A s p e c i a l s e c t i o n o f T h e R ECO R D - R E V IE W - J a n u ary 1 8 , 2 0 1 3
bound for college Building a meaningful rÉsumé and Transcript By JAckie Lupo Some years ago, it became standard practice for high school students to attach a résumé or brag sheet to their college applications. The inevitable happened: kids (and their parents) began to obsess about how their résumés would look to admissions officers. And somewhere along the way, the high school résumé became not a document where students could highlight the activities and interests that were important to them, but an end in itself. Kids began worrying about whether they would have enough to brag about on their résumés, or whether their accomplishments were ones that admissions officers would be interested in. Not surprisingly, there has been a backlash to all this “résumé building.” Colleges, already inundated with paper because of the increase in the number of applications they were receiving, began to balk at all these extra documents being sent. College admissions advisers were stunned a few months ago when representatives of the Common App announced that beginning next year, they will no longer allow students to upload résumés as attachments to their applications.
In fact, students will no longer be able to upload anything as an accompanying document; either you fit what you want to say about yourself into the existing questions on the Common App, or you don’t say it at all. Of course, the résumé is just a document. Even without that separate piece of paper to agonize over, students and parents still want to know what classes they “should” be taking, what activities they “should” be doing. What are schools looking for? “People ask me, what are colleges looking for?” said Maxene Mulford, owner of Uniquely U College Essay Consultants in Stamford. Mulford has a contrarian attitude: she believes “they’re looking for kids that don’t care what they’re looking for. You can overthink it and overplan it. “I know this goes against what a lot of people think,” she said, adding that she realized that some educational consultants tell families they have to plan how their students spend “every summer, from the eighth grade forward,” to be sure every activity is a good résumé builder. But Mulford said that kids should “take the time to define themselves and what actually interests them, and go with that.” Jane Hoffman, a college admissions adviser and educational consultant who is the founder of College Advice 101 in Larchmont, said she would continue to develop a résumé with her clients. “They can give it to teachers who are writing their letter of recommendation, so a teacher can know something about them beyond what they know about them in their particular class,” she said. But, like Mulford, Hoffman said, “To me, a student’s résumé should be based on interests that the student holds. My philosophy is that the students should be themselves, but should pursue genuine interests. The college is looking for students who are active and engaged.” Even though résumé uploading on the Common App will not be available after this year, students will still have the opportunity to send supporting documents to some colleges, if a school gives them that option on its own supplement. But the more applications a school receives, the less likely the school will be to invite kids to send more stuff for their admissions officers to wade through. Mulford said she thought it was a shame that uploading résumés will soon be disallowed. “I’m stunned that they would pull the plug on ways that kids can show their individualism,” she said. “I’m the hugest believer in that activity sheet. The ones I help kids do have photos and little sound bites. They’re fabulous.” But after this year, unless an individual college is going to ask for it, students are going to have to find other ways to make all their activities known, somewhere among the questions on the new Common App. As for the burning question of what activities “look good” to colleges: “I don’t have a list of things you should do,” Hoffman said. “I don’t encourage kids to do things to look good for college. But you Continued on page 4A
Preschool Perfect: Different children, different needs By LAURIE SULLIVAN
F Learning in the 21st Century: Technology skills for every age....... 2A Learning in the 21st Century: Communication skills are key.......... 3A Volunteer work or internships? Sincerity, growth most important.... 5A Education Notebook...............6A-7A Endpaper: No matter the start, a strong finish is essential................. 9A Advice: Continuing Ed, Classroom Conflict; A head start in math....... 10A
inding a nursery school that’s the best fit for your child, especially if this is your first, can be a daunting task. How do you find the best possible learning environment for your child? An environment that will hopefully spark his or her lifelong love of learning? Will she be comfortable and secure? Will he make friends? What school will best prepare her for kindergarten? And is it the right school for YOUR child? Barbara Schainman, director of Mohawk Country Day School in White Plains, described the process as a “research project.” And indeed it can be! Start by asking friends and neighbors which preschools they choose and why, but don’t rely on their opinions alone. Ask your pediatrician for advice. Check out the Internet for schools and the programs they offer. Then make a list of schools that interest you. After all, you know your child best. Is he shy? Is she outgoing and social? Make a list of questions specific to your child and the educational and social experience that might suit him best so you are prepared for a “campus” visit. When calling schools ask first if there’s room for your child for the fall
program. If not, is there a waiting list? How long is it and what is the likelihood of getting a call back? Arrange phone interviews six months to a year before the fall term. Eliminate schools that don’t fit you and your child’s needs. Arrange site visit schools that make the cut. There is certainly no shortage of choices available in your own town and beyond, but below is a sampling of schools and ideas from area pros. How to judge a school Kirstin Zaras, director of Pound Ridge Community Church Playschool, offered her advice on what criteria parents should use to judge a school. She said there should definitely be the “physical things” that include the building, the room and the layout. “I would look at the teachers,” she said. “I think they should be teachers, not just aides. In my school my teachers all have degrees and have worked for many years.” Zaras noted that there are all different kinds of schools, including Montessori. In her school they have a different approach, which is a developmental approach that is age appropriate for the children “you are working with.” Over the years the school has added Continued on page 8A
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Friday, January 18, 2013
Learning in the 21st century: technology skills for every age
It Takes a Lot of Heart to Educate a Mind Individual. Personal. Unique. It describes each of our students… and all of our teachers.
By MARY LEGRAND
or many of us, technology seems to be changing very, very rapidly, to say the least. As a result, some ask if it’s even possible to catch up with new technologies and learn how to navigate the numerous products we already use
Wednesday, February 13 at 9:00 a.m.
260 Jay Street • Katonah, NY 10536 • 914.232.3161 firstname.lastname@example.org • www.harveyschool.org Harvey is a coeducational college preparatory school enrolling students in grades 6–12 for day and in grades 9–12 for five-day boarding.
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these days. The good news is that there are schools and businesses in the area whose owners and staff are up to the task of teaching us. Robert Kissner, founder and president of the Digital Arts Experience Inc. in White Plains, feels that the biggest issue with technology education is that too much emphasis is put on the device rather than focusing on how that device and its features can work for a user. Hands-on experience and collaborative learning are keys to success, according to Kissner. DAE students come from a wide age range — from ages 10 to 80-plus — Kissner said, adding, “We cover all the bases, from the basics to advanced subjects. There’s an importance to understanding what digital literacy means.” Children and teens learn audio and video production, animation and visual effects, graphic design, digital photography and web design, while adults generally concentrate on courses such as “The Settings on Your Camera,” workshops on photo restoration or Microsoft Office, “Facebook Made Simple,” “Evernote for Everyone” and cyber security. “We feel that by surrounding our students with like-minded individuals of the same skill level who share similar goals, we can create an experience that is both collective and noncompetitive,” Kissner said. “There are efforts being made by the older generation to get up to speed with some of these tools. The difficulty with that is that it’s not easy to keep up with because technology changes so quickly. For the most part, people are interested in learning and mastering technology. I’ve met many in the 50 to 70 age group who communicate via text message very regularly. Those under 21 really don’t use the phone but mainly text message, instant message or use a social media platform.” In spite of his relatively youthful age, 27, Kissner still sends emails and makes phone calls. Newer communication methods can be problematic, he said: “I’m astounded how younger kids use Facebook. Everything they write is in the public domain, public space, and I think that’s a little crazy. It’s interesting what they’re doing in plain sight of nearly everybody on the planet. People don’t realize how easy it is to have malicious activity performed against them, whether through social media or online banking.” There’s a level of naiveté involved with what’s in the public domain and what information consumers keep stored on the Internet, said Kissner, whose firm educates customers on keeping track of and protecting data and personal information. For optimal training, Kissner suggests students take classes at schools and businesses such as DAE. Otherwise, he said, “It’s pretty easy to keep a finger on the
basic pulse of what’s changing in technology with publications that are user friendly, including, if you have an iPhone or iPad, the application called Pulse, an aggregator that collects mostly online news sources. You automatically set up personal interests — science, technology, entertainment, whatever — so you’ll have sources at hand about what’s new in those interests. It’s using technology to keep up with technology.” Learning technology is not as difficult as it seems. “You just have to demystify things a little bit at a time,” Kissner said, citing viewing YouTube videos showing how smart phones and cameras work as an example. Another source for software training is lynda.com, which contains a tutorial video library. Don’t worry about making mistakes. “If you screw up it’s not a big deal,” he said. “A lot of people are afraid to touch the wrong button on their phone, thinking that the phone will start smoking or shooting out sparks. That’s not going to happen.” Bill Belchou, owner of DoctorMac in Irvington, said his firm sets up customers’ offices and homes with computer networks or systems to suit their needs. “Of course we troubleshoot and customize database solutions, because everyone needs a database to manage their lives or business,” he said. “We also provide data recovery.”
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Parenting Workshops These no-fee workshops are geared to parents of children ages 2 & 3.
Mini-series of parenting workshops is offered as a service to the local community. Parenting workshops are led by Whitby’s veteran early childhood Montessori educators. To attend, please RSVP to email@example.com.
