Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Behind the scenes at Rec & Ed's "Lead, Care, Inspire" brainstorm

Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director, Community Education and Recreation

August 26 was a special Opening Day for Staff in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Instead of the traditional district-wide gathering at Pioneer High School, Superintendent Swift asked all schools and departments to work in their buildings to explore the 2014-15 AAPS theme: Lead, Care, Inspire. (See photos from around the district here.)

Soon you'll be seeing this spiffy logo around
the school district!
I was eager to engage Rec & Ed staff in a discussion around these words. Since we focus on out-of-school time rather than in-school time, our take on the theme was bound to be different from our instructional colleagues'. 

We started by watching a video of Dr. Swift explaining the theme for 2014 - 2015. View the video here.

We divided into 3 groups and rotated through Lead, Care and Inspire "stations" for discussion. The central question at each station: How does this theme apply to our work at Rec & Ed, thinking of both our external service to the community and our internal organizational culture?

Marj Hyde, Coordinator of First Steps,
writes comments at the "Care" station.
Team Sports Specialist Sean Williams
presents results from the "Lead" station.
Not surprisingly, we ended up with numerous comments focused on our work to build community and promote wellbeing for all ages -- through friendly, enthusiastic service; being inclusive; and providing high quality programs.

We summarized all of our responses into the Wordle below. The size of the words is correlated with how many times staff mentioned that word. To me, these words match perfectly with Rec & Ed's mission -- to enhance the quality of life in our community through education and recreation. 

Key words from brainstorming this question: 
How does the theme "Lead, Care, Inspire" apply
to our work at Rec & Ed?

Our next step is to discuss ways to incorporate these ideas and aspirations more intentionally into our everyday work.

As Dr. Swift said, August 26 was a great day in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. I'm so proud that Rec & Ed was part of it. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rec & Ed campers fight hunger at Food Gatherers

Rec & Ed’s Summer Learning Institute campers took a field trip to Food Gatherers in July to learn about hunger and how they can fight it. Each camper brought a non-perishable item to donate to the Food Gatherers’ pantry. 

Food Gatherers staff person Mary Schlitt began the educational tour with Kid President’s “5 Things That Make Summer Awesome” video. This short video starts with funny thoughts on summer and ends with facts about the 21 million American children who are experiencing hunger this summer. For every “view” of this video, ConAgra gave a contribution to Feeding America. 

SLI Campers pose inside the new
Food Gatherers warehouse.

Campers learned that all different people experience hunger in our community. 

“Hungry people sometimes look like us and sometimes don't,” said a third grade camper. “You don't know if a person is hungry or not.” 

The most exciting part of the trip was visiting the Gathering Farm, located directly in front of the building. Food Gatherers grows a carefully selected array of vegetables to meet the nutritional needs of their clients and ensure high yields. Campers learned about the farm and picked radishes for Food Gatherers to use in their food distribution. 

Two campers showed off their harvest.
Picking radishes was a fun group activity.

At the end of the visit, Ms. Schlitt reminded campers of the three ways they fought hunger: by watching the Kid President video, donating a non-perishable item, and picking radishes. 

“Learning that people – including children -- in our community are hungry was a profound experience,” said Vickie Malcolm, the Rec & Ed coordinator who oversees the camp. 

“They left feeling empowered that they could fight hunger too, by teaching others about the problem, donating and volunteering.”

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Singa-blog 3: We get digested at the Science Center Singapore

This is one in a series of blog posts about Executive Director Jenna Bacolor's study trip to Singapore as part of the AAPS Toyota STEAM Delegation. (See part 1 here and part 2 here.)

The Science Center of Singapore (SCS) has all the bells, whistles and dinosaurs that you'd expect in a world-class science facility. As part of the Singapore Ministry of Education, both the center and its extensive enrichment programs are funded by the government and are free or low-cost for students (yes, I had a jealous moment). We visited one of the special enrichment programs, Science Ahoy!, as part of our visit. 

How enrichment fits into the Singaporean STEM "Theory of Success"

Singaporeans are excellent conceptual model-makers. This slide shows how STEM enrichment (shown in arrows pointing to the central model) contributes to their Theory of Success. 

This model impressed me because it shows a reinforcing loop between student's aspiration for STEM careers and a positive impact on the economy. 

The Science Center of Singapore's "STEM Inc." enrichment
programs are valued aspects of its Theory of Success.

And...we are chewed up and spit out

Our visit to the Science Center included a trip through The Human Body Experience, a large, accurate, educational body model. Let me tell you, there were some tight squeezes! 

Brave AAPS teachers start the exhibit by
climbing into the giant mouth. 
Inside the interactive heart.

An unidentified AAPS staff person
became stuck in the digestive system.
We rescued him safely. 
Somehow, being inside this huge human body replica brought out some of the more, say, playful urges among a few people in our delegation. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Genealogy class leads Rec & Ed staff person to famous British leader

Guest Blogger Sally Searls, Lifelong Learning Coordinator and Genealogy student

I admit it -- I'm a casual genealogist. So casual that I probably shouldn't use the word "genealogist."

So when I discovered a letter linking British leader Oliver Cromwell to my 6th great grandfather, Governor of Barbados Daniel Searle, I was ecstatic! The document also provided critical information I've been researching for years, including Searle's wife's name and where they might have lived in England. 

A 1656 portrait of Oliver Cromwell,
"Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of
England, Ireland and Scotlant" painted
by Samuel Cooper.  Source: Wikipedia. 
The first person I wanted to share my find with was Katherine Willson, our Genealogy instructor at Rec & Ed. I took Katherine's Genealogy 101 class in 2012. At the time, I was searching for more information about Daniel Searle. Katherine gave me many ideas on where and how to search. Since then, every once in a while, I would use her "query" tip with his name to see what I could fine. (Did I mention that I'm a very casual investigator.) 

Katherine's response to my discovery was super: "This is FANTASTIC!!!! What a find!!! WOO-HOOOOO!!!! I'm so happy for you!"

This is just what Katherine's classes are like -- supportive, fun and informative. 

I'm not the only participant who feels this way. Here are some comments from other people who've taken her classes:

"Katherine is organized, patient, goes through all the steps many times as long as it takes to understand."

"Excellent -- always answered everyone's questions. Handouts are great and will help when class is over."

"Katherine was so patient with individual students and would help us individually via email."

Not only is Katherine helpful, but students in the classes support each other with ideas and suggestions. I encourage everyone who has an interest in finding out about their ancestors to take Katherine's class. 

If you're inspired to explore more branches of your family tree, take Katherine Willson's Genealogy 101 or 201 this fall. On-line registration for both classes begins August 18.

Genealogy 101 is for the beginner or is a great refresher if you haven't done research in a while. She covers resources such as the census, family charts, cemetery data and national archives. I started doing family research in 1975, then put it away for years, so I was delighted to find out how much is available via the internet and other new resources. Many people take 101 several times just for the support from Katherine and the other students.

As I become more involved in researching my family, I plan to take Genealogy 201. This class focuses on solving road blocks that students have hit in their research and more in-depth resources. I know that Katherine will provide the support and information about resources that I need. 

And if any of you have information about Governor Daniel Searle, or are a Searle, Searles, or Searls, contact me - we might be related!