Monday was Music to Student’s Ears

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

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On Monday morning, September 21st, Unity children were treated to a music showcase by Partesi Music, the organization that provides weekly music lessons after school at Unity. Led by Mr. Partesi himself, a band of five men played a range of songs for students, who enthusiastically clapped along at times, including:

“Happy” by Pharell Williams
“Blackbird” by The Beatles
“All Night Long” by AC/DC
“Come Sail Away” by Styx
“Fur Elise” by Beethoven
“Do You Want To Build a Snowman” from the movie Frozen
“The Pink Panther” theme song
“The National Anthem” by Francis Scott Key
“Amazing Grace” by John Newton
And many, many more!

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The students were introduced to a variety of instruments including flute, guitar, keyboard, trombone, drums, saxophone, and recorder. Mr. Partesi explained to students that “Music is not created in the computer. Music is a language. It’s a universal language that is the same all over the world.” He went on to explain the difference between melodies and chords as well as clarify what classical style is.

The children truly enjoyed the performance and the students left the Unity common room with a little extra pep in their step on the way to their classes that Monday morning.

About Partesi Music Classes

Partesi Music Services Inc. offers music lessons for Unity students in grades 1-8 on a variety of instruments including keyboard, drums, guitar, flute, recorder, saxophone, trumpet, xylophone, trombone, guitar, bass, and clarinet. Classes are offered once per week for a monthly fee. Instruments may be rented during the school year. All music students have the opportunity to perform in a concert for family and friends at the end of the school year. For more information or for a registration form, please contact the main office.

About the Author

Deb Marcus is a mother of two daughters at Unity. She has been a parent at the school for three years and has managed the school’s Facebook page and blog for a year. Deb is a part-time marketing consultant and enjoys exercising and spending time with her family.

Students Harvest Their Spring Crops at Grow It Green Garden

Written by Deborah Marcus. Posted in Daily Life at Unity Charter School, Education, Field Trip, Health and Nutrition, Uncategorized, Whole Child Education

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It was a cool, crisp fall day when Kimberly’s 1-2 Learning Group took a walking field trip to the Grow It Green Garden at the Urban Farm in Morristown. The children, accompanied by Kimberly and 4 parent chaperones, walked 2.5 miles round trip to experience the garden. When they arrived at the Grow It Green Garden, Farm Shaun gathered the children and reviewed the rules. Children listened closely and were quick to participate and share ideas and thoughts.

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Since it was fall, the children had the opportunity to taste some of the crops that Unity classes had planted this past spring. The children started by tasting leafy green vegetables, like swiss chard, collard greens and kale. One child curiously asked if the red swiss chard tasted different than the green swiss chard, so Farmer Shaun and Rachel, his assistant, let the children taste both kinds to compare. The children’s opinions were varied, but most agreed that the vegetables tasted great.

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While tasting the collard greens and kale, one student observed a bee on the ground. Farmer Shaun gently returned the bee, which had a broken wing, to a flower. He went on to explain how bees and wasps were valuable to gardens as they eat the insects on the plant leaves which help keep the leaves healthy.

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Next, the children had the opportunity to try both red and orange cherry tomatoes. While waiting by the cherry tomato vines, one child observed some ants. Farm Shaun explained to the class that ants are good for plants because they make tunnels where air and water can pass through to the roots of the plant.

While walking across the garden to the next crop, Farmer Shaun and Sarah invited the children to rub their hands against lavender bushes and to then smell the fragrance it left on them. The teacher and chaperone explained to the children how lavender oil may help calm and soothe people and may be used in baths as well as tea.

The last vegetable that the children tasted was green wax beans. Each child was able to pick a ripened bean off the vine and eat it while watching the 9 chickens play in the coop. Sarah checked for eggs but there weren’t any at the time.

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The children had a wonderful time trying new vegetables, learning about plants and insects, as well as seeing the chickens. This field trip was important in forging garden-to-table connections that make the children more likely to try new foods. Many of the children were sad to leave and look forward to returning again soon.

