Author Archive

Students Design and Launch Unity Multi-Age House Program

Written by Deborah Marcus. Posted in Daily Life at Unity Charter School, Middle School, Uncategorized

by Jillianne Steelman

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On Wednesday January 28th, the students and staff celebrated the launch of multi-age houses. The five houses, Earth, Fire, Air, Life and Water, met for introductions, discussed future plans and learned house cheers. Afterwards we all gathered back in the common room to share each house chant. The house program was designed and organized completely by students of the Youth Empowerment Alliance and it was received with unanimous enthusiasm by all. Congratulations to Julia , Kira, Nova, Isadora, Julianna, Justin, Ethan, Shamaya, Caseem and Resean. You made it happen and can feel very proud of your accomplishments!

About the Author

Jillianne Steelman is in her 11th year of teaching at Unity Charter School. She has taught kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade as well as Special Education. Jillianne has been a member of the Unity community as a parent, a volunteer and a board member and is currently the Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction.

When not working, Jillianne loves to cook, write, hike, camp, and travel and dreams of completing a walking tour of Europe and zip lining through the rainforest.

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Unity Charter School. Unity Charter School is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the author.

Criminology Interest Group Students Investigate CSI Through Field Trip

Written by Deborah Marcus. Posted in Daily Life at Unity Charter School, Education, Field Trip, Interest Groups, Middle School

by Michael Braverman IMG_4920

Officer Heather Glogolich is leading a Criminology elective in the Middle School and arranged a unique field trip for 7th and 8th grade students to visit the Public Safety Complex in Morris County on January 8th. The Criminology elective is focusing on dissecting a true-life case. To date, students have learned about the role of the police and investigators, investigative procedure, Miranda rights, the function of 911, and case review procedure.

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Before the field trip, Detective Sarah Weiler from the Criminal Investigation Division visited the class at Unity to field questions with regards to the case they are currently studying. Detective Weiler is familiar with the case the students are analyzing and shared her expertise in evidence analysis for the entire period.

Students joined Officer Heather, Middle School teacher Mike Braverman and parent Susan Ilias on the trip to The Public Safety Complex, which includes the Office of Emergency Management, the Communications Center – including 911 Operations, the Crime Lab, and the Bomb Squad. In addition, this complex houses the training facilities for police and fire.

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Upon arrival, students were welcomed into the situation room of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) by OEM Coordinator Jeff Paul. Jeff spent close to an hour describing the room, the function of the room and the functions of the staff that work within the main management room. In addition, he fielded questions from the students and adults. Questions ranged from procedure and process to real life situations like Hurricane Sandy and school violence. A state trooper joined the group and was able to detail the characteristics and educational background a student would need to pursue a career in law enforcement. From there, Jeff brought the students to see the county 911 operations room and 911 operators in action. Students then bundled up and walked outside to get a tour of OEM vehicles including a mobile crime scene unit.

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The group then visited the Crime Labs with Detective Sarah Weiler and Detective Craig Brooks of the Morris County Sheriff’s Department Criminal Investigative Division. The detectives walked the students through the Crime Labs explaining evidence, fingerprints, and DNA. Students were able to see where the detectives do their crime lab work and were even able to walk through an evidence room. The students visited another part of the Labs where photographic evidence is analyzed. They met two civilian photo experts working within the OEM and learned about their backgrounds and how they could have a career within a crime lab without a law enforcement background.

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Aside from the obvious benefits from this trip such as experts sharing their expertise and watching adults inspire the students, this field trip hit upon many of the 21st Century Life and Career strands of the Common Core Standards. Students witnessed how the OEM needs to use collaboration, teamwork, intrapersonal communications, media fluency, accountability, ethics, critical thinking, problem solving and leadership. In addition, students were introduced to many different careers and learned what they needed to do in order to prepare for such a career. The careers touched on abilities in all core content subjects – language arts, mathematics, science, and social sciences.

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Students returned to school and had a Criminology class with Officer Heather. Officer Heather started the class with a video of the Junior Police Academy. In doing so, she provided the students with a tool to begin career exploration this summer as well as a link between their field trip and their future career planning. Several students in the class took applications.

The remaining four classes of Criminology will focus on the true-life case the students are studying. The class will culminate in a mock trial with half the class acting as the defense and the other half acting as the prosecution with Officer Heather playing the role of judge. Students will take their knowledge from the course, their independent research (which included a hands-on project of recreating the scene of the crime) and what they learned from this amazing field trip to present persuasive, evidence-based arguments in this simulation of a real life event.

About the Author

Michael Braverman was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston. He graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelors in Sociology. He received his masters in elementary education from Wheelock College in Boston. He taught fifth grade for six years in Natick, MA and taught fourth grade for two years in Randolph, NJ. He is currently in his eighth year at Unity, where he has taught a 4/5 classroom, middle school Science and middle school Math. Michael is also the Positive Discipline mentor for the staff as well as the middle school team leader. He has recently begun a program to obtain his supervisors certificate.

Michael has been married to his wife Diana for 10 years. They have a daughter Beau (8), a son Ty (4) and another daughter Finn (3). He loves to play sports, watch sports and coach sports. When Michael grows up, he wants to be a professional athlete.

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Unity Charter School. Unity Charter School is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the author.

