ROBO REVOLUTION MODERNIZING STEM EDUCATION
KIDS GUIDE TO THEATER INSIDE SCOOP ON THIS SEASONâ€™S PRODUCTIONS
REVIEWS OF THE TOP SUBSCRIPTIONS
AN SRQ MAGAZINE PUBLICATION WINTER 2018
SARASOTA | MANATEE FAMILIES, KIDS, EDUCATION AND INNOVATION
11/14/18 10:28 AM
This edition of RocketKids can best be encapsulated by a quote you will find in the interview with Paul Epstein, Ph.D., “Children have this unbelievable ability to evoke love from adults. A group of parents will come together at any school . . . and make things happen for the children.” The future belongs to our children and it’s our responsibility to both prepare the world for them, and, even more importantly, prepare them for the world. In this edition of RocketKids, we go deep. Dr. Epstein shares innovation in child development that has been informing Montessori educators for a century. Dr. Michele Borba sounds the alarm on the empathy deficit that mental health professionals are seeing in a generation of kids who spend more time looking at screens than at human faces. Most importantly, we explore what parents can do to help their kids find the freedom and happiness that comes from pushing back against this trend. We also spoke with our resident big-picture thinkers at both the Education Foundations of Sarasota County and Manatee County, Jennifer Vigne and Mary Glass, on how their institutions work with local public schools to break through to new ideas and approaches to education. And that’s just the beginning! Every edition of RocketKids brings invaluable information to the attention of our community, as well as empowering parents with much-appreciated assets like the RocketKids Guide to Theatre, and our reviews of children’s subscription box programs. The Gulf Coast of Florida is one of the richest, and most rewarding places one could raise children. At the recently held International Montessori Conference, at The Hyatt Regency Sarasota, presenter after presenter marveled at the freedom that Florida parents and educators have to let their kids run and play outside year-round. We forget, sometimes, this uniquely tropical joy. Follow the advice of Dr. Borba, Dr. Epstein, and pretty much every child-rearing specialist we’ve ever interviewed, and send those kids outside to play!
LISL LIANG, CEO / PRESIDENT
EDITOR | CREATIVE DIRECTOR Lisl Liang SENIOR EDITOR | COPYEDITOR Phil Lederer ART DIRECTOR | PHOTOGRAPHER Wyatt Kostygan CONTRIBUTING SENIOR EDITOR Jacob Ogles STAFF WRITER Brittany Mattie CONTRIBUTING CREATIVES Amy Costantino Imerman Andrew Fabian
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WHICH SCHOOL BEST FITS YOUR FAMILY? 27
BRADENTON CHRISTIAN SCHOOL ISLAND VILLAGE MONTESSORI SCHOOL MANGROVE SCHOOL OF SARASOTA THE NEWGATE SCHOOL THE OUT-OF-DOOR ACADEMY SARASOTA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL ST. MARTHA CATHOLIC SCHOOL
PUBLISHERS OF SRQ MAGAZINE. © 2018 SRQ MEDIA LUX LIFE MAGAZINE, LOVE LOCAL HOMETOWN GUIDEBOOK, MODERN HOME MAGAZINE, SRQ DAILY AND ROCKETKIDS. 331 South Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, FL 34236 Phone 941-365-7702 Fax 941-365-0853 SRQMAG.COM The contents of RocketKids and ProjecThink are copyrighted ©2018 SRQ MEDIA and cannot be reproduced in any manner.
11/14/18 4:33 PM
AN SRQ MAGAZINE ANNUAL 2018
TO BOLDY GO 6 THE GIFTED MIND 40 CHILDRENS GUIDE TO LOCAL THEATER 8 LIGHTING THE FIRE 10 GROWING UP; INTERVIEW WITH DR. PAUL EPSTEIN 26 STRIVING HIGHER 28 REVIEW OF KIDS ACTIVITY SUBSCRIPTION BOXES 44
ROBO REVOLUTION MODERNIZING STEM EDUCATION 12
THE FOUNDATIONS JENNIFER VIGNE AND MARY GLASS ON FUNDING PUBLIC EDUCATION 22
EMPATHY REIGNS INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR MICHELE BORBA 24
FAMILY TRAVEL CAPTIVA ISLAND 46
CULTIVATING SARASOTA | MANATEE FAMILIES, KIDS, EDUCATION AND INNOVATION
11/14/18 2:41 PM
11/13/18 3:12 PM
EXPLORE HIDDEN GEMS FOR FAMILIES
Suncoast Science Center RC Car Competition â€” March 30, 2019
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Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s cast of animated characters, The Civility Squad, promotes congenial discourse and civic participation for kids throughout Sarasota County Schools. Leading the way in promoting kindness, encouraging respectful ethics and building social capital is The Civility Squad, a group of animations designed by alumni students and faculty from Ringling College of Art and Design for the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. “The cool characters and memorable slogans are breaking through and connecting with students because they’re positioned almost as superheroes,” says Greg Luberecki, director of communications and public relations for GCCF. “We use them to promote simple behaviors that improve the way that people communicate with one another, and, in the process, tighten the fabric of our community.” The Civility Squad offers fun, gentle reminders about practicing the 10 Keys to Civility, a list of guiding principles identified by community volunteers in 2007 for Gulf Coast’s original civility campaign ‘Because It Matters’—now reimagined to combat increasing levels of incivility and divisiveness evident on school campuses and in social media. “With the prevalence of social media and issues like cyber-bullying that have come with it,” says Anna Hahn, GCCF director of marketing and digital strategy, 4
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“we think it’s critical to help kids see and share positive messages like ‘accept others,’ ‘speak kindly’ and ‘make a difference.’” Sarasota County schools are integrating the lovable cast of fantastical characters by training hundreds of teachers and staff in how to promote and reward civil behavior. Campaign elements include online
“It’s much more than just a ‘be nice’ campaigne. It’s about empowering people to actively improve the community.” — Greg Lubrecki, GCCF
animations and posters featuring the quirky cartoons modeling and messaging civil behavior in fun ways. “Each month they’re going to focus on a different Key to Civility by helping students learn about each concept and giving them examples of how to put it forward in their own daily actions,” says Luberecki. With the vision of “saving our community one good deed at a time,” the positive spin encourages kids to make B Y
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their own decisions and take action instead of hearing an adult tell them what they have to do or can’t do.“ The Civility Squad characters are letting children know that if you follow these keys, it will make you feel good; it will make kids in your class feel good. It’s more about making a positive choice rather than following a rule,” says Luberecki. “We’re seeing individuals choose to invite somebody to sit at a lunch table with other kids, picking somebody for the kickball team that would normally be left out.” As recognition for doing something kind or responsible, kids receive Civility Squad rewards—wearable/shareable merchandise such as T-shirts, pins, stickers, temporary tattoos, bookmarks and trading cards. Students are responding to the foundational elements with increased school attendance, reduced suspension, improved academics, elevated ethics and higher graduation rates. “We see it as a way to make the school campus a positive, welcoming, safe place for students and teachers,” Luberecki says. “It’s much more than just a ‘be nice’ campaign. It’s about empowering people to actively improve the community.” —B.Mattie
M A G A Z I N E
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11/13/18 3:12 PM
With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing comes the Year of Apollo at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at Cape Canaveral, where visitors will enjoy a year of special programming and bear witness to spacefaring milestones. For the first time in decades, the Kennedy Space Center will resume sending manned missions into space, and a focused series of events and exhibitions celebrating the space race and moon missions that paved the way will bring the story alive in new ways for a fresh audience. SRQ sat with Kennedy Space Center Communications Manager Rebecca Shireman to talk the current trajectory.
ToBoldlyGo What’s the importance of having institutions like the Kennedy Space Center? Rebecca Shireman: It brings awareness to the value of the space program. A lot of people just see the budget number, and they think that that money can be used in better ways. Part of the job of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is to not only inspire kids of all ages, but also to educate people in an informative and entertaining way on the value that the space program has given to not just America but to the world. In the past, space brought us together. Can it still do that? Absolutely. That sense of exploration is in our nature, and that is what draws people. And that sense of curiosity never goes away, which is why we’re still celebrating landing on the moon 50 years later. In elementary school, we would go outside and watch the space shuttle launch. There are people who have kept that sense of exploration alive and it’s reignited in each generation, whether it’s going back to the moon or one day going to Mars. That curiosity just doesn’t go away. What happens if we don’t feed that curiosity? It’s part of our nature. It leads to things that benefit our everyday lives, and so something as simple as duct tape—very simple things that are spin-offs from NASA inventions or that NASA created for the space program— 6
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we lose those. And that’s something very tangible for people to understand. But in the philosophical sense, while it was Americans that landed on the moon, in that moment it was very clear that it was for all humankind. It was a moment that the world came together and celebrated. That’s something intangible, but it’s still important. Can we have those moments again? All around Florida, but especially in the Kennedy Space Center immediate area, there is still a sense of pride in that. And hopefully once we launch humans again, that will garner more interest and more awareness and people will get more engaged and understand the value that it brings for our area, and all of Florida, and the entire country really. These manned missions—are we going back to the moon? That will be first to the International Space Station. Right now the American astronauts and all nationalities that go to the International Space Station launch from Russia, and we pay Russia for that. Hopefully, early next year they’ll be launching our astronauts from Kennedy Space Center. And we’ll have two vehicles to do that—the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner. That’s low Earth orbit, but it’s a huge step. Certainly going back to the moon, which is the latest
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Left to right:
The Mars Rover Concept Vehicle. The Apollo Saturn V Center Theater Presentation.
mission in the very near future, and then eventually going to Mars, which is going to be the goal for hopefully our lifetime. In the meantime, what kind of activities and highlights should families be sure not to miss? Definitely the Heroes & Legends attraction, and that’s all about the early space race. That sets the tone for the day—those early astronauts, the original Mercury 7, and what innovators and pioneers they were. The other point of interest would definitely be our bus tour, which sounds not so exciting, but you get to see restricted areas of Kennedy Space Center. You get to see the vehicle assembly building where they put together rockets, and they’re getting ready for the next big rocket that NASA is building. You also get to see where Space X has its operations, and where United Launch Alliance has its operation. You see the work that’s really happening and it brings to life that this is an active, multi-user spaceport. And then the bus tour takes you to the Apollo/Saturn V Center, which has a Saturn V rocket, which is only one of three that still exists in the world, and it’s over 360 feet long. It’s huge. It really demonstrates the power that was needed to get humans to the moon. And, lastly I would say Space Shuttle Atlantis. It just takes your breath away, brings tears to your eyes. —P.Lederer
M A G A Z I N E
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Looking for the perfect show to take the whole family? Local theaters chime in with the inside scoop on this season’s kid-friendly productions.
Asolo Repertory Theatre
Asolo Rep’s highly anticipated production of The Music Man (Nov. 13 – Dec. 29) is family entertainment at its best. Featuring the first Broadway “rap” song, this innovative, tap dancing-infused production of The Music Man is guaranteed to be a kid favorite and have them singing and dancing for weeks to come. The cast includes six local child actors, three boys and three girls, ranging from ages 8 – 12. Don’t miss Family Day, featuring discounted ticket packages and pre-show activities in the lobby on Saturday, December 1. Later in the season, eight actors, 109 characters, six trains, six boats, four flights, one storm, a circus act and an elephant take center stage when Asolo Rep partners once again with UK’s Kenny Wax Family Entertainment (Hetty Feather) to bring Around the World in 80 Days (June 6 – 23) to Sarasota. Jules Verne’s beloved classic comes to life on stage in this adventure-packed, sweeping theatrical event. Family Day is Saturday, June 15. asolorep.org 941-351-8000.
Players Theatre Hairspray Jan 17–Feb 3 “Welcome to the 60s,” where Tracy Turnblad, a pleasantly plump teenager, dreams of fame and fights to racially integrate the Corny Collins Show. This winner of eight Tony Awards (including “Best Musical”) is based on the John Waters film and proves that “You Can’t Stop The Beat.” A delightful piece of musical and political history, the production is actually based on the only PG-rated film that counterculture icon John Waters ever directed, and the Corny Collins Show is Waters’ response to the real life TV program The Buddy Deane Show, which was cancelled for refusing to integrate white dancers and black dancers. In another Waters’ twist, the role of Edna, Tracy’s mom, is typically played by a man. Tip for Parents: The 2007 film version could serve as an interesting primer for this stage production, as they play out largely the same, minus a few musical numbers. And with themes of racism, classism and bullying, Hairspray provides a golden opportunity to discuss these things with a young audience, as well as dive a little bit into the history of the country at that time. “A little talk about how we treat others, that we don’t bully and that we accept people for who there are would also go a long way,” says Players’ Amanda Heisey. theplayers.org 941-365-2494 8
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Left to right: The Magic Flute, Sarasota Opera; Almost Maine, Venice Theatre; and, The Music Man, Asolo Repertory Theatre.