A big thank you goes out to Kimberly, and parents Ankita Roelofs, Pinal Patel, and John Daily for making this a successful field trip for the 1-2 Learning Group!

About the Author

Deb Marcus is a mother of two daughters at Unity. She has been a parent at the school for three years and has managed the school’s Facebook page and blog for a year. Deb is a part-time marketing consultant and enjoys exercising and spending time with her family.

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.

My First Week at Unity: A New Mom’s Perspective

Written by Deborah Marcus. Posted in 07960, Daily Life at Unity Charter School, Education, Positive Discipline, Sustainability

By Wazila Rawat

As with many other parents and families, last week was a big milestone for our family. My older son, Naeem, started kindergarten and though he had attended daycare and pre-school, this was different – this was “big kids’ school” (to quote him 🙂 ).

As a parent, I had mixed feelings about this milestone. On one hand, I couldn’t figure out how 5 years had flown so fast – I wasn’t ready to let go of the pre-school years just yet. On the other hand, I was extremely proud to see Naeem go off to school in the school bus on his own.

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I was also excited about being part of Unity as a parent. After learning about Unity at the open house last fall, I knew that Unity would be a good fit for my child and family. The school felt “right” for many reasons – the hands on learning, the approach to discipline and the commitment to sustainability among many other things.

This feeling was reinforced during the first week of school. At both the kindergarten play date organized by the PTO and the teacher meet and greet, everyone we met was extremely warm and welcoming. My favorite experience so far has been the school wide morning meetings – I love that the whole school gets together to start the day together.

On the first day of school, you could feel the excitement in the air as the kids returned back to a new school year. Looking over at Naeem, I saw a wide eyed look of awe at seeing so many kids in one place. 🙂 Though he was definitely overwhelmed that first day, I knew he would he would be ok.

After a great first week of school, I’m looking forward to continuing to learn more about Unity, meeting more parents and teachers and participating & volunteering in the various activities throughout the year.

About the Author

Wazila Rawat is a mother of two living in Morris Township. Her older son, Naeem, started kindergarten at Unity this year. Wazila’s hobbies include reading, yoga and cooking, especially baking!

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.

Reaping the Harvest in our Garden

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

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The first meeting of the Unity Gardening and Beautification Club was held on September 4th after school. The Kymer, Lilburn, Wedderburn and Carcich families attended. The eight kids, accompanied by four moms, discovered that a bed of potatoes was ready for harvest! One of the 3/4 classes planted the potatoes last year and with care from Unity families over the summer they now will provide food for our students! We cannot wait to taste what our school chef creates with them.

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This new, year-round club is a branch of our Green Team and is open to all students at Unity Charter School and their families. This club meets every Monday after school from 3pm-3:45pm. Students and their parents/guardians work collaboratively and plan, maintain and improve upon our gardens and green areas on campus. Parents are required to participate in at least one club session per month and younger siblings are welcome to join in the fun when parents are in attendance. Children are allowed to bring a nut-free snack and water during club time.

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Come join us next Monday! We’d love to garden with you.

About the Author

Jennifer Carcich is the 2/3 Grade Teacher and Sustainability Coordinator at Unity Charter School. This is her fifth 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 and continuing 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.

Community Created With Cob

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

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“You want to build a what?” This was the most common question I was asked after calling someone for free dirt. Actually I get asked that same question often but it wasn’t until recently it was asked specifically about dirt. I explained to everyone I called that I wanted to build a Cob bench. I think most people just didn’t want the hassle of dealing with me but a few became interested and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to build a Cob bench at Unity. A spark of interest is an opportunity to learn and connect to something unfamiliar.

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I don’t remember the first time I saw a picture of something built out of Cob but I know the idea started about three years ago. I was on the Sustainability Committee of the Board of Trustees at the time and we were looking into purchasing seating for the play area. The older students needed a place to draw or talk during their recess and as always at Unity we investigate sustainable options when purchasing items for the school. Cob is an extraordinary building material, it is cheap, malleable, a thermal mass, fire proof and beautiful. To make Cob you need soil that has around 15-30 percent of clay, straw, gritty sand and imagination. It is one of the first building materials used by humans and has been used all over the globe.