January 25, 1:00 PM
How to Raise and Nurture a Confident, Self-Reliant, and Independent Child
February 1, 1:00 PM
Develop and Sustaining Early Childhood Literacy – Helping your Child Build a Love of Literature
9am to 12:15pm Enrichment 12:30-2pm Extended day until 3pm
DoctorMac plans to offer classes in the near future “to help customers get acquainted, or make better use of the products they own,” Belchou said. “Technology has been moving forward quicker and quicker, and consumers are forced to keep up with technology because they need the newest operating systems,” he said. “Since 2007 and the advent of the iPhone, consumers need to keep up with the technology of the smart phone, and now there are the iPad and other tablets as well.” Belchou doesn’t feel the newest phone or tablet technology will make computers obsolete. “The computer is still the central hub where everything happens, but it’s still an entity that most consumers don’t feel totally comfortable with,” he said. “For example, a lot of people have Macs and don’t realize that, hey, it’s more than just a typewriter or a device to get on the Internet with.” Everyone has a collection of some type, Belchou said, and “you can create a database to keep track of that collection in an old-fashioned way, or those who are more computer savvy can dive into making better use of technology.” Through iPhoto, for example, Mac users can organize their digital media, pictures and movies, “allowing you to keep track of everything in a very simple way. But a lot of people don’t stop there, don’t just create a slide show for a presentation
Sa fe &
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Established in 1991, Camp Summerset is sponsored by The Learning Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering a lifelong passion for reading, writing, and learning.
www.campsummerset.org Cantitoe Street, Bedford, NY 845.223.4724
or family get-together.” Apple offers consumers iTunes to connect and manage their devices, “but there are so many other things you can do beyond that, like connecting your existing wireless network to your stereo system,” he said. Asked what he sees happening in terms of technological advances, Belchou said the technology “will just get faster, and the need to store data will become greater. We’re going to be using the same devices, or at least the same basic types of devices, but we’ll be using them faster and faster.” He also predicted that Apple “will get into the television business in a big way.” Home automation technology is also prime for increased use, he said. “More people want wireless speakers throughout the house. They didn’t realize they could use Apple technology to control pretty much everything there, from lighting and audio-visual equipment to curtains, garage doors and security cameras. All can be controlled through your iPhone or iPad from anywhere in the world.” Richard Skidmore is a teacher and IT director at Soundview Prep in Yorktown Heights. As part of his IT role he handles all the networking and servers and provides support for all the school’s computers. Teaching technology to adults is very different from teaching it to students, Skidmore said. “The kids know so much about the computer already, while adults struggle sometimes with even the basics like the purpose of a certain key on the keyboard,” Skidmore said. “The biggest revolution — and we’re already seeing it — is the advent of students who are always connected. Between their phones and tablet computers, they’re never not online. Probably the biggest challenge for anyone a little bit older is that we’re not sure we want to be connected all the time.” Skidmore shares others’ concerns about some consumers being on the computer 24/7. “We do teach students that they need to be careful about what they post on Facebook or Twitter,” he said. “This information is going to be available for years and years, so others, including employers, will see what they’ve written. The social media aspect of this has already started to change the world.” Soundview’s students range from grade six to 12. “Most students are not afraid to try anything,” Skidmore said. “Future technology will be user-friendlier than it is now, because we continuously find new ways of doing the same old thing. Making things easier is what sells new technology.” Looking to the future, Skidmore said he doesn’t think “we’re that far away from being personally wirelessly connected to a computer, without having something in front of us. There’s already been research for military pilots just using eye movements to focus the guns and radar.” In spite of some people saying that society will never be similar to that shown in the “Terminator” series, Skidmore said, “I beg to differ. Machines are going to be that smart and they’ll be making decisions on their own.”
February 8, 1:00 PM Whitby School
Techniques to Develop Critical Thinking, Problem Solving Skills, and a Love and Understanding of Mathematics for your Child
Whitby is an independent co-ed day school for age 18 months through Grade 8. Beautiful 25-acre modern campus • Birthplace of American Montessori International Community • Triple accredited: IB, AMS, CAIS
969 Lake Avenue, Greenwich, CT 06831 | 203 302 3900 | whitbyschool.org
Friday, January 18, 2013
Learning in the 21st century: Communication skills are key
By MARY LEGRAND
t’s become obvious that more and more of us, particularly those young enough to still be in school, prefer communicating through social media or by using a smart phone. That said, it is still important — perhaps more important than ever — that students be well versed in basic communication skills so they can excel in their future lives. What are local educators doing to help their students reach these goals? Matthew Nespole, head of school at Rippowam Cisqua School in Bedford and Mount Kisco, said RCS stresses that mastery of both written and verbal forms of communication “is essential to be successful in the fast-paced society that children leaving RCS will join.” Clarity and precision in written and spoken forms of communication are skills the school emphasizes, he said, adding, “Effective communication is grounded in the ability to listen. Too often people are so eager to answer a question, or get their own point across, that they don’t actually answer the question that was asked in the first place.” Nespole disagreed about the notion when asked if communication skills have changed dramatically over time. “I think what has changed is the various venues that we use to communicate,” he said. “Twitter, text messaging, other online options promote speed. Immediate, quickly written and oftentimes grammatically incorrect forms of written expression fill social media.” Rippowam Cisqua’s program “asks students to engage deeply in written expression across all disciplines,” Nespole said. “We also promote face-to-face communication ... many of the questions we ask students to grapple with require them to work in groups and small teams. At the core of successful group work is the ability to listen and engage in meaningful dialogue with another person,” creating situations where groups work together, providing opportunities for students to become effective collaborators. It’s Nespole’s feeling that people of RCS record 14 xlearn 10.5 NEW_Layout all ages canreview “always to be better1
The RECORD-REVIEW/Page 3A
Building Skills Raising Grades Lifting Spirits Preparation for: SAT • ACT • SSAT/ ISEE NYS Regents • NYS Tests • AP Subject Tests PERSONALIZED TUTORING FOR K-12 Math • Reading • Writing • Study Skills • Languages Sciences • Homework Help Enro ll Spri for Now
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www.tutoringclub.com communicators. I think the best communicators are people who take the time — or even better, have the time — to reflect on a speech, oral presentation, conversation or email.” At Whitby School, in Greenwich, Conn., administrators and educators feel that students as young as 2 years old must develop the communication skills necessary to succeed in today’s rapidly globalizing world. Simone Becker, Whitby’s head of lower school, sets the following communication skills goals for her students: becoming effective communicators in more than one language; understanding and expressing themselves confidently in a variety of contexts and forms; working effectively and willingly in collaboration with others; applying critical thinking skills critically and creatively; approaching complex problems; and making ethical decisions. “The communications skills that we 1/9/13 Page 1prepare them to be teach 2:56 our PM students
successful in an increasingly connected global world,” Becker said. “Our innovative curriculum, rooted in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, fosters global perspectives as well as learning to think and problem solve rather than acquiring knowledge.” Calling the school’s teaching method a collaborative inquiry-based approach, Becker said Whitby’s students “are invited to respond, reflect and act upon learning.” She added that social media and other digital technology “require communication to be more immediate, current, independent, connected and active. It’s also created a more visual language whereby presenting and viewing are necessary skills. To help students develop those skills, we utilize a wide variety of digital tools, media and learning environments.” Whitby’s dean of curriculum, Nelyda Miguel, said the school merges what
some might consider more traditional communication skills training with a method that incorporates social media. Students publish their thinking “all the time, for better or worse,” Miguel said. “We think it is the role of the school to take advantage of this trend and facilitate students sharing their thoughts with the world around them through blogs, podcasts and a number of applications on the Web. While doing so, students can learn appropriate use of these powerful forms of communication.” Good writing, speaking and presenting skills “are still key as they are essential for creating new media such as a blog, podcast or video,” Miguel said. “However, the basics don’t necessarily have to be mastered first. Young students can publish their work using modern communication methods and are highly motivated to do so, as long as the technology contributes to the task,” rather than detracting from it.
173 Katonah Avenue, Katonah • 914-232-2317 • ENROLL TODAY firstname.lastname@example.org
ThistleWaithe Learning Center, Inc. Building Habits of Excellence An Integrated Montessori Curriculum Full- and half-day programs available: • Toddlers (18-36 months) • Primary (3-5 years) • Kindergarten & K-Enrichment (AM/PM) • Wrap-around care
1340 Route 35, South Salem, NY 10590 914.977.3662 • www.thistlewaithe.org
Rippowam Cisqua provides students with an exceptional education grounded in academics, the arts, and athletics.
The curriculum is specifically designed to engage and inspire each child to reach his or her fullest potential, and develop a lifelong love of learning. The program, highlighted by a better than 6:1 student/faculty ratio, features caring and enthusiastic teachers who encourage the students to think critically and take intellectual risks. RCS graduates leave the School prepared for the best possible secondary school and college opportunities. Last year’s graduates went on to attend Choate, Deerfield, Fox Lane High School, Greens Farms Academy, Hackley, Rye Country Day School, St. Luke’s, Taft, and Westminster. Our recent alumni are currently enrolled at colleges and universities across the country including Brown, University of Chicago, University of Colorado, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, Harvard, Middlebury, Princeton, Stanford, University of Virginia, and Yale.
Join us at our:
Lower Campus Take a Look Day
Extraordinary Students… Exceptional Foundation…
(PreK – Grade 4) Wednesday, February 6, 2013 9:30 am – 11:00 am 325 West Patent Road, Mt. Kisco, NY email@example.com (914) 244-1205 For more information, please visit www.rcsny.org
Rippowam Cisqua School A coeducational, independent country day school for students in Grades PreK through Nine.