COMPILED BY PHIL LEDERER | BRITT MATTIE
11/14/18 10:20 AM
Sarasota Contemporary Dance for the Ages Tips from General Manager Melissa Coleman Sperber, on how kids can enjoy the art of contemporary dance.“A lot of introducing young audience members to contemporary dance is asking questions, so several of my tips are in the form of questions to encourage dialogue and understanding with the student,” says Melissa. sarasotacontemporarydance.org 941-359-0099
TIPS FOR YOUNG AUDIENCE MEMBERS
A Christmas Carol Dec 14–20 This annual Venice Theatre tradition continues into its 19th season bringing yuletide cheer for the whole family. This year brings a little something new, and the folks at Venice Theatre are calling the production Carol 2.0. Featuring new songs, new scenery and even a new Scrooge in award-winning local favorite Brad Wages. In an era of gritty reboots, this is one reinvention that stays family-friendly. Almost, Maine Jan 13, 14, 19 Venice Theatre’s Youth Production Company debuts its first show this season with this award-winning collection of short scenes from John Cariani exploring love and romance. Completely youth-driven, the show is selected by students, who then raise the money, hold auditions, market shows and produce it themselves. Honk! A Musical Tale of the Ugly Duckling May 10–19 In this end of the year celebration for families, the classic tale gets a musical revamp with a whole cast of quirky characters and songs. A heartwarming story of self-discovery and self-acceptance, Hans Christian Andersen never seemed so approachable.
1. Often times contemporary dance does not follow a strict storyline, but instead is trying to express a specific feeling or message. How did the piece make you feel? (Happy, angry, sad, surprised?) How did the movement or music demonstrate that emotion?
Florida Studio Theatre Deck the Halls: Home for the Holidays Nov 24–Dec 29 Celebrate everything that makes Christmas in Sarasota special with this newly revamped holiday production written by Sarah Durham and FST Head of Children’s Theatre Caroline Kaiser. Combining musical numbers with sketch comedy, this interactive family show brings the bedecked palm trees and sand snowmen to Bowne’s Lab Theatre every Saturday and select Sundays. Snow White Jan 12–Feb 23 This classic tale gets a Florida Studio Theatre makeover that crams all the magic and intrigue into Bowne’s Lab Theatre every weekend. Though the story calls for seven dwarves, one evil queen, one brave huntsman and one Snow White, this production does it all with only two actors. A Beary Big Adventure and Other Winning Plays Mar 30–Apr 20 From the mouths of babes! This collection of short plays showcase the theatrical and playwriting abilities of the youngest among us, as professional actors take on stories crafted by wise-beyond-theiryears elementary school students. In 28 years producing kids’ plays, FST has made stage dreams come true for more than 2,000 budding playwrights. Talk with staff after the show to figure out how to get your own little ones involved. floridastudiotheatre.org 941-366-9000
2. The elements of dance are Body, Energy, Space and Time (BEST). See what shapes you notice; if the energy is high, low or changing. Did the dancers use the whole space, or really concentrate on one spot? Was the movement fast or slow? 3. What would you title the piece? We ask this one a lot in our school programs. It allows the young audience member to really engage with the work and take a little ownership over what they are seeing. 4. What relationships did you see (family, friends, enemies, strangers)? Do you relate to any of the characters?
SCD PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHT FOR YOUNG VIEWERS “Dance Makers, January 31–February 3, 2019 in the Jane B Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts is our young audience pick,” says Melissa of SCD’s calendar for upcoming performances for the year. This production includes a highly energetic, urban Latin-inspired piece with an important message, choreographed by LA Choreographer Ana Maria Alvarez, as well as a beautiful duet reflecting on motherhood by NYC-based choreographer Katiti King. Also on the program is a full company work comprised of dynamic partnering which gives homage to those who have inspired our company members throughout their lives, and an athletic all-female quartet. Completing the program is a multimedia solo—danced by SCD artistic director Leymis Bolaños Wilmott. The versatile program offers great accessibility to contemporary dance, while also leaving an impact on each audience member transported by SCD.
Sarasota Opera The Magic Flute Feb 16–Mar 23 A musical fairy tale about a handsome prince on a quest to rescue a kidnapped princess, join Prince Tamino and goofy sidekick Papageno as they take on the devious Queen of the Night in this iconic opera from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart started writing music when he was only five years old, and look out for some of Sarasota Youth Opera’s young performers onstage in Act II, singing the part of the Three Spirits and playing various costumed animals. And tell young listeners to keep an ear out for the Queen of the Night’s aria in Act II, Scene III, which contains perhaps some of the highest notes they’ve ever heard live! Though performed in German, English translations will be displayed above the stage. sarasotaopera.org 941-328-1300
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Left to right: Dr. Todd Brown; Trisha Yearwood with the Sarasota Military Academy students.
Through the Inspire Project at Sarasota Military Academy, Dr. Todd Brown and SMA faculty and staff bring some of the best, brightest and boldest minds into the classroom, either in-person or through remote conferencing, to connect with students and motivate them to be active shapers of the world around them. From internationally acclaimed scientists like Dr. Pardis Sabeti to Hollywood actors like Jada Pinkett Smith and musical superstars like Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks, the Inspire Project gives Sarasota students an open channel to their heroes. SRQ went behind the lesson plan with Dr. Brown to talk the importance of interactivity and future of inspiration.
What was the inspiration behind the Inspire Project? Dr. Todd Brown: The late former head of the UN, Kofi Annan encapsulated it in a nutshell when he said, “You’re never too young to lead, and you’re never to old to learn.” A lot of times we discount students by virtue of their chronological age, and there are a lot of things that the students have to offer. I wanted to give them an opportunity to connect with people that have failed, that have succeeded, to get to the intricacies of, not only their occupations, but them just as a human being. How much interaction do students get with these speakers? This isn’t a TED-type situation where somebody sits in front of kids and talks about how great they are and what they’ve accomplished and then that’s it. It’s a couple minute introduction, and then it goes straight into a dialogue with the kids, so they actually get to ask questions that they’re interested in. Why is that interaction aspect so important for these young students? It’s really important that they have a vested interest in what we’re doing, and part of that is giving them the voice, and giving them the time to do something other than just sit there. 10
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They’re preached to by adults all day every day, especially the middle school age, high school age. These teenage kids have an unbelievable, amazing capacity to learn, and to project their thoughts. And, they usually have some really good ideas. The purpose here is for interaction and connectivity. Ultimately, we have a lot of speakers that don’t just speak, they become mentors.
with our kids?” and now we’ve developed an infectious disease curriculum in which we have a campus-wide outbreak where we shut the campus down and the kids have to work together in order to solve the problem and cure people. The Broad Institute developed an app on your phone. It’s the first app ever of its kind, that simulates an airborne infection that travels phone to phone.
How do you bring speakers of such caliber to your classrooms? This whole thing started with a TIME magazine article about the best scientists in the history of the world and the upcoming minds that are going to change the world. I was reading it to my six-year-old daughter, and she thought Dr. Pardis Sabeti from Harvard and the Broad Institute was amazing. So I just thought, “You know what? I’m going to find her online.” I emailed her and said, “My daughter loves you. Would you mind signing a picture?” She’s an infectious disease expert, and she happened to be in the middle of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. She emails me back and says, “No problem. I’m in the middle of a couple of things. When I get back in the country.” It snowballed into, “Would you be willing to Skype
Where do you hope to see this go in the future, this Inspire Project? Ultimately, I want it to be in every school we can possibly have it in. I want to build initiatives in order to solve local, communal or even global issues. Because I know, as an adult, that I’m not going to be around forever. Some of the issues that need to be solved are longitudinal, very long term, and we need these kids to start now to make headway for the future. There will be Inspire Ireland. I’ve just been named to an advisory board on a school in Kenya, and we have one now in Nigeria. We’re going to connect teachers and students under umbrellas of initiatives that affect everyone, regardless of race, age, geographical location, and work together as a global community.—P.Lederer
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ROBO REVOLUTION | THEEDUCATION FOUNDATIONS OF SARASOTA AND MANATEE INTERVIEW SWITH MICHELE BORBA AND DR. PAUL EPSEIN
11/14/18 5:00 PM
Robo Revolution Engineering and robotics classes modernize STEM education WRITTEN BY JACOB OGLES PHOTOGRAPHYBY WYATT KOSTYGAN
11/14/18 5:00 PM
IF THE COOLEST SCIENCE PROJECTS IN YOUR DAY INVOLVED VINEGAR AND BAKING SODA,
you may have trouble containing the jealousy at the engineering and robotics feats achieved in classrooms in Southwest Florida today. Manatee County students design world-class racecars. Sarasota middle schoolers program commands to direct robots through the halls. Out-of-Door Academy students build devices that can sort and deliver medical supplies at assisted living homes. Community Day School pupils send drones soaring into the sky.
n outgrowth of efforts in recent years to boost science, technology, engineering and math education in the schools also helped stockpile some nifty toys and tools in the storage closets of many an area institution. The result has been the construction of amazing robots and remote-controlled machines that make the curriculum the envy not just of parents but of the world.
RACKING UP ROBOTICS The presence of robotics at the Out-of-Door Academy in Lakewood Ranch these days can’t be missed by anyone who even strolls through campus. The school in 2015 opened its STEM Center, an 11,000-square-foot facility that screams “Science” from its exterior. Inside the lab, students from middle school onward assemble everything from small-scale remote-control cars to seaworthy boats with programmable navigation systems. But even before opening the center, teachers over the past eight years have grown robotics by leaps and bounds. Dr. Joanne Barrett works with 8th-grade students here on a computer science curriculum. Some students gravitate to the hands-on handling of machinery while others prefer the lines of code plugged in from a computer keyboard. “We use different products on the market for all of that, and we put those to use in support of our learning goals with the existing coursework,” she says. Fellow science teacher Stephanie Sassetti says projects can become expansive, and will utilize every student’s talents. Past efforts include the creation of miniature theme park rides or construction of working vehicles. The school has enjoyed access to VEX Robotics, littleBits and other brands of education-focused STEM-ware. The teachers explain the subtle difference between general engineering and robotics, which is the ability for students themselves to code in instructions that direct the machines that students build. But they stress the distinction more describes the place of particular studies on a spectrum, rather then representing a true divide. “It’s just like there’s no true division between chemistry and biology—it’s all science,” Sassetti says. But some students excel in different areas than others.
There’s a visceral attraction to robotic activities like BattleBots, particular for middle school boys excited to take Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots to the next circuit-board thrashing level. But there’s constructive appeal as well. Right now, the students are working to create a scale model of a theme park simulator, something like the cars on The Simpsons ride at Universal Studios but too small for human passengers. The models by the end of the project should be able to jostle and bounce to match the motion of a roller coaster cart.
“A lot of students are top performers. They are booksmart and understand different subjects, but can have difficulty applying skills in the real world.”— Ryan Kinser, Out-of-Door Academy Will students ever be able to build a simulator big enough to ride? That’s a matter of expense. But the programming skills learned now won’t be too different. Ryan Kinser, head of instructional technology at ODA, takes the students who enjoyed the building-cool-stuff activities in the middle school, then starts to show off the practical reasons robotics will be important in the future. The class shows how robotics can be used to solve problems and help people. “Each engineering lesson is designed around a challenge happening in the real world,” he explains. That can include designing smart supports to make earthquake-safe buildings that could stand in unstable parts of Haiti, or it can involve tackling the potential of driverless cars. Recently, students in his class began work on a custom robotic vehicle that will deliver medical supplies to residents of an assisted living facility. Kinser is especially proud of how this approach has inspired girls to embrace robotics. In a field that typically appeals to the Transformers-viewing demographic, it’s rewarding to see that the chance to help real people proves to be the key to inspiring involvement of students of all genders. But most important, this makes sure students enter the real world with an ability to do more than bubble in test answers. “A lot of students are top performers,” says Kinser. “They are booksmart and understand different subjects, but can have difficulty RocketKids | Winter 2018
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“Ignoring what’s modern doesn’t help students in the world. What makes innovation exciting is the curiosity that comes from it. — Dr. Rebekah Weber, The Community Day School applying skills in the real world.” This teaches students applications for knowledge and gets them thinking critically. “The message comes across even better when it’s in the context of making a difference,” he says.
IMPROV IN CODE FORM The leaders for McIntosh Middle School’s Technology Student Association spent part of October at an Orlando conference scrapping together sandpaper, duct tape and tubes of plastic. The students show up with a toolbox full of sandpaper, adhesives, sponges and whatever their science instructor Brent McClenathen sees fit. But they mostly were equipped with their wits. They will move a ball from Point A to Point B, creating a system without glue or blueprints, and the most creative design for a prototype wins. It’s the sort of problem TSA competitions demand students solve. They may have to create a three-dimensional game board, or create a missing machinery part. “They just have to start building whatever we ask when they get a problem to solve,” says McClenathen. It may not sound like training to make the next Terminator, but the competition gives a taste of what real engineering is about, making due with what’s on hand to create the most efficient and effective solution to a problem, whether that’s getting a ball past a series of unmovable obstacles or flinging a block into the air without hitting anybody around. This conference will include 8th-grade TSA president Dean Schweickhardt and the leaders of McIntosh Middle’s three VEX IQ robotics teams, Eric Robert, Benjamin Miller and Alexander Reichel, but further competitions in the year will give more than a dozen students involved in the club a chance to test their own wits in formal competitions. And the program grows, becoming popular enough this year to add McClenathen, a former chemical engineer, as a second sponsor alongside fellow science teacher Yilong Liu. Administration believes the contests will both inspire students to dream up new designs and develop their leadership skills. McIntosh Middle Principal Harriet Moore says the robotics creations that students build provide some of the first major projects in which the kids start literally with nothing, put in hard work, and have something complex and magnificent to show for it. “The students work together and get to start from the beginning and go all the way to an end,” Moore notes. Along the way, the students will not only figure out the physical construction, but learn the abstract computer programming that goes with a true robotics task. “It’s just awesome to watch some of these youngsters go from not knowing anything, to building and developing these robots to follow their commands,” she says. The middle school competitions will require students to build robots on the spot using plastic pieces set up with each task. In addition to the club, Mc14
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Clenathen also teaches a robotics class for advanced science students at the school. There, tests each quarter get replaced with projects. At the end of the first nine weeks of schools, students created a spinning pan, demanding they rig up a two-button system for increasing or decreasing the speed, and for that to have enough precision that students could set it to a velocity called for by the teacher. The work will grow more complicated through the year, McClenathen says. The ultimate culmination involves a complicated maze for a student-made device to navigate. The students for starters can use a remote control to learn the best way for the vehicle to get through, but then they will need to use coding to pre-program it. That means setting in advance how long a car must accelerate forward before making a turn, and then another turn and another. It’s a long-term goal to eventually release the car at the start of the maze and have it navigate the entire journey without students ever touching it. “The point of this to have the kids constantly thinking and innovating,” says McClenathen.
