April 16, 2013
 Our Vision: Ignite Passion. Inspire Excellence. Imagine Possibilities.

Recently, a group of Abraham Lincoln staff members (along with some family members) came together at Feed My Starving Children's (FMSC) west suburban site to box up meals for hungry children in Haiti. Lincoln's Kathleen Brennan explained how the whole thing started: "We were in a staff meeting talking about doing a teambuilding event. 
Having experience helping at FMSC with my family, I suggested it as a staff activity."


Once onsite, the Lincoln team got busy. "We washed our hands, donned our hair nets and within 90 minutes had created 32 of what they call 'manna packs' -enough to feed 67 children for a year," said Ms. Brennan. "Everyone came away feeling great, knowing they had done a good deed together."

Every Wednesday after school, the Hadley Animal Helpers Club meets at the West Suburban Humane Society to help stock the cattery and kennel, and to play and socialize with the animals. These 40 or so students participate because "they love animals and they are caring and compassionate young people," explained faculty advisor Hillary Shumate, who along with fellow advisor Heather Beaman, is an enthusiastic animal owner herself. Earlier this year, the club organized a fundraiser in which classes "adopted" a shelter animal who in turn "wrote" thank you notes to contributors; overall, the students raised $400 for the shelter.

 Each year, Abraham Lincoln teacher Patricia Harte Naus works with fifth-grade girls on bully-prevention, offering them an opportunity to talk over lunch about the things that are bothering them. "We've had conversations about what bullying looks like, what they've seen and heard, where the uncomfortable situations might occur, and how they feel when it happens to them or others," explained Ms. Harte Naus. "We've talked about the bully bystander, which is an individual who watches and does not get involved, and we've identified what a bully messenger is--an individual who carries mean messages back and forth from bully to victim, all the while believing that they are doing a good deed versus being part of the problem."


This year, in light of all the work the schools are doing with problem-based learning, Ms. Harte Naus structured the lunch sessions within that framework: the group identified areas for focus (eye rolling, cliques and talking behind others' backs); they invited an expert to talk with them (school social worker Juli Kennelly); and finally, they created an action plan followed by reflection. The girls made posters to express their message and shared them with the fourth and fifth grades before posting them around the school.


As a culminating activity, they made friendship bracelets, accompanied by the following pledge: I pledge to not be part of any negative words towards another, not to stand there and watch others hurt and demeaned, I will walk away from gossip and hurtful actions, I promise to be there for others in need, I will be a friend to all!  

 Nothing beats a cardboard box for triggering the creative mind, as demonstrated last week when Benjamin Franklin's third grade "Arcade" opened for business for perhaps an hour last week. Students set up their cardboard arcade games in the multipurpose room while a throng of classmates, staff members, parents and siblings tried their hands at games of skill or chance in such challenges as launching balls into spoons, tossing rings over spikes, and trying to guess the identity of mystery objects by touch.


It all started with the students' study of economics and was inspired in part by the Internet sensation, "Caine's Arcade," in which an enterprising child creates a cardboard arcade to fill his summertime hours. For further research, students read the book "Kidpreneurs" about creative ways children have developed to earn money, and invited some entrepreneurial parents and relatives to come and share their business savvy with the third grade.  


The result was a student-led effort that linked their natural creativity to academics through a real-world project. While integrating literacy, social studies, math and engineering, teams of students designed and built their own arcade games out of cardboard. As part of their reflection, students wrote about how the District 41 Learner Characteristics contributed to their projects. 

Please direct your questions or comments to District 41 Director of Communications and Grants Julie Worthen at jworthen@d41.org. We ask that you do not reply directly to this email because such replies cannot be answered. Thank you!