Page 4A/The RECORD-REVIEW
Friday, January 18, 2013
bound for college: Creating a meaningful résumé Continued from page 1A
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Rules of engagement “Engagement” appears to be the name of the game. “They don’t want the kid who’s sitting at home on the computer,” said Hoffman. “They’re looking for who that kid is going to be on the college campus.” Mulford, again the contrarian, implied that even engagement could be overrated. “Some of my best essays are by kids who are gamers or total slackers. What I want the essays to do is to find a really quirky, unexpected connection that has really been there, but has never been taken seriously. If that happens by playing video games or lying on the couch, or writing about something you’re terrible at, just be yourself. If you want to be at peace, at home within your own skin, that’s what you do.” But let’s say you’re the opposite of a slacker. What’s worth your time and effort? It used to be that kids were pursuing the Holy Grail of well-roundedness: great transcript and test scores, volunteer work, talent in the arts, and participation in sports. “But these vogues change,” Hoffman said. “Right now colleges are looking at depth for each applicant. They’re looking to develop a well-rounded class with ‘angular’ students.” What does that mean? She explained that if a kid loves animals, it would be great to volunteer at an animal shelter. On the other hand, “maybe, because they’re so engaged as a musician or scientist, community service is just not on their radar.” Hoffman said that colleges are “not looking for you to check off every activity box. I would say, take on more of a leadership position with the organizations you’ve been involved with rather than adding new activities.” What about kids who claim that they don’t have a strong interest in anything in particular? What about the club members who are never officers, the team members who are never team captains? Are these kids doomed to lower-tiered schools full of unfocused mediocrities? “The reality is, they can’t enroll a class of leaders. There have to be followers,” said Hoffman. But colleges do want to know how students are spending their time. Even activities that don’t come with documentation, such as spending hours playing the guitar or writing poetry, need to be mentioned on the application for colleges to get a feel for what kind of person that student is.
“If a kid has a high emotional IQ who’s going to be the peacemaker on the floor, we’ll make sure the college knows,” said Hoffman. And if a student doesn’t have a “passion” — the buzzword for deep, longterm commitment to a particular activity — that’s OK too. The experts we consulted agree that you can’t fake a passion. What’s most important is for a student to let the college know if she is interested in many things. And for a 16- or 17-year-old who is just discovering what turns him on, just letting a college know that he’s curious and open to new experiences can be a plus. Enter the middle schoolers Even younger kids are involved in the résumé race. “I am an advocate of kids getting involved in lots of activities,” said Joe Perry, assistant head of school at Ridgefield Academy, an independent school for kids through grade 9 in Connecticut. “I’ve been doing placement for years, of independent school kids from eighth or ninth grade into high school, and I’ve heard a lot about résumé building, and a lot of that is generated by parents, not students. If you expose students to a lot of activities — activities they are interested in and ones they are required to do, like community service, if they are exposed to that, maybe that’s an area they start to develop.” Perry said that at Ridgefield Academy, every child plays an instrument and belongs to chorus. “We don’t really want to pigeonhole kids early on to be the star soccer player who raises money for eyeglasses in India,” he said. “In my opinion, this is very telling to an admissions office that the child is too focused.” Perry said that if a child is exposed to some activities at a young age, whether it’s through a religious organization, commu-
nity service or a sports team, that could translate into some leadership opportunities, but whatever the activity is, “If you grow as a person, that’s appropriate to experience early on.” Perry said parents often ask him questions along the lines of “Should we send Johnny to China to get involved with this orphanage because it’s going to look good?” He said, if the child is actually interested in China, fine, but if the answer is no, “in an interview it comes across as not genuine.” He said that sticking to something does show that kids can be determined, and they can really focus on something and make a difference. “But that should be the child’s choice.” Perry said that when parents ask what kids should be doing during the summer, he always asks what the child is doing now. “If the child is interested in art, I suggest [a program] with art and another component to give them the opportunity to try something different,” he said. “Lots of summer schools spark interests or passions.” If a student doesn’t have a passion or isn’t a leader, their activities should still be mentioned. “Susie might not be the MVP of the soccer team or the valedictorian of the Latin club, but every school needs people who will be the worker bees, not a queen bee,” Perry said. “You need kids who are not going to have a definite passion, and who try lots of things and participate. The members, not the leaders, that’s the majority of the population.” He added, “In our society we pigeonhole kids much too early that they have to do ‘X’ and stick with it. We should always do what we want to do, especially when we’re kids. That bothers me when parents are simply making decisions for kids based on résumé building.”
What your transcript says The experts were in general agreement that students should take the most challenging courses they’re capable of. But those last three words are not the message that students are getting from the statements colleges issue. Colleges often say they’re looking for transcripts that show the student has taken the most rigorous courses available. “The type of school a kid is considering often dictates a lot of that,” Hoffman said. “Their processes of review are going to be different. A small liberal arts college is more holistic in their review.” She said that schools “at all different levels of rigor will copy the language of the more rigorous ones,” even though their actual standards may be very different. But having said that, she added that all colleges are looking for students to challenge themselves as much as possible, rather than just coasting through. “They say they would prefer the B in the rigorous class to the A in the easy class, but the joke is they’d really prefer the A in the rigorous class,” Hoffman said. Where kids get into trouble is when they load up on advanced or AP classes because everyone else is doing it, then end up with C’s or D’s. “They look for kids who want to challenge themselves,” Hoffman said. “That’s the function of rigor. Again, it will matter more to a Yale than to a Dickinson College. But it matters to all of them, kids who are hungry for the next level.” Kids can become obsessed with their grade point averages, especially in schools where the GPA is weighted so that advanced placement or other advanced classes are worth 5 or 6 on a scale of 4.0. If kids do great in these classes, they can end up with a GPA far above 4.0. But if they don’t, their average can be damaged. There’s always the question of how much colleges look at weighted GPAs. It varies greatly. Hoffman said that colleges have regional representatives that are supposed to understand the high schools in their region and will be able to interpret the meaning of a grade from a particular class at a certain school. She notes that some schools will look more closely at courses that correspond to an academic preference or interest. Some will “unweight” students’ weighted GPAs. And some will remove the electives such as art or music from the GPA and recalculate just the grades from the academic core courses. “The whole challenge is that it has to be appropriate to your level of functioning,” Hoffman said. “If you’re choosing rigor and getting C’s, that’s not helpful.”
Cite unseen: Fighting plagiarism by understanding why students cheat Plagiarism is nothing new, and it is certainly not limited to university campuses, but students should be aware that colleges are on the lookout for plagiarized work and they have a variety of tools at their disposal to find it. It seems that no school is immune from cheating. Cheating scandals at the college level abound, even at some of the best-known universities in the country. In 2006, the Pew Internet Study found that more than 70 percent of American college students surveyed admitted to serious cheating on written assignments. At places like South University, which has 11 campuses and thousands of students who study fully online, combating plagiarism involves a combination of education and technology.