DRONING ON Tuesday means one thing in Dr. Rebekah Weber’s class at Community Day School. It’s time to bring out the drones. The Bahia Vista school puts robotics in the hands of students starting in kindergarten and continuing through eighth grade. Of course, different levels of students tackle varying levels of technological lessons, but everything follows the project-based learning education model driving studies on the campus. Weber’s happy to delve into project-based learning and get kids excited about building new machines of their own invention, and she finds that sparks an interest in knowledge among kids at any stage of the curriculum. “Ignoring what’s modern doesn’t help students in the world,” she says. “What makes new innovation, engineering and human design exciting is the curiosity that comes from it. That’s what leads to an interest in learning.” The range of what students build in class will vary with their own interest at Community Day School. Some students will be designing tiny homes, which get those in class thinking about scale, physics and construction. Then there’s robotics, which has students diving into the intricacies of machinery and learning on a basic level how they work. The technology gets introduced into classrooms quite early. Students at Community Day School from kindergarten through second grade find themselves learning basic coding on computers using age-appropriate software at Code.org. By the time kids get to third grade, they become familiar with the basic concept of an algorithm. As the kids get older, Weber works with students assembling terrestrial robots using LEGO robotics kits, which, while being distinctly earthbound, offer versatility in the different types of programming students can attempt. Part of that curriculum right now includes design-moving robots that can go around an obstacle course inside the school gym, the climax of the 6th-grade curriculum.
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Clockwise this page: Team Perspectiveâ€™s award-winning model racecar, that took third place in the F1 in Schools World Finals in Singapore. The students of Team Perspective, Jaxson Bunes, Alex Kumar, Alana Kelly and Cassandra Atzrodt (not pictured: Ahmad Ibsais). The early steps of drone assembly at Community Day School. McIntosh Middle School science instructor Brent McClenathen leads a hands-on demonstration for students. Students scavenge for parts at McIntosh Middle School.
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The 8th grade students studying under Weber have advanced to the point where they will be building the motors for quad copters, wiring them with navigation systems and then learning how to program the flying machines. Another thing this teaches students? Patience. There’s little instant gratification when it comes to top-to-bottom design and engineering for a working drone. Students spend weeks on assembly. “It’s about research, and about frustration,” Weber says. “It’s about trial and error, and working within a budget. All of these things are part of STEM.” But the reward comes when the kid-made gear gets taken to the gym and lifts off into the air. The program for Weber serves as an educational experiment as well. The teacher this year is working with Luminier, a maker of drone parts, on developing a curriculum around drones that could be shipped around schools nationwide. “This is a new program we are piloting, literally and figurative,” she says. Weber gets to write the curriculum and tweak it as necessary. And that extends beyond teaching physical sciences. The students will discuss the various ways drones have changed the civilized world and what the ramifications of that may be. Whether it’s legal rights over air space or privacy laws regarding drone video units, there’s consequence to unleashing remote-controlled precision flying machines into society. “Drones are a part of life,” Weber says. It’s important students comprehend what that means. Engineers will also come to the school to discuss the career opportunities available to students who take an intense interest in robotics and engineering and who want to pursue the craft for a living. If everything stays on course with the drone program, she’d like to create a similar course off the ground that drones can navigate as well.
The races provided the annual culmination of the international Formula 1 in Schools program, an effort that touches on engineering, mechanics and even marketing in an effort to excite and to educate the racing workforce of tomorrow. This year, 50 teams from 31 countries qualified and participated in the world finals. Palmetto High technical education teacher Brian Kendzior guided the team and led the trip to Asia. Teams use computer-assisted drafting software to design, calibrate and manufacture the racing vehicles. Beyond making the car itself, students also design a 10-foot racing display, prepare a presentation and participate in job-style interviews with judges at the world competition, which runs over five days. Margi Nanney, a graduation consultant with the Manatee County School District, says the competition shows the full extent to which STEM education open doors for — Margi Nanney, graduation consultant students. “I am certain one of these stuwith the Manatee County School District dents will end up interning or working with a Formula 1 team after high school,” she says. THE FAST TRACK The roar of the engines on an openHer own son years ago participated in the F1 program, so this wheeled racetrack offers allure to gear heads around the competition holds a particular place in Nanney’s heart. “These world, but it’s also creating educational and professional opkids are training for months, and its fascinating,” she says. “But portunities for students from Manatee County high schools. it’s not just about the races. They learn about branding and so A cross-county team of students from Palmetto, Southeast many things connected to this.” and Braden River high schools this year flew around the The team included Bunes and Alex Kumar as engineers, world to Singapore with a homemade miniature racecar to Cassandra Atzrodt as resource manager, Alana Kelly as a team pit against the fastest student machines in the world. leader and Ahmad Ibsais as graphic designer. The make-up The “Perspective” team ended up finishing in third place shows the cross-curriculum benefits as well, with teams seeworldwide in the competition. “Having the American Flag on ing the connections between engineering a vehicle and marthe podium at the world level is an honor,” boasts Jaxson Bunes, keting it to the world. a design engineer on the team, after the event.
“These kids are training for months, and it’s fascinating. But it’s not just about the races. They learn about branding and so many things connected to this.”
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The Perspective team, for example, also walked away with the Research & Development Award, based on the legwork that went into building the car. The success of the Manatee team also shows just how much interest and opportunity exists for the STEM-oriented student in this portion of the state. The Manatee County team this year was the only one from the United States to qualify for the world competition. But the talent and tradition here has created a long-time record of success in competition. The county won the world competition in 2010, and on four occasions since then has finished in the top four teams internationally. Nanney notes the only two teams that beat the Manatee County students came from Australia and Ireland, where the national government finances and provides professional support for the student teams. The F1 efforts in Manatee County get funded primarily by the Manatee Education Foundation, with some big assists from local partners like Mosaic, ICONN, Auto Solutions, Dillon Machinery and R Cubed Engineering. Itâ€™s all evidence that infusing robotics and engineering into the classroom not only enchants with the chance to play with gizmos, but kicks open doors for careers after high school. And even if a student never tinkers under the hood of their car or the inside of their computer, they develop a skillset, knowledge and curiosity about the way the world works that will blast them toward success as adults. b
This spread, left to right: ODA science instructor Timothy Garrett looks on as students debate the proper approach to a robotics problem. Getting upclose with technology at McIntosh Middle School. Concentration and deft hands are crucial to drone construction at Community Day School.
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AUTHOR OF UN-SELFIE DR. MICHELE BORBA ON THE NEGATIVE IMPACT OF TRAPPING KIDS IN THE DIGITAL WORLD OF SCREENS
EmpathyReigns Dr. Michele Borba, the author of twenty-two books and the “go-to” expert for media outlets such as the TODAY show, Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers, Dr. Phil and many more, brought her newest message about parenting to Sarasota through the Forty Carrots Annual Free Community Speaker Event. Michele Borba electrified the audience with her message about the importance of putting down digital devices and nurturing empathy and human involvement. SRQ magazine Executive Publisher Wes Roberts sat down with the doctor for a wide-ranging and detailed discussion of her newest book, Un-Selfie and how parents can turn back the tide on the digital culture robbing children of the opportunity to learn to engage people and themselves outside of the screens on their devices.
INTERVIEW BY WES ROBERTS | DR. MICHELE BORBA WAS IN SARASOTA FOR THE ANNUAL FORTY CARROTS COMMUNITY SPEAKER EVENT
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Parenting—Interview With Michele Borba
ou are drawing parents’ attention to the loss of empathy as a common virtue in today’s kids. Are parents receptive to this concern? Borba: I’ve worked with about a million parents on six continents and they have exactly the same questions. The first thing I tell them is that empathy can be cultivated. It’s a huge mismatch. They think it’s all sucked up into DNA or temperament or gender. No, you can cultivate it. But in today’s culture, it needs to be intentionally cultivated. Second, there’s good news. It’s not an app. It’s not another tutor. It’s not another program. It’s not a worksheet. It’s simple little everyday things that you do with your children. What are some of the simple techniques that a parent can start to use? Start with one rule that will help build empathy at age two: “Always look at the color of the talker’s eyes.” Start modeling it. Because our kids are looking down, not up. Emotional literacy is a gateway to empathy. You can’t feel with somebody unless you know how the person feels. And yet we’re teaching our kids these circle emojis as opposed to being able to read each other’s faces. That’s just the start. Then begin talking about emotions more naturally with your kids. A hint on that one, we talk feelings and emotions far more to our daughters at age two than we do our sons. So there’s already a pink-blue divide by the time it’s five years of age. But it doesn’t end with empathy, right? Everyone needs a moral rudder. Just because a child can feel with somebody or read their feelings, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be able to step in and act. The goal is for them to be able to step in and do the right thing. We also know that all the research says that in families who intentionally make moral mantras in their homes—“Here’s what we stand for, and here’s what we believe”—kids are actually more likely to be kind. Temperament is there to stay just like our children’s physical frame, hair and eye color. Let’s put our energies in what we can nurture and cultivate to make our children good, capable, strong, resilient human beings who can thrive. How do parents explain the lack of civility in online discourse, such as on Facebook? I am telling kids that you don’t have to agree with a person but you should try to understand where they’re coming from. They’re not given that opportunity. And as a result, empathy also takes another ding. There’s the affective side of empathy. You can see your child when they watch Charlotte’s Web and they get a little teary-eyed. Or they come running in because their brother is standing there hurt and they’re so sad because they’re feeling with them. But there’s also the cognitive side. Perspective taking. Understanding differences. We live in a global world. It’s not a “me” world, it’s a “we” world. We’ve polarized ourselves so much, dividing ourselves, that we’re pitting people against each other. You don’t dig deep to figure out where the other person is coming from. There are fabulous ways to do debates. I’ve got three kids and they’re now older but each one has a different political affiliation. They’ve got to defend themselves. You want them to be able to problem solve. You want them to be able to think differently. And you can disagree, but you have to do it respectfully. Your goal is to try and understand where the other person is coming from. The end goal
is not a soft and fluffy kid. What you’re looking for is a child who wants to make the world a better place—a child who can stand up and feel comfortable with differences but be able to defend himself. It really came to me during the last election process where the politicians were putting on shows, but not arguing any actual positions. So, what we did with my kids is we did debates in the car. Debates like, “which is better, a lion or a bear?” Oh my gosh, put that down, that is a fabulous idea. That is exactly what we need to do. What we’re trying to do when we get to empathy, is help the kid reach out, do the right thing, step up, and speak out. That is moral courage. Kids need a voice to be able to do that. And they can start simply, by saying, “Which is better? Brown bear, black bear? Then you move your way up. I love that because I think what you’re doing is realizing that at the end what you’re looking for is empathy. I’ve been put off by a theme in some children’s books where selfish characters are placated and eventually rewarded by the other characters. Is that really a good lesson? We need to be more intentional on the kinds of images we share with our children. Images and words in books can either galvanize our children’s empathy, or diminish it. I recommend the website Common Sense Media. They have is a list of fabulous books, thousands of them, where you can plug in “kindness” or “compassion” or “courage” or “bravery,” and it will give you books that would counter that character that you were just describing. It would show instead the kind of character who reaches out and gives towards others. Because once our kids see that image, that would be called moral imagination, they can get into the shoes of the character and they can go, “Oh, he made the world a better place and look how happy it made him.” What is the role of unstructured play in development? The role of unstructured play, or un-bubble wrapping, is standing back so you’re not always helicoptering, so the child is able to figure out how to solve problems on his own. That said, when he’s little, you can still pull him and go, “Okay, let’s stop a minute and let’s figure out a different way,” because we’ve also learned that role-playing, not telling him but showing him, works. You’re also looking at the habit of collaboration. One of the things that we’re discovering about today’s kids is that they’re competitive and highly individualistic. Where are they going to get the opportunity to learn teamwork and give and take? A lot of parents will listen to your advice and try and remove technology from their kids, but it seems like a successful, entrepreneurial-spirited young person in the future will need a digital presence. They have to. Look, good parenting is always a balance. Good parenting is also realizing, taking a forward leap and going, “What’s the world my child will be exposed to?“ Well, it’s going to be internet. They are digitally driven. And they’re digital natives. You’re not going to take that away from them. Part of parenting is always helping them learn to find the positives. We’ve got to gently push them. The internet does two things, it either amplifies our empathy or it makes us meaner. It’s scary isn’t it? b
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WE CONVENE EDUCATION FOUNDATION OF SARASOTA COUNTY AND THE MANATEE EDUCATION FOUNDATION HEADS TO LOOK AT THE FUTURE OF FUNDING PUBLIC EDUCATION.
