Multi-Age Interest Groups Activate Learning in Nature

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

by Jennifer Carcich
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Unity Charter School has started a new cycle of interest groups for students in grades K-5. One of the most popular choices is “Outdoor Winter Fun.” This group challenges students in grades K-4 to take on a task involving the elements outside.

This week’s challenge was to build a “fort” wall that could withstand being hit by snowballs from their peers. With temperatures in the 60’s and snow melting quickly, students and teachers had to find a snow mound large enough to accomplish the task. Once a large snow mound was found, the children experimented with carving out walls, building up walls, making mounds, and even using sticks from the ground to support their walls. One group even created a snow slide for everyone to slide down on for fun. Once constructed, the groups all stood on side of the wall and threw snowballs of all sizes at the walls. They were amazed to see how often their soggy snowballs actually adhered to the walls instead of knocking them down. I wonder what would happen on a colder day with snow that wasn’t as wet? We hope to find out in the weeks to come as we continue our investigations!

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.

Unity Eco-School Interest Group Creates a Healthy Crunch Recipe

Written by Cat D. Posted in Health and Nutrition, Interest Groups, Sustainability

By Amy Hoffman
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The Eco-School’s Healthy Foods group is working each Thursday to redefine snacking here at Unity! We worked tirelessly to investigate produce that we could grow quickly and here at school.

We have been fortunate to have been able to use the grow station that, parent, Rich Hoffman generously donated to grow Sprouts! So, the group needed to think of a snack that we could “invent” using sprouts…. Here is Unity’s very own snacking creation – Healthy Crunch!

  • Gluten Free Bagel Chips
  • seeds for sprouts, soil, water, and sun.
  • hummus
  1. Plant seeds. Grow sprouts. Harvest. To harvest, cut near the bottom. Cut in small pieces. Wash well.
  2. Get a bagel chip. (G-F)
  3. Spread the hummus on chip.
  4. Sprinkle sprouts on hummus.
  5. Eat!

Third graders lead interest group on “Eco-Blades”, homemade Beyblades

Written by Stacy Havens. Posted in Daily Life at Unity Charter School, Interest Groups

By Jen Carcich

Gray C., Chris S. (both third graders) and I are running “Home Made Beyblades” for this round of Interest Groups.  It is for children in grades K-4.


Gray and Chris have taught the group what a Beyblade is, how they battle, what their parts are, and gave some suggestions on the best way to battle.


This week the children brought in Beyblades from home. While battling they noted how the parts function together on a Beyblade. We then discussed what found items we could use to create our own eco-friendly versions of these tops.


Over the next two weeks, the children will be assembling their own Beyblades our of found materials, glue and tape.  Our final session will end with the students battling their eco-blades!