“We educate faculty and students about plagiarism and how, even if you get away with it now, its consequences can follow you long after graduation,” said Kate Sawyer, South University’s assistant vice chancellor for university libraries. She said examples often hit home with students, such as the case of former Beatle George Harrison losing a court case for plagiarizing a Chiffons song in the melody of his own “My Sweet Lord.” Sawyer said that few students plan to cheat from the outset, and the ones who do are usually caught. “Most students simply run out of time or do not understand the assignment well enough,” Sawyer said. “We talk to faculty members about the best way to structure assignments and deadlines, and we talk to students about ethics, time management
and information literacy skills.” Education is not the only tool colleges have. Today’s web-savvy students can copy and paste passages — or buy entire papers — in seconds on the Internet, and colleges have struggled to catch up to the new trend. Many times, instructors can tell easily when a student has lifted a passage. If a freshman suddenly starts writing like a Ph.D., it is an easy giveaway, for instance. Another tool colleges are using to combat cheating is anti-plagiarism software. There are several tools on the market, but the largest and most-used is called Turnitin, which professors can use to match passages from student papers with existing content from billions of web pages and millions of student papers and scholarly
articles. Turnitin reports that more than 10,000 universities worldwide use the platform. “We see anti-plagiarism software as a pre-emptive tool, and we encourage instructors to be upfront with students about it,” said Sawyer. Sawyer believes that while the university’s use of the software has cut down on plagiarism, it should be just part of the approach: “No software is perfect. But we think it is a useful tool when combined with the education of both students and faculty about plagiarism. In the end, students can see that it’s both better and easier to do their own work. That way they benefit from the education they receive, not just the grade on their transcript.” — Brandpoint
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Friday, January 18, 2013
The RECORD-REVIEW/Page 5A
Volunteer work or Internships? Sincerity and growth most important By JACKIE LUPO
out to volunteer at a soup kitchen or tutoring children in literacy. “These activities help students find ids who are in high school their passion,” Berkovits said. “They help receive lots of conflicting students engage with things in which messages about whether they’re interested.” And engagement, say they should spend time the experts, is something colleges love to in their already packed see on a student’s application — if that schedules to do volunteer engagement is genuine. work. It’s cynical to say Some of the advisers said colleges can it, but many students feel be skeptical about an applicant’s menthey have to do some sort of community tion of a “service trip” to build houses in service activity so they can “check off the an underdeveloped country, especially if box” on their college applications. the trip is obviously one the kid’s parents Is this bad, though? Even if it’s not nec- have paid for, and if the trip doesn’t reessarily begun for the “right” reason, isn’t flect a student’s ongoing commitment the benefit to humanity — or to their to volunteerism. Colleges might assume own characters — justification enough that the trip was taken just to generate a for high school kids line on the student’s to be involved with extracurricular list. community service But even a one“When you can pursue shot or to work in a nonservice trip can paying internship? an internship or volunteer be worth taking. Experts offered some “There’s nothing surprising insights work, that is a great use intrinsically wrong into the question. with taking these “It is important to of your time; that is mean- trips,” Golden said. use your extracur- ingful. It helps colleges “If it’s an extension ricular time well,” of demonstrated insaid Ellen Golden, a understand how you’re terests, that’s great. partner at CollegisBut they can also tics, an independent spending your time.” be an incredible college advising firm growth experience — Ellen Golden, Collegistics for kids, many of in Scarsdale. “When you can pursue an whom have been internship or volunvery sheltered. So, if teer work, that is a great use of your time; what they take from that trip is growth that is meaningful. It helps colleges un- and development, that’s a valuable prodderstand how you’re spending your time. uct. Just saying you did it is not valuThe key, though, is to develop interests able; the value is what you get from it.” that appeal to you. Doing internships She added, though, “It’s just as valuable or taking on a volunteer activity just to to work as a checkout cashier in a superbuild your résumé is probably not going market, which also shows a certain skill to serve you as well as pursuing an inter- development and personal growth.” est over a period of time, and developing Susan Harris, school librarian and that interest.” academic technology coordinator at the Leslie Berkovits, another partner at Harvey School in Katonah, is the school’s Collegistics, noted, “The value is relative adviser for community service. to the student’s interest. I don’t think that “Community service, of course, has there is any one type of volunteer activ- been part of Harvey for years, and to a ity or internship that one could classify as large degree it has been fund drives and better than another. It’s really personal, food drives,” Harris said. “Kids turn out based on the student’s interests and what and do things, which is terrific. But what they’re engaged in, taken as a complete we’ve been doing for the last four years package.” is putting the onus of leadership on stuBerkovits said a commitment to com- dents. Students generate ideas on what munity service might begin when a stu- they want to do, and one big thing that’s dent is younger, with an activity that come out of that was that students said starts through their families or through they wanted to organize a children’s cartheir churches or synagogues, and that nival for charity.” then might evolve into something the The event, first held three years ago, student develops further, such as going featured all sorts of activities for little
kids, from a bouncy castle in the gym, face makeup and temporary tattoos, to performances in the dance center and reading activities for toddlers. “Kids picked the activities; it’s become a whole school event,” Harris said. “The students vote on where the proceeds should go, and each year, we pick one relatively local charity. This year, the carnival will be in March, and this year, they want half the proceeds to go to Sandy relief, and half to Pencils of Progress, to build schools in underdeveloped countries.” Harris said the students learn how to be creative with fundraising and how to pick charities where they know their dollars are going to the purpose that they
food pantry, Blythedale, our message alwant them to go to. Harvey students also volunteer as visi- ways is, ‘It’s an obligation we have as hutors to kids who are long-term patients at man beings.’” The school looks at internships as anBlythedale Children’s Hospital, and they help out at the local community center, other way for kids to develop themselves not only holding food drives for the cen- personally. “A number of our students do ter’s food pantry, but also going there to engage in summer internships,” Harris help out. “This week we delivered about said. Harvey also has a “senior project” 420 pounds of food and stocked the from March to May, in which seniors with good academic standing can design shelves there,” Harris said. The entire school has a work day with their own activity, which can be anything Habitat for Humanity in Yonkers. “We from volunteer work to working in a field took 250 students and 50 faculty,” Harris they’re interested in, such as interning in said. “We try to instill in all the students a doctor’s office or an ad agency. Students have to write their own prothat we all have a responsibility to help, no matter what we’re doing. Whether posal for their senior project, and beSLS_recordreview_6.8542x10.5KAY:Layout 12/20/12 11:17 AM Page 1 to one-half of seniors it’s for the American Cancer Society, the tween1 one-third
take advantage of the opportunity. They’re exposed to the real work world, something that kids in affluent towns may not see during high school. And, said Harris, “They’re learning how organizations work.” Is volunteering or interning something every student should do? The schools and college consultants all agreed that dong something just for the sake of a college application isn’t the best way to spend your time, especially if there’s something else worthwhile that a student would rather be doing. But if it’s a genuine reflection of an interest, working without pay can have many rewards, as both a college applicant and as a person.
“St. Luke’s is a trailblazer. The Center for Leadership and focus on service really set this school apart. It’s a place with endless opportunities for students to learn, grow and develop their true potential to be their best.”
Kay Krill, St. Luke’s Parent and ANN INC. CEO, parent company of Ann Taylor and Loft Kay is pictured with St. Luke’s Senior, Lindsay Bralower. Lindsay is a Global Scholar, three-varsity sport athlete and ANNPower Leadership Fellow. To learn more about Lindsay, visit www.stlukesct.org/meetlindsay.
Application Deadline – January 15 email@example.com | 203.801.4833 | www.stlukesct.org St. Luke’s is a college-preparatory, secular day school for grades 5-12.
Page 6A/The RECORD-REVIEW
Friday, January 18, 2013
Education Notebook ✍
Preschool’s learning kitchen a great recipe
andmark Preschool’s Ridgefield campus celebrated the opening of its redesigned facility in a ribbon-cutting ceremony last month. The new preschool wing has been reimagined for children ages 2 through 5 and includes more spacious classrooms, a multipurpose gathering room complete with a performing space, and a learning kitchen. “Our planning committee rethought what kind of environment young children strive best in,” head of preschool Tara Simeonidis said. “We came up with wide-open, uncluttered spaces, lots of natural light and easy access to the outdoors since we spend as much time as we can outside.” Each preschool classroom now boasts large, energy-efficient windows and glass exterior doors for easy visual and physical access to the school’s organic garden and extended playground space. Beautifully trimmed in oak, the classrooms and inviting hallways include storage areas, which are discreetly tucked away out of view, fostering a calm and cozy atmosphere. “We want to let the children’s activities determine the color and interest in the classrooms,” Simeonidis noted. “Having teachers really care about where I Every classrooom is equipped with a am and how I’m learning is just incredible.” Hatch SmartBoard system to enrich lesRawle Deland, English teacher emeri- sons, its own bathroom and custom cubtus, ascribes this experience to a deeply bies to holding each student’s belongings. “The Pod” is a new gathering room intuitive educational approach: “To my mind, it boils down to personal atten- with a gardening corner and space for tion, but personal attention at the level of art and other hands-on activities, plus a rounded and appropriate-sized amphithea student’s soul.” Instead of forcing students into a atre for drama and music classes, a feature cramped, outdated didactic mold, Bea- which provides an intimate, more comcon seeks to unleash and empower to- fortable place for preschool concerts and morrow’s innovators, inventors, entre- performances. “The Pod is where children will plant preneurs and visionaries. seeds, learn how plants grow and be inIn turn, Beacon students are expected troduced to the idea of ‘plant to table’ to be the drivers of their educations. that we have incorporated into our green These students might carry a label of curriculum,” Simeonidis said. “It is also gifted or twice-exceptional, of artistically the perfect space for quiet reading time, talented or highly creative, of overachievend-of-day read-alouds, circle time, group ing or underachieving. Whatever the activities, sharing and playing.” case, they check their labels at the door, The custom-designed learning kitchen because every Beacon student has a right provides the perfect opportunity for even to challenge, support and enrichment. the youngest of children to “learn to cook According to James Jackson, Class of and cook to learn.” 2015, “In some ways it’s not even a school “All kinds of learning happens in our — it’s preparation for everything that’s kitchen lab: math and measuring, includahead of you in life.” ing Venn diagrams of who likes what vegFor more information, visit www.bea- etables; science/simple food chemistry; con-ct.org, call 203-409-0066 or e-mail following directions; creativity; and firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a tour. sponsibility, like cleaning up,” Simeonidis
REimagined: A day in the life of a Beacon student
t’s third period on a Thursday. Anneliese and Alexandra are in zoology class with Erin, feeding a tarantula. Middle-schoolers invade the dance studio to get footage for photography. In Mandarin, Ellie practices calligraphy, while down the hall, Frank discusses his academic progress with Nikki, his student advisor. Meredith guides a discussion on ethics, John helps his students destroy a pumpkin in AP physics, and Shannon facilitates a creative writing critique. To a visitor peeking into these small group classes and one-on-one conferences, it may look like a school reimagined: engaging teachers, deconstructed classrooms, exuberant students and big, ambitious ideas. But it’s just another day at Beacon, where accelerated and Advanced Placement classes share time with the arts, athletics and an array of individualized courses, from marine biology to philosophy, robotics to economics, aeronautical science to etymology. Located in Stamford, Conn. — just minutes from Bedford and Pound Ridge — Beacon is a day school operated by Greenwich Education Group serving students in grades 2-12, and specializing
in advanced programs in academics and the arts. Beacon is also launching a program for elite athletes in 2013. So how does it all work? In short, Beacon employs a gifted education model to meet the needs of intellectually motivated students in a small, nurturing community. At Beacon, academic programs combine a rigorous core curriculum tailored to each student’s abilities with endless elective opportunities aligned with each student’s passions. “There are no boundaries to learning in reality,” head of school Meredith Hafer said. “So what Beacon does is to open up the universe of ideas. Kids who love learning know that school should not be a race to nowhere. School should excite your mind.” But what truly makes Beacon a different kind of school is not the curriculum — it’s the teachers. Beacon students work hand in hand with a dedicated faculty of accomplished professionals who balance challenge with inspiration. Their passion and commitment define the Beacon experience, where young people look up to their teachers as mentors who will always keep pushing them to achieve their potential. As Gianna Lohnn, Class of 2013, says,
said. “We teach our students how important it is to nourish themselves, and they learn the process from plant to kitchen, as well as nutrition and the enjoyment and satisfaction you get from eating the good things you make with your own hands. What better ways for our youngest students to learn their ABCs than by cooking apple muffins, banana bread and cinnamon cookies?” Children will use ingredients from their organic garden in the late spring and also see how meaningful gifts can come from the kitchen. The wall of windows leading to the kitchen allows parents to peek in at the cooking activities: “There is a warmth of interaction the students have with teachers in there when they cook together that I have not seen at any other school,” a parent said. Students enrolled in the Landmark Preschool Ridgefield program are introduced to the French language, and all classes enjoy instruction in art, physical education, music, drama, computers and library. Preschool students gather for special assemblies and enjoy a special buddy
program with k-3 students to read and work on projects with each other. Field trips, both in-house and off campus, enhance the program as well. Class size is kept small and days/hours are flexible; the 2’s classes meet two morning per week, the 3’s have 3-5-day options and the 4’s classes meet 4-5 days per week from 8:45 a.m.-2 p.m. Extended care is available at 7:45 a.m. and until 4 p.m. for all 3’s and 4’s students. Landmark Preschool, in existence for over 35 years, grew from the belief that children benefit from a joyful introduction to learning and offers the type of structure that gives children a sense of security and confidence as they explore their world. A comprehensive program for students up to grade 8 is offered through affiliate school Ridgefield Academy. The Landmark Preschool program has additional campuses in Redding and Westport. The Ridgefield location is housed on a 42-acre campus on West Mountain Rd. Visit www.landmarkpreschool.org or call 203.894.1800 x112.
