Fund-A-Need, Part III: Program Implementations

As you may recall, at the 2015 Almond Acres Annual Gala we focused the Fund-A-Need auction on three main programs: the Teacher Led Program implementation, Destination Imagination, and the partial funding of our Intervention Specialist. This is an update of how the Teacher Led Program
Implementations are going.
The funding from the 2015 Gala Fund-A-Need went to stipends for the teachers that are paid two times per year. The first half of the year saw not only a lot of groundwork being laid for the implementations, but
also some very successful results.
Program Implementations
So far we can show the following successes for program implementation:
  • Visual and Performing Arts Program Leader, Dena Vertrees, 1st Grade, with assistance from Amy Baker, led a successful musical production of Peter Pan that highlighted the talents of our students.
  • Weekend art opening at Studios on the Park in MarchA school-wide art show to include mixed media and fine arts will be scheduled in June 2016
  • Added the Elements of Art into the common core map units across all grade levels
  • Adopted the Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Program schoolwide
  • Grade level Digital Citizenship lessons along with Professional Development have been provided for the teachers
  • Almond Acres Charter Academy will be applying for school certification through the program in Spring 2016. We will be the only Digital Citizenship Certified school in the north county.
  • Spanish and German have been added to the electives for the middle school students to choose from.  Mr. Sommerville has been directly involved with working the bugs out of Rosetta Stone.  Working on building a program to implement across all grades
  • Our school collected more than $250 in gift cards and a carload full of blankets, shoes, games, toys, books, activities, art supplies and more for the students at Rail Road Flat Elementary after the Butte Fire. Students in the crafting elective sewed pockets to blankets that were embroidered with a special message from our school and filled with hot chocolate packets.
  • Collect “goners” (markers that are no longer useful) for a recycling program through Crayola.
  • Identified students doing their own service learning projects and helped them take those projects school wide. (Shoe donation drive, Cub Scouts food drive, etc.)
  • Continued the calendaring Mr. B’s Habits of the Week
  • Developed system for collecting and sharing resources amongst teachers for each habit
In addition to the programs listed above that were specified during the Fund-A-Need auction, AACA has also implemented the following additional teacher led programs:
  • New teacher support at AACA and County TIP Representative – Jeffrey Smith, Kindergarten
  • Outdoor Classroom design and implementation – Dena Vertrees, 1st Grade and Joy Rose, Intervention Specialist
  • Common Core Maps, Daily 5/CAFE, Assessments, Data, and Testing – Carrie Fiel, 1st Grade
  • Online Reading Program Support (ScootPad, Technology to support ELA) – Dorian Baker, 2nd Grade
  • Support Services – Matthew Clough and Nicole Storch, Special Education Teachers
  • Written Reports, Professional Educator for PEP’s, PLP’s, and Portfolios, LCAP, Charter Renewal, WASC – Alan Shore, 5th Grade
  • Middle School Programs (Core Subjects and Electives) – Stephanie Broadway, 8th Grade
If you have any questions, comments, or ideas to share regarding any of the above mentioned program pieces, please contact Amy Baker, AACA’s Program Director at 805-467-2095.

