Civil Rights Movement & New Orleans

I’m catching up from an unintentional blogging fast. We took on the Civil Rights Movement a couple of weeks ago. A rather large undertaking for one week, but certainly a lot of material to work with. And then we took on New Orleans last week, coinciding with Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras. I didn’t think about how the two topics would feed one another, until I was speaking with the Armstrong group about the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the folks left behind in it’s wake.

During the Civil Rights Movement week,  I  used the book, Teammates, that told Jackie Robinson’s story. I read the book to the older children and then had them split into group and had each group answer a different question about the book. When I was working with the Magellans, 2nd & 3rd graders, one of the sub groups had the question, “What do you think it felt like to be Jackie Robinson?” And they came up with this (without any help):

  1. Sad
  2. Humiliating
  3. Irritated
  4. Proud/Happy
  5. Mad
  6. Ignored
  7. Questionable
  8. Crabby
  9. Lonely
  10. Believable
  11. Loved
  12. Afraid
  13. Not confident
  14. Different
  15. Badly treated

I was so impressed with the words they came up with to express how they might feel. Wow.

One of our staff members, Cari, turned a cafeteria table into a bus and had the children separate by some characteristic- clothing, eye color. The ones with the “desired” color got to sit at the front of the bus and the others had to move to the back. She put Dickson’s experiential theme into action by letting children experience what it felt like to be treated differently because of a physical attribute. It was a powerful moment of learning for our kids and staff.

Now on to last week -New Orleans  Wedged in-between the school Mardi Gras celebration on Tuesday, and Valentine’s Day Thursday, we had a wild week. And oh, let’s not forget Ms. Amanda’s King Cakes – she made four of them for us- on Friday. I spent some time talking to the Armstrong group about Hurricane Katrina. They were all just 3 & 4 when it came through so they didn’t remember it. I showed them some footage from the storm and the rampant destruction and desperation in it’s aftermath.  It’s even hard  for me to believe that folks lived in the Superdome for 6 days, waiting to get out. One of the  Armstrong’s noticed that most of the people left behind in the Superdome were black. We talked about what that meant. Why didn’t folks leave? Why did it take so long to get them out? Even if I had the time, I can’t answer these questions. But it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be asked. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share how the images from Katrina made us feel.  I personally think it is a dark moment in our nation’s history and watching all that footage again, some of which I had never seen, was a sobering reminder that we still have a lot to overcome.

Onward and upward to Volcano Week.


It’s All In A Name

Last week we participated in No Name Calling Week. The free lessons that I downloaded from the website were fabulous and engaging to all the children. I was able to lead the same lesson (on different days), It’s All In A Name, with both the Magellans (2 & 3) and the Armstrongs (4 & 5).  Below is the listed objective from the lesson plan

OBJECTIVES: To gain group knowledge of what each person’s name means to them. To reflect as a group on the importance attached to names and the different feelings brought up when names are used as Put-ups or Put-downs. To empower each person to assert what they do and do not want to be called in the classroom. To create an atmosphere in which students seek to use names that make others feel good.

The children were paired and had to interview one another about their name:

  • Who gave you your name?
  • Why was it chosen to be your name?
  • What do you like about your name?
  • What nicknames do you like to be called


The children then came back to the group and shared what they had learned about their partner’s name. Among our group, we have Juliana  who was named after the first woman author of a fly fishing book; Levi, who was named after Leviathan, the Mythological creature who guards Atlantis; India who was named after a character in her Mom’s favorite Movie, Gone With The Wind; Juve who was named after a TV show character, and Sophie and Sadie who were named after their grandmas. Some kids have nicknames that only their families are allowed to use.

We then talked about “Put Down” names- ones that make us feel bad. Many of the kids spoke of  negative spins on their names, that others had called them and why they didn’t like them. Some kids were surprised to hear that these names weren’t welcome, because they sounded cool. The kids also spoke of general words that are put downs- stupid, lame, idiot were a few, but they also spoke of phrases that hurt like, “you’re not my friend”, and “I don’t like you.”.

We then spoke of “Put Up” words- encouraging words- and brainstormed ones they liked to be called, ones that are spins on their names and general ones. “Nice job, good try and awesome”, were a few.

We talked about standing up for ourselves when someone calls us a name but we also talked about standing up for others when we hear it happening to others.

We intentionally played non-competitive games during our recreation time at 4:30 this week, to encourage team work and the use of (hopefully) “put up” words. On Thursday, the Magellans worked together to get a hula-hoop around the circle without breaking their hands. I heard a lot of put-up words, including “go, go go” and “you can do it!” and the kids were proud when they had accomplished this. We talked about how it felt to hear those words of encouragement from one another.

