Archive for February, 2013

Jump Rope For Heart

February 26th, 2013

Jumping rope is one of the staples of childhood activities. It’s fun, whether alone or with friends, and it’s fantastic exercise! Children still jump rope today, but now kids at the Henderson International School can get exercise and lend a hand to some folks in need at the same time! The American Heart Association hosts their annual Jump Rope For Heart event, enabling communities to have fun jumping rope while fundraising to help kids get their special hearts fixed. The events focus on engaging elementary and middle school students with jumping rope or playing basketball while empowering them to improve their own health and help other kids with heart-health issues.

The Henderson International School will be participating in this year’s event as part of the school’s focus on extra-curricular opportunities and commitment to community service.  The event promotes overall health by developing Heart Heroes, getting kids involved with helping others and also getting them off the couch and moving in a fun way!

Through the Jump Rope For Heart Event, students learn the value of community service and become empowered to contribute to their community’s welfare. They also join together in helping other kids with special hearts, as well as learning how to develop heart-healthy habits while being physically active. The jump rope and basketball skills they learn can be used for the rest of their lives, and student participation even helps schools earn gift certificates for free P.E. equipment!

The Jump Rope For Heart Event will be taking place on March 21 at the Henderson International School, with several kickoff events leading up. To learn more, visit the school calendar here.



Visual Thinking

February 19th, 2013

By Crystal Rainey and Paz Mercado

One of the challenges of teaching nowadays is to keep our students consistently engaged in the classroom environment. With modern technology and today’s push button era our students find a void in skills used to think critically and and analyze. We, as educators, have to create an environment and approach to develop and foster students’ thinking. North Broward Preparatory School, one of our Meritas Schools, spearheaded “Creating a Culture of Thinking in Our Classroom and Schools,” a conference on Visible Thinking. This was inspired by the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero led by Ron Ritchhart. We were fortunate to attend a 3-day immersion style forum to familiarize ourselves with visual thinking and its structured critical thinking routines. Some of the objectives of this event included:

  • Tools and opportunities for critical thinking instruction, reflective, proactive, and collaborative learning and teaching
  • The characteristics of a thinking-centered learning environment
  • Thinking Dispositions, Thinking Routines, and Visible Thinking

The three days we spent in North Broward Prep School inspired us to be more reflective of how we teach. When we returned to our own classrooms, we started applying and implementing some of the thinking routines we learned in the conference.

The third graders started with the “See-Think-Wonder” visual thinking routine as a tool to introduce a new story, Boss of the Plains by Laurie Carlson. This routine involves looking at an image or object. The students were asked the following questions:

  • What do you see?
  • What do you think is going on?
  • What does it make you wonder?

Introducing this routine before reading the story helped them generate ideas as to what the story was about. With continued practice of this routine, student’s ability to be more observant and reflective will increase.

After reading the story, the students practiced the “Word-Phrase-Sentence” routine. This is a routine for “essence capturing” and exploring the meaning of text from a variety of personal viewpoints. Students chose a word, a phrase, and a sentence from a page that they thought best described the main idea of the selection.

As a culminating activity, students created a reflective painting to illustrate the main idea of the passage. The experience of these different routines continued to arouse the interest of the students.

The kindergarten team has begun working with a routine called “I used to think.., Now I know…..” In this critical thinking activity the students are introduced to a new story and are only shown the picture of the front cover. The picture is discussed in detail as a class. Then the students write a sentence about what they think the story will be about based on their limited exposure to material. Their responses are displayed on chart paper for all to see during the duration of the lesson. At the end of the lesson, students add to the chart by writing sentences about what they have learned. This has really helped the kindergarten students to reflect on their thinking and what changed their thoughts about the story. Student participation has increased to nearly 100% when using this routine. Students look forward to the opportunity to share their thoughts and to be included as an equal in the classroom setting.

Overall the energy of the conference was contagious and we are enthusiastic about sharing our experiences and knowledge of Visual thinking! The excitement has carried over to H.I.S. Many teachers are experimenting with these routines and are engaging their students in new hands on ways. Please stop by Mrs. Mercado or Ms. Rainey’s class to see samples of the student’s work, and make sure to be on the lookout for more examples of visual thinking from H.I.S. students.



Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchahart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison


As a young student there’s nothing quite like creating your own science fair project.  From choosing the topic to the laborious research, these projects still end up being one of the most engaging ways to teach students to learn about their surroundings.  Students must first think creatively to determine what they want to research and why.  Then they must determine how they will conduct their research, the methods they will use, and finally make their own observations to draw a conclusion.

The second teaching method that engages students during science fairs is the presentation of their findings.  At our Science Fair, the students must not only be able to share their observations, but teach fellow students and teachers about their findings.  They were allowed a tri-fold board as a visual aid to be included in their display where they could place graphs, images, or even a step by step process of their research methodology.  Then fellow students and teachers alike walked the fair grounds to discuss each project.

As is the case with most science fair projects, our students picked their topics based on their own interests.  Some students wanted to know what color shirt you should wear on cold days, which fishing line knot shape is most durable, which practices increase the longevity of cut flowers, and if dog’s saliva kills more bacteria than a cat’s saliva.  One student, to the dismay of many of her friends, concluded that the “5 second rule” is void as she found that bacteria can attach to food within five seconds.  (That’s one for the parents!)

Thoughts on Fine Arts

February 6th, 2013

By Nick Stamanis, Director of Fine Arts/Instrumental Music at Henderson International

A trend is being seen regarding the benefits of Fine Arts within a curriculum for students of all ages. One of the core realizations has been how the Fine Arts develop students by engaging all of their senses. Educators have known that differentiated teaching has long been a key that unlocks young minds. How better to do this than with the Fine Arts? The Fine Arts engage kinesthetic action, auditory, fine motor skills and visual acuity all at the same time.The Fine Arts teach the intangibles such as creativity, self-expression and individualism. Researchers have found the study in the Fine Arts connects the whole mind. Using cognitive and creative processes of the mind together create new synapses and connections that in turn benefit critical thinking. Students who study music engage senses, muscles, and intellect simultaneously. This has been proven by brain scans taken during musical performances of student musicians playing an instrument and reading music.
Dramatic plays and singing build reading skills through scripts and text. The art of Dance helps motor skills and control. It gives students a sense of how their body works and helps them follow directions. They must follow the music and move their bodies within the structure of a piece of music containing pulse, color, and emotion.

Visual art develops skills that help students see the world around them in different ways. Understanding color, shapes and perspective broaden and give students an appreciation to everything around them. It improves fine motor skills through drawing, cutting, shaping and sculpting.

The Fine Arts as a whole build other life skills at the same time. The Fine Arts teach group dynamics and working together. The Fine Arts instill an appreciation for other student’s abilities and talents. Students learn to express themselves through non-verbal means and genre. Most importantly students come to understand the true meaning of the word perseverance. It is the pursuit of goals in the Fine Arts that students experience diligent practice and its rewards. Mastery is the result of consistent practice and reward. Through hard work students of the Fine Arts learn to keep moving forward and to never give up. This mental set applies in academia but more importantly it strengthens the development of self through self-expression, self-esteem, and individualism.