The first edition of Wilder – A FlexSchool Student Magazine is here! You may download the PDF here. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this magazine happen! Our students never cease to amaze us!
Recently, Jacqui sat down with our friend Debbie Reber, host of the wonderful Tilt Parenting podcast and author of Differently Wired both of which are phenomenal resources for parents of twice-exceptional children. In this podcast, you will hear Jacqui speak about why she began FlexSchool, why it is designed as a network of small schools, how our schools meet the unique needs of 2e learners, as well as how parents and communities can bring a FlexSchool campus to their area.
“I mean, I just have to say when I came down to check out the school and I walked in and I just loved every student immediately. It was like these are the cool, differently wired, awesome creative kids! It was just such a great vibe.” – Debbie Reber
Ever since I was a kid, I tried to start my day with some sort of physical activity. That is, until three years ago, when I finished Grad School and became a Dad. I suddenly found myself with a different schedule and different priorities. Since then, I have found that I have far less energy than I used to, and it impacted virtually every aspect of my life. Sure, it could be that I’m getting older, getting a LOT less sleep, but, what if this change to my daily routine had something to do with it? So, as any good scientist would, I decided to test this hypothesis. I decided that I would force myself to do what I’ve always done, even if it meant getting EVEN less sleep. So, with my alarm set for 4:45 a.m., I began my experiment.
The first week was tough, I am not going to lie. My body ached, I was cranky, and I was ready to hit the pillow the second I walked in the door from work. The second week was easier, I found myself gaining more energy and generally feeling more positive. By the third week, I found myself waking up a few minutes before the alarm and having more energy than I could remember in a long time. But, the most profound change I noticed was how focused and productive I was at work. As an Exercise Physiologist, I know the research, exercise has positive effects on mood… exercise impacts cognitive function…. blah, blah, blah. But, it wasn’t until I experienced the impact first-hand that it hit me. What a difference starting your day with a physical activity makes!
Then I started thinking why is it that schools don’t have physical education first thing in the morning? Wouldn’t it be great for all students to start their day full of energy and ready to concentrate? As a good Scientist, here is where I give you the “facts and figures” in Geek Speak. There is well-established research demonstrating the positive effects of exercise and physical activity in the general population with regards to overall health and disease states. However, the research on the impact of exercise in the preadolescent and adolescent population and how it affects cognitive function is in its infancy. A review of current literature suggests that improvements in cardiorespiratory function have positive effects on mood and self-esteem and is positively associated with higher academic performance.1,2 A study specifically evaluating preadolescent students suggested that aerobic capacity was positively associated with academic performance; including total academic achievement, mathematic achievement and reading achievement.3 Several studies have delved further, examining effects of physical activity in the classroom setting with evidence supporting that single acute-bouts of moderately-intense aerobic exercise (e.g. walking) increases attention and academic performance.4,5 The benefits of exercise go beyond those seen in the general population when we look at the 2e population. Recent studies have shown that students that have ADD/ADHD perform better in the classroom throughout the day due to the release of dopamine during exercise.6 Furthermore, research has shown that a single bout of moderate exercise can increase executive functioning immediately afterwards, and with continued stimulation can have a long last effect.7 Pretty cool, huh?
So, what does that mean? It means that motion stimulates creativity, improves student well-being, and fosters academic stamina. To me, those results sound like the frame work of a good Mission Statement for any up and coming school, no? That’s why I firmly believe that starting every day at FlexSchool with physical activity is important to my students’ health and academic performance. I devote the first period of the day to Wellness, to allow each of my students to “rev up” or “supercharge” their brains for the day. Whether or not everyone of my students will experience the benefits observed in the “research” is arguable. However, do I care enough about my students to give them every opportunity to thrive? ABSOLUTELY.
- Ortega, F., Ruiz, J., Castillo, M., Sjostrom, M., Physical fitness in childhood and adolescence: a powerful marker of health. International Journal of Obesity, 2008; v32: 1–11.