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INTERVIEW BY JACOB OGLES PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYATT KOSTYGAN
hat’s the relationship between education foundations and our local school districts? Mary Glass, Manatee Education Foundation: We were part of the school district when I first came on board. I was literally an employee. The foundation was under the school district, and it wasn’t until 2012 that we became our own independent foundation through the desire of the board. Jennifer Vigne, Education Foundation of Sarasota County: We’ve been an independent organization since our inception 30 years ago, which affords us the ability to adapt and flex and be just a little more nimble in responses to changes that may be happening, and the opportunity to innovate in ways in which may not always be allowed when you’re connected through a organizational structure. It allows us to continue to focus on the students without having to get caught up in any obstacles. Glass: We are similar but we’re so different. Show me an education foundation and I’ll show you a different organization. We do things differently but our purposes are really to support the school district. But we’ve moved more into collective community, programs and priorities. One program is called ‘Soar in Four’ and it’s following a VPK 4-year-old for four years. Now it’s in four schools, and they want to have it in all our Title 1 schools by 2020. Vigne: Our bread and butter work are grants programs, which support anything from needed supplies to the creativity we know our teachers have and giving them the ability to do projects in their classrooms, along with our innovative work which extends all the way to project base learning. We’re really known throughout the state for the Teacher of
the Year program. Then we’ve certainly ventured into providing the teacher’s with a global professional development. We come in as educational thought leaders and subject matter experts to provide support, most notably with our college career and life readiness work. Is this about closing stop gaps from budget cuts or is this about exploring whole new worlds of what education could be? Vigne: When I first came on a few years ago, the mission of the education foundation was to augment the things that tax dollars could not provide. We have pivoted away from that. Where we like to bring our focus and attention is, how can we empower the teachers, unleash their creativity, and how can we enhance and support the value of educators in our community while also re-imagining different approaches to public education? We want to help, in partnership with Sarasota County schools, to restore hope in the institution of public education. Glass: In Manatee County, with our new tax referendum, it’s the first time ever we’ll be receiving close to $33 million. That is going into technology, STEM labs in the schools, and also teacher pay raises to get some equity there. It’s not for us to always augment. We just sent a few teachers to a conference in San Francisco on tinkering studios. This is something that wouldn’t be going on in the district if it wasn’t for the support of the foundation. We’ve seen so much in the school districts recently with robotics or in STEM funding and STEM classrooms. To what degree are you trying to keep the school districts on the cutting edge? Glass: We’ve been key in the Technology Students Association.
Our students just came back from Singapore, where in an F1 world competition they came in third place, behind Ireland and Australia. These were teams that had their whole country behind them, whereas our team really had just the foundation and some of the school district. Vigne: For us, it’s how can we convene together as a collective community to address many of these different pressing issues that are also equally important for Sarasota County schools. We’ve opened the student success centers, and the principles, and the guidance counselors are thrilled that we’re coming in to help. But we’re doing it in partnership with the district. STEM education all the way to college career life readiness—it’s through the efforts of many. We can stand shoulder to shoulder. Glass: It’s definitely a whole list of organizations that are involved: the Manatee Community Foundation, CareerSource, CareerEdge. What’s great is that we’re finally all working together to help career readiness and prepare our students. Do you act as the cartilage to connect these institutions? Vigne: One of our long-range visions as an education foundation is to help serve as a convener for all the various players and partners in the business of supporting students. We’re not suggesting that we would lead in all those different areas, but the more we can convene as a collective unit, the less likely any child will fall through the cracks. I know both foundations work closely with the arts. Why is that an important part of the mission for the community foundation? Vigne: The research shows why arts education is so important. It helps the students
Innovation in the classroom costs money, and at a time when local governments pinch their pennies, education foundations offer grants and guidance to embolden teachers. We sat down with Jennifer Vigne, president of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, and Mary Glass, the 12-year president of the Manatee Education Foundation, about the role philanthropy plays in modern schooling.
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“Based on my experience, the state of Florida has many robust education foundations. That’s a real advantage. It’s allowed education foundation leaders throughout the state to have a voice on the national stage.” — Jennifer Vigne, President of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County
learn how to think critically, be creative, bring their imagination to life, work collaboratively—there are so many facets of arts education. It’s a process that helps to develop and uncover many innate talents and skills that lie within the student. Couple that with living in an arts-rich and supportive community, it just makes sense. Whether it’s EdExploreSRQ or any other variations, we’ve got our hand out to help lift up the student. Glass: We just started the Manatee Arts Education council. It’s very much like the Arts Alliance [of Sarasota County]. We’re working with the district to help fund art, because there is no funding for the arts in Manatee County. We’re there to bring outside donors, work with organizations in the arts and help with the district. It’s been well received by the district. But when you look at all the wonderful arts organizations in our area, they serve the students of Manatee County and it was a long time coming. We’ve got Feld Entertainment involved. We have Ringing and all of the arts organizations that are in our area. We look forward to a huge event in the end of April called ‘Arts Alive,’ which will focus on all the arts, not just 2D, 3D, but on music, theater, dance. And the Manatee Education Foundation is the backbone organization for this. How much has the world of education foundations changed in recent years? Vigne: Based on my experience, the state of Florida has many robust education foundations. That’s a real advantage. It’s allowed education foundation leaders throughout the state to have a voice on the national stage. We’ve only scratched the surface of what education foundations can do and there is a real synergy and interest in seeing how philanthropy can be such a catalyst for change. Glass: We’ve been at the center of one of the most popular topics today, which is education. The foundations have
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been there for 30 years. I’ve even seen other organizations change their entire mission to focus more on education. We are just strategically sitting in the right place at the right time to thrive and grow. We’re surrounded by support, and that collective community working together is going to be critical in seeing more opportunity for our students and our teachers. Are you ever asked to step in and provide something our government leaders ought to handle, or will there be a need for the type of enhancement regardless of what government budgets? Glass: The current situation is that we’re underfunded. Vigne: The funding, that’s not our issue to solve. Let’s reframe that question: What’s really the need? Our teachers need support, our students need support, and somehow the work that we do as that catalyst of change
could affect public policy decisions. It could affect different outcomes. We’ve not yet scratched the surface. That is the larger opportunity at hand. We’re not here because there’s a funding crisis. That’s not our issue to solve. To Mary’s point, the funding per student allocation has remained stagnant for many years. Nonetheless, I want to solve the problem from a different angle and different perspective.
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How much do you dive into some of the political issues around this? Vigne: If we ventured into political issues, we would lose our 501(c)3 status. Glass: We have to be very careful. Vigne: But nonprofits can do some level of advocacy, so we will share information on issues that are important, such as, our community coming together and supporting the tax referendum. We will get behind that and endorse and support that effort.. Well how do you draw the line? Education can become political. Vigne: I would disagree. We have allowed education to become politicized. If you are having a heart issue, are you going to call your state legislature for an opinion on what you should do to treat your heart ailment or are you going to call the best cardiologist in town to get that opinion? Somehow we have given the microphone to elected officials. But where’s the microphone for the teachers? Where is their voice for the students who are being impacted? That’s part of our role as an education foundation, to turn the spotlight on those who know the subject best, and that is the students and the teachers. If education is under cardiac arrest, I’d rather hear from the teachers on how to fix that problem than elected officials. Glass: Hopefully what we do is educate elected officials. They need to be fully informed of what they’re talking about. When they have an education appropriation committee chairman, that person you hope is someone you’ve talked to and said, ‘These are some of the priority areas that we need to be looking at.’ But it’s bigger than that. Where’s the line? If you have lawmakers that are on the campaign trail, you probably don’t want to support one over the other, but how is that different than supporting a tax referendum? Glass: In Manatee, we did
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not get behind the referendum. We have people, of course, who are board members but because they’re individuals they can get involved. But we did not go out and promote the referendum.. Vigne: There’s a lot of conversation within education that doesn’t necessarily need the politics behind it. For us, we can help influence and be a part of that conversation without necessarily getting into electric topics. What I do think we could do is share information that is objective, it’s well researched, it’s evidence-based, it’s neutral. And by sharing that information, we are informing and educating the process, whomever is receiving that, whether it is an elected official or it’s a community member. There’s a need for that objective neutral information. And that’s where we can fill a gap.
It would be inappropriate for us to interject in an already electric conversation. We want to actually to do the good work, support the teachers, and the students, and the schools. Let the proof of our results help facilitate some of the change. What do you think the biggest challenges are ahead? Glass: I wanted to talk the shift to a more collective impact in the community, I’m excited about that because we get to see change amongst our fellow partners in the community and that’s been a big move this last two years for our foundation. Some of these exciting ‘big picture programs’ are where we’re going. A big
thing for us right now, is getting the community involved with the teachers. ‘Soar in Four’ is driven by our early learning teacher coalition. We have priorities, we know where we’re going and we’re excited about the future. Vigne: We have really pivoted to help support students with the college career life readiness initiative, which is really to help prepare students for their post-secondary pathway and giving them the life skills necessary to adapt and thrive in a changing world. But we also want not only to be an influencer and a supporter on a local level, but that our work and the effect and impact of our work actually has an influence on a state level. b
What’s a hot topic that’s off limits? Glass: Charter schools is, definitely. You saw where the courts came down and even pulled that referendum. So, that’s where the lawmakers, you hope, are informed to be able to have those kind of changes happen. We may not be able to influence it to that level. But you want them to be informed and be able to help and guide people as to what direction to go at times. Having a community speaker come in, we could do something like that and talk to the different points of view. Vigne: Education is so foundational to any community in the work that we do. What would be a greater service is also to create those neutral environments where conversations can be held. Unfortunately the climate right now is so alert, almost ready for defensiveness.
“Some of these exciting `big picture programs’ are where we’re going. A big thing for us right now is getting the community involved with the teachers.” — Mary Glass, Executive Director of the Manatee Education Foundation
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Dr. Paul Epstein travels the worlds as an expert in the ideas of Maria Montessori, the inventor and innovator of the Montessori Method. He works with schools to help bring the successful techniques of the Montessori approach into the educational process and also is a committed guardian of the legacy of Maria Montessori, evaluating her original works and helping educators and parents apply her observations and principles to successfully raise kids that achieve their highest potentials.
ou’ve spent a lifetime exploring the philosophies behind the Montessori educational concepts, but what about outside of the school. I’d love to hear about the parent’s role. Dr. Paul Epstein: What children really need from parents is deep emotional acceptance. And it’s easy, it’s called “love”. One of the themes in Montessori education, one that we actually don’t spend enough time discussing with parents, is that children have this mission to grow up. That’s their purpose; to grow up. And parents need to encourage that growth, not get in the way. Children have this unbelievable ability to evoke love from adults. A group of parents will come together at any school—Montessori, it doesn’t matter—they’ll come together and make things happen for the children. You put a group of adults together in a room, and we can be polite and adult-like, and sometimes ornery and snarly, and sometimes really angry and feisty. Put children in that same room with adults, and you watch the adults soften. Montessori herself looked at this ability of the child and actually stood before world governments at different times in her life and said, “If we’re going to have peace in the world, it’s the children who are going to make that happen.” 24
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Being the best parent you can be is tough. We all quite clearly default to a version of our childhood in how we parent, even if we swear not to We parent the way we were parented. How does one break that cycle? It’s going to sound strange, but for some parents it starts with making their children a priority. For families today, life is often complex; running around with all kinds of different things. Making the child the priority means slowing yourself down, putting away your devices, being with your children instead. On a practical basis, it means being a student. Parents need to learn about the child they are living with. Not, their child, but all children. There is a B Y
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developmental difference between a baby and a one year old, and there’s a developmental difference at two and again at three. There’s a reason why two and three year olds can get so feisty and insistent on an established bedtime routine. It’s a ritual for them, and what’s going on there actually is cognitive growth. If you have that information, you’re actually anticipating and celebrating what your child is doing. When that happens, parents are engaging in acceptance. What do you mean by acceptance? What I call “acceptance” is unconditional love, and unconditional love doesn’t mean, “I agree with everything my child is doing.” A parent also needs to know when to set limits. In-
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INTERVIEW BY WES ROBERTS
formed parents can understand why limit setting actually helps a child grow and develop. Acceptance is also being present to your child. When you’re with your child, be sure that the activities that you engage in actually come from your child. The child will tell us what he or she is interested in. We can introduce our children to new things, too, but we have to juggle. At what point do we expose the child to music lessons, to sports, to horseback riding, to a whole list of stuff, and whose agenda is all this stuff, anyways? Whose interests are we serving? Whose interests should they serve? I ask parents to ask, “What are your child’s needs?” “What are your own needs as a parent?” and “Whose needs are we satisfying?” It’s not an either/or answer. I have a need for order in my house or certain routines in my house that I would want my child to be involved with. It’s not acceptable to walk away from the dinner table. Part of our routine might be everyone clears the table. Another element for parents to learn very practically is children want to be independent What do you mean, that parents need to learn to “show” children, not “do” for children? The whole point of this is that children cannot tell us what’s inside of them. Maria Montessori called this “the secret of the child.” They cannot tell us the secret of their personality, because they’re not consciously aware of themselves. They are driven by this secret. They are driven by it to find in the world experiences that will help further develop that innate potential. And it’s not that I am going to step back and see what happens. Maria Montessori, in so many ways is like a Plato character. Within us is all of what is necessary to become who we’re meant to become. What we need, she would say, is a prepared environment and adults who are also trained and able to see this progression possibility. This progression of capability. It’s not, “Okay, here’s a soccer ball, I’m gonna step back now and see what happens.” It’s not that at all. It’s, “I’m gonna participate with you.” That might mean I’m the driver that gets you there five days a week or I’m going to kick the ball with you. I used to sit with my son when he first began drumming, just to count beats with him and differentiate quarter notes from eighth notes and
sixteenths. I played this small role in his growth as a drummer. Today my son runs his own jazz management business and some of his artists are Grammy-winning artists. I have no idea how he put all that together. I’m proud as can be, and it had nothing to do with my sitting in the basement counting beats with him. But it did, didn’t it? On the one side, we have all of this quantitative data analysis, and on the other, well, I’m an anthropologist and I’m a big believer of qualitative
Interview with Paul Epsetin
ity itself, but that process of growing and developing. I’m astonished at the new toys that are available for infants and one and two year olds. The new toys are just full of flashing lights and eighty-five blaring songs. All that stuff is distracting. Children actually thrive in quiet. The developmental needs of children haven’t changed just because we live in a technological era. We’re still the same species as we have been for the last several thousands of years. That’s not going to change. If we listen to that developmental wisdom, the children will
“As parents, we have to take a deep breath and relax. The child is meant to become who they’re meant to become. Our job is to facilitate. Our job is to guide.” — Dr. Paul Epstein and personal experience. As parents, we have to take a deep breath and relax. We’re not going to get it right every time. We’re lucky if we get it right once in a while, maybe. And getting it right means to understand that a child cannot become who we want the child to become. The child is meant to become who they’re meant to become. Our job is to facilitate. Our job is to guide. That’s a beautifully metaphysical way of looking at childrearing. How should parents guide our children into their potential, if we can’t know what it is? Maria Montessori would argue that learning to observe and learning to accept are two of many sources of wisdom. My granddaughter, who’s two and a half, seems to love these paint pounders. They are easy to hold, and make big dots. She just loves pounding away and filling up the paper with big colored dots. And when the page is full, she gets a new page and she’s doing it again. We know with young children, if they repeat something, there’s an interest there. If they do it once and walk away, no, that wasn’t an interest. We also think that if a child is repeating something over and over again, they’re satisfying something that’s really important to them. And what’s important to them is not the activ-
help us know what to do. What are your thoughts about the future of education? This is gonna sound strange. I actually wonder, when I look at the history of American education reform, if we don’t have a terror in this country against success. Think about it this way. Every time something seems to be working well in education. I’m going to generalize and I don’t have data for this whatsoever, but I know stories of here’s this elementary school down the road. Things are going really well per test score evidence, and what do they do? They move the principal to some other building where things are not going well and fail to understand that education is not about the individual, it’s about relationships and the culture of learning. So let’s disrupt the relationships and culture of learning and move people around the district and see if we can replicate overnight the success that just happened there. I have raised it this way because I think there’s a commitment to failure. I think there’s a commitment to making sure things don’t work. Children are not things and the learning process, what constitutes best, best, best circumstances and conditions for learning, are pretty well understood. So why are we not investing in committing ourselves to what is already well-known and established?b RocketKids | Winter 2018
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StrivingHigher When the chips are down, character counts. And with the STRIVE Awards Program, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County makes it a point to recognize and celebrate those local students who, when times were tough and success didn’t come easy, put in the work and demonstrated the drive and fortitude to achieve their potential.
