown’s classic, eloquent and meticulously documented account of the destruction of the American Indian society during the second half of the nineteenth century. This controversial book is a national bestseller and has sold over four million copies in multiple editions and has been translated into seventeen languages.

Using council records, autobiographies and firsthand descriptions, Brown allows great Chiefs and warriors of the Dakota, Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne and other tribes to tell us in their own words of the series of battles, massacres and broken treaties. A unique and somewhat disturbing narrative told with force and clarity, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee tells a story that should not be forgotten, and must be retold and taught to younger generations.

For more short stories, and collections of Native American myths and parables, click here.

Thank You, City Year: Appreciation from the Students We Serve

Created by City Year AmeriCorps members Elijah Fanelli, Michaela Kinlock, and Gabe Solis. Read their full bios here.

It is hard to believe that the 2011-2012 corps year is coming to an end. With such little time left in schools, we are cherishing our last days with our students. The strong bonds that corps members and students have built this year are evident in the following excerpts and sound clips of appreciation from the students we serve.

A student at the Harbor Pilot Middle School was asked to write a long composition about his hero in preparation for the MCAS test. He chose to write about corps member Anjum Somji.

“What I admire about Ms. Anjum is how she pushes me to do work. Sometimes when I don’t want to do work, she sits down and talks to me. She tells me she is proud of me…She also helps me with my homework. She can’t do answers for you, she makes you do it by yourself. That’s another reason why I admire Ms. Anjum. Ms. Anjum is my personal hero…Ms. Anjum is not like Spider-man or Super-man with powers, Ms. Anjum is my friend.”

Harbor Student Hero Essay

Click on the image above to read the full version of this student’s hero essay

Below, a 6th grade student at Young Achievers K-8 Science and Mathematics School explain to Elijah what he likes about City Year:

Listen to a 7th grade Irving Middle School students talk to Gabe about their corps member, Matt Friedman:

This is the fourth installment of a monthly collaborative creative project. See last month’s project here – A City Year in Boston: The 2011-2012 Corps.

Interview: Conversations with our Students

By Elijah Fanelli, City Year AmeriCorps member serving on the Bank of America Team at Young Achievers Science and Math K-8 Pilot School.

As a City Year corps member, I serve in a 6th grade humanities classroom and help facilitate one of the Young Achievers after-school programs, HASP (Homework After-School Support Program). Through both of these settings, I have been able to watch several of my students grow both personally and academically. A few days ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of these incredible young adults. Below is the conversation we had.

Me: Hello!
S (Student)
: Hi.

Me: So, first question. What do you think City Year does best?
: I think the thing that City Year does best is they help people out with their work and also help people with difficult situations.

Me: Ok, can you give me an example of what a difficult situation might be that City Year helped you out with, or that you saw City Year help someone else with?
S: If somebody has a bad day, they’ll talk to them one on one and help them out and figure out strategies to get them through the day.

Me: Is there an area that you think City Year has personally helped you out with over the course of the year?
: Ummm…Not really…

Me: I think I’ve noticed a few huge things. One is that you’ve been getting down to work really well. Even if you get upset, you’ve been able to get back to work in just a few minutes. Remember how hard that was at the beginning of the year?
: Yeah, I guess. I have gotten better there. Continue reading

On Mission to Change the World: Transforming Passion into Action

By Elijah Fanelli, City Year AmeriCorps member serving on the Bank of America Team at Young Achievers Science and Math K-8 Pilot School.

As a senior in high school applying for colleges, I was woefully ignorant of the other options available to me. I had always been a straight shooter in life, destined to go directly from high school to a decent university, continue on to graduate level work, and then settle down into the daily grind of the working world. Sure, I had a vague understanding of what AmeriCorps was and heard mentions of City Year from NPR and my mother – who, interestingly enough, has spent most of her career working in New Haven Public Schools researching the very same attendance, behavior, and coursework interventions that I carry out here at City Year Boston. It is probable that if I weren’t so stubbornly set on following my pre-conceived “normal” educational track, I would have listened to my mother’s suggestions of taking a gap year after high school into greater consideration. Looking back on that time, I wish I had.

Bank of America Team serving at Young Achievers Science and Mathematics K-8 Pilot School

Fortunately, my path eventually did end up crossing City Year, after an successful semester-long stint in college. I entered City Year as a nineteen-year-old college dropout.

City Year has a habit of attracting passionate people—people who desperately want to change the world (see above). I am one of those people, but before joining the ranks of the Red Jacketed and khaki clad City Year corps members, I certainly did not possess the necessary skills to carry out this life mission. I did not have the organizational or logistical knowledge necessary to plan and execute an event. I did not possess the discipline to get up at 7:00AM and not get home until 9:30PM in pursuit of the change I wanted to see in the world. I did not have the perseverance to push onward when progress was non-existent, or even sliding in a negative direction.

City Year has given me these qualities – or more precisely, City Year has facilitated personal growth for me in many areas. Through the powerful City Year community, structured environment, rigorous training, and strong leadership teams, I have grown in more ways than I ever would have imagined possible in eight short months. Personally, I feel that every American citizen should give a year of service, not just to help improve the lives of others, but also to better themselves as individuals.

I entered City Year as a nineteen-year-old college dropout. I will be leaving City Year as an empowered individual with the tools necessary to successfully complete my education and launch powerfully into a life-long mission to positively change the world.

Wordless Wednesday: Historical Photos of Boston Schools

By Elijah Fanelli, City Year AmeriCorps member serving on the Bank of America Team at Young Achievers Science and Math K-8 Pilot School.

As I was browsing around online for photographs of my service site – Young Achievers – I ran across the City of Boston Archives Flickr account. Along with scores of historical photographs of schools within the Boston Public School system, there are also hundreds of photos from all over the city! Below, I compiled a collection of historical photographs of some of the buildings that City Year serves in. I encourage you to check out more photos here.

Young Achievers, formerly the Solomon Lewenberg School | Source
Young Achievers Science and Mathematics K-8 Pilot School - Mattapan, MA

Harbor Pilot Middle School, formerly the Grover-Cleavland School | Source
Harbor Pilot Middle School - Dorchester, MA
English High School | Source
English High School - Jamaica Plain, MA Continue reading

Wordless Wednesday: Ripples – Building a Community in Boston

Created by City Year AmeriCorps members Elijah Fanelli, Gabriel Solis and Michaela Kinlock. Read their full bios here.

A video interview collection chronicling the impact that City Year Boston is having on their AmeriCorps members and the teachers and schools in which they serve. This is the first installment of a monthly collaborative project submitted by contributing corps.

Wordless Wednesday: Putting Idealism To Work (PITW) – an Inspiring Infographic

By Elijah Fanelli, AmeriCorps member serving on the Bank of America team at Young Achievers Science and Math K-8 Pilot School