- Singh, A., Uijtdewilligen, L., Twisk, J., van Mechelen, W., Chinapaw, M., Physical Activity and Performance at School. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012;166(1):49-55
- Castelli, D., Hillman, C., Buck, S., Erwin, H., Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement in Third- and Fifth-Grade Students. JSEP, 2007; V29(2): 239-252.
- Hillman, C.
,Pontifex, M., Raine ,L., Castelli, D., Hall, E. ,Kramer, A., The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children. Neuroscience, 2009; v159(3),1044-1054.
- Donnelly, J., Lambourne, K., Classroom-based physical activity, cognition, and academic achievement. Prev Med. 2011; v2
- Guiney, H., Machado, L., Benefits of regular aerobic exercise for executive functioning in healthy populations. Psychon Bull Rev, 2013; v20:73-86.
- Xiang, Q., Yih Xian Ho, C.,
WuenChan, H., Zheng Jie Yong, B. ,Wee-Song, W. Managing childhood and adolescent attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with exercise: A systematic review. Complementary Therapies in Medicine,2017; v20:123-128.
Today we meet Margaret Sport, an adventurer, a learner, as well as a teacher of Bioethics, Chemistry, Algebra, Geometry, Anatomy & Physiology, and Earth Science. Margaret blazed her own trail in while studying at Colorado College and designed her major in Bioethics with a minor in music. Did you know she began playing piano at Wharton School of Music, the same music school our Berkeley Heights campus housed with while our new school was completed? Sometimes takes you full circle.
What is your favorite part of teaching at FlexSchool?
My favorite part about teaching at FlexSchool is definitely the people. I am surrounded by amazing individuals each and every day. The staff and faculty have taught me so much in the months I have been working here. The kids make me laugh and smile till my cheeks hurt. It has been a joy to see them grow and to see myself grow with them.
What are you reading and/or learning right now?
I just finished reading both The Song of Achilles and Circe by Madeline Miller. My favorite class in college was a five-week course abroad in Greece entitled The World of Odysseus: History and Myth. We sailed the Greek islands, retracing Odysseus’s path home from the Trojan War. At the time, I couldn’t believe it was a real class, but I learned so much! Miller’s books tell the story of the Iliad and Odyssey from the perspectives of minor characters, Patroclus and Circe respectively. It was so fun to revisit the characters and myths from a new angle and learn more information about them. Circe, for example, was not only involved in the Odyssey but also experienced the tales of Jason and the Argonauts, King Minos and the Minotaur, Daedalus and Icarus. I would recommend them to anyone. The depth of research and rich storytelling combine to pull you in page after page, whether you’ve read the Homeric epics or not.
I love hiking, biking, skiing, surfing, backpacking, or anything to do outside. I just got back from a three-week trip traveling through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. I also play classical piano – I continued my music studies during my undergraduate studies.
Another large part of my life is volunteering. I have been a volunteer EMT on the Mountainside Rescue Squad for six years. I also was a founding member of my college’s student-run Emergency Medical Service. I love being able to give back to my community and am glad to be able to help people in their times of need.
My final passion is travel. I have been very fortunate to study abroad three times – in Greece, Spain, and Thailand. I am trying to keep my country count up to my age, but am currently behind with only 21 countries. I am planning a trip to China, Taiwan, and Vietnam over winter break to see a friend who works for the State Department, so hopefully, I will catch up for my 24th birthday. I truly believe exposure to a variety of peoples, cultures, languages, and beliefs promotes tolerance, understanding, and peace.
Our New Haven students recently toured The Studio at Firehouse 12. They learned about all of the equipment, physics, and engineering of recording music and they had the opportunity to watch a sound engineer mix music!
Firehouse 12 is one of Connecticut’s premiere high-fidelity recording studios. Their annual Fall Jazz Series is a 13-week program of performances by some of the most active, innovative and respected musicians in creative improvised music will run from September 14th through December 14th.
We appreciate Firehouse 12 for the tour and a special “Thank you!” to our tour guide, Greg Dicrosta for an interesting and informative tour.