n the recommendations of guidance counselors, teachers and even other students, five juniors and five seniors from five area high schools (Venice High, North Port High, Riverview High, Sarasota High and Booker High) each receives a $2,000 scholarship to go towards their secondary education, whether that be a trade school, technical school, apprenticeship or four-year degree program. One senior from each school is then named the Overall Striver, and receives a $5,000 scholarship. Established in 1998 and previously known as the Most Improved Student Awards Program, the STRIVE Awards are given to those students who have overcome exceptional hurdles and hardships and made their academics a priority in trying times. Some face medical challenges, from cancer diagnoses and cystic fibrosis to selective mutism and test anxiety, others come from disadvantaged home environments where neglect, abuse and drugs and alcohol can cast a pall over scholastic endeavors. Still more face tragedy and loss of family, or, uprooted and finding themselves alone in a strange country, have to learn the language and customs as they strive to achieve academically. Others are family caregivers; some deal with
RocketKids | Winter 2018
P R O D U C E D
unexpected pregnancies. But despite these varied backgrounds, each STRIVE Award recipient has at least one thing in common—they have improved and advanced their academic performance to match their innate potential, and been recognized by those around them for this achievement. Setting them further apart, each has also shown strong community involvement and stayed off drugs and out of trouble, while planning for their future. “A huge part of our mission is to enhance the potential of students,” says Jennifer Sams of the Education Foundation, “and these students have gone above and beyond to improve their academics after overcoming some pretty extraordinary hurdles.”
S R Q
And the Education Foundation only has plans to expand the program that it inherited from H. Jack Hunkele and Northern Trust all those years ago, adding two new high schools next year—Suncoast Polytechnical High School and Pine View School—which means 20 more scholarships total. For Jennifer Vigne, president of the Education Foundation, this means 20 more students who will receive maybe that last little bump of recognition to achieve their dreams as they head into the world. “Grit and perseverance are greater indicators of success, moreso than even IQ,” she says. “These students should walk away with confidence and assurance, knowing that they’re going to go on to do great things.”
M A G A Z I N E
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Chapter 3 EXPLORE HOW SCHOOLS IN THE REGION ENGAGE WITH LEARNING
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BRADENTON CHRISTIAN SCHOOL
CHRISTIAN SCHOOL is a Christ-centered school with over 860 students Pre-K to 12th. Students from all different backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures attend BCS for a rigorous academic program, including many honors and AP courses, taught from a Christian perspective. Opening its door in 1960, BCS’s focus has always been on a strong Christian perspective. Incorporating it into everyone one of their courses. Operating for almost 69 years, they are currently the largest and oldest Christian private school in Manatee County. Their twenty-four acre campus includes an Elementary School Building, Secondary School Building, Gymnasium, Fine Arts and Technology Building, the Mary Jane Spencer Athletic Center and a brad new, high-tech Middle School Building. At any given point, you are abound to see students involved in different activities around cam-
pus. For sports, BCS offers 35 different teams in an array of options such as tennis, volleyball, football, soccer, softball, track and beach volleyball. They also boast an outstanding Fine Arts program and offer creative options such as jazz band, orchestra, band, pep band, choir, strings and both performing and studio arts. Students also participate in a weekly Chapel every Thursday with student led worship time. Along with the abundance of extra-curricular activities, BCS also offers voluntary Spring and Fall retreats where high school students spend a weekend at a camp where they have devotions, Bible student, praise time and fun games. It is an opportunity for students to bond outside of school and is truly a highlight for all attending. BCS has a real family feel with many generations of families continuing to send their child to BCS due to the experience, academics and support from staff and students alike.
The mission of Bradenton Christian School is to provide an excellent educations rooted in God’s Word, and to prepare the hearts and mind of God’s children in partnership with church and home for service in God’s world.
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BRADENTON CHRISTIAN SCHOOL | BCSPANTHERS.ORG
Superintendent Dan Vande Pol highlights how something is always going on around all hours on campus and how important these extra-curricular activities are for the students. They are a great way for stu— Nathaniel Martinez, sernior at dents to pad their college Bradenton Christian resumes, looking out for the School students’ futures after BCS and providing well-rounded experiences. He explains that many three-sport athletes are also in band and choir; BCS strives to give students the ability to try may different varieties of activities. Vande Pol notes that BCS is a great place to have your child known, cared for and taught. One student who has had this life changed by BCS is Nathanial Martinez. With a decision made by his mother for Nathanial to start high school as a freshman at BCS, he at first was hesitan.t He did not like the idea of going to a private school and had reservations. Throughout the year, Martinez became involved with sports, club and focused on his academics. Little by little, BCS started to grow on him and he began embracing the Christian spirit. Now a senior, Martinez is thankful for his mother’s decision, “To be honest, I am really thankful and blessed that I can be here.” He goes on to say his mom now jokes that she will have to building at house at BCS because he is always at school; whether it be for football practice, after school studies or attending a club. “It is a school that is not jut focused on academic work bur on your spiritual and whole self.” Thanks to BCS, Martinez now has a clear and exciting future, planning on attending college, playing soccer and studying Mechanical Engineering. Before attending BCS, he never really considered college as an option. We can all hope to have these types of success stories for our children. At BCS, these dreams are becoming a reality for students every day.
“To be honest, I am really thankful and blessed that can be here.”
Highlight Bradenton Christian School provides a Christian umbrella that is the primary importance and what everything falls in line under. At BCS, they do not need to sacrifice one thing for another because their excellence in academic, athletics and co-curricular programs can stand together strong under that umbrella. The most important program is the Christian perspective implemented into every class taught. In science classes, implementation of that includes God created, God is creating and God is running the universe. In English classes, students are analyzing characters and looking at the choices they make and the consequences of their choices from a Christian perspective. During math class, students are learning God’s order and creation. All families sending their children to BCS are church-attending as it is important that the students are getting the same message from church, home and school. BCS strives to ensure these standards are met and through teaching the Christian perspective in every class, students are able to continuously learn about the Christian faith and apply it to everyday life. BCS strives to grow strong Christian leaders and give them opportunities to learn about the Christian faith every day.
Stats • ADMISSIONS DEADLINE Rolling deadline until classes are full. 2018-2019 admissions season opens October 1st, 2017. • ACCREDITATIONS Middle States, Christian Schools of Florida, National Council for Private Schools Accreditation • LANGUAGES TAUGHT English and Spanish. Our FLVS Lab allows
other languages to be taken for credit KEY PROGRAMS AP, Honors and College Prep Curriculums, Athletic & Clubs, Band & Strings TEACHING PHILOSOPHY Rigorous academics from a Christian perspective NUMBER OF FULL-TIME TEACHERS 70 NUMBER OF STUDENTS 865
BRADENTON CHRISTIAN SCHOOL 3304 43RD ST. WEST BRADENTON 941-792-5454 | BCSPANTHERS.ORG PK-12TH GRADE
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ISLAND VILLAGE MONTESSORI SCHOOL
SINCE ITS OPENING IN 2001, Island Village Montessori School is proud to provide the opportunity for a tuition-free Montessori education to all students. IVMS Works to prepare students for the 21st century workplace through a balance of traditional Montessori methodology and a technology-infused curriculum. IVMS has learned valuable lessons over the past years about balancing a Montessori vision with a standards-based model of instruction. At Island Village, the tuition-based early childhood program is based on the Montessori principles of providing well-prepared learning environments that foster the development of independence, concentration, and self-direction. Children who attend are not in “daycare,” but in a developmentally appropriate school environment. The early childhood years set the stage for a life of learning. Students have advanced academic lessons presented to them individually using concrete learning materials that illustrate abstract principles. Multi-age
learning environments allow children to work at a pace that fits their individual aptitudes for learning, makes sense developmentally, and allows them needed time to master concepts rather than simply memorize them. When children enter elementary school, Island Village Montessori School works closely between and across levels to ensure continuity and appropriate placement for each of their students. The elementary staff, through daily caring observation, knows each child well, almost like a family member. A fundamental aspect of the Montessori methodology is a focus on the “whole child,” which means that intellectual progress cannot be separated from social/emotional development. It is unwise to think that test scores alone can determine complete progress. Unfortunately, this attitude is becoming the norm, much to the detriment of children as well as the adults who serve them. IVMS believes true education means to assist children to become balanced human beings and to develop their potential.
The original mission of Island Village was to provide the opportunity for a Montessori education to all students no matter their socioeconomic status. The mission was also to prepare students for the 21st Century workplace through a balance of traditional Montessori methodology and a contemporary technology-infused curriculum. A decade and a half later, these ideals still form our primary purpose and mission. We have learned some valuable lessons over the past years about balancing a Montessori vision with a standards-based model of instruction.
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ISLAND VILLAGE MONTESSORI SCHOOL | ISLANDVILLAGE.ORG
In middle school, students develop strong critical thinking skills (asking really good questions), collaboration, communication skills both written and oral, problem solving and perseverance. As a natural extension of the Montessori elementary program, IVMS takes into account the unique characteristics of adolescents and current education research as they design their learning environments to inspire the qualities needed for students to become successful, productive, creative, and confident life-long learners. Island Village Montessori ecourages families to understand that choosing this method of ed-
ucation is a long-term commitment, and not an annual choice. It is necessary to let the process work; a process not designed as an annual race that ends each June. Each learning community builds on the next in so many ways: time management, leadership, peer mentoring, friendships, and more. The method is not nearly as effective if children are pulled out mid-stream. Island Village Montessori Charter School is always thrilled to have visitors, and is more than happy to answer any questions potenial students and their families might have.
Highlight Montessori strongly urged educators to understand the importance of creativity and the imagination. Artistic renderings are an accepted part of the core curriculum. Many lessons end with an opportunity to draw or model as a way to check for comprehension. Arts also play a part in synthesizing information into larger projects. Influential thinkers, such as educational philosophers Rudolf Steiner, Lev Vygotsky and psychologist C.G. Jung, emphasized that the development of the imagination is a critical part of what makes us human. Without imagination, the quality of human life is diminished, like the perception of color as daylight fades into dusk. Education of the whole child includes the development of the imagination. Creative thinking is the hallmark of entrepreneurship, historically, an American strength. Howard Gardner, in his book, Five Minds for the Future, is concerned that in the swing toward “…uniform curricula, tests, and standards…it is vital to keep open alternative possibilities and to foreground the option of unfettered exploration.” Island Village Montessori School seeks to balance the need for skill-building in math, reading, and writing with regular opportunities for creativity. Through arts, music, and after school programs, students have opportunities to create and think “outside the box.” From expression in the visual arts through painting, ceramics, and textiles to participation in musical and dramatic offerings, our arts program seeks to balance a focus on academics alone with a broader focus, scheduling opportunities to celebrate creativity and self-expression throughout the year. Drama, Improvisation and dance are also a part of arts education. The after school program has developed a partnership with VPAC (Venice Performing Arts Center) that gives students the experience of putting on a real play in a professional theater.