Fund-A-Need, Part II: Intervention Specialist

Thanks to our Fund-A-Need auction at the 2015 Almond Acres Annual Gala, we were able to supplement the amount budgeted for our intervention specialist, bringing the position up to an 80% full-time equivalent position. This has made a tremendous impact on student success so far this year.
Joy Rose is our Intervention Specialist, partially funded through our FAN auction last year. In addition to providing support for students in the classroom on a daily basis, she also provides coverage for teachers so they can attend IEP meeting, schedules and facilitates all of the Student Success Team meetings and 504 Plans meetings, and manages the process for all struggling students.
The success we are seeing in these students is positive, measurable, and a direct result of Mrs. Rose’s work with them. In Joy Rose’s own words:
“Currently I assist in each classroom, K-8, focusing primarily on the students who are either on the Watch List or have SST/504’s. My time is spent assisting them on specific academic or behavioral needs.  In Kinder, I specifically work with students, identified by teachers, who may need additional assistance. In Kinder, we are focusing on early intervention, working on basic letter recognition, letter sounds, basic sight
words, and classroom behavior. We have seen improvement in many of these students. The list of kids I see has changed, as some have grasped their letter names and letter sounds, and no longer need the focused assistance on this. The others are getting closer each time.
One kinder student entered school not knowing his letters or letter sounds. After 3 ½ months, he now knows 19 of his letter sounds, and is able to identify most letters. Students ask me often if I will “play games” with them that day. Little do they know, these “games” are helping them learn.
In 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades, I have been working individually and in small groups to assist students with their reading and with word recognition. Second and third grades are also working on sight word lists.  Currently all but three third graders are working on their grade 3 lists and many are working on lists up to three grade levels above. Some of these students started this year testing at a kindergarten level. Most of the second grade classes are also at grade level on their lists, with only a few who require additional assistance. These students have been given ideas how to work on the words at home and during their word work times during Daily 5.
One first grader asked me to read with him, so I was challenging him to read the words he knew or could easily sound out. He said he couldn’t read, but would try. He ended up sounding out a word and identified a few of his sight words on the page. The excitement on his face was precious. After high fives, I asked him how that felt and he told me that it felt really good and that he wanted to learn to read. We continued talking about what he could do to get better and he agreed to work on reading at home. He no longer seemed discouraged, but rather excited to think that someday he, too, could read books.
With 4th-8th grades, I have been working with specific students on their academic needs. While in their classes, I have been assisting with small groups and individually with their classroom work. Some students need the instruction reworded or repeated and even need some of the basic concepts retaught.
This is something the classroom teacher wouldn’t be able to focus on, while continuing on with the rest of the class. Being in the classroom I have been able to assist those needs and help scaffold the learning for those students. Since the beginning of the year I have seen such a difference in disposition in these students, now welcoming the help and ask when I will be back in. They have started to see success and feel good about it.”
Thank you for your support for this important position for the 2015-2016 school year.

Fund-A-Need, Part I: Destination Imagination

The Fund-A-Need auction at the 2015 Gala focused on three main programs. Those programs were the Teacher Led Program implementation, Destination Imagination, and the partial funding of our Intervention
Specialist. This is an update on the Destination Imagination Program implementation.
Destination Imagination
The Destination Imagination Program has grown exponentially this year. For elementary students, this program is still being held as an after school enrichment class. We have 4 teams (up from one last year) spanning 2nd through 5th grades and including 23 students! Two of these teams have
chosen the Fine Arts Challenge: Get a Clue, and the other two teams have chosen the Science Challenge: In Plain Sight. Information on the challenges can be found here.
We also have ten students on two middle school teams (6-8th grade) competing this year (up from one last year). One team has chosen the Fine Arts Challenge: Get a Clue, and the other has chosen the Technical Challenge: Pace of Change. The middle school program is being held during elective class time and is led by 7th grade teacher, Justine Rigali.
The Regional Tournament for the Central Coast DI Region will be held at Arroyo Grande High School on Saturday, February 27, 2016, from 8am to 5pm. We are still in need of Appraisers for this event. An Appraiser in DI is similar to a judge. The teams challenge solutions must be scored according to the Challenge Score Guide. Teams may not compete if they do not supply a trained Appraiser for the Tournament Event. If you have the time and want to see these students in action, this is a wonderful opportunity! Please contact Jill Ogorsolka, our Destination Imagination Team Coordinator for details (jill@aacacademy.com).
In addition to the teams competing in the Destination Imagination Challenge Program, we have also started Instant Challenge Fridays. These are school-wide challenges that are held in each classroom on the
first Friday of the month and are a way for each student to have the opportunity get a taste for the Destination Imagination Program, practice their STEAM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math), and get some practice in problem solving and teamwork. Points are awarded to teams according to the challenge guidelines for completing the challenge, creativity of challenge solution, and how well your team works together.
Instant Challenges Completed to Date:
  • Paper Tower Challenge (build a tower as high as you can using only 20 sheets of paper)
  • Will It Stick? Challenge (build a tower as tall as you can on a board that will stick to the board when it is turned upside down)
  • Ice Cream Treats Challenge (create 3 new ice cream flavors and present a performance about what happens to people when they try the new flavors) DI DI O Challenge (create 3 new animals and their sounds, make-up a song, and perform the song)
The 1st Annual AACA Instant Challenge Day is scheduled for Wednesday, March 9, 2016. Each classroom will conduct an Instant Challenge. The winning team from each classroom will go on to compete with other teams from their grade level teams (i.e. kinder through 1st grades will compete with each other). Then each grade level team winner will compete against the other grade level victors until we have an ultimate Instant Challenge Team! The teachers and the 2016 DI Team Managers will also be competing in an Instant Challenge and the DI Teams competing in the State Tournament will present their challenge solutions. If you would like to come and watch or help run an instant challenge this day, please contact Amy Baker or Jill Ogorsolka and we will get you on the list! It is amazing to see the students’ creativity.
The funds raised from the Fund-A-Need for Destination Imagination ($6,000.00) have so far gone to:
  1. Purchasing 6 Team Numbers – This is how each team gets their challenge materials and official Team Number, which is needed to compete, $944.95.
  2. Registration for the Regional Tournament February 27, 2016 for 6 AACA Teams: $600
  3. Instant Challenge Book and Challenge Solution Supplies (so far 2015-2016 school year): $206.28
  4. Upcoming Expenditures: Teams are currently submitting their supply lists to their team managers. These are the materials they need to build their sets, create their costumes, and construct anything else that the challenge specifies. All teams that qualify for the State Competition will need to register for that tournament, which will be held in Riverside on Saturday, April 2, 2016. The registration fee per team will be around $150.00.Travel expenses for teams traveling to the State Tournament in Riverside. We hope to cover the lodging expenses for all the teams’ members, chaperones, and appraisers that travel to Riverside. All remaining funds will go towards travel expenses.
Thank you for your support of this amazing program. It is great for any student that wishes to participate to be able to without the parents having to worry whether they are able to afford the registration and travel expenses. We highly encourage you to please come and watch on Instant Challenge Day or to sign-up to be an Appraiser for the Regional Tournament on Saturday, February 27.

