Monthly Archives: September 2014

Our Country, Our Future


The Network for Public Education will hold a historic event in one month’s time. You may choose to attend in person at the Brooklyn New School in New York or view it via Livestreaming. A live-stream of the event will be available on Saturday, Oct. 11, starting at Noon Eastern time, 9 am Pacific time at

PUBLIC Education Nation will deliver the conversation the country has been waiting for. Rather than featuring billionaires and pop singers, this event will be built around intense conversations featuring leading educators, parents, students and community activists. We have waited too long for that seat at someone else’s table. This time, the tables are turned, and we are the ones setting the agenda.

This event will be livestreamed on the web on the afternoon of Saturday, October 11, from the auditorium of Brooklyn New School, a public school. There will be four panels focusing on the most critical issues we face in our schools. The event will conclude with a conversation between Diane Ravitch and Jitu Brown.

Testing and the Common Core:
New York Principal of the Year Carol Burris will lead a discussion with educators Takeima Bunche-Smith, Rosa Rivera-McCutchen and Alan Aja.

Support Our Schools, Don’t Close Them:
Chicago teacher Xian Barrett will moderate a panel featuring education professor Yohuru Williams, Hiram Rivera of the Philadelphia Student Union, and a representative of the Newark Student Union.

Charter Schools:
North Carolina writer and activist Jeff Bryant will host a discussion that will include New Orleans parent activist Karran Harper Royal, New York teacher and blogger Gary Rubinstein, and Connecticut writer and activist Wendy Lecker.

Authentic Reform Success Stories:
The fourth panel will be led by Network for Public Education executive director Robin Hiller and will include New York teacher Brian Jones, and from Cincinnati, Greg Anrig.

Diane Ravitch and Jitu Brown, In Conversation
The event will finish off with a conversation between leading community activist Jitu Brown and Diane Ravitch, who will talk about where we are in building a movement for real improvement in our schools.Caro

This event will be broadcast live on the web, and can be viewed from anywhere in the world, at no cost. No registration is required.

If you happen to be in the New York area, you can join the studio audience at the Brooklyn New School, at 610 Henry St. Brooklyn, for the live event.

The Network for Public Education is hosting this event. It is NOT sponsored by the Gates, Walton or Bloomberg foundations. It is sponsored by YOU, each and every one of the people who care about our children’s future.

Can you make a small donation to help us cover the expense of this event? We are determined to create the space not ordinarily given to voices like these. But we need your participation. Please donate by visiting the NPE website and clicking on the PayPal link.


Ines labeled

Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. – Anatole France

What happens when a group of smart, enthusiastic, dedicated first grade public school teachers get together to plan something new and exciting for their students? The Pet Study at New York City’s P.S. 42 in Chinatown is what happened!

Two years ago I worked as an early childhood consultant at P.S. 42. Rosa Casiello O’Day, the school principal, had attended the 2012 study tour to Reggio Emilia with me. She asked me if I could help her teachers move from a book-heavy thematic approach to social studies to a more inquiry project-based approach.

When I met with the first grade teachers, I was immediately impressed with their collaborative spirit and their love of their students. They told me that they wanted to do an animal study and they began naming some zoo animals that they thought might interest their children. I suggested that it might make more sense to study an animal that could be a part of their classroom. This would allow the children to observe the animal daily and to do research that would not be totally based on what they read in books or what is read to them. I waited for them to protest. None of them had animals in their classrooms. I was in for a surprise.

Not only did they go for my idea, but they brought it to a place that I didn’t even imagine. There were six first grade classes, three classes on the second floor and three classes on the third floor. The teachers decided that classes on each floor would work together. The teachers would pick an animal that they felt comfortable handling. They decided on insects, hamsters, frogs, and turtles. Each room would have a different animal. The children would pick which animal, on their floor, they would like to learn more about. They picked three choices and were told that they would probably get their first or second choice. Luckily it worked out smoothly and each child got a first or second choice of animal to study.

After the groups were established, the teachers arranged to have common “Inquiry study times” and the children moved to the room with the animal they were studying. I was afraid that this might end in chaos but I was totally wrong. The children very enthusiastically walked to their pet study room.

Something quite wonderful came of this collaboration. Because of a district mandate (not what the principal really wanted), there were three categories of first grade classes – bilingual (basically, children who just arrived from China and who spoke little English), ESL (children who could speak some English but not fluently) and monolingual (English-speaking children). When these three groups were merged during the inquiry period, children who never communicated with each other became friends. Children learning the language began speaking much more English. Children who had difficulty understanding or expressing themselves in a new language, had peer translators! The teachers were quite excited by this unexpected perk of having the children intermingle and work together.

Here are some examples of the work that the children did. Notice how the act of observing on a daily basis provoked children to have many “wonderings.” They researched for answers in many different ways: observations, books and the Internet and sometimes by asking an expert, such as when they visited a pet store. Without actually following a “common core curriculum” or “bundle”, the study had so many of the CCLS embedded into the children’s work.

The Hamster Study

*Hamster wonderings

*hamster questions


*domesticated tame

*hamster drawings*Fluffy's behavior*venn diagram*hamster group projects*big book plan*what it eats*hamsters eat


The Turtle Study

* turtle questions


*turtles are good at swimming


*turtle diagram


*turtle paintings

we think he is a male because

*turtle diagram 2


The Frog Study

*at pre-meeting


*day 1 day 2 day 3

*why is our frog changing color

I notice that the frog is brown

*changing colors

*frog's eye

*the eye is



The Insect Study

*using our schema

*set up

*sketching, etc.*why do they die? stick insect


*stick insects


helpful or harmful