Landmark Preschool’s new learning kitchen provides fun for kids ages 2 to 5.
Learning outside the classroom: Using household chores to teach school and study skills By Dr. RAYMOND J. HUNTINGTON
f your household is like most, there are many day-to-day duties that must be completed. While tasks like laundry and doing dishes may seem tedious for children, research conducted by the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development shows that “involving children in household tasks at an early age can have a positive impact later in life.” Without a doubt, chores foster a good attitude about working hard and being responsible and have many other important benefits. Here are several suggestions to help your child build valuable skills
while contributing around the house: • Picking up clutter: Make time each day for your child to pick up his or her bedroom or around the house. Try setting a timer and challenging your child to see how much he or she can accomplish in five or 10 minutes. Learning to understand how long different tasks take will help your child become better at budgeting his or her time — for homework as well as timed tests and assignments at school. • Cooking: Helping in the kitchen is an excellent way to put math concepts into action, including fractions (using measuring cups and spoons, for example), addition (when counting ingredients, measuring and more), multi-
plication (when doubling a recipe) and telling time and temperature. Older children can learn about chemistry from the changes that foods undergo during the cooking process. • Preparing menus and grocery lists: Planning your family’s weekly menu and making an accompanying grocery list requires many different skills. Children must think ahead about what they want to eat, other commitments each evening (such as soccer practice or club meetings) and what ingredients they will need to cook the meal. Planning and managing a project — dinner in this case — are skills they will use again and again. • Organizing: As any busy parent knows, there is much to keep track of in
a household. Ask your older child to help organize the pantry, a closet or another area of the home, developing a reliable organizational system. You could also put your child in charge of collecting and sorting the mail every day, maintaining the family calendar or filing papers, bills and other important documents in the family filing cabinet. Organization chores emphasize the importance of having a designated place for everything. Students who are organized are more likely to avoid misplacing their homework and being tardy and later, will better understand how to manage multi-step assignments and projects. • Cleaning: Cleaning the kitchen or bathroom can be a science experiment
waiting to happen. Use all-natural cleaning products, such as vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice, and do some research with your child on how they work and how they differ from chemical cleaning products. Find recipes for homemade cleaners online. • Feeding pets: Caring for and feeding the family pet teaches your child about commitment, being relied upon and keeping to a schedule. It also reinforces the lesson that your child’s actions have consequences. Have your child develop a chart to keep track of feedings, or take things further and bring him or her along to veterinary appointments so he or she can learn about your animal’s health. Age-appropriate chores teach respon-
sibility, work ethic, organization and time management — and they even help children build self-esteem as they gain the satisfaction of seeing tasks through to completion. Chores can also reinforce school skills such as math, reading, critical thinking and more. With all of these benefits, assigning chores takes on new meaning. Not only will you gain extra hands around the house, your child will be learning and growing as a person and student. Dr. Raymond J. Huntington is co-founder of Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 30 years. Call 1-800-CANLEARN.
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Friday, January 18, 2013
The RECORD-REVIEW/Page 7A
Education Notebook ✍
Solomon Schechter School of Westchester offers scholarship Once again, Solomon Schechter School of Westchester is proud to offer a full, four-year merit scholarship to one incoming ninth-grade nonday-school student who demonstrates outstanding academic achievement and would benefit from a Schechter Westchester education. The Schechter Westchester AKIVA Merit Scholarship, which is granted to one new incoming ninth-grader every year, helps the school fulfill its mission of providing a superb secular and Jewish education to as many students as possible. Until she began at Solomon Schechter School of Westchester in ninth grade, Julia Schluger had never studied Hebrew, Bible or rabbinic texts intensively, but she was drawn to the school’s exemplary academic program, its dual secular and Judaic studies curriculum and its top-notch students. Paralleling that of the best private schools, Schechter Westchester’s strong college admissions record, includes an impressive array of colleges and universities, such as the Ivy Leagues like Harvard, Yale and Princeton, as well as Amherst, Binghamton, University of Michigan, Tufts, Northwestern, University of Chicago, among a long list of others. Intrigued by its other pluses — its vibrant community, competitive athletics, arts programming, and robust extracurricular activities — Schluger decided to apply. When she was accepted, Schluger was reassured that she would be appropriately supported in Hebrew and the Judaics curriculum. Within a year Schluger had, in fact, attained proficiency, thanks to the successful AKIVA program designed to help nonday-school students integrate into the Schechter Westchester environment. As a kindergarten through 12-grade Jewish day school, Schechter Westchester’s comprehensive, intellectually rigorous dual curriculum empowers and cultivates each student in mind, body and soul. Through the teaching of critical thinking, openness to new ideas and Jewish values, the school inspires students to achieve academic and personal excellence. Schechter Westchester’s college preparatory program teaches its graduates to apply
their passions, knowledge, and skills to the betterment of the Jewish people, the United States, Israel and the everchanging world. The dual curriculum at Schechter Westchester requires commitment, discipline and love of learning. The eighthour school day is jam-packed with rigorous college-preparatory classes and intensive Jewish studies — and is then extended by extracurricular, leadership and community service activities. During two months of dormitory living in Israel and Poland in their senior year, students gain additional maturity and independence that prepares them for the challenges of college academics. They prove to be campus leaders with self-sufficient living skills not often found in first-year college students. Like all Schechter Westchester students, the Schechter Westchester AKIVA Scholar will experience a living Judaism, in and out of the classroom, with classes in rabbinics and Talmud which emphasize analytical study from original sources, as well as achieving fluency in Hebrew. Schluger’s older brother, Ben, was also an AKIVA student for two years, and then was mainstreamed into the regular program for 11th and 12th grades. “I was challenged by the rigor of my secular classes and inspired by the rich learning,” he said. “The teachers show interest in our lives not only as students but also as people, which is something that you can’t get at other schools.” The application process for the Schechter Westchester AKIVA Merit Scholarship includes completion of the application form; a personal essay about why the individual is interested in attending Schechter Westchester and why they consider themselves qualified; recommendations from two teachers and a personal recommendation from an adult other than a parent; and an interview with the selection panel. To apply for the Merit AKIVA Scholarship or to start a conversation about your child’s place in the AKIVA program, contact Leora Kalikow at 948-8883 ext. 8149 or lkalikow@ solomon-schechter.com or visit www. solomon-schechter.com/meritscholar.
For St. Luke’s Center students, leadership comes from within
or a school to say it doesn’t teach something is radical. But at St. Luke’s Center for Leadership (CFL) in New Canaan, Conn., the faculty and staff don’t teach students to be leaders. St. Luke’s is truly one of a kind in this go-go college preparatory environment, because leadership comes from within the student. In the Center for Leadership, St. Luke’s create an often electrifying, sometimes challenging, but always safe place where leadership emerges. It’s why the school’s motto is student-centered: “Find Your Voice, Make a Difference.” CFL director, Jim Foley, put it this way: “Leadership is something you grow into. Everyone has that potential.” St. Luke’s starts by instilling character traits like resilience, curiosity and compassion, asking students to trust themselves and their community and then widen their lens, through experiences both at the Hilltop and beyond. Programs foster students’ Global Perspective, Service Orientation and TLC Skills (teamwork, leadership and communications). St. Luke’s encourage resilience by rewarding a growth vs. a fixed mindset. As Foley notes, “For someone with a growth mindset, a setback is something you learn from. A setback opens a door.” A good example is the Captains Program, where sports team leaders reflect
on their teams’ histories, and analyze their strengths and weaknesses, before they can tap the power of connection and collaboration. St. Luke’s offers experiences both on campus and all over the world that demystify leadership, incite curiosity and inspire empathy. According to Foley, “Ours is a world of accelerating change. We need to prepare kids for that by actively connecting what they do in school everyday to what’s going on in the world right now.” Upper school students visited the Maker Faire, the world’s most diverse showcase of creativity in technology,
craft, science, fashion, art and food. All were empowered by the mission to make something instead of buying it. On campus, the Lunch and Lead program offers students a chance to see success up close and personal — and discuss ideas of their own over pizza with leaders of business and culture. During Ted Talk Tuesdays, students witness a wide range of TLC skills that bring the power of an idea to life. In the year and a half since launching the Center for Leadership, leaders continue to emerge and thrive. “The TLC skills I have learned through the Center for Leadership have made me a much
more comfortable leader, especially when working with large groups,” said St. Luke’s senior Lindsay Bralower, a threesport varsity athlete and ANNPower leadership fellow. Senior Caroline Parsons recently described in a weekly meditation what it felt like to visit the tiny village in India where the money she raised will help provide clean drinking water for all. As she stood on stage, in front of hundreds of peers, describing her personal connection and commitment to these people, St. Luke’s watched another leader find her voice and make a difference. Visit www.stlukesct.org.
