Earth Day at Unity Charter School

Written by Peter. Posted in Sustainability, Whole Child Education

– by Tanya Seaward In celebration of Earth Day on Monday, April 22, we put the question out to our commUnity:  “What sustainable changes has your family made since coming to Unity Charter School?” Here are some of the responses: “not useing paper tawols.” (sic) – Stevie, age 7 “reusing bags and not useing paper towls.” (sic) – Isabelle, age 8 “Carpooling for three years.” – Arnav, age 8 “Help the environment.” – Greydon, age 6 “Using the compost pile; using compost for the gardens; carpooling.  Using an electric car.” – all Lila O., age 7 [Special thanks to Lila O. for her prolific contributions to the blog! -Ed.] “Carpooling.” – Alison, age 12 “Carpooling … sometimes.” – Sierra, age 12 “Carpooling and low flow toilets.” – Ocean, age 8 “I bike to work once a week and my son bikes to school once a week.” – Jen C. “I would say the biggest change is that, while our practices have been fairly consistent, now we are more aware of what we do. Because our children are learning about sustainability at school, they are much more involved in practices at home and we have more conversations around sustainability and taking care of the earth.” – Catherine D. “Since Sarah started in Unity this year, we have made some great changes at home. We only use cloth napkins and use resuseable snack bags when taking snacks outside the home. We also use glass storage containers more and plastic bags less for storing leftovers. It’s small, but it’s a start!” – Deborah M. “We have learned so much from Unity’s vegetarian and zero-waste lunch program.  We use reusable containers, and my children don’t ask for the single-serve snack items anymore.  We eat a vegetarian meal at least once or twice per week, we are much more thoughtful about the food choices we make, and we all enjoy going to the Morristown Farmer’s market on Sundays! – Tanya S. “We have committed to more second-hand shopping in order to conserve the overwhelming resources that go into producing new items and featuring them in brick-and-mortar stores.” – Annalise S. “Buying produce from a local farmer: it reduces food miles and he uses sustainable farming techniques.” – Peter M.

School Spirit Day: One More Reason UCS is Green

Written by Peter. Posted in Whole Child Education

by Tanya Seaward On Friday, March 15th, the Unity Charter School’s Student Council representatives and officers held a special School Spirit Day in honor of St. Patrick’s Day – a “Wearing of the Green” day!  They invited students to break out their brightest greens and shamrock finery to celebrate the greening of the earth all around us.  Take a look and see how our students responded with enough enthusiasm to make you green with envy!
Jen C's class got into the spirit!

Jen C’s class got into the spirit!

Abby K., Naomie Q. and Kira M. show off their green!

Abby K., Naomie Q. and Kira M. show off their green!

Daniel L. and Brandon Z. share their enthusiasm!

Daniel L. and Brandon Z. share their enthusiasm!

Amy V's class has got a green groove going!

Amy V’s class has got a green groove going!

Julia's class shows lots of green spirit (and I love that toothless smile!)

Julia’s class shows lots of green spirit (and I love that toothless smile!)

Stevie R. really gets her shamrock on!

Stevie R. really gets her shamrock on!

  portrait of Tanya Seaward Tanya Seaward is a Unity mom to three students; Jeremy, Abby and Theo.  She is a member of the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Communications Committee.  Tanya is a Chartered Accountant who enjoys gardening and leisurely rides on her bike (no hills please!).          

