This spring, P.S. 81 students and their families rounded out their school year with a hugely successful Family Fitness Fun Day! The event typically draws 50 or so parents from the community and their children; this year, a record-breaking 300 kids and 122 parents jumped, ran and danced their way to physical fitness. Teachers revealed secret skills as they led activities–our own School Manager Zareta Rick turned out to be a Zumba master!
Family Fitness Fun Day is part of the Fan4Kids curriculum, CFK’s health and fitness program provider at P.S. 81. As parents visited different stations with their kids, teachers and leaders encouraged them to think about how they might incorporate more physical fitness into their daily routine.
With such a record number of parents in attendance, it was an opportunity for Principal Cheryl Ault-Barker to follow up with those parents in the community who are harder to reach, and touch base with them about their children’s progress.
At the end of the day, parents were eager to share how much fun they had, and said they couldn’t wait for next year! Check out this local news coverage of the event here (featuring our own Zareta Ricks in the background).
In June, fifth graders from P.S. 15 spent a day in the Media Lab at the Children’s Museum of Art. In the hands of these young artists, chunks of colorful clay became shapes, letters and animals. Then, molding and remolding their creations, a camera captured each subsequent shape. Check out the video below to see the finished product–students’ first clay animations!
For years we’ve known that if students don’t read by the third grade, their chances of ever reading proficiently and achieving a high school diploma are substantially decreased. A recent study, “Double Jeopardy,” written by Hunter College Sociology Professor Donald J. Hernandez and funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, looked at the relationship between different levels of poverty and reading in the third grade to determine the effects of even short periods of poverty on graduation levels. The study reveals that:
Students who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely not to graduate than proficient readers. This accounts to 16% of poor readers versus 4% of proficient readers
Students who don’t master basic reading skills by third grade are 6 times more likely to not graduate
To give an apples to apples comparison, the percentage of students not graduating from high school directly correlates to their reading level in the third grade–4% of proficient readers, 9% of basic readers, 23% of below basic readers
Poverty also affects graduation rates. 11% of the top readers who spent at least a year living in poverty will not graduate on time. Only 2% of those who have never experienced poverty and read on grade level graduate late or not at all
When poor reading skills are combined with a life lived in any amount of poverty, the rates are even higher: 22% of children who have lived in poverty do not graduate from high school. This is drastically different from those who have never lived in poverty (6%). For those students who have lived in poverty for over half their childhood the rate rises to 32%
With a high concentration of poverty and poor schools in their neighborhoods, 31% of African American students and 33% of Hispanic students do not graduate on time
Given that many of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch, they are up against these same double barriers. And ultimately, 26% of children who experience poverty and reading levels below proficiency will not graduate from high school.
The solution has to come from three sources: schools, families, and governmental policies. The study suggests that improving these rates means getting parents, schools, and the government working together to create high quality PreKs and summer learning opportunities, to reduce chronic school absences and to increase access to quality healthcare–both to detect early learning problems and to give parents have access to essential support so they can better provide for their children.
As we gain a greater understanding of what early literacy means for students, it is clear that a focus on early elementary-aged students is crucial to help level the playing field and increase graduation rates for the students in our partner schools and children nation-wide.
Read the full study, “Double Jeopardy,” here. Summary by Natalie Auerbach.
On Monday, May 12, P.S. 15 opened its classrooms to producers, therapists, police officers, hotel managers, DJs, dentists and more. Each offered a glimpse into their professional lives and a future career for these young scholars.
By the end of the day, if you asked any student, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” they could only answer with a long, long list of options. It’s a credit to the fantastic speakers who inspired P.S. 15 students with their presentations. A top choice for nearly everyone: small animal handler and eco-educator. Many thanks to Jose Rodriguez and his friends from Fauna for sharing his work with us!
When asked why he signed up to volunteer at Career Day, Jose said, “Bringing the animals to teach brings joy and gets the kids to ask good questions. And I believe it is really important to encourage kids to find work that they really love, and work that’s worthwhile.” Check out these 3rd grader’s responses to Jose’s presentation!