• ADMISSIONS DEADLINE Students are accepted throughout the academic year as space allows. • ACCREDITATIONS AdvancedEd/SACS, designated high-preforming charter school by the DOE, training site for
Montessori Live teacher education. • LANGUAGES TAUGHT Spanish • KEY PROGRAMS Montessori, Project-based Collaborative Learning, STEM, Art, Music, Drama and Dance • TEACHING PHILOSOPHY To provide the opportunity
for a Montessori education to all students no matter their socioeconomic status • NUMBER OF FULL-TIME TEACHERS 65 • NUMBER OF STUDENTS 665
ISLAND VILLAGE MONTESSORI SCHOOL VENICE CAMPUS 2001 PINEBROOK ROAD, VENICE | 941-484-4999 SARASOTA CAMPUS 11011 CLARK ROAD, SARASOTA | 941-954-4999 ISLANDVILLAGE.ORG INFO@MANATEECHARTER.ORG
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MANGROVE SCHOOL OF SARASOTA
WE ARE AN INTENTIONAL SCHOOL COMMUNITY founded by parents, teachers and friends seeking a unique, progressive education for our children. Serving early childhood through adolescence, Mangrove School of Sarasota honors imagination as the heart of every child’s learning foundation to cultivate creativity, courage, confidence and contribution to the world. Our Vision is to honor childhood; your child only gets one, it should not be rushed! We respect that each child has their own journey and will unfold in their own time, thus we meet children’s needs at each stage of their development. We recognize that children are not empty vessels to pour information into – instead – we choose to nurture the child’s natural curiosity and sense of wonder that is essential for real, life-long learning. We offer a rigorous yet dynamic academic curriculum, integrating arts, movement, music and meaningful activities into traditional academic subjects. We instill reverence for humanity, animal life, and the earth through frequent service and exploration opportunities and by fostering supportive relationships within the classrooms and community. We promote world peace
and responsibility for one’s actions. while challenging children to discover the full range of their capacities. We instill children with the confidence to try new things and take calculated risks, while modelling and valuing creativity, innovation and problem solving. We challenge children to discover the full range of their capacities. Mangrove School of Sarasota was founded in 2000 by a small group of dedicated parents and Waldorf teachers. What began as a playgroup swiftly expanded into much-needed nursery and kindergarten programs. Our grade school soon followed, as did more families and more exceptional teachers. Today, we offer early childhood programs and a comprehensive grades curriculum. Additionally, parent-child classes, homeschooling enrichment programs, adult practical art classes, free summer programming, and festivals are extended to the greater Sarasota area. We have attracted a community of extraordinary teachers and families, committed to growing a school inspired by the principles of Waldorf education, with a strong connection to nature, experiential learning, and service to those in need.
Mangrove School of Sarasota is dedicated to providing a nurturing and calm space in which children can love, learn, and grow. We seek to engage the whole child in their education – head, heart and hands, while also honoring our inherent connection to nature through frequent exploration of and hands-on experience in our majestic natural surroundings.
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MANGROVE SCHOOL OF SARASOTA | MANGROVESARASOTA.COM
MANGROVE SCHOOL OF SARASOTA is inspired by the principles of Waldorf education, serving children from ages three through adolescence. Mangrove School of Sarasota also provides parent child classes for children under the age of three, and offers a homeschool enrichment program, which enables homeschooled children to attend a full day of school at least once a week. Options for this program vary and they work with each family and their schedule to ensure they are getting the full value of this program depending on their motivation and interest. Director Erin Melia describes this program as innovative, as it allows homeschooled children to attend a full school day with their peers, choosing the days that offer the subjects or activities they are most drawn to. They are learning in a group setting with the same people, thus building strong social bonds, while experiencing a diverse curriculum. A typical day for a grades student may include, a main academic lesson, which could be any number of things, such as Physics, Astronomy, Zoology, Geometry, Shelter Building, or Ancient Civilizations, for example; singing, meditation class, watercolor painting, handwork, such as student designed cross stitch, crochet or 4 needle knitting, and ukulele or violin. All subjects are taught in a dynamic, creative way, that offers many opportunities for the students to collaborate with one another. At Mangrove School, they focus on the developmental needs of children and treat each child as an individual, customizing their experience. “We really see them for where they’re at and who they are rather than fit them into an unrealistic agenda.” If the children are enjoying their learning, they’re going to learn more, and more deeply and they are going to always have a love of learning, because it doesn’t stop once school stops says Melia. The curriculum is taught in academic blocks, ranging from a 3-4 week focus. Younger grades students focus on local topics such as local geography. These topics expand out as they grow older, for example older students then learn about North American geography. As Melia explains, the younger students start with what’s right before them; what they can see, taste, touch and feel. Academics then expand from there. “There is a lot of opportunity for creativity. We always want to foster creativity in everything that we do, so it is not just about getting them to know this or that, we want them to be thinking deeply about and making connections between subjects. There seems to be a myth that if a child is not inundated with academics when they are younger, they somehow fall behind. We have found the opposite to be true. When children are given plenty of space to play, dream, imagine, and build, they learn to think for themselves, and do so, very deeply about the content that comes later. Children also learn very quickly when they are developmentally ready. We also encourage students to gain an understanding of interwoven events, concepts, and principles, through the process of discovery, which fosters a love and enthusiasm for learning.” The community also plays an important role at Mangrove. Families often attend events, volunteer, and chaperone field trips. “The children are doing amazing things, and we want to include parents. We want opportunities for parents to have the experiences as well. It’s just as much for them to feel part of something, to feel renewed and enriched as well” says Melia. The importance of each individual child is important at Mangrove and as Melia notes, they are very interested in not just developing one side of the child. “We want to develop their thinking capacities, feeling capacities and their willing capacities. We want to develop self-confident, well-rounded students, that go out into the world, inspired to help others.”
Highlight The Nature Immersion Program at Mangrove Sarasota is three years old and thriving. “It is about fostering this love of mother nature, and the connection to our surroundings” says Melia. With more and more people feeling disconnected, anxiety and depression results. This program enables students to learn all about their immediate surroundings, to the vegetation, the wildlife, in a very hands on way, and this practice supports connection. Learning outside has many different benefits, such as developing physical confidence and strengthening the immune system. The more students are outside, the less germ spreading and the more fresh air they take in. In nature, the human eye is designed to re-focus quickly from near to far sight; studies have shown that children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop myopia. Students are also learning how to take safe risks, how to be persistent and resilient: They are checking for poison ivy before they head in a new direction, they are creating makeshift bridges across flooded areas to get to the perfect location for building their fort, they are receiving first aid for inevitable small cuts or scrapes, rather than shying away from activities for the fear of getting hurt. With so many benefits of this program, this year they have paired up with Crowley Museum and Nature Center and take a trip there weekly. Teachers and parents are joining as well, volunteering their time and helping the students thrive in nature – it is good for adults to be outside as well. This program helps the students build the desire to be active, to support our planet, and help them become active, interested adults. “This is their childhood. School is where they’re going to be spending most of their time” says Melia. With this program, it helps the students get outside, learn to not be afraid of the outdoors and to become one with nature and the lifelong benefits it provides.
Stats • AGES ACCEPTED Ages newborn to high school • ADMISSIONS DEADLINE Rolling Admissions • LANGUAGES TAUGHT Spanish, French • KEY PROGRAMS Forest Kindergarten, Grades Program, Homeschool
Enrichment Program • TEACHING PHILOSOPHY Inspired by the principles of Waldorf Education and Nature Immersion • NUMBER OF FULL-TIME TEACHERS 10 • NUMBER OF STUDENTS 63
MANGROVE SCHOOL OF SARASOTA 6210 CRESTWOOD AVE SARASOTA | 941-927-3711 MANGROVESARASOTA.COM SERVING AGES NEWBORN THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL
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THE OUT-OF-DOOR ACADEMY
ESTABLISHED IN 1924, The Out-of-Door Academy college-preparatory school is the second oldest private school in Florida, offering superior education to more than 740 students on two campuses in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. Out-of-Door continually implements new programs and strategies to meet the emerging educational needs of the next generation and support the growth of the Sarasota area. Through its evolution, the School has always honored the legacy of its remarkable founders who envisioned a school where important lessons would be learned “out-of-door,” or outside the classroom. Central to that vision was a belief that a great education should be comprehensive and transcend the boundaries of the classroom and traditional curriculum by integrating hands-on learning experiences, outdoor activity, and the arts into the curriculum. More than 90 years later, an Out-of-Door education continues to be defined by the pursuit of excellence and a commitment to build character through a balanced program of academics, the arts, and athletics. ODA’s core values of Respect, Integrity, Service, Excellence, and Responsibility remain the foundation of the school community. Our faculty shapes the lives of our students by modeling and instilling the core values, helping young people make good decisions, and instilling a passion for lifelong learning. Out-of-Door empowers every graduate to confront the challenges of college and
life in a rapidly changing, complex, and interdependent world with character, expertise, confidence, and resolve. ODA’s ongoing commitment to enhance and enrich its educational program resulted in the Class of 2018 setting an all-time high average score on the SAT, eclipsing the previous record by an impressive 50-point margin. The historic five-acre campus on beautiful Siesta Key provides an outstanding learning environment for students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Facilities includes the newly renovated Dart STEM Lab, featuring cutting-edge technology, and a recently expanded marine science lab with multiple touch tanks of local gulf species. The School is currently involved in collaborations with Columbia University and Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium to develop a model pre-K – 5th grade STEM curriculum that will engage younger students in design-thinking and real-world problem solving. Teachers at Out-of-Door encourage students to use critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication every day. Last year, elementary school students learned about and applied different sustainable environmental practices on and off campus. Students organized beach clean ups, studied the newly installed solar array on the campus to learn about reducing the carbon footprint, and worked with an international to discuss ways to be less wasteful and more environmentally conscious. On the Middle and Upper School Uihlein Campus in Lakewood Ranch, students are exposed to a balanced program of academics, the arts, and athletics through our college preparatory program. Teamwork, sportsmanship, and integrity are integral components of our athletic experience. Through athletic pursuits, student-athletes learn important life lessons and develop leadership, integrity, and respect. Through visual and performing arts studies, students perform and compete at the highest level, regularly participating in regional and state competitions and juried exhibits. Multicultural understanding is emphasized through the music and art of various cultures. Our focus on student-centered learning means reinventing class projects to sharpen the skills our students will need in the future. The 11,000 square
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THE OUT-OF-DOOR ACADEMY | ODA.EDU
foot Dart STEM Center is designed to support research-based inquiry. The space Service is includes a project lab, design and creativity an integral center, a fully-equipped marine biology lab, component of 3-D printers, and robotics work stations. The Out-of-Door These facilities have transformed the experience with learning environment in the critical areas the student of science, technology, engineering, and body\s averaging mathematics. Engineering classes partner 12,640 hours with top U.S. universities to solve realof community world problems including the current red service per year. tide issue faced by the gulf coast. While technology is an integral component of our education, essential skills like communication and collaboration receive equal emphasis. Upper School students regularly lead class discussions using the Harkness method to encourage independent expression as they develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. College admissions is increasingly competitive and our dedicated team of experienced college counselors knows the nuances of this complex process. With their guidance, our families are able to research, discover, and select the best environment for ODA graduates. With 100% college acceptance rate for graduates, our college counseling team has an established reputation for placing students at highly selective institutions. Although the scale of the school has changed dramatically over time, Out-ofDoor remains dedicated to its longstanding commitment to the development of self-confident, well-rounded graduates who become responsible, contributing members of the global society.
Highlight THE OUT-OF-DOOR ACADEMY prides itself on a student-centered educational approach. The hands-on, design thinking education model involves a structured framework in which students can independently identify challenges, gather information, and test solutions to realworld problems. For example, our Lower School students have constructed an aeroponic tower garden – a project that incorporates science, math, culinary arts, economics, horticulture, and more. They will study and care for the plants, analyzing how various factors impact the overall health of the plants. By the end of the year, students will hypothesize how aeroponics may be used to solve a real-world problem. Upper School Engineering students are developing a practical, economical, and sustainable solution to combat water pollution and red tide in the Gulf of Mexico. After learning that oysters naturally filter water of pollutants and microalgae, students designed a biodegradable reef that will protect the oysters as they filter the water without disturbing the established ecosystem of the bay. Students are setting up saltwater reef tanks that mimic the Gulf conditions, and will monitor water conditions, care for the oysters, and test reef prototypes on campus before transporting them to shorelines for long-term study.