Seeking Accuracy

Why wait to be great!?! One hundred BILLION (100,000,000,000) neurons are just waiting to be wired. Can you imagine the thinks they could think?
Our children are capable of being accurate. The question is Will we encourage and hold them accountable to do so? Like most things, it takes practice–and practice makes accurate. Allowing and encouraging our children to seek accuracy is how we can provide the practice. Being patient, persistent, and positive creates intellectual and emotional thinking space. The sooner, the better. Trust your child to perform, and your child will trust that he can. Here are a few ways to nurture accuracy:
  • Ask a child if a task is complete and accurate before moving on.
  • Set limits.
  • Give time to find inaccuracies.
  • Patiently repeat what you said. Remember that it takes 3-20 times to learn something.
  • Provide order and consistency.
  • Be firm, fair, & friendly.
Signs of Success
Your child…
  • Double checks work to make sure that it is the best he/she can do.
  • Looks for mistakes and reviews work.
  • Helps others with their work.
  • Doesn’t rush through work just to get it over with.
  • Makes sure all work is accurate and correct.
“It is better to aim at perfection and miss it than to aim at imperfection and hit it.”- Thomas Watson, Sr., IBM.
“Every day you miss playing or practicing is one day longer it takes to be good.”- Ben Hogan, Golfer
“We have to do the best we can. This is our sacred human responsibility.” -Albert Einstein
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Questioning and Posing Problems

Feed someone a fish and you feed them for a day; teach them how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime!
When I was a boy I was often reprimanded for asking too many questions. I wanted to know why, where, who, when, and what. When my enthusiastic questioning was squelched, I can remember second guessing my intelligence because I had a lot of questions and needed answers.
The neurological truth is that children are constantly asking questions because their brains are hungry for truth and knowledge. They ask out of intrigue, curiosity, and sincere interest. Squelching this inquisitive fire turns the mind cold and produces reluctant learners.
At the age of five, children ask on average 65 questions per day, at the age of eight they average 41 questions. By the time we reach the age of forty-four, we only ask six questions per day. More importantly, the quality of our childhood questions are much more inquisitive and thought provoking. What happens to our creative thinking?
Consider all of the thinking involved when you allow your child to solve a problem on his or her own. You may have a good answer to the problem, but with patience and guidance you will help your child develop his or her own path to an answer that can provide a solid path to other problems in the future. Use the 80:20 Q&A Rule: ask questions 80% of the time and give answers 20% of the time. I believe that this is a healthy ratio for most children. Once they are confident with their intelligence to resolve problems, more questions and fewer answers is appropriate. Avoid questions that provide a simple answer such as, “yes” or “no”. Use questions that lead to creativity and problem solving. Ask “how, why, what if, help me understand, have you considered…”. Jonas Saulk once said, “The answer to any problem preexists. We need to ask the right question to reveal the answer.”
Imagine the difference between giving your child a toy car versus giving your child a model to build a toy car. Answering versus questioning has the same effect. When our children build a model they go through the process of discovery that is essential to deep understanding, innovation, and joy. If we are always providing the answers to questions, we get to show them how smart we are. Unfortunately, that does little for their own brain. Thinking power comes from asking questions and posing problems. In our brain we do the work to resolve those questions and problems and build neural pathways that become tools for the next time the question or problem arises.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” -Albert Einstein
“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”-Anthony Robbins
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