Wall Street, Wits & Wagers – Commodity Trading for the Thinking Crowd
This week our students had the pleasure of learning and participating in the game, Wits and Wagers.
Our instructor and new Science teacher, Michael Steiner (former Wall Street Trader), led the student through Session 1, fundamentals of trading.
The game is available through Board Game Geek. Wits & Wagers is a trivia game that lets you bet on anyone’s answer. So you can win by making educated guesses, by playing the odds, or by knowing the interests of your friends. It can be taught in 2 minutes, played in 25 minutes, and accommodates up to 20 people in teams.
Building Our Own Ukuleles
Last Friday the students began to build their own Ukuleles with our Music Teacher, Dr. Karen Pinoci. The students enjoy working with their hands and creating something of their own!
Dr. Karen Pinoci is the Music Director and Conductor for the New Sussex Symphony, the Essex County Summer Players Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of New Jersey, and the NJIT String Ensemble.
Our Fanwood campus students recently attended a viewing of the Star Wars Holiday Special as it was originally aired in 1978. It was quite an adventure as the students boarded the train from Fanwood to Penn Station and a walk up 5th Ave. in New York City. After a hearty lunch it was time to walk to the Paley Media Center and settle in to watch the movie. Even though the movie special effects were quite funny compared to movie special effects of 2016, a great time was had by all of the students.
FlexSchool believes having our students in the community and part of the community is critical. It is the reason we place our campuses in the heart of the community. We also value the importance of teaching our students the skills to be independent adults. Watching the Stars Wars Holiday Special is a fun sci-fi outing but taking the train, navigating the city, being on time are all important life lessons. It is ideal when an opportunity to learn is also fantastic fun.
Our FlexFriday tour for Friday, October 7 was to the Covanta Union facility in Rahway, NJ.FlexFridays combine learning and community for special hands-on tours and lectures.
FlexSchool would like to thank Covanta – Rahway, NJ, Todd Frace, Chief Engineer and Brie Parker, Marketing Manager for a very fun and interesting FlexFriday learning experience.
We began our tour with a very informative presentation by Todd Frace, Chief Engineer. He explained the process our trash goes through to become electricity but first, we all learned about the safety gear we would need to tour the facility. With hards hats, safety vests, and goggles on we were ready to watch trash turn into energy.
All the collected waste begins the journey on the Tipping Floor. From here it travels to the ovens with advanced filtration to destroy the fumes. After this it is turned into electricity. We learned this facility processes 1500 tons of solid waste EACH DAY which creates enough electricity to power 30,000 homes! It is also environmentally friendly to turn waste into energy. According to the U.S. EPA, for every ton of municipal solid waste processed at Energy-from-Waste facilities, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by approximately one ton. This is due to the avoidance of methane from landfills, the offset of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel electrical production and the recovery of metals for recycling.
Watch the video below to get a sneak peek into our FlexFriday tour!
On Friday, September 30, our students were treated to a very special Skype session with Semih Bulbul of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees. He explained his humanitarian work involving the Syrian refugee crisis and answered student questions. Semih was born and raised in Ankara, Turkey. He was hired by UNHCR in 1988 and began working in the Ankara office. In 1992, UNHCR sent him on a mission for 9 months to Cambodia during which he met his future wife. After 10 years in the Ankara office, Semih left Turkey and has since been posted in Kosovo, Macedonia, Iraq, Bosnia, Switzerland, and is now on a second mission in Iraq (since early 2014).
Mr. Bulbul answered questions on topics such as “What is a typical day in a refugee camp?” and “How do they help orphans?”
After we hung up with Semih we located the conflict on a map and discussed the historical origins of conflict in the region. The students also discussed how youth could participate to make a positive impact on the humanitarian crisis.
One student was so moved by the presentation, she has changed her FlexSchool community impact project to designing ways to help with the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
On September 23, students visited Tiki Love Farm to learn about how metal detectors work and their proper usage. After their lesson, the students explored the woods for buried objects.
Thank you Tiki Love Farm for an enlightening and fun FlexFriday event!