• ADMISSIONS DEADLINE Advanced Placement (AP) Pre-kindergarten, Kindergarten, and Honors courses, numerous February 1; Grades 1 – 12, March 1 clubs, 43 sports teams and • ACCREDITATIONS 30+ arts performances Florida Council of Independent • TEACHING PHILOSOPHY Schools, Florida Kindergarten Council We provide an educational • LANGUAGES TAUGHT foundation and passion for life-long Spanish, Latin, Mandarin learning that will give our students • KEY PROGRAMS a competitive advantage in higher College preparatory curriculum, education and help them realize
their full potential in a rapidly changing, complex and increasingly interdependent world. • NUMBER OF FULL-TIME TEACHERS 82 • NUMBER OF STUDENTS 740
LOWER SCHOOL HISTORIC SIESTA KEY CAMPUS 444 REID STREET, SARASOTA 941-554-3439 | PRE-K – GRADE 5
MIDDLE AND UPPER SCHOOLS UIHLEIN CAMPUS IN LAKEWOOD RANCH 5950 DEER DRIVE, SARASOTA 941-554-5950 | GRADES 6-8 GRADES 9-12
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THE NEWGATE SCHOOL THE LAB SCHOOL OF THE MONTESSORI FOUNDATION
NewGate School—Upper School in Lakewood Ranch for grades 7 to 12.
FOUNDED IN 1907 BY DR. MARIA MONTESSORI, the Montessori Method is considered the gold standard for early childhood education and is recognized for excellence in its programs up through high school. The Montessori Foundation is based here in Sarasota and is an international non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of Montessori education and school reform worldwide. It is a primary resource of assistance, encouragement, and support for the international Montessori community. It was established in 1992 by some of the top leaders in Montessori education, with offices originally in the nation’s capital. Today, The Montessori Foundation works with 5000 Montessori schools in 50 countries, regardless of affiliation, as well as parents, educators, schools, and school systems interested in the approach pioneered by Dr. Maria Montessori. In addition to working with public and charter schools across the United States, The Montessori Foundation also helps to establish schools and prepare Montessori teachers and leaders worldwide, including
the Middle East, Africa and Asia. It also works with Montessori schools, which implement an International Baccalaureate (IB) program at the diploma level for grades 11 and 12. “One of the reasons The Montessori Foundation is doing this work is to create an internationally replicable model of Montessori middle and high school programs that are a successful marriage of the two,” says President of The Montessori Foundation and Co-Head of NewGate School Tim Seldin. In 2002, The Montessori Foundation sought to relocate and considered many options. The Foundation chose Sarasota because it is a city which represents the very best of Montessori’s commitment to the arts, to intellectual life, to natural beauty and it is home to New College—the undergraduate honors college that is most aligned with Montessori’s core values. Since 1993, our community has looked to the NewGate school as an exemplary educational model in which there is a strong, supportive daily connection between teachers, children, and parents.
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THE NEWGATE SCHOOL | NEWGATE.EDU
THE NEWGATE SCHOOL which IN SARASOTA, “We believe has been supported by education The Montessori Foundation should since the early 1990s, is be a journey, an international universitynot a race.” preparatory school with IB — Tim Seldin, Diploma Program designation. Head of School Montessori students are taught to think independently, and we cultivate their curiosity, creativity, and imagination, while nurturing their unique gifts, self-confidence and selfdiscipline. “For years we have felt (IB) was an excellent match as an international school with approximately 40% of our student body coming to Sarasota from around the world. Our Montessori-IB program offers our students the option to attend university in the US or overseas. We believe education should be a journey, not a race,” says Seldin. “A great education stems from great students and teachers, not vast buildings and a sprawling campus. Educational success happen, but rather the cultivation of curiosity, creativity, imagination,” Under the guidance of The Montessori Foundation, the NewGate lab school has grown to include an internationally-recognized high school at the upper school campus in Lakewoood Ranch. NewGate is an established, triple-accredited school in a region that is becoming increasingly more international every year. It is also known as a school for entrepreneurs. Students at every age at NewGate are taught and encouraged to think independently and learn self-reliance. NewGate provides many different programs to help ignite the minds of their students and help them understand the world of professionalism at a very young age. Programs for older students at NewGate include annual internships, drama Immersion week, research trips, an International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.They also are one of the only schools to still teach cursive which begins at a very young age. NewGate School works with students as unique individuals to ensure they develop their full potential.
Highlight What distinguishes NewGate’s Montessori IB program is its focus on a balanced middle and high school life. It encourages deep learning, building strong friendships among students and teachers. It does so in a relaxed, warm and supportive learning community. The Montessori IB program helps students become more culturally aware and also develops a second language. Students become globally invested which in turn provides high school graduates many more opportunities as they prepare for universities both in the United States and in other parts of the world. NewGate prepares their students at every level to graduate with tools for success and professionalism as they enter university and the workforce. Typically students are admitted to NewGate from other Montessori schools or may come from rigorous schools in which the student is no longer inspired to learn. Gifted students who feel burned out at large, highly-competitive and impersonal schools tend to find a community of thoughtful learners and brilliant teachers. NewGate, for most families and students, feels like a second home. This is an incredible statment that makes our school an extraordinary jewel in Sarasota and Manatee. The work of The Montessori Foundation inspires a revolutionary change in education that is based on decades of brain research and the time-tested, world-wide success of more than 22,000 Montessori schools. Supporting The Montessori Foundation allows them to continue their work with schools such as NewGate, and supporting The Angel Fund which works to provides this education to children who would not otherwise have the opportunity to flourish.
• ADMISSIONS Rolling, competitive • ACCREDITATIONS AdvancEd/SACS; International Montessori Council, Interna tional Baccalaureate Organization • LANGUAGES TAUGHT Spanish and German • KEY PROGRAMS Fully implemented
Montessori–we are an international university preparatory school— strong arts—IB Diploma grades 11 and 12 • TEACHING PHILOSOPHY Montessori • NUMBER OF FULL-TIME TEACHERS 22 • NUMBER OF STUDENTS 175
ASHTON CAMPUS 5237 ASHTON ROAD, SARASOTA TODDLERS THROUGH 6TH GRADE
941-922-4949 UPPER SCHOOL
LAKEWOOD RANCH CAMPUS, 5481 COMMUNICATIONS PARKWAY
GRADES 7 TO 12
941-222-0763 TIMSELDIN@MONTESSORI.ORG The Montessori Foundation MONTESSORI.ORG
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SARASOTA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL
FOR MORE THAN 60 YEARS, Sarasota Christian School (SCS) has offered an exceptional, Christ-centered education for students in Pre-K – 12th grade. Biblical truth and values of honor, character, integrity, self-discipline, and kindness are seamlessly integrated into classrooms, extracurricular activities, and athletics. SCS provides an accredited, faith-based education focused on student achievement and spiritual development. Students are equipped to develop critical thinking and communication skills and to collaborate with others through varied learning opportunities. In high school, advanced academic offerings include Honors, Advanced Placement (AP) and onsite college dual enrollment courses where students can earn college credit while remaining in SCS’s safe, Christian environment. SCS is the only private school in Sarasota County to offer students the option to graduate with an Associate of Arts (AA) De-
gree in Business from Southeastern University. For recent SCS graduate Callie Schlabach, SCS provided a strong faith foundation as well the academic rigor necessary to be accepted to Florida State University’s prestigious Honors Program – a community of high achieving students dedicated to success both inside and outside the classroom. Callie graduated SCS with the A.C.E. (Advanced College Education) distinction and started at FSU this fall with enough dual enrollment credits to be considered a sophomore. As a student, Callie valued the close-knit community and the focus on communication skills in many of her classes. “The teachers are so attentive and help you learn to interact effectively with others,” she said. Thanks to SCS, Callie feels well prepared for the journey ahead, which includes the completion of both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees during her four years at FSU.
The mission of Sarasota Christian School is to equip students with a love for Christ, a passion to learn, the courage to lead, and the commitment to serve.
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SARASOTA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL | SARASOTACHRISTIAN.ORG
day and partnerships with schools around the world. SARASOTA CHRAN SCHOOL provides students “It’s faith in action that is a hallmark of the Sarasota with many opportunities to discover their passions, de“It’s Christian School experience,” says Lehman. velop their talents, and to seek God’s direction in life. In inspiring At the heart of the SCS experience, you’ll find a addition to rigorous academics, the innovative curricto watch team of caring, highly qualified, passionate faculty and ulum includes Bible, athletics, arts, global world view, our students staff. Committed to Christ and dedicated to each stutechnology, foreign language, community service and grow in dent’s academic, emotional and spiritual growth, they leadership development. Students at SCS have the their faith.” teach both in class and by example, expressing their opportunity to take on leadership roles in a variety of faith on a daily basis. Low student to teacher ratios programs, including ministry. In recent years, students — Ryan Lehman, enable teachers to give students plenty of individual have developed a high school ministry team, worship attention. From the moment you step onto Sarasobands, and prayer groups. “It’s inspiring to watch our ta Christian’s inviting 25-acre campus, you’re welcomed students grow in their faith, minister to each other, and commit their lives to Christ,” notes SCS Superintendent Ryan Leh- into an exceptional learning community. Family, Christ-centered, and man. SCS’s commitment to Christ goes well beyond the classroom. friendly are the words used to describe what makes SCS such a nurStudents are actively engaged in service and mission opportunities turing and positive learning environment. We invite you to experience such as an annual middle school mission trip, a high school service the SCS difference for yourself by scheduling a campus visit.
Highlight Southeastern University Dual Enrollment Program Sarasota Christian School is one of the first schools in Southwest Florida to offer the opportunity for high school students to graduate with an Associate of Arts (AA) Degree in Business. This unique partnership with Southeastern University (SEU) provides SCS students the opportunity to take challenging college courses on the Sarasota Christian School campus during the normal school day with SCS faculty who are fully accredited through SEU. Upon successful completion of the SEU program, students can earn an AA Degree in Business, representing a value of as much as $60,000 in college tuition. “Gaining acceptance into top tier colleges has become extremely competitive. Our dual enrollment program offers SCS students a substantial advantage and helps them stand out from their peers during the college admissions process,” notes Mark Martell, High School Principal at SCS. Once in college, students with this degree may be able to graduate early with a bachelor’s degree or explore other educational opportunities such as taking additional courses of interest, studying abroad, declaring dual majors or pursuing a master’s degree early.
• ADMISSIONS DEADLINE Southeastern University, Honors, Rolling admissions until Dual Enrollment and Advanced classes are full. Placements Courses, World-ranked • ACCREDITATIONS Odyssey of the Mind Program, and FCIS, FKC, AdvanceEd/SACS International School Partnership • LANGUAGES TAUGHT Spanish Global Education Program • KEY PROGRAMS Associate • TEACHING PHILOSOPHY of Arts Degree in Business through Exceptional and Academically
Challenging, Biblically-Infused Education from Pre-K through 12th Grade • NUMBER OF FULL-TIME TEACHERS 38 • NUMBER OF STUDENTS 440
SARASOTA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL 5415 BAHIA VISTA STREET SARASOTA 941-371-6481 | SARASOTACHRISTIAN.ORG PK-12TH GRADE
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ST. MARTHA CATHOLIC SCHOOL
FOUNDED IN 1950, St. Martha Catholic School is proud to be one of the oldest Catholic schools in Sarasota County, remaining inspired and committed to fulfilling its mission – Strength in Faith, Excellence in Knowledge, and Character in Service. As a school fully accredited by the Florida Catholic Conference, a member of the National Catholic Education Association and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and a 2011 National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, St. Martha Catholic School educates students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, with the student population averaging approximately 440 students. As a practicing oneto-one school, each student receives a tablet for use, with the Google Suite and Google Classroom as the primary services for streamlining communication between students and teachers. Outside of their stellar academic programs and offerings, St. Martha Catholic School provides an abundance of athletics, special programs and extra-curricular activities to foster a well-rounded student life environment. At St. Martha Catholic School, Principal Siobhan Young is proud to say that the students call the shots: “Our school is every much kid-focused, kid-driven; making sure the children understand what the mission is.” Thriving on project-based learning,
Principal Young has a vision for St. Martha Catholic School focused on the future of learning. “Those days of sitting in rows and columns and working from a workbook really are gone, “ muses Principal Young. “We have flexible seating in almost every one of our classrooms, [and] students are communicating with their teachers through blogs and web; there’s not as much paper and pencil.” For students that attend St. Martha Catholic School for the majority of their formative years, there is ample opportunity to see projects from beginning to end. A perfect example of sustainable learning, the school is home to three large gardens tended by the students. The gardens are filled with vegetables that the students plant and harvest themselves; those vegetables make their way to the school’s salad bar, where the students are able to enjoy the food they’ve put their hard work into. These projects work to prepare students for the next phase, providing an understanding of what college career readiness looks like, and giving a taste of being part of a cohesive team-oriented work force. “Thinking outside the box, working with other people, not necessarily always getting your way and understanding what it’s like to work in a group,” Principal Young explains. “Our students work really well with one another.”
In partnership with Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Catholic Church, the mission of St. Martha Catholic School is to provide each student with diverse opportunities which develop strength in faith, and excellence in knowledge and learning. Students build character through their Christian service to the school, parish and world communities.