Wow. A moment of accomplishment for me!

And then we played another team game that involved trying to keep a ball in the air as a group. How many times in a row could 25 kids hit the ball without it hitting the ground? They tried it many times.



But we did have the contrasting moment to discuss as a group. Why couldn’t we accomplish more than 5? Why were there so many kids who never even hit the ball once?

We’ll have to give this one another go sometime. 

Until then..


What Happened To October?

Time flies when you’re having fun, right?

And so it goes at Bright IDEAS. We have been busy learning, cooking, playing, cooperating, storytelling, stamping passports, corn mazing, snacking, crafting, puppeting, dancing – the list goes on and on.

The dedicated staff of Bright IDEAS is constantly reviewing and tweaking how we serve our kids. How we teach them, empower them to make good choices, encourage them to be good citizens, guide them to be persons of character.

In that light, we decided to take a different approach with our older children- the Armstrong group. We held a series of meetings with them and let them shape what they do with their time with us. They had some good ideas, several of which we have implemented already. Once a week, they chose to help younger children during their regular homework time, 3-3:30 pm and then work on their own homework from 3:30-4.

They also enthusiastically agreed to design, bake, build their own gingerbread house with the goal of being accepted into the Gingerbread competition at the Grove Park Inn. They had about 30 ideas of what kind of structure they could create but in the end voted to build Isaac Dickson (with UFO being a distant second).  I have been quite impressed with their cooperation so far and look forward to seeing how the story unfolds as they make the template and bake the pieces.  I’ll try to post pictures here to keep you (our three readers) up to date.

Until then, here are pictures from our week:

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My Very Excellent Mother

This week was Space Week and we worked on learning the planets in our Solar System by using this mnemonic:

My (Mercury)

Very (Venus)

Excellent (Earth)

Mother (Mars)

Just (Jupiter)

Sent (Saturn)

Us (Uranus)

Nachos (Neptune)

Many of the older children knew that Pluto had been downgraded to a “dwarf planet”;  the younger ones don’t even have to worry about every remembering that Pluto once was the 9th planet in our Solar System.

I was with the Armstrong group earlier in the week and they spotted a very large Praying Mantis, so we stopped to admire it.


Amanda played a space relay game with the Sharks.


Aleisha had the Magellan group make and fly their own paper airplanes:



Amy made decoupage planets with the Sharks and Magellans.


Ms Lewis played a space themed game on the field with the Magellan and Armstrong Groups. (Sorry no pictures. I was busy being a Sun protector in the game).

At the end of the day on Friday, Amanda and her group of Space Chefs served up some Space food to everyone, explaining why some foods work in Space and some don’t (without some help at least – salt and pepper will just float away so it has to be mixed in water).

Space was a lot of fun. I’m sure we will visit it again as there is so much to learn.

Wide Awake

I have heard Katy Perry’s, Wide Awake, many times over the last few months, though I have never really listened to the words. I think I can say with certainty that she isn’t speaking of middle aged insomnia. At 1 a.m., I work with a start, my eyes popping open. I was dreaming of a really easy 4:30 check out at BI. Really. I was.  Then I was wide awake thinking about our day, the children, recruiting tutors for the 18 children in our program who have been identified as children who need that help, etc.

Check out was a little chaotic the last two days. We have some things to iron out but we are working on it. Checkout is different than last year, so it is new to everyone, including the children who were so well conditioned to enter through the same door their parents do. This year, the parents enter through the back door in the auditorium and the children enter through the stage door. I know it might seem silly to see your child pass right by you but safety is our first concern. We beg your patience while we work this out. It works well when we do it right. We just need to do it right all the time.

We recognize that picking up an Explorers Club child around 4:30 when the club children are being retrieved can be tricky because they should never be in the auditorium with the club children. And we know it is frustrating to you to try to determine where they are as our schedule states that they should be transitioning to the gym/playground at 4:30. To cut the confusion, we are making every effort to have Explorers headed to the gym by 4:30-4:35 and if we aren’t, the staff in auditorium should be notified of the delay and where they are.

Your comments are always welcome!

A Day In the Life

We all survived our first week. Believe it or not, the staff was a little anxious about our start.  With our beloved Kathryn off on her new adventures as the Middle School Art Teacher, Amanda and I took on the program planning. And we know we don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, especially with those precious Kindergartners and new students to Bright IDEAS. We wanted them to feel welcome and included. There were a few tears but once we got our day started, those kids perked up and joined in the fun. I was really impressed how well the Kindergartners did this week.

