Tales from Lower School

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Tips for Parenting in the Digital Age

The Calhoun community welcomed guest speaker Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, executive director of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, who led a workshop for Lower School parents on the topic of parenting in the digital age.

Michelle spoke to the challenges that many parents face today: navigating the ever-evolving world of technology with your children, teaching them to use media in a responsible manner, and protecting them from any potential negative side effects. She assured us that it’s completely normal that these challenges can seem overwhelming. “Change has happened rapidly. We’re the last people who can remember life before the internet,” said Michelle. “There’s also a multi-billion-dollar advertising industry that we’re up against, and we’re expected as parents to counter the messages that children are exposed to – no wonder this feels hard!”


So what tools can we use for successful parenting in the digital age? Michelle outlined a model she calls “The Six E’s.”

1. Exemplify
Be a role model in tech. Kids watch us more than they listen to us, and are learning from what we do. It’s time to ask ourselves, do we have a screen time problem?

2. Explain
Outline expectations, and set guidelines and rules for technology use in the home. Most of all, establish in your home that technology is a big enough deal to talk about often.

3. Engage
Have conversations with your kids about media that have nothing to do with the rules. Does your child love video games? Find out why, and play with them.

4. Empathize
Keep in mind that for the first time in history, kids are growing up in a public space thanks to social media – while we were able to make mistakes in private as an adolescent. Be prepared to have open conversations about how hard this can be.

5. Educate
There’s an important difference between preparing and protecting, teaching and telling. Teach kids to ask questions, and learn to have media literacy conversations at home.

6. Empower
Encourage your child’s own media creation, by telling them about new apps or websites, signing them up for classes, and teaching them new skills.

Most of all, Michelle reminded us, “Kids might be better at tech, but we’re better at being human beings. Their tech savvy doesn’t eliminate our life experience – be confident in the wisdom you have to impart.”

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What Does 100 Look Like?

Calhoun students celebrated the annual 100th Day Museum to commemorate completing 100 days of school. Each cluster worked together to create projects that reflected their understanding of what the number 100 looks like.

This year’s 100th Day Museum was full of interdisciplinary projects that made connections between math and other fields: from a scientific model of a 100-tentacled jellyfish, to an interpretation of a Kandinsky painting. Community service was also a common theme, with some clusters showing collections of donated books or canned goods for a local food pantry.

All of the projects were put on display in the 74th Street theater, and the entire Little Calhoun community dropped by to enjoy the creations.  Bravo to this year’s exhibitors!

Second graders made a scientific model of the 100-tentacled immortal jellyfish. Each of the 100 tentacles had an equation that equaled the number 100. The project reinforced concepts of biology, while helping students practice math skills such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, cubed numbers and factorials.

Using the painting Squares with Concentric Circles as inspiration, second graders created 100 paper squares layered with colored circles to mimic the color study by Wassily Kandinski in 1913.

100 food items that were collected for the local food pantry West Side Campaign Against Hunger.

A collection of 100 books donated to Project Cicero, a non-profit organization that creates and supplements classroom libraries in under-resourced New York City public schools.

First graders created artistic renditions of favorite Pocket People foods. Each child made 10 of one type of food, which they will later add to their Pocket Person’s home.

One group of second graders made a representation of 100 words that they can read, write and spell.

3’s students counted from one to 10 in 10 different languages. Each language was chosen because of its connection to the languages of the families and teachers in the cluster. Many of these preschoolers are bilingual and have been teaching their classmates how to count in different languages.

First graders drew, cut and painted 100 eagle feathers. After counting by groups of 10’s to make sure they had exactly 100 feathers, they then sorted the feathers by colors and divided them into two groups of 50.

First graders posed with their project of 100 paper flowers.

4’s students created a centipede with 100 legs.



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How to Talk to Kids About Tragedies

A message from Lower School Director Alison Rothschild

In the Lower School, teachers have begun to discuss disaster relief projects with students.  As an institution committed to developing empathy and social consciousness in all of our students, conversations about collection efforts provide a developmentally appropriate avenue for this area of our work.

The focus of our conversations has been around loss and damage to material things, and our desire to help children replace those lost and damaged things.  Age appropriate conversations begin and end with reassurance that children are safe. As kids get older (7-, 8-, 9-years-old) they are able to extrapolate that there was also loss of life, but that has not been the focus of our conversations in school.