Middle school is tough for almost everyone. It’s hard to find a single person who would look back on seventh grade and say, “That was the best time of my life!”
Imagine if, when you were in the fifth or sixth grade, someone could have given you a heads-up, a little more insight, a boost of confidence and self-respect, before you left your cozy elementary school for the unfamiliar halls of the middle school. It would have made that first year a lot better.
For years, Principal Cheryl Ault-Barker has wanted to send her fifth graders off with just such an extra dose of wisdom and love, and this spring, she will. School Manager Zareta Ricks tapped four fantastic volunteers from the local community to speak to the graduating class.
In two two-part workshops–“It’s a Girl Thing” and “Grooming for Greatness”–volunteers Ms. Angela, Ms. Katrina, and Ms. Tennille led the girls and Mr. Russell and Mr. Arthur led the boys in discussions that opened a safe space for students to voice their fears about leaving elementary school. They encouraged students to think about what it meant to have confidence, self-respect, and character when they faced situations that might intimidate them.
The workshops also addressed gender stereotypes, peer pressure, dressing for success and personal hygiene. To help bring their discussions to life, boys received a lesson in how to tie a tie and a free haircut, and girls received full manicures.
When the conversation turned to what it meant to be a girl and what it meant to be a boy, the focus was on standing together and respecting each other, and that made it possible for students to ask personal questions they hadn’t been able to ask anyone before.
Of course there was plenty of giggling and blushing, not to mention lots of gaping mouths and gobsmacked expressions in that portion of the workshop, but as one girl explained, “It’s too much, but I have to know what’s happening!” Cupcakes and treats definitely helped make it much more bearable. And what these fifth graders learned will make their transition to a new school smoother and safer.
Many, many thanks to our stellar volunteer workshop leaders, who made such an impact on our students!
One of CFK’s most beloved volunteer opportunities, Story Love puts our students’ whimsical stories in the hands of grown-up readers. Readers provide our budding authors with crucial positive feedback, while our students share unforgettable heroes, villains, plots twists and one-liners, like this winner from a recent session in May: “If life gives you disco balls, just disco.” Excellent advice, future Tolstoy!
But attending a Story Love session at the Story Pirates HQ in the Drama Book Shop on West 40th, volunteers get a glimpse at the madcap creative engine behind the stories they are commenting on. Just before Memorial Day, a group of readers from the Junior League gathered there to offer feedback on stories from 4th and 5th graders at P.S. 160 in Queens. They worked in a space packed with props from past shows–dolphins, a giant Hello Kitty doll, and masks that would give Jim Henson a run for his money. Behind the readers was a wall of kid authors whose stories have been performed at Saturday shows.
In the room next door, the Story Pirates were rehearsing at full tilt, and readers couldn’t help but laugh at overheard lines. We caught a sneak peak of the Story Pirates’ amazing creativity at work–check out this video of a few select scenes from a story about a muscle-obsessed lonely cow. Many thanks for this insider’s view, and to our friends in the Junior League for volunteering for Story Love!
Today marks the end of CFK’s 2014 Change Jar Challenge and–drum roll, please–we have a winner: Team 15 Lead Sponsor, Apollo Global Management! They’ve made it possible for 27 fifth graders at P.S. 15 to go camping. The trip is an essential opportunity for our students, most of whom have never traveled beyond their own neighborhoods. Now, these students will celebrate their graduation with a trip to Club Getaway in Kent, Connecticut.
To send them on their grand adventure–first into the woods, and then into middle school–CFK and Apollo teamed up for Apollo’s Bring Your Child to Work Day. During a day of activities, 26 children of Apollo staff prepared goodie bags for the P.S. 15 grads. The bags included a book of puzzles and games, pencils, CFK temporary tattoos and sunglasses, sunblock, a toothbrush, hand-sanitizer, and a copy of the Dr. Seuss classic, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! Finally, each visiting child wrote a personal note to a graduate. We are thrilled to be able to send P.S. 15′s fifth graders off in style.
Many thanks to all of the Change Jar Challenge participants. The competition may be over, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop collecting change. Next year, there’ll be more prizes and another chance to win. In the meantime, enjoy those Yankees tickets, Apollo!