Revisions expected for Common Application essay questions By MAXENE MULFORD
or the first time in memory, revisions are coming to the Common Application that will greatly affect the college essay. • Brand-new questions will be announced March 1. • Everything you submit will be cutand-paste. No more uploading — that also means no more submitting your own résumé. • The 250-500-word limit on your essay will be strictly enforced. • And, to the great consternation of many, “Topic of your choice” — so popular that more than 90 percent of all applicants select it — will be permanently retired.
While many educational consultants are in a state of shock and have mounted a letter-writing campaign to the Common Application in protest, others are not. For more than 15 years. at the very beginning of the multi-step process I use, I’ve always told students to ignore all of the six Common App questions, because zeroing in on one too soon shuts down the creative process. Instead, I have them concentrate on a series of organic prompts that begin with “What’s in your room and what’s the story behind each treasure?” As you can readily see, any one of those objects could easily lead someone to naturally select “Topic of your choice” as a subject for the resulting essay. But, to me, this prompt is really only the beginning of our exploration. That is because, if we
keep digging, we invariably hit upon a previous situation, often back in middle school, when the student was able to find unexpected strength in a unique aspect of him/herself that he/she previously considered to be an object of shame. It’s that self-defining moment when, for the first time, you are able to say, “This is who I am. Take it or leave it.” Identifying this moment is incredibly empowering to the student. More importantly, it’s something he/she has uncovered for and by him/herself, not to please an admissions officer. Now, when we go to look at the Common App prompts, we find that what’s really been at stake for the student either constitutes a risk or a challenge, sometimes a demonstration of diversity, other times an important issue, an influential
person or a work of art or literature. As a result, none of my students has ever selected “Topic of your choice,” even though that’s the unspoken premise with which we began. The resulting essay is incredibly powerful, deliciously idiosyncratic and makes a lasting impact, not just on the admissions officer who frequently voices his/her admiration for it on the acceptance letter, but mostly on the student. None of us knows what the Common App’s new questions will prove to be when unveiled on March 1, but the superficial questions hardly matter. I say, “Bring ‘em on!” To reach Maxene Mulford of Uniquely U. College Essay Consultants, call 1.866-UUESSAY, visit uuessay.com or email email@example.com.
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Preschool Perfect: Different children, different needs Continued from page 1A
some educational activities, including pre-reading and math concepts. “Parents want that,” Zaras said. “We do science, hands-on things once a week. It’s not like parents just drop off their kids for a play date.” When selecting a school, Zaras encourages parents to prioritize teachers and the educational model. She believes children should play with their peer group. She recommends that parents ask what additional programs the school offers to enhance their educational experience. Her school offers a Spanish program, karate, yoga and, once a month, nature programs. How to make a decision? What should parents know about the school before making a decision? Zaras encourages parents to bring their child to visit the school and spend some time there. “We’re totally transparent. If the child seems clingy you definitely have to think about it,” Zaras said. “I don’t think the kids are capable of making the decision — it’s the child’s response. A child can steer you in the right direction. “Parents should come back again themselves to check out the teachers and get a sense of the whole program. It’s kind of a make-it-or-break-it visit. I think it’s great to physically be there for half an hour to 45 minutes at least.” What should parents avoid? “I would avoid a program that doesn’t have a good teaching staff — some of my teachers have been with me over 20 years,” Zaras said. “I would look into who the teachers are. Do they have a background in early childhood? Are they teachers or parents of former students or just filling in? If I were looking at a school for my own child I would want to know if they’re just babysitting the kids or do they have the right qualifications and really want to be there.” Zaras suggested avoiding schools that wouldn’t let you spend a morning with your child. And of course, small studentteacher ratios are also important. Top of the list: environment Schainman and Mohawk Country Day School principal Carole Bouchier agreed that parents should visit the school and check out what the environment is. They said to visit more than
have gone to Mommy and Me programs before, which Mohawk offers for 2 year olds. Other schools take children in the 2’s. Some kids would benefit from an
once and to not just go on other’s recommendations. “A parent should look at a classroom environment and the enrichment program,” Schainman said. “Is there a warm relationship between the children and the teachers? Are there special programs? Gym programs? You want children to be comfortable.” Other things to consider: religious vs. independent schools. Are students grouped by birthdays, grouped in with different ages? “Parents are sometimes confused, sometimes they know right away,” Schainman said. “They usually look at a few [schools], then eliminate and maybe go back a few times and bring the family once they’ve found the one they like. Parents should step back and narrow their choices. They should choose what is best for the child.” The Mohawk director and principal both advised parents not to bring children with them when scouting schools. “Especially if you’re going to cross a school off your list, why bring your child?” Schainman said. “After you’ve made your decision you can say ‘I’ve found a wonderful school for you.’” “Be sure to show enthusiasm, get him excited,” Bouchier said. “You should bring them in the spring, walk the grounds. Most children step in very excited, very ready.” What else should parents look for? “I think parents should look for the warmth and interaction that they see between teachers and children in a classroom,” said Schainman. “That’s why a parents needs to come back a few times to see whether a teacher has the experience.” In addition to warmth, teachers should be comforting and able to deal with separation issues. The Mohawk program accepts kids at 2 years and 9 months by September. Some children
extra or cushion year of preschool, especially if they are going to a private school later. Schainman said the extra year prepares them “very, very well for academic challenges.” Schainman noted some red flags to be aware of is an overly structured program and schools where you can’t observe a classroom. What parents should look for are comfortable classrooms with lots of age-appropriate
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material. “You need balance,” she said. Schainman also said to look at the outdoor space as well. Mohawk has four different outdoor play areas, plus an indoor gym, all set on 40 acres that includes a farm with chickens, goats, even a baby Alpaca that was born there. There is also a hayride and a small train that takes children back and forth to the farm. It is certainly a unique facility. “If parents are looking for a neighborhood school, it’s not for them,” Schainman said. Schainman said children come to Mohawk from all over the county and advises parents to decide what area works best for them. “If your child has trouble with separation we work harder to make them feel comfortable,” Schainman said. “It helps if parents are very excited and visit [with the child] at the end of the summer.” She advises that if a child seems upset, parents should drop children off and say they are stepping out for a little bit for coffee and then come back. We want them to see when a parent says they are coming back, they come back. It’s very important that they see this.” In the meantime the staff tries to engage the child in an activity. If a child needs a parent to be comfortable the school is happy to let them stay in the classroom. Mohawk provides a full range of readiness. Parents like the idea that children are grouped within 6 months of each other. The school’s extended day program includes science experiments, cooking experiences, art and more. There are two music teachers and two music rooms and regularly scheduled gym time with a physical education teacher for both indoor and outdoor instruction and play, including a big interactive jumping playground. There is also a tech center to familiarize kids with computers once they go on to kindergarten. The 150 children attending Mohawk are divided up into nine classes and one Mommy and Me class for 2 year olds. There is also a permanent floating teacher. The median number of years of staff members is 15 years and many have been there much longer. The school does not offer bus service, but gives parents information about private buses if needed. Mohawk also runs a summer camp on its grounds in White Plains located between route 100 and the Bronx River Parkway on Old Tarrytown Road. Preschool and religion Carmelita Bota, director of St. James the Less in Scarsdale, runs an Episcopal preschool with children attending chapel once a week. Bota said parents should look for a school that is clean, well maintained and with toys that are within children’s reach. The classroom environment is designed for each specific age group, ensuring that there are age-appropriate materials, which Bota stressed is important. The environment should be welcoming, with smiling teachers and children’s artwork displayed at their eye level. “I always recommend that parents bring their child with them,” Bota said. “Set up an appointment … You want more than anything for your child to be happy.” Bota added that it’s critical to know the philosophy of the school, what is the class size, the student-teacher ratio? She said some children might do better in a smaller class. Check out what’s going on in the classroom, what are the activities in the room? Bota believes that children should be in an environment where they can be comfortable and make friends. She always encourages parents to bring the child with them so that they can come into the classroom and see how they interact with the other children. “That’s when you see if it’s a good match for their child,” she said. She added, “I think kids can feel safe away from the parent, a place where they develop their love of learning. The nursery school teachers are the child’s first teacher away from home. Parents should look for what they are already doing in their own homes. It’s a nice easing in of their child’s first time away from their parents. The teachers make a real difference for making a positive experience.” Finding the one! “There should be a nice ‘buzz’ in the room,” Bota said. “If you bring someone in and they’re all focused and having fun, it’s nice to observe. In the classroom environment children learn to move from one activity to another. You look for your child to become part of the school.” Everything the school does is intentional. The way they set up the room, the cubby space where kids can put spe-