Field Trip to Watch Open Heart Surgery Leaves Students In Awe

Written by Deborah Marcus. Posted in Daily Life at Unity Charter School, Education, Middle School, Uncategorized

by Marie Collinson

Have you ever wondered what a surgeon sees when he or she is performing open-heart surgery? On a recent field trip, the seventh and eighth graders from Unity found out. They had the chance to watch open-heart surgery from the surgeon’s vantage point.

The adventure began when Sherry Cicero, a recovery room nurse at MMH and mother of a seventh grader at Unity, approached Unity’s science teacher, Marie Collinson, with an idea for a field trip. Liberty Science Center has an amazing program called “Live From.” Students are able to watch a live feed of a surgical procedure from an operating room at MMH. There are several camera placements in the room, including one that is positioned directly above the operating table. And the learning doesn’t stop there: the operating room staff can see and hear the students in the theater at LSC and are able to take questions during the procedure (yes, the patient signed off on having students watch remotely).

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Sherry came to class to explain to the students what they would be seeing and to offer ideas for the types of questions they might ask (questions about salaries, for example, are frowned upon). On the day of the surgery, she was gowned up and in the operating room. She didn’t say “Hello” to her daughter, but the surgeon did! Before the procedure, an aortic valve replacement, began, he asked if Sherry’s daughter was there and had her wave her hand so he could see her.

The Unity students were wonderful: polite, respectful, clearly interested. Their questions displayed their interest: “How many of these procedures have you performed?” (about 100 per year, a few thousand altogether), “How much blood is in a person’s body?” (about 5 liters), “What made you want to go into the medical field?” (classes in high school).

For me, the most incredible part was when tubes were inserted into the heart, the profusion machine was turned on, and the heart stopped beating. Right there before our eyes, a person’s heart stopped beating. About an hour and a half later, the team started the heart up again, allowed the rhythm to stabilize, and closed the incision. So cool. Some students closed their eyes or turned away during certain portions of the surgery, but no one asked to leave the theater because of queasiness (leaving was an option).

All of us, students and adults alike, left with a sense of awe that such a thing is even possible.

About the Author

Marie Collinson was raised by a research physicist who often answered my questions with questions. That was the start of her life-long love of investigation and exploration. She has a BA in writing (with a minor in literature) and an MA in basic skills instruction and have taught college English for 26 years. She spent 10 years teaching environmental education at Fairview Lake YMCA in Sussex County before heading into the classroom to teach science: 7 years in a private school in Montclair and now 3 years at Unity. Marie is certified K-12 English, K-5 elementary education, and 6-8 science.

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Unity Charter School. Unity Charter School is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the author.

PJs, Pillows and Popcorn at the Annual Movie Night

Written by Deborah Marcus. Posted in Daily Life at Unity Charter School, Uncategorized

by Sheena Sullivan

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Friday night, January 9th, was movie night at Unity! Children dressed in pajamas, brought blankets and pillows and got comfy on the common room floor. Students enjoyed popcorn popped by Mindy and Fiona and watched Rio 2. Parents sipped on hot coffee generously donated by Alex. It was a wonderful evening. We can’t wait until next year! Thanks again to all those that attended and pitched in to make the evening a success.

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The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Unity Charter School. Unity Charter School is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the author.

Students Visit Local Pond to Study the Water Cycle in Winter

Written by Deborah Marcus. Posted in Daily Life at Unity Charter School, Education, student post, Sustainability, Whole Child Education

Written by Nina Lawson, Learning Group 2

Edited by Suzanne Dell’Orto (Nina’s mom)

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On Monday, December 22, Jen’s 2/3 Learning Group went on a field trip to the Burnham Park Pond in Morristown to further their study of water and the watercycle. This is our second field trip to study the water cycle this year…we have another one coming up in the Spring!

The bus trip to Burnham Park Pond was great! We learned a lot about watersheds. A watershed is a body of water that is made up of collected water from an area. We found out that household chemicals from lawns, cars, etc. can drain into the watershed and bother the fish, birds, frogs, diving beetles, and other living things that need the water to survive. You probably know all lakes, streams, and rivers have muck on the bottom, right? If chemicals get in the water cycle and into the water, it can kill all the organic matter and fish, animals and plants can’t survive!

When we got to Burnham Park Pond, Jen had us draw what we saw. We drew trees, dead bushes, nettles, a bit of the brook connected to the pond, and ducks that only came that time of year.

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Then we went in the water with Jen. We were all wearing big waterproof boots! Were told that we had to go in the water very slowly. To take another step, we had to wait till the silt faded a little, and we were careful not to go in the water higher than our boots. Jen wore waders, so she could go in really deep!

We used our homemade scope lenses (they were made from yogurt containers with the bottom cut off, and a piece of plastic wrap on the top for the lens). I noticed lots of dirt, silt, and a bubble on my scope lens. The edge of the pond was very muddy, and there were a lot of dead leaves in the water.

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We left the water and took notes on what we saw. Nora’s mom brought hot chocolate for everyone! Finally, we got our stuff, and headed to the bus. On the way to the bus Jen told us more about the things we saw and talked about watersheds! It was a great day!

About the Author

Nina Lawson is in Jen Carcich’s 2/3 Learning Group at Unity Charter School. She loves nature and drawing, and is always excited about going on field trips. Ask her for her latest “knock-knock” joke!

Suzanne Dell’Orto is a Unity Charter School Board Member and is co-chair of the Curriculum Committee. She is also a practicing artist and graphic designer, and is a design educator at Baruch College/CUNY in New York City.

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Unity Charter School. Unity Charter School is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the author.