I would like to start by thanking Fairfax County for the use of the Mott Community Center for our November 4th Academy event. The facility is wonderful and offered us everything we needed to conduct our session. The staff members, Warda and Mervin, were gracious and always available for anything we needed.
We had a very full day filled with many curricular areas to cover in order to meet our listed objectives (please see attached).
1) We started the day with our new Tai Chi instructor, Mr. Michael Boudreau-Jin Xue, from Peaceable Dragon, who taught us several movements to begin our understanding of this incredible mind-body discipline.
2) We then continued our financial literacy work with our Capital One partners, Ms. Laura Kappatos and Ms. Karla Treminio, focusing on developing a budget, writing checks and check registers, and understanding all the information found on paychecks, such as deductions, pay periods, eligibility for 401(k) and various insurance benefits.
3) Dr. Barbara Given gave the students an incredible presentation on the brain. She explained what happens to the brain if it is not stimulated throughout life, how the dendritic growth varies throughout different age periods (including what happens with dendritic pruning around the age of 14), the dangers of alcohol and drugs on the developing brain, and the importance of the Vagus nerve on flight, flight or freeze responses to life events. We had a chance to “become” the nervous system with a physical group activity in which we had to send a message from a “hurt toe” to the brain and back, chanting “Dendrite!- Cell Body!- Axon!- Synapse! ” as the message was sent from student to student around the room. Neurotransmitters at the synaptic exchange were represented by soap bubbles being blown by two students racing to keep up with the nerve message. It was great to see the kids try to go as fast as their bodies naturally do!
4) Dr. Given also introduced her major work on “Theatres of the Mind” (complete with movie theatre popcorn bags!) which describes the five natural learning systems (emotional, social, cognitive, physical and reflective). There is much more that we hope to share in coming months that will build on this framework of understanding our learning processes in order to maximize our brain power.
5) We enjoyed our lunch from Jersey Mike’s, and were thankful to our First Star member, Susan Barker-Clem, for providing us with delicious bananas and orange juice throughout the day to keep up our energy. We are emphasizing the importance of making smart choices about nutritious food on our minds and bodies.
We did experience slightly more behavioral challenges this time around. Some students reported that it seemed that the Daylight Savings time change and the Sunday time period threw off their concentration and energy level. Based on my many years as a teacher, I personally believe that as the “honeymoon” period wanes, the students grow more comfortable and more behaviors surface, letting us know them more fully with all the good and sometimes not so great behaviors. This is a normal social process, and should be expected and planned for as we progress in the Academy. After all, adolescents are not just “short adults” as one of my previous wise colleagues once declared. Our joyful job is to help them grow emotionally, socially, physically, cognitively, and mindfully!
The constant pull to attend to cell phones distracted students despite repeated instructions to use them only during breaks. Clearly, this is not a problem unique to the Academy, and we did use the opportunity to discuss how multi-tasking with electronic devices when someone is trying to present material is still perceived as rude and disrespectful, rather like reading the paper while someone is trying to engage with you. (One can claim to be listening, but who wants to try to peek over the top of the page to see if you are really there!) We used time at the end of the day to discuss what went well, what needed improvement, and how we want to present ourselves as First Star Academy students. This is all part of the learning and growing process, so in some ways it was good to have some demonstrated issues to discuss in order to identify them, address ways to better handle getting our needs met, and to reflect on our personal strengths and areas for growth.
We look forward to December with our Quantum Learning curriculum on the 8 Keys to Excellence on December 2, and also our bonus opportunity to attend the Nutcracker Ballet at the Hylton Performing Arts Center on December 15th. Thank you to all for your continued support of our Academy young scholars!
First Star Greater Washington Academy