cial things they bring from home. Kids say, “My name is on my cubby!” Bota also stressed the importance of having an outdoor space as well. On the preschool level the curriculum has to have a balance between teacher-initiated activities and also child-initiated activities. That builds on children’s interest by having that blend. The curriculum in a quality program makes children more self-directed. According to Bota, that is where the love of learning develops: “Activities based on the children’s abilities whets the creative, emotional, social, intellectual and physical needs of the child, all areas that make up the development that makes up the whole child.” She stressed the importance for parents to come in with lots of questions: “Then I know that they truly want their child in the best environment.” The St. James director said that every child is coming with a different temperament — some children want to play alone, some children are still in that parallel play stage, even at 3. She said it is important for the school to find out what the needs of the child are. The school also wants to get to know the family to ensure that their goals are the same. Bota said sometimes parents pick a nursery school because it’s close to their homes so their nanny who may not drive can bring the child to school or because the school is close to their office. “I always ask why they choose us,” Bota said. Bota said the perfect time to start children in nursery school is age 2. “People always ask what they do [at that age],” Bota said. “We are always working with language, which is a big focus with the 2’s. We model language with the children, so they learn to talk with other children. I love the 2’s. I call it pure love. It’s just been a wonderful experience.” A special blend Sue Tolchin, director of Westchester Reform Temple’s Early Childhood Center in Scarsdale, said she was naturally “biased” on how to select a nursery school, and like many preschools, WRT is religious in nature. “You want a warm, welcoming environment for both parents and children,” she said. “You want to feel not only [will children] have a wonderful exposure to not only Jewish values, but know that they’re going to learn lifelong lessons, have shared lessons of friendships and also learn giving back to the community. We want parents to feel that, too.” Tolchin said when parents select her preschool it’s because of its small classes, and its warm and nurturing environment. Children are also exposed to both academic and social experiences. She explained that not only do parents want “the warm and fuzzy,” but the school encourages parents to socialize with each other and also volunteer at the school, whether they work part or full time or are stay-at-home parents. “A good preschool understands the culture of the parents,” Tolchin said. “The long-term goal is to make sure that children have the readiness as they move along to kindergarten. It’s important that children have a good balance of the social, emotional and academics … When children leave here they are more than ready for kindergarten.” Tolchin added, “Obviously I’m very passionate about this. I’ve been here nine years.” This director likened the selection process to buying a house: “If it feels right with happy children and warm teachers, parents have to feel comfortable. You have to go on your ‘gut’ instinct. The feeling has to be right.” WRT has a welcome party in the spring for families. Tolchin explained that sometimes a child’s needs at home are different from what they are in September. The school also has a social worker on staff to deal with issues that come up. “We help them through every stage of development,” she said. What should parents with children with special needs who are already receiving services, i.e. speech or occupational therapy, look for? At Westchester Reform, Tolchin said the school guides parents through the early intervention process, “so if a child has small motor problems,” for example, the school helps parents get the services the child needs. She noted that WRT is a mainstream school, and with more and more children with alternate learning styles, parents need to know how receptive a school is to their problems and ask what help they offer. “If the school can’t meet the child’s needs, the school should be willing to explore the options with them,” Tolchin said. So how do you know you’ve found the right school? When you walk in and it has that “Wow!” feeling, when you can say to yourself, “This is where my child belongs.” Then you know you’ve reached your final destination.
Friday, January 18, 2013
Endpaper No matter the start, a strong finish is essential
By TODD SLISS
t’s January. We’d normally be starting to break New Year’s resolutions right about now, have 6-10 inches of snow on the ground, be eagerly awaiting the Super Bowl, many of us looking forward to Spring Training next month. While we’re looking forward to some of those things, January in 2013 is “warm” and rainy, people are recovering from another natural disaster, Hurricane Sandy, and the gun control debate is in full swing with the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in not-too-far Newtown, Conn. This January almost feels like the world is collapsing. But as they like to tell us, “Life goes on.” No matter how difficult. In terms of education, it’s an exciting time of year. College students are heading back out of town for their second semester of the school year. For high schoolers, college acceptances are coming in, applications are still going out. Midterms are right around the corner for high school and middle school students. Elementary school kids are in a comfort zone. Preschool kids are getting one step closer to being in the older class, or getting ready to take that major next step into kindergarten. There’s a lot riding on education for our children and we want only the best for them — the best communities, the best schools, the best teachers, the best grades, the best activities. That’s why we live where we do. So at this midpoint of the school year it’s a good time to sit back and assess. Where is my child right now? Is he or she doing well? Meeting his or her potential? Struggling? Falling behind? Need more of a challenge? No matter where your child stands, finishing the second half of the year on a positive note bodes well in terms of proving to teachers what happens when potential is reached by hard work and it can also be a good springboard into the following school year. So how does a student take the next step? There are a lot of ways, but both the parents and the student have to be on board to take advantage of the assistance
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that’s out there in order to reach for the stars academically. Of course, I asked some professionals for advice. What they said A middle school guidance counselor told me that students who struggled in her school the previous year in the core classes — English, social studies, math, science and foreign language — get special help through the schools: “We work with them to identify their learning style, time management skills, goal setting, advocating for themselves with parents/teachers/counselors, monitoring their own progress and how to best make use of extra help — how to identify what questions to ask, making marks in margins when taking notes in class and it doesn’t make sense, bringing the last quiz or test that they failed, the last homework that didn’t go smoothly.” She also noted, “Schools often allow teachers to have websites and many post websites to practice skills that are in line with the curriculum of the district.” Taking advantage of extra help is key. Maybe some one-on-one time during lunch would work, too. Students should always start by asking help from the teacher, who might be able to identify the problem and help students more. According to a middle school teacher, “Students should read 30 minutes every night whether assigned or not, basic math skills should be practiced every night whether assigned or not. Asking questions when confused is imperative. Also studying and practicing the state tests, as soon they will all be the same.” There is definite agreement that students need to be proactive so that others can best help them with their struggles. Something like extra help or asking for extra credit shows a teacher that you’re trying. *** One teacher who graduated from Scarsdale High School sent me this helpful eight-point list of how a teacher can help all students all of the time: 1. The teacher must always be enthusiastic about what he or she is teaching. This makes the student excited or more excited for the lesson.
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2. Teaching and learning games like Math Bingo motivate even the most uninterested students. 3. A reward system for progress that is daily or weekly that gives, for example, a little prize like a trip to an arcade. The parents, and even a teacher with small tokens, can make this happen. 4. Have the students get up out of their seats and act out a part of history or make up an action to remember a spelling/vocabulary word. Get them involved! 5. Create an environment from the first day where kids know they are expected to learn and follow through on consequences, especially in the latter parts of the school year. Unfortunately calls home and detention could result. 6. Make sure they know when they come to your classroom that they will have fun — not everything has to be serious all of the time. (This balances out the consequences.) 7. Even if a student is struggling, always try and utilize positive speaking and reinforcement. Call on students who are struggling when you know they can answer a question correctly to give them confidence. 8. Never speak down to a student — always speak to them respectfully and make sure they know you are trying to help them and not hurt them. Once you are disrespectful they will shut down and it might take weeks to get them back, especially at or near the end of the school year when motivation might be waning. What a list! These are all great and it holds both teacher and student accountable. Learning is most certainly a cooperative effort. The challenge lies in that teachers teach differently and learners learn differently, so let’s be realistic here — even the best, most popular teachers aren’t able to reach every student every time, so often a fresh face, a fresh voice or fresh methods can do the trick. A great supplement to the school can be tutors and learning centers, which often provide that missing ingredient. *** I asked some Westchester businesses for some advice on finishing the school year on a positive note. Patricia A. Wag-
ner, Ed.D., of the Katonah Tutoring Club responded: “To finish the school year strong, help your student set attainable goals and help them establish the necessary steps to achieve them. I tell the students at the Katonah Tutoring Club to, ‘master the material and the grades will follow.’ Review class notes daily, prepare for tests in advance, build a strong vocabulary, know what’s going on in the world, get enough sleep, and have some fun each day. Success will follow. Teach your student to take charge of his/her learning. Look up what he/she needs to know and don’t wait for someone else to tell them. Be informed, read, listen to different points of view. Setting goals should begin in elementary school, ideally by third grade, and will become a lifelong habit.” That is some more excellent advice right there. But we know — and I know from my own experience as a former student and now the parent of a kindergartener — that most students need help doing those things. One parent emailed us to tell us about a tutoring service she used for her older child. She liked them so much that she’s helping spread the word about them by finding students “who are top in their class and well-rounded” to tutor their peers. Many of the tutors she’s finding for Aristotle Peers (formerly Peer2Peer Tutors) area Fox Lane students. Tutors come in all forms — peers, adults, teachers, former teachers, industry professionals, career tutors, you name it. Like everything else in education and in life, there is a perfect fit out there for every student. For some students it’s other students. For others it’s an adult. But knowing there is help out there for every type of student is encouraging. Though I have not been a student since last century, I do know that we’re always learning and growing — you never know it all, even when you think you might. What I do remember from my school days as an average, perhaps above average student, are that the classes I did well in or better in than I normally might have, those are the classes where I connected with the teacher. And when I connected with the teacher AND the subject, my grades were something to be proud of. So did I live up to potential in those other classes? Or course not. Like so many young people I didn’t put in the time or the effort, always looking for the quick way to get the work done, waiting for deadlines to approach before tackling an assignment, not putting in proper study time. And as much as they may resist, they need your guidance or the guidance of someone who can get through to them. Since we’re learning from many of the events that happened late in 2012 that it’s important not to forget about the past, perhaps January 2013 could be the start of something positive inside and outside the classroom. But I must say, as someone who was lucky enough to parlay his main skill into a successful career as a sportswriter and editor, “The ball is in your court.”
