From the Director's Chair
I figured out why I was having trouble sleeping after watching the second Presidential debate recently. Adrenaline. When I witness two people engaged in a bitter, sometimes repulsive exchange with one another when the stakes are incredibly high, I find myself getting angry, frustrated and a little exasperated. Our political system is disappointing me.
I choose to follow leaders who have integrity, know themselves, listen actively, seek to include others, and give me hope for a better tomorrow. In this time of political upheaval, when true leaders seem hard to come by, I am reminded more than ever how grateful I am to be working with our Middle School students, the leaders of tomorrow.
When we need inspiration that people exist who can unite people around simple yet elusive concepts of justice, inclusivity, equality and peace, we need not look any further than our middle graders at Penn Charter. The teachers and staff in our building unite around this mission of developing leaders who can make positive difference in our world every single school day. And, recently, we engaged in a full-day retreat with our eighth graders on leadership and diversity.
Coming off their three-day excursion to Washington, D.C., students arrived on the morning of Sept. 30 a little weary from the travel and the wet weather. We were quickly inspired by our keynote speaker, Dwight Dunston, who began our retreat with a rap and, using the following queries, reminded us that good leaders work toward building community:
- Am I collaborating in the spirit of inclusivity to strengthen our community, or am I excluding others and detracting from our shared mission?
- Am I engaging with interest and empathy with others who may be different from me?
- Do I leave the responsibility of building community up to others?
View a video of Dunston.
Our planning team – made up of Imana Legette, Bryan Skelly, Allen Vandegrift, Sharon Ahram, Jennifer Ketler, and I – set out to organize a special day (see retreat schedule) for our eighth grade students to whom the rest of our students look for guidance and leadership. Our eighth graders started the day looking inward at their own identities and gradually shifted to examining how they interact with the people and communities around them. Lastly, with a direct connection to the leaders of our past that our students learned about on the D.C. trip, we challenged our students to come up with a working definition of positive and effective leadership. View more photos from the eighth grade leadership retreat.
The antidote to my uneasiness and concern about our future leaders is our students, and we look forward to continuing to provide them with experiences that further their formidable leadership skills. In the Worship Share at the end of the day, we asked students to share a learning or a change they would make about themselves. Some examples include:
- “I am going to make an effort to sit with different people at lunch.”
- “You can make a difference in someone’s life just by listening to them.”
- “Making assumptions about who people are before you get to know them happens all the time, and I think it should stop.”
- “I heard someone say that if you can be yourself at school then you’re lucky because some people can’t do that. I had never thought about that before.”
- “What really matters is who you are on the inside and your character. When I meet people, that’s what I am going to look for.”
Director of Middle School
IdeaLab Opportunities for Middle School Students
We are excited to offer the following sessions in our IdeaLab for Middle School students in the 2016-2017 school year. Please note that the first Mini Maker course begins on Nov. 8, and email Diane Kane in our Middle School office to reserve your space. Enrollment is limited in each session, and special consideration will be given to students whose schedules limit their availability in other sessions.
Our aim is to provide sessions that all students can attend and still enable them to pursue their other passions in athletics and arts. If you have any questions about the sessions, please contact Eve Schwartz at firstname.lastname@example.org or Corey Kilbane at email@example.com.
MINI MAKER COURSES (course 1: November; course 2: February/March)
Course 1: Nov. 8-18; Monday- Friday, 3:10-5:00, $50 activity fee
Students in the Middle School will have the opportunity to join the maker movement! In this condensed "mini course," students will create, explore and innovate by completing a series of projects in the IdeaLab. They will develop design and computer programming skills, and learn how to operate the laser cutter and the 3D printer. To cap off the experience, students will build their very own robot!
Course 2: Feb. 21-March 2; Monday-Friday, 3:10-5:00 pm, $50 activity fee
See description above.
FULL MAKER COURSE (one session only)
Jan. 9-Feb. 10; Monday-Thursday, 3:10-5:00 pm, $100 activity fee
In this intensive maker experience, students will gain skills through a series of design challenges, each modeled on pressing real-world issues. They will explore the limits of their minds, and tinker on a project of their own, learn to code, or learn a new mechanical skill.
During this month-long course, students accept a series of design challenges. Through collaborative projects and student-driven inquiry, students will:
- program their very own video game and animation
- design and build a LEGO sumo robot
- use laser cutters to create their own constellation lamps to help navigate their way home
- use 3D printers to create habitable shelters on Mars
Club size will be limited to 16 students. Students who complete this activity satisfactorily will receive a Middle School activity credit.MICRO MAKER COURSES (course 1: March; course 2: May)
March 6-10; Monday-Friday, 3:10-5:00 pm, $25 activity fee
Learn the basics of DIY fashion in this design and sewing intensive, week-long course. After learning how to a spin a bobbin, thread the machine and sew in a straight line, students will design and construct their very own tote bags! Then, they will use computer program to create a unique design element, and operate the laser-cutter to cut it out – and customize their bag.
May 15-19; Monday-Friday, 3:10-5:00 pm, $25 activity fee
In this nature-based, micro-maker session, animals and the outdoors become the focus of the design-challenges. After surveying Wissahickon park, students will learn how to operate the drone to map its trails and take aerial photos. Design skills will be enhanced through the use of the laser cutter when they create their own animal silhouettes. Students will even learn how to design, build and launch their own rocket on the Penn Charter campus!