This week we focused on establishing routines and rules, getting acquainted with one another through fun name games and learning about cooperation through interactive games.  Here’s what a typical day looks like:

  • 2:30- Everyone assembles in the Cafeteria for role
  • 2:40-2:55 pm- Snack time on the playground, and play time
  • 2:55-3:00- Water and bathroom
  • 3:00-3:30- Homework time. K’s will stay on the playground a little longer, then go with Ms Amanda to the AIG room next to the gym to read a story
  • 3:30-4:30- Elective Clubs for some, Explorers Club for the rest, where we split into groups by age and have a unit study (Country, Science, etc) for the week through games, presentations, activities, computer lab time, etc.
  • 4:30 – pick up from Elective Clubs in the back of the auditorium (if you aren’t picking up now, then you will find your child in the gym or playground after 4:30).
  • 4:30- Explorers club moves down to gym/playground to play planned supervised games.
  • 5:15- Closing Circle
  • 5:25-  Dismissal – all children will be brought upstairs to carpool line.

Each week our schedule is posted outside the school on one of the poles, so if you are wondering where to find us, check there. But you can always call us at 513-9223 to find us.

There are a couple of rules we have a hard time driving home with our kids so we would appreciate your help with them. One, bringing a pencil for homework time. We do have pencils that children can borrow but last year they often didn’t come back, so we started asking the children to sign them out but this cuts into their playground time because we ask them to do this before going outside.

Two, no water fountain visits during homework time. It is distracting to others and we feel that many are just avoiding doing work. So we ask them to get water on the way in from the playground. If they have water bottles, they may keep them at their place.

I recognize this may sound a little knit picky but we have staff and volunteers available to help with questions during homework time and we want to utilize their time with homework questions. Giving out pencils and giving permission to get water isn’t how we want to use their time.

Please make sure you always sign out your child with a staff member each time you pick them up. If you come during Circle Time, we ask that you wait for us to dismiss your child from the Circle. And please be here by 5:30. The last thing we want to do at the end of a long day is to hassle you for money. We are pretty gracious about giving everyone one “free pass” for being a few minutes late and understand that occasionally you will get stuck behind an accident. There is nothing you can do about that and we understand that; it happens to us all! We appreciate your respect of our time and if possible giving us a call to let us know you will be late.

I hope I haven’t totally bored you silly. It isn’t very exciting stuff is it? But now we can move on to better topics, eh?

Snack Quest

Snack time is a big deal around Bright IDEAS. Ask your children. We provide daily snack to sometimes as many as 90 children. Wow. We take the snack business very seriously at BI. We found that providing a “healthy” snack just wasn’t enough; a half apple or banana without a protein or grain to balance the natural sugar didn’t seem to bode well at homework time 20 minutes later; the children on the whole seemed to have more difficulty focusing, as opposed to days when we had something more sustainable, like a granola mix or when we paired cheese with the fruit.

Last year, Amanda Silverman, professional baker (and opera singer) and our BI snack czar (among other things), handled the snack for our entire community at BI and often provided fresh baked banana, pumpkin or apple bread for the children. And oh, the staff got to partake in the deliciousness too. The kids loved it SO much there were always more than a few hoovering round the snack area like little crows, waiting for “seconds” to be called, even though we were always fair in passing out “seconds.” I guess they just didn’t want to get too far away and miss out on the call.

Since we have two students who have severe (life threatening) tree nuts allergies, we don’t serve nuts of any kind.  Add to that our efforts to provide a balanced, healthy snack at  a reasonable price, and oh, let’s not forget something the children will actually EAT, well that does limit us a bit. We always take into consideration other dietary restrictions our children have- gluten, dairy, etc and if our snack for the day excludes them, then we will provide an alternative.

This year, Amanda and I (Tracey), are splitting up the snack quest 2 & 2. And on Thursdays, Amanda and a small group of children will make Friday’s snack for everyone. This week they made frozen raspberry yogurt pops. They certainly disappeared on Friday. Another hit this week was Chick Pea Popcorn though I added salt and a little more oil to this recipe ( I think Dr Oz, could use just a little fat, don’t you?). Chickpeas are a good inexpensive source of protein and almost everyone (on the big kid’s playground with me) was willing to try it. That is something we will put in our regular rotation. Some other past popular snack offerings have been:

  • cheese and fruit
  • edamame
  • kale chips
  • Amanda’s bread
  • Cheerios mix (raisins, granola chunks, Cheerios)
  • yogurt topped with Cheerios or granola
  • frozen yogurt pops
  • popcorn (popped on the stove)
  • turkey sandwiches

We are always open to new snack ideas- we can get in a rut. And you are always welcome to send your child with his/her own snack as long as it doesn’t have nuts in it!