Not Your Average School Picture

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

By Deb Marcus

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. However, this year, the Unity school photos left me speechless. These photos were not traditional school photos where students are placed in front of a fake background and asked to smile big for the camera. This year, the Parents Association (PA) embraced the school’s mission and did something different. Led by Amy Ghelli, the PA hired a natural light photographer, Olga Belinskiy Photography, to capture the students naturally in our new outdoor space. The results were stunning. I have a feeling that quite a few families will be buying pictures and using them for holiday cards and displaying them proudly instead of storing them in a photo album or scrapbook.

Unlike some other schools where you have to invest in a school picture package before the pictures are even taken, Unity was able to work with the photographer so that families could purchase pictures after viewing them online. There was also a wide range of individual sizes and prices and a multi-picture discounts to cater to everyone’s needs and wallets. These pictures not only reflect the warm culture of Unity but also the school’s focus on the environment. I’m already looking forward to next year’s photos!

Unity Students Engage In First Democratic Governance Meeting of the Year

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

by Joeleen Corrales-Lee

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Unity Charter School held its first democratic governance (DG) meeting for the year on Wednesday, November 5th! We had about 30 students eager to get to work. During the meeting, we discussed having 2 representatives from each learning group in grades K-4 attend a DG session. The students will rotate to allow all students the opportunity to attend. In the middle school, 2 representatives from each learning group will attend meetings.

Afterwards, the group split up into four groups and brainstormed ideas for our school. The ideas ranged from a whole school clean-up service project to students being teachers for a day. When all the ideas were shared, students worked together to create idea boxes for each learning group. Students will be encouraged to write down their thoughts and ideas about their school community. We are looking to finish creating the boxes at our next session, so look for them in the classrooms. Overall, the first session was a success! We look forward to the next meeting.

Electives Offer a Unique Opportunities for Middle School Students

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

by Karen Bloch
IMG_3652In our ongoing drive to provide a dynamic and student centered Middle School experience, we implemented Electives for students in the Middle School last year and they were so successful that we continued the program and enhanced it this year with even more choices for the students. This cycle, I am facilitating the Digital Photography elective and it has been a wonderful experience. Not only are the students eager to learn techniques and tips for good photography, but they are fully embracing their creative minds and learning to see the world in new and interesting ways.

In my experience, one of the very best aspects of Unity as a whole, but especially the Elective process, is the chance to help students to become fearless explorers who pursue their passions while gaining confidence and skill. When given the freedom to make their own choices, to value the process and not just the product, the creative floodgates open and what takes place is amazing.

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The current group of Photographers have taken some amazing photos using perspective, lighting choices, action shots and portraiture. In addition, they decided to explore the creation of stop motion movies and the results have been fun, funny and very diverse! The excitement and enthusiasm on a student’s face when he or she catches “that shot” or races in to share their latest mini-movie is tangible and such a fantastic piece of what makes Unity Middle School such a special place.

In a world where testing and data collection can sometimes supersede the essential connection with students, I feel very privileged to be teaching Middle School at Unity, where Digital Photography is just one example of our unique way of connecting with and sharing the journey of learning with our students.

Coat Donation Solves Two Problems

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

Coats, Hats, Mittens and More by Jennifer Carcich

Unity is a community of caring which reaches beyond our walls and into the greater community. Throughout the Month of October, our entire school worked together to collect new, or clean used coats, for the Market Street Mission annual Coat Give a Way on the Morristown Green. This event is always held the first Saturday in November.

On October 15th, all of the children in grades K-4 sorted and tallied a portion of the donated coats and winter-wear. Each learning group then added their information to the school graph. Students were then able to solve real world math problems from the data.

Tallying the Donations

The school collected over 100 coats for those in need and will be sending middle school students and teachers to help distribute coats on the Green at the event.

Bags of Donations

Increased Sustainability to Replace Bin of Bags

Written by Deborah Marcus. Posted in Daily Life at Unity Charter School, Health and Nutrition, Sustainability

By Jennifer Carcich

Over the past three years the students and staff have been able to recycle all of the plastic that has entered our building through our very own “Bin of Bags” program. Unfortunately, the company we were working with has gone out of business. Our plastics were among those being sent to China for recycling and they are now enforcing stricter (and healthier) guidelines in this country. This is a healthy reminder to all of us that reducing waste is a much more effective choice than trying to recycle or dispose of it!

We are taking this as an opportunity to reevaluate and revive our practices at the school. Our mission of sustainability is the essence of our school. Please help us reinforce the mission by revisiting how you are preparing and sending in your child’s lunch and snacks. For those who are sending in lunches and snacks, please consider buying in bulk and sending portions in to school in reusable containers. This will not only reduce waste but may also reduce your expenses. Individual snack item wrappers were the most common item on our old Bin of Bags recycling program followed by juice/milk boxes. Yogurt tubes are another big landfill item in the Bin of Bags. Here are some helpful tips on how to provide some popular items in a more sustainable way:

  • Purchase large containers or yogurt and send in portioned amounts (reusable food pouches or containers)
  • Purchase cheese in blocks and cut into pieces for each day
  • Make your own lunchables with cut pieces of cheese and favorite crackers
  • Consider making your own cereal bars, nut-free granola bars, and other delicious snacks (visit the Unity Blog for some sustainable food recipes!)

We recognize that moving to more sustainable lunches and snacks may change the way you shop and may take some additional time for preparation. However, moving to a more sustainable practice is just a matter of starting new habits and these new habits will leave the planet healthier for you and your children. Perhaps try just changing one item at a time until you get the hang of it. Together, our community can make a difference!

Articles related to this topic:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/china-recycles-plastic/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/california-plastic-bag-ban/ http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/oct/06/smelly-contaminated-disease-worlds-open-dumps

About the Author:
Jennifer Carcich is the 2/3 Grade Teacher and Lower School Team Leader at Unity Charter School. This is her fourth year teaching at Unity Charter School. She is certified to teach both general education and special education students and has been in the teaching field since 1994. Jennifer takes pride in helping Unity Charter School continue to strengthen its unique and innovative approach to education and bring forth the school’s mission.

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.