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Continuing ed offers employees an edge A volatile economy and tough job market have revived American workers’ interest in continuing education. Now more than ever, adults are returning to educational environments to advance their skills, training and knowledge. “Continuing education generally refers Brandpoint Photo to any type of post-secondary education for the purpose of keeping current with technology breakthroughs help so many changes in a particular field of study or to continue their education and advance for preparation to obtain a certification,” their professional knowledge while worksaid Dr. Marianne Greenfield, a program ing and raising a family.” chair at Argosy University-Atlanta. “Some “Although there are many course proprofessions require that you earn continuviders who cater to those seeking coning education credits in order to maintain a license. The goal of continuing educa- tinuing education, it is important to find tion is to offer adults who already possess an accredited institution to ensure your a college or university degree further op- efforts yield results,” Greenfield said. portunity for learning without having to “Look for programs that offer you access to and learning from quality instructors enroll in a degree program.” “Now more than ever, it’s important with real-life experience in the specific for employees and professionals to keep field of study.” up with all the latest skills and relevant Make sure that the program you are knowledge necessary to compete in to- considering is compatible with any reday’s workforce,” said Dr. George Spag- quirements you will face for licensure. nola, chair of the College of Education And while there are costs associated at Argosy University-Sarasota. “While a with continuing education, many people traditional education is necessary in to- can find financial assistance in the form day’s workforce, it is also a cornerstone of tuition assistance programs offered upon which one can build a better future through their employers. “Tuition asthrough continuing education.” Greenfield agrees: “As more and more sistance programs are of huge benefit to people are obtaining academic degrees, employees and the company,” Spagnola the advantage lies with the candidate said. “As an employee, you receive finanwhose skills and knowledge are current cial assistance for your education and and relevant in the workplace. Continu- your employer, in turn, gets an employee ing education is especially important in advancing their knowledge and skills and areas such as human resources, engineer- applying them to the organizations.” ing, technology, finance and health care, “The benefits far outweigh the expense where rapid advances occur, leading to and many private sector employers will constantly evolving practices.” pay for or reimburse the expense if a comFor many professions, certifications pelling case is made for the added comand licenses are requirements for employ- petitive advantage for the organization,” ment opportunities, so continuing eduGreenfield said. “And if your employer cation is important for job seekers and isn’t able to assist you with the costs, the professionals in those fields. And obtaining continuing education is Internal Revenue Service allows you to more convenient for learners. “Advances deduct a portion of qualifying continuin technology have made continuing ed- ing education expenses on your federal ucation more accessible,” Spagnola said. tax return. If you pay the expense on be“Options are available to pursue continu- half of a spouse or a dependent child, you ing education online, at a physical loca- can also claim the deduction.” RA Landmark ad_6.8542x10.5_Layout 1 12/13/12 1:48 PM Page 1 — Brandpoint tion or in a combination of both. These
Friday, January 18, 2013
Dealing with conflict in your child’s classroom While adults live with the reality that some people just don’t get along, children can find such concepts more difficult to grasp. Teaching our children to deal with conflict and helping them navigate the complexities of interpersonal relationships can be difficult, especially when it comes to conflict with a teacher. Knowing how to approach the teacher and the situation can make all the difference in resolving problems that might arise in the classroom. “When parents are active in their child’s education, the child is likely to perform better academically in school,” according to Dr. Deborah Hammond-Watts, an adjunct professor in the College of Education at Argosy University-Chicago. “A good working relationship between school and home sends the message to a child that his/her parents and the school work together for his/her educational and emotional benefit.” When a child approaches a parent with an issue or comment related to school and/ or the teacher, parents should be willing to listen and to not jump to conclusions. “Whether you believe what your child is telling you or not, it is important for your child to be and feel heard and to know that you are willing to listen,” Dr. Dominick Ferello, professor in the College of Undergraduate Studies at Argosy University-Tampa, said. The next step is for the parent to reach out to the teacher directly. Request a con-
ference or time to discuss the matter with your child’s teacher directly (and without your child present) to gain some understanding as to what the teacher perceives the concern or issue to be. “When requesting to talk with a teacher, keep in mind that the teacher’s job is to teach the children in the classroom during the school day,” Hammond-Watts said. “Schedule an appointment to make certain that the teacher has an amount of time to speak with you. Showing up at school and demanding to see a teacher may not always work in your favor.” Ferello added, “Try not to make assumptions about what is going on before you have an opportunity to meet with the
teacher. The goal for the meeting is to gather information about what may be going on and make it clear that you want to partner with the teacher in helping your child to feel that the focus is on their education and helping them succeed in the classroom.” “Even in some of the most difficult situations, a compromise can probably be reached if both the teacher and parent keep in mind that they are working for the benefit of the child in the educational setting,” Hammond-Watts said. The reality is that teachers aren’t perfect and neither are parents, Ferello noted. As such, the outcome may not always be what either party had hoped for. “Teach-
ers are faced with questions and concerns from a number of parents and children on any given day,” Ferello said. “Given the number of students they teach and the demands placed on them, it’s not hard to imagine that even teachers can get frustrated. Given that parents naturally want to stand up for their children and see the best in and for them, it stands to reason that parent/teacher conversations can sometimes go in the wrong direction.” “If that happens, it’s important to acknowledge that you got off on the wrong foot,” Hammond-Watts said. “To change the relationship or the conversation, someone needs to address the ‘bad start’ and be willing to start over. Either the parent or teacher can do this.” If you and the teacher just cannot get along after much effort and frustration, the principal or another administrator may need to get involved. “The presence of a third party may assist both teacher and parent to try to communicate in a way that demonstrates less conflict,” HammondWatts said. “After the meeting the principal/administrator can meet separately with the parent and teacher to critique the meeting and try to offer solutions toward a better working relationship. While the principal can instruct the teacher to work with the parent in a professional manner, the teacher needs to be sincere in any efforts to do so.” — Brandpoint
Give your child a head start in math, science and beyond Throughout the busy school year, many high school students across the country are already taking steps to explore college and other post-graduation opportunities. In fact, in today’s challenging economic climate and competitive job market, it has become increasingly important to begin planning for future career options at an early stage. One area that is particularly ripe for opportunity is in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). In August, U.S. News & World Report reported that there will be a need to fill over 1.2 million STEM jobs in the U.S. by 2018. STEM careers offer lucrative and stable opportunities; for example, pharmacist jobs boast median salaries of $105,000, with a projected 25 percent job growth rate between 2010 and 2020. STEM fields are also drivers of innovation: Experts note that those working in STEM are overwhelmingly responsible for creating breakthrough inventions compared with non-STEM counterparts.
Developing a love of
Despite the promise these career paths offer, less than one-third of eighth-graders in this country are proficient in mathematics and science and fewer than 15 percent of U.S. undergraduates receive science or engineering degrees. This academic lag has resulted in the country’s STEM workforce hovering under 3 percent of the total working population. “It is important to close these gaps because STEM fields have an enormous impact on our country’s growth and also provide rich opportunities for our youth,” said John Jones, R.Ph., J.D., who is a senior vice president at OptumRx and the chair of the Pharmacy is Right for Me educational initiative. “We should reach students early in their education to get them thinking about the opportunities the sector has to offer, and begin taking those first steps toward building careers in the diverse STEM arena.” So how can parents and caretakers help kids embark upon successful professional journeys in STEM and related fields? Jones
recommends taking the following steps: 1. Engage young students early on and provide them with an educational roadmap. Students may not consider careers in STEM fields because they simply do not know about what those pathways can offer. Help expose kids as early as elementary and middle school to the types of unique and exciting options found through STEM. Work with your children to build a strong foundation in math and science skills, which are essential to pursuing STEM opportunities at every level, from technical positions to those requiring advanced degrees. 2. Encourage hands-on learning. Gaining real-world STEM experience through internships, summer jobs or even participation in student innovation competitions can help kids get excited about future possibilities and apply their science and math education in creative ways. Shadowing STEM professionals in the local community can also provide a deeper understanding of what STEM professions involve on
a day-to-day basis. 3. Seek out additional support both in your local community and online. Preparing for post-high school and post-college life can be extremely challenging, even with parental support. Encourage children to seek additional help at school by speaking with their guidance counselors. Find mentors at school or in the local community to provide professional guidance. Use credible web-based resources for educational and financial information. Online resources can help young students navigate through the challenges of reaching their long-term goals. Despite the challenging job forecast, there is a wide range of prospects open to students in the thriving STEM industries. Engaging the next generation of STEM leaders by getting kids excited about these careers can help secure successful futures for youth. — Brandpoint
Beacon. Where inspired learning begins. For intellectually curious children in grades 2-12, Beacon provides a unique environment for academic enrichment where smaller class size provides personalized attention not found at other schools. Our fully-accredited institution offers a highly-experienced, diverse faculty whose sole purpose is to help guide students in charting their own course towards excellence.
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