Outdoor Learning Space Enhances Education

Written by Peter. Posted in Education, Sustainability, Whole Child Education

by Jen Dowd Our hours of daylight are finally getting to be a little more each day as the Earth rotates closer to the sun. The spring equinox has begun, and now each day will grow a little brighter each morning and a little brighter each evening. Spring is a time of growth and movement. It is time to venture out to the garden, ride bikes around the neighborhood, and play outdoors.  In an era of high stakes standardized testing and accountability, successful schools maximize intuitive learning in a limited timeframe.  And outdoor learning is an essential part of education. Children spend about 50% of their waking hours at school five days per week. Teachers and administrators have to make decisions about how to spend that time in order to maximize student learning and growth. School infrastructure is the immediate place-based context where student learning and growth occurs.  Research in multidisciplinary fields shows the benefits of unmediated playtime and structured outdoor learning in healthy school environments on student learning (Stocklin,1998). School decision-making teams that include students, school board members, teachers, parents, and administrators that make decisions about school infrastructure and use it as an integrating context for learning form the basis of sustainable education. School infrastructure conditions impact student learning. School infrastructure includes the facility, equipment, and land. The impact of school infrastructure on student learning can be measured for on standardized tests. In 2001, Lewis found that building conditions accounted for 16% of the variation in student scores on the mathematics component and 14% of the science components of the WSAS, a standardized test (Crampton, Thompson, Vesely, 2004, 32). The conditions of the environment where children spend their time and what they spend that time doing matters. Children are at school in the sunlight hours of the Earth’s revolution in three full seasons of the most limited light. It is only natural for children to spend a lot of time in quality and varied outdoor activities. In an era of education marked by accountability and evaluation, schools need to focus their attention on creating healthy conditions for student growth and learning. Sustainable schools use decision-making teams to impact student achievement by prioritizing healthy infrastructure choices that create favorable conditions for both unmediated play and structured learning. Crampton, F.; Thompson, D.; Vesely, R. (2004). The Forgotten Side of School Finance Equity: The Role of Infrastructure Funding in Student Success. National Association of Secondary School Principals. 88, 640. 29- 51. White, R.; Stoecklin, V. (1998). Children’s outdoor play and learning environments: Returing to nature. Early Childhood News Magazine. White Hutchinson Leisure and Learning Group. March/ April issue. http://www.whitehutchinson.com/children/articles/outdoor.shtml. Last Accessed: February 26, 2013.   j-dowd-portrait    Originally from Michigan, Jennifer Dowd is currently the NJ Eco-School Coordinator. Prior to this, she spent the last two years as Teacher Naturalist at NJ Audubon’s Weis Ecology Center and as a guest Naturalist at Duke Farms. She created and designed summer camp curriculum to educate for sustainability by allowing children to creatively play and explore the Highlands region of New Jersey in the Wyanokie Mountains. She graduates from Seton Hall with her ED.S. in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Management in December, 2013. This summer, she will launch an essential oil making service that allow home gardener to turn their plants in to oils, begin a community chicken coop, create a Newsletter on the impact of local, state and federal policies on our children, and spend lots of time out in the forests and rivers with her three children. In her free time, she gardens and makes medicinal tinctures, teas, and liniments in her home, plays with her children, and is an active community member.

Community Service at Unity Charter School: Read-a-Thon

Written by Peter. Posted in Civic Responsibility, Whole Child Education

– by Amy Maturin [Character development is integral to Unity Charter School’s mission.  Helping others – community service – is written into Unity’s charter.  Read how one teacher’s lesson plan provided a valuable lesson in community service to her students. -Ed]  I don’t think we need to be reminded of the devastation Hurricane Sandy left in Morris County and all over the tri-state area.  At Unity Charter School, we were fortunate to only lose power, but some schools and families lost everything and are still unsure when they will be able to return to their homes and buildings. In connection with our discussions about GoodWork, stemming from my work with the GoodWork Toolkit out of Project Zero and Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and our exploration of our understanding of ethical behavior taking steps to positively affect the world around us, the 1/2 Leatherback Sea Turtles had been originally planning a Read-a-Thon to benefit students around the world who are lacking in resources and materials. After experiencing the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, we decided to shift the focus of the Read-a-Thon to benefit those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Back in November, we celebrated reading as a community to benefit the students and families of Frog Pond Elementary School in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey. I am happy to report that the Leatherback Sea Turtle 1/2 learning group was able to raise $2,714.06 and as a school, we read for a total of 11,161 minutes (that is 7.75 days!). The Leatherback Sea Turtles are truly appreciative of the generosity of our commUnity and feel lucky to be a part of it! This was a win-win situation for our children, the teachers and our New Jersey community as a whole! photo of writer amy maturinAmy Maturin is in her 6th year of teaching. She previously taught 4th grade, and is now delighted to be in her 3rd year at Unity Charter School and teaching the 1st and 2nd grade multiage class. Amy graduated from Kean University with her B.A. in Early Childhood Elementary in 2007. She is working toward a graduate degree at Teachers College of Columbia University. When not teaching or taking classes, Amy enjoys running and reading. She lives in Bedminster, NJ with her husband, Dan, and cat named Felix.

Strategic planning for Unity Charter School’s Future

Written by Peter. Posted in Civic Responsibility, Education, Whole Child Education

On the first Saturday in September, bluebird skies and balmy temperatures beckoned.  Somewhere, people were taking their kids to a soccer game, doing yard work, or otherwise taking advantage of fabulous late summer weather.  On a perfect day to be outdoors, Unity Charter School’s Board of Trustees had sequestered itself in the school’s art room to discuss long term strategic planning.