Students Go Mad For Mad Science

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

By Jacqueline Messano
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On October 6th, Jen’s 2/3 learning group attended the science of toys workshop located in the common room at Unity. Bionic Bonnie was our toy specialist, representing the company Mad Science. The children were instantly enthused when they walked into the room, and saw the neat toy display. Each of these toys applied to the science concepts we have been exploring so far this year. These scientific terms include motion, friction, force, gravity, energy, air resistance, electricity, kinetic energy, and potential energy. Bionic Bonnie showed us 4 toys at a time, what they were called, how they operated, and proceeded to apply the laws of motion to each. The children were broken into groups according to the tables they are seated at in the classroom. Four stations were set up with one of the toys in each. The children rotated stations utilizing each toy, while making connections between the toy and laws of motion. Bionic Bonnie displayed 12 toys in total so the children broke into their groups to do their 4 station rotation 3 times. Every child was given at least 2 turns with all of the toys.

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Toys such as the Popper, and Switch Pitch addressed the concept of gravity. Bionic Bonnie emphasized that no matter how much energy we use to toss these toys into the air, they will always come back down because of Earth’s gravitational pull. Many children offered many creative and inventive names they thought the toys should be called instead. In the classroom, we explored friction by working with toy cars, and ramps made of aluminum foil, wax paper, sandpaper, and cardboard. They were able to apply their knowledge of friction to one of the toys involving a bird attached to a rod. The piece the bird was connected to caused it to move slowly rather than drop quickly when it was coming down the from the top of the rod. One of the toys that the children were very fascinated by was the magnetic wand. A plastic wheel with two small metal pieces on the sides attracted to the rod, and spun around when it was moved from side to side. Those were just a few of the impressive toys we worked with!

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As you can see, the students were very engaged in the activities! The children were very happy to find out that each of them would be taking home their very own yo-yo. This toy couldn’t have been more perfect for them to take home because just the day before a student mentioned how this toy applies to Newtons Third Law, action and reaction. Overall, the assembly was a great and enjoyable experience for everyone! It was great having that chance to really get that hands on experience while working with each one of the toys. It teaches us that science is and can be fun. Bonnie did a great job reinforcing each of the scientific terms by showing them how they apply.

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Bionic Bonnie noted that most of the toys that she used can be found in a Cracker Barrel store. If you are interesting in playing some fun and educational games with your child, the company website is www.madsciencekidsclub.com, and the promo code is SYS4407. They are located in Morris and Sussex and can be contacted through the number (973)983-6030.

About the Author

Jacqueline Messano is a student teacher in Jen’s 2/3 learning group. She is currently finishing up her last college semester at William Paterson. She couldn’t be more thrilled to have been placed at Unity with such a great group of children, and cooperating teacher! During her free time, Jacqueline enjoys the outdoors, a good book, and nice cup of tea. 🙂

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.

Monday was Music to Student’s Ears

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

By Deborah Marcus FullSizeRender3

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.

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

Written by Jennifer Carcich potatos

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

By Mindy Quirk IMG_1535

“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.