We had run interest groups as part of the Eco Schools program about developing our outdoor space. Time and time again the kids said they wanted a gazebo – the school’s previous location had a gazebo and the kids missed it. Buildings and structures mean something to us that is inexplicable yet intrinsic. They give us a sense of place, a sense of home and belonging. When I saw Cob, I knew it was perfect for Unity and working with it would be an experience in sustainability for the students that would be meaningful.The Parents Association was proud to sponsor this valuable project.

Because our soil is a sandy loam it would not work for Cob. I had to find another source of clay rich soil. Throughout this process I reached out to everyone I saw that had a bit of dirt that looked like it would compact. I drove on construction sites and called developers. I finally called a man named Howard Buell from Eastern Services, he was helpful and seemed genuinely interested in the project. When I drove out to look at his dirt I was surprised to see he was my kids’ rugby coach. When you reach out to your community and realize they are there all around you it gives you a feeling of connection. Howie offered as much dirt as needed and free delivery. I felt such relief after calling half of New Jersey asking for dirt. Now that we had the dirt we had to build the base for our bench.

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One thing people may not realize about charter schools is that we must pay rent in order to have our facilities. We actually only receive a percentage of the money allocated for each student. As you can imagine we must do more with less. It always helps to have a landlord who believes in what you’re doing. The Evergreen Cemetery Association has been a supportive and cooperative organization with which to work. The gravel and boulders were found on site on the adjacent lot and trucked over by the Evergreen maintenance crew. Bringing the materials would have been helpful and donating them even better but the Evergreen crew actually constructed the base for us as well. Honestly, on the Saturday morning when I saw the base constructed I nearly cried with gratitude! With the help of parent volunteers we were able to adjust the base to the size needed. When I see acts of community such as Howie from Eastern Services Evergreen Association’s maintenance crew and parents on a Saturday morning it is proof that community sustains us.

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After the base was settled and ready to be built upon it was time for the workshop! Rain was predicted for the first day so we spent the day doing soil tests and educating the students on cob and inspiring them with its possibilities. On the second day Sigi Koko from Down to Earth Designs came to Unity. It was exciting to meet someone who had worked with Cob for 22 years. She has not only a wealth of expertise but was also patient and kind. She worked well with kids and demonstrated an understanding for children that is rare to find. Some of the children were easier to convince than others to jump into a tarp filled with mud but everyone was able to participate in some capacity. If you’ve ever watched kids playing in mud you’ve seen the magic that happens – the freeing of boundaries and an opening of physicality and creativity. They are completely engaged and in touch with something most humans lost years ago. There is something so transformative about being covered in earth. You are released from the day to day protocols and are open to the wilderness that lurks within. I love it. It’s a connection to our roots, a time when we were closer to the Earth, closer to the elements that allowed life to flourish on this planet. Sigi understands this connection to the Earth and she shared it with our Unity Community. We had three wonderful days creating a place for our community to communicate and learn.

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There are so many people to thank for bringing the Cob bench to life. Thank you Evergreen Cemetery Association for being supportive, donating supplies and building with us. Thank you to Howie Buell for delivering and donating soil. Thank you to Marek Dolak for sharing your skills with stones and spending your Saturday moving them. Thank you Kendall and Nan for helping move the stones. Thank you Marianne Trent for joining me on another crazy adventure and being there everyday. Thank you Kirstin Sechler for finding a place for the Cob, being willing to shovel buckets of dirt into my van from random construction sites and managing the construction of the sheltering roof for our bench. Thank you to the teachers and staff for getting in the dirt and making time for the workshop to happen. Finally, thank you to the kids for your enthusiasm and work with this entire process. We created a special place for our community and put our soul into a structure that will stand as a reminder of our commitment to sustainability for years to come.

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“The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.”

― Frank Lloyd Wright

About The Author

Mindy Quirk is a mom of three who has been at Unity for 8 years. She’s served on the Board of Trustees, the PTO Board and been a Green Team Co-Leader.

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.