The responses to the conversations have varied tremendously, with some children enthusiastically offering to give away their toys and books while our youngest students, who are not yet able to understand another perspective, listen to the discussions and follow up with their own experiences with rain, water, toys or electricity.

I trust our teachers implicitly to provide safe and comfortable dialogue around these topics, but wanted to provide parents with some guidelines and some helpful resources to help navigate these and (sadly) future tragic events.

First and foremost, it is best to limit exposure to these events. Graphic images on the news or in photographs can be traumatic for young children. Children should have varying degrees of information, depending on age and maturity. 

It's been my experience that in times of trouble, young children seem to hold it together during the school day and then process fears, sadness and other emotions at home with their family, often at bedtime.  It's important to give children the opportunity to express their fears, ask questions, and then provide them with the reassurance that they are safe.

Here are two resources that may be of interest. 

As I think about all of the events transpiring around the world, I am increasingly appreciative of our Calhoun family.  We are all so fortunate to be part of such a kind and compassionate community. And I'm encouraged and thankful that our children are learning, right from the start, that they have the ability to help others in need.

Posted by Anonymous in kindergarten, 3's, 1st grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, 2nd grade, community on Thursday October 26, 2017 at 02:01PM
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Little Calhouners Rally for Disaster Relief in Puerto Rico

by Priscilla Marrero, Lower School Spanish teacher

In an effort to respond to hurricane victims, the Lower School community rallied together in an amazing showing of support for the children of Puerto Rico. Over the course of a week, we collected donations of books, pens, crayons, new pajamas and stuffed animals for the Bel Esprit Cultural Institute’s Rise and Read project, which unites with teachers on the ground to restore a sense of normalcy for children while the adults focus on rebuilding.

It was a wonderful, magical week full of so much community support at Little Calhoun: from coordinating ideas and talking with the children about the hurricanes in Puerto Rico to creating bookmarks and sorting the boxes full of donations. It was a real communal effort, and it was incredible to witness and be a part of it all!

Our bookmarks made by 3's –2nd graders, teachers and staff

We had a special donation from our local Stationary and Toy World on 72nd Street. Donna, the owner, gave us pens, crayons, and boxes of composition books – she even sent over her staff to deliver in person!

Some of our students were so eager to participate that they joined me in the theater to help sort and receive collections. Thank you Daisy and Javier!

Emerson was so eager to support that he told his mom that he wanted to make 100 more bookmarks for the children in Puerto Rico! He really enjoyed learning about the process of creating for others.

Thanks to Avy (Calhoun parent) and Elyna (Calhoun kindergarten student), the donations are headed to Brooklyn to meet Kafayat Alli-Balogun, founder of the Bel Esprit Cultural Institute, and go to Puerto Rico!

Thank you to everyone for their kindness and generosity in contributing to this project! What an awesome week!

Posted by Anonymous in kindergarten, 3's, 4's, collaboration, 1st grade, 2nd grade, social justice, community on Thursday October 26, 2017
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3's Explore Storytelling Through Art

By Alicia Klein and Christy Kong, 3's Head Teachers

Reading and storytelling are an essential part of our daily classroom activities in the 3's. During meeting time, stories are read, sung, reproduced on the flannel board and shared. Questions are posed to the children to reinforce story details and help broaden their understanding of content.

During classroom work time, paper, markers and crayons are always available for the children to select. Many children have begun to dictate their own stories and ask the teachers to help them write notes, letters and books. This inspired a project for the art table that spanned several days. One on one with a teacher, each child was given white paper and Sharpies. They were each asked to tell a story as they drew with the Sharpies. Story elements and story structure were reinforced through teacher questions as the children expanded on their ideas and gave more details.

The children were challenged to use descriptive words and express feelings. Finally, they each gave their paper a color wash with liquid watercolor. The artists were able to highlight elements of their illustrations through color placement and blending. These are as amazingly unique and creative as the children! In the few days following this project, we have noticed an increased interest in drawing and writing during work time.


Posted by Anonymous in 3's, art, storytelling, reading on Wednesday March 2, 2016
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Lower School 74
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Main Building 3rd - 12th Grades 433 West End Avenue New York, NY 10024 212.497.6500

Robert L. Beir Lower School Building 2.8 Years - 2nd Grade 160 West 74th Street New York, NY 10023 212.497.6550

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