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ST. MARTHA CATHOLIC SCHOOL | STMARTHASCHOOL.NET
AS A FAITH-BASED INSTITUTION, St. Martha Catholic School is proud to provide an educational experience that places God as the focus. This focus on faith goes hand-in-hand with the school’s tireless dedication to charitable service within the community, and St. Martha Catholic School puts the power in the hands of their students. Principal Young puts it simply: “We’re trying to do our part with educating kids on why it’s so important to help others, and why that’s our calling.” Monthly, St. Martha Catholic School holds all-school mass, and in lieu of a monetary Offertory, students are asked to provide a canned food item to be donated to All Faiths Food Bank. When putting together gift boxes or collecting items to donate, students are encouraged to invest their own money in the items they’ve designed to give, not just ask their parents to purchase things. This instills in them a strong sense of ownership in each and every project, connecting them with those they’re working to aid. With each month providing an a new opportunity to give back, St. Martha Catholic school has partnered with countless organizations in the area, laying a strong foundation for their students to grow into compassionate, selfless members of the community. As a private Catholic school, St. Martha Catholic School does have an annual tuition. While some may feel that places
the opportunity to attend St. Martha Catholic out of reach, Principal Young is excited to share that the scholarship opportunities for potential students are boundless. The school boasts over $250,000 worth of scholarship offered through Step Up for Students, and over 60% of the student population receives tuition assistance in one form or another. “We try to make Catholic education affordable for everyone,” reassures Principal Young. “Everyone is afforded the same opportunities within our school; we are welcoming and accepting of all.” One thing is palpable when visiting St. Martha Catholic School; a sense of earnest excitement. “The kids have fun “Thinking at school,” says Principal Young with a outside the box, smile. “That’s one of the things we’re working with trying to bring back to education; that other people, school should be fun. The kids really not necessarily keep you young and keep you excited always getting about what we’re doing.” At St. Martha Catholic School, the students are headyour way.” – ed for bright, shining futures–and they’re Principal Siobhan having fun getting there. Young
With eyes towards the future, St. Martha Catholic School has adopted an incredible STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Math) initiative. “Three years ago we won a technology integration award nationally among all Catholic schools for what we were doing then with our kids,” Principal Young is proud to share. “I feel like we’ve only gone above and beyond at this point.” Students have access to a fully functioning STREAM lab, which they visit at least once a week. At any given time students may be found building their own computers, interacting with coding robots, or building their own mini-theme park. STREAM offerings vary based on age, but no one is excluded from activities in the lab. While younger students learn the basics of coding and engineering with the Code-a-Piller and Lego wall, older students design bat houses and practice out-of-the-box thinking building working robots. Middle school students have stepped up to create a schoolwide newsletter on their own, and a daily morning newscast is produced by St. Martha Catholic School’s fully functioning television crew. Each day is a new adventure, and the students at St. Martha Catholic School are fully hands-on and ready to create their way around each and every new challenge.
• ADMISSIONS DEADLINE Rolling Admissions • ACCREDITATIONS Florida Catholic Conference; National Council for Private School Accreditation • LANGUAGES TAUGHT Spanish • KEY PROGRAMS STREAM
(Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Math) focus. All students will take the following core courses: Religion, Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. • TEACHING PHILOSOPHY St. Martha Catholic School is
a Catholic Christian community that strives to integrate, in the lives of its members, the message of Jesus. • NUMBER OF FULL-TIME TEACHERS 32 • NUMBER OF STUDENTS 434
ST. MARTHA CATHOLIC SCHOOL 4380 FRUITVILLE ROAD, SARASOTA 941-953-4181 | STMARTHASCHOOL.NET INFO@STMARTHASCHOOL.NET SERVES GRADES K-12
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RocketKids Reviews of the Top Activity Subscription Boxes
KidsBoxes THIS EDITION – Children 6 and Under
KIWICO KIWI CRATE
Ages: 5-8. Calling themselves The Innovation Factory, boxes are desgined by experts and tested by kids with a focus on building cool things. Choose from four lines for kids 6 and under: Tadpole Crate, 0-36 months; Koala Crate, Ages 3-4; KiwiCrate, ages 5-8; and, AtlasCrate, ages 6-11. We will be reviewing the Kiwi Crate. kiwico.com
ways for the kids to think about their plans. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I’ve long since given up on trying to interest the kids in the magazine. Who is going to read a cartoon about muscles when you can build a working bow and arrow instead? The Kiwi crate projects are often wonderfully ambitious and may include messy materials. I find that parental (or older sibling) involvement is required, both to keep the mess contained and to complete the projects.
THE STORY BOX
Ages: 0-6. Awesomeness in the form of book mail for kids! Each month we send your child a special package that contains two children’s books. We scour the literary world to find the best books for your littles. Each book must present good learning opportunities, and each book must be fun for kids. All of our packages include two books per month, as well as a parent guide. jointhestorybox.com
Our Review Ages 5-6 will likely need adult help, ages 7+ should not. Duration to Complete the Box: 1-hour Parent Involvement: High. Instructions: 5/5. Materials: 5/5. Experience: 5/5. The Kiwi brand has established itself as a leader in the industry, and it is a well-deserved success. Kiwi offers a range of kits for different ages, making them familiar and comfortable as kids age. My kids cheer when they see those colorful boxes arrive in the mail. Typically a Kiwi crate has a couple of projects inside, an instruction book, and a fun magazine that offers other 44
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High. Instructions: 4/5. Materials: 5/5. Experience: 4/5. Anything that gets parents to read to their kids is a huge positive. This is the best aspect of The Story Box. I can imagine famlies getting excited and setting time aside to really focus on reading the new books together, especially with the pretty wrappingpaper. My sample contained two children’s books, well-illustrated and nicely-written, and a single printed sheet with ideas as to how a parent might bring the content of the book to life. The two books I reviewed both followed themes of imagination and friends helping friends, positive tghemes with positive characters, which I appreciated (although I liked one of the books much more than the other). Unfortuntealy, there isn’t that much more to the box, however. It would go a long way for there to be puzzle, puppets, or other materials that drew on the content of the books. The Story Box is a new book subscription service, which is great, but I was looking for there to be more stuff in the box.
WE CRAFT BOX
Our Review Ages up to six. Duration to Complete the Box: N/A Parent Involvement:
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Ages: 0-5. Creativity is the magic of childhood, especially when parents get to spend time being creative with their kids. Craft, connect and create together without all the legwork. wecraftbox.com
Our Review Up to age 5 and cute enough to entertain older kids too. Duration to Complete the Box: 1-hour Parent Involvement: High. Instructions: 5/5. Materials: 5/5. Experience: 5/5.
The WeCraft Box puts a smile on your face as soon as you open it. My sample copy included materials for four colorful and fun projects, and I appreciated that the elements were all nicely presented in the box itself so as to be visible as soon as you opened the lid. There is a nice flow to the projects as well. First, we glued together colorful paper bag monster puppets. There was a song to sing once the puppets were finished. Then we decorated googly-eyes monster headbands and became monsters ourselves. Now, with dolls and headbands in place, it was time to create blown art-monsters with paints, straws and more googly eyes. And finally, the box becomes a gallery to showcase our creations. No frustrations, and lots of giggles and smiles. Kudos to the creator, this is a well-thoughtout box that feels like it was lovingly assembled.
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READING BUG BOX
Ages: 0-12. Craft, connect and create together without all the legwork of sourcing the perfect items for a craft. wecraftbox.com
Our Review Ages 6+ (perfect for kids that can read on their own) Duration to Complete the Box: Hours! Parent Involvement: Low. Instructions: 5/5. Materials: 5/5. Experience: 5/5. Open a Reading Bug Box for the first time and be prepared for the “Wow!” This box is jam-packed with goodies. My review copy had three
reading books, including a signed edition of volume one of the Notebooks of Doom, which my son about jumped out of his shoes when he saw. And there were three creative books-one journal and two different styles of the “write-your-own-comic-book” format. The products are all top-tier, and I was surprised to see LEGO and Usborne branded products. I love that the Reading Bug Box team is willing to offer challenging materials too. The LEGO book goes deep on the science behind volcanoes. Probably the most impressive is a book about Benjamin Franklin, “Mesmerized,” that is full of fantastic artwork. It tells the story of Franklin debunking 17th hypnotist charlatans in Paris through the power of the scientific method. Impressive on every level. There is even a Reading Bug podcast and links to information about the highlighted authors. Great
content that will challenge young readers, and presents a sophisticated and intelligent view of the world.
LITTLE GLOBAL CITIZENS
Ages: 3-8. Fostering openmindedness, compassion and global awareness in children is their mission. Little Global Citizens helps parents instill in their kids a love for travel, adventure and most importantly, a respect for all people. Each box focuses on one country. little-global-citizens.com
Our Review Ages 3-5. Duration to Complete the Box: 1-hour Parent Involvement:
High. Instructions: 5/5. Materials: 4/5. Experience: 4/5. Little Global Citizens sets itself high goals, to give kids the experience and understanding of what lives are like for children in countries other than their own. We very much enjoyed the read-along book about Australian Animals, and my kids liked the three art projects. The introductory letter from “Liam”. a child in Australia, completely caught the attention of my fiveyear-old. She wondered later, though, why “Liam” wanted her to bake “Damper Bread,” and if there was a picture of him eating it. I wish that “Liam” had appeared in more of the materials as I think the Little Global Citizens creators are really onto something here, it just needs to carry through. The kids had fun and we enjoyed playing the games. The magnetic peeking koala will be on our refrigerator for a long time to come.b
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CaptivaIsland This legendary shelling hotspot offers a tropical (and quirky) family-fun escape for your whole crew…and it’s only a hop, skip and a jump away. WRITTEN BY AMY COSTANTINO IMERMAN
hen you leave the
Ft. Myers mainland, it’s a slow, scenic (and fairly lengthy) drive through Sanibel Island to reach Captiva, but you’ll quickly understand why the magical outer island was your final destination. Here, the sunlight seems warmer, the residents are on “island time” and you’re immediately transported into that relaxed state of mind. Add a piña colada by the pool and you are officially on your way to becoming a Captiva castaway for the weekend.
Where to Stay ‘TWEEN WATERS INN This classic Florida resort is literally located “‘tween the waters”—the Gulf and Pine Island Sound—so you really don’t even have to leave this little piece of paradise to access the beach, bay or pool. With historic beach cottages, condos and restaurants sprawled across the large 13acre property, no car is necessary to meander the vast amount of offerings. Teens will love having their independence by being able to explore the property without mom and dad hovering over them (however, you will probably be able to spy on them from your room’s balcony. Shhh…we won’t tell them!). The inn’s restaurants are all quality—just as good or better than what you’ll find elsewhere on the island—so if you want a super-relaxing stay, there’s no reason to leave! The laid back Crow’s Nest offers live music on the weekends and great grub, like Grouper Bites and The Ultimate BLTAE (BLT with Avocado and Egg). Don’t miss the Captiva House, originally
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the island’s only schoolhouse but now an award-winning upscale new American and sushi restaurant. The Thai Snapper entree and So Yumi sushi roll are just that—so yummy. ‘Tween Waters Inn, 15951 Captiva Dr., Captiva, 239-472-5161.
INSIDER TIP We suggest requesting a room in the Coconut building that faces the marina and bay. The rooms have recently been remodeled with a kitchen efficiency, and from your screened-in patio (a life-saver when the sand gnats come out) you will most likely be able to see the bay’s frequent visitors—a large aggregation of manatees who enjoy lolling in the shallow waters just offshore.
Where to Eat DOC FORD’S RUM BAR & GRILL Owned by local author Randy Wayne White and named after his novels’ adventurous marine biologist main character, this restaurant is a must-do for its robust variety of rum drinks and its spicy, garlicky Yucatán Shrimp (steamed shrimp with the shell on, served in the most wicked butter and chili sauce that we wish we could imitate). When tackling these delicious but messy shrimp, the bartender will advise that the key to successfully conquering them is to suck off the sauce first, then peel them. As they say, “when in Rome…” Trust us, take the local’s advice—you won’t regret it. And don’t forget to dip your garlic bread in the sumptuous sauce. We also can’t resist the addictive Cuban-style Bayamo Black Bean dip. Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill, 5400 South Seas Plantation Rd., Captiva, 239-312-4275.
INSIDER TIP Pick up some weekend reading at the restaurant’s gift shop where you can grab an autographed copy of one of Randy Wayne White’s mystery books that take place in and around the Captiva/Sanibel area.
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What to Do DAY TRIP TO CABBAGE KEY Take a daycruise on the 148-passenger “Lady Chadwick” over to Cabbage Key—a quaint island in the Pine Island Sound, only accessible by boat. Here, you find a handful of fishing cottages, free-roaming tortoises named Michelangelo and Leonardo, and a pub that is said to be inspiration for Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” With dollar bills wallpapering the walls, ceiling—even dangling from the fan— this place oozes the charm that you expect from an island burger joint. The burger is a must (and as good as Buffet describes), but don’t skip the frozen Key Lime Pie. Although you would think a margarita would be the natural choice, we suggest the “Cabbage Creeper”—a piña colada-based cocktail with a coffee liquor finish. But it will creep up on you, just like the charm of this little island. Captiva Cruises, captivacruises.com, 239-472-5300
HERMIT CRAB RACES Since 1984, crowds have arrived early on Monday and Thursday nights at The Crow’s Nest restaurant for the wacky “Sunburned Willie’s Crab Race Show.” Hermit crabs racing? Yes, you heard right. Willie tells you right up front on the show’s program, “Crab racing is the stupidest thing you’ve ever seen,” and we weren’t sure what to expect, but after choosing and naming our crab, then rooting for him to be the first to cross the finish line, we think it’s one of the most brilliant things we’ve ever seen. Part charity event and part comedy act, the show’s host is a hoot and even the naysayers will be laughing by the end of the show. Don’t worry; no crabs are injured during this production. Captiva Island Crab Races, M, Th at The Crow’s Nest Restaurant 6pm Family Show, 9pm Late Show (18+), 239-472-5161, Reservations Suggested b
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Engaging families with local opportunities for kids in education, cultural arts, schools, enrichment, STEM, travel and innovation in learnin...