After five years of hard work, it was party time at M. Agnes Jones Elementary School on Tuesday as the school celebrated becoming the first Atlanta Public School to earn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) certification.
The school held a pep rally featuring Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen and State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods. Prior to the rally, Dr. Carstarphen and Woods were taken on a tour of the school’s urban farm where students are growing lettuce, spinach, carrots, collards and basil. Students are also caring for the farm’s two chickens – Coco Puff and Valentine.
M.A. Jones Principal Margul Woolfolk said the five-year journey to become a certified STEM school was well worth it. Instead of teaching science, technology, engineering and math in isolation, the STEM schools feature an integrated curriculum driven by problem solving, discovery, exploratory project/problem-based learning and student-centered development of ideas and solutions. It helps prepare students for success in the 21st century workforce.
“I wanted this to be sustainable for the long term, and so it took some time for all of our teachers to be certified in STEM. Also, being a charter system gave us autonomy with our funds so that we could adequately support STEM,” Woolfolk said. “It’s having an impact on our students and the community.”
ATLANTA – In celebration of Earth Day on Friday, April 22, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) will serve chicken with pasta and green beans seasoned with district grown garden herbs in all APS cafeterias. The fresh rosemary and basil harvested to prepare these menu items were grown inside the Benjamin E. Mays High School aquaponics and hydroponics greenhouse system.
Mays High School is the only school in the district with a greenhouse that uses aquaponics and hydroponics to grow year-round herbs and vegetables. The Mays Greenhouse, operated by Ray Williams of Mirror Image Mentoring, was selected as the flagship program for the District Grown Gardens initiative and is funded by Sodexo-Jackmont Corporation. Students from the Mays High School Urban Agriculture Club, Williams, and Mays High School Advanced Placement Biology and Environmental Science instructor, Tamiko Gray, maintain the greenhouse and school garden. She uses the greenhouse as a living classroom and integrates gardening into her curriculum.
The District Grown Gardens initiative focuses on increasing student’s consumption of fruits and vegetables while making the connection between school garden produce and foods served in the cafeteria. A collaboration between the APS Nutrition Department, Captain Planet Foundation and Sodexo-Jackmont, the program is being piloted at select Beecher Hills Elementary, King Middle, Maynard Jackson High and Mays High. APS Student Wellness Ambassadors (SWAs) will host garden tours at Long Middle and hydroponic displays at Mays High School. Additionally, fresh harvest herbs and vegetables will be featured in cooking demonstrations at select schools.
Please click here to preview the APS District Grown Gardens Video.
What: APS Nutrition Department serves a district grown garden herb menu and cooking demonstrations at select pilot schools during Earth Day.
When: Friday, April 22, 2016
Where: 10:15 a.m. M.A. Jones Elementary – 1040 Fair St., S.W. 30314
10:45 a.m. Long Middle School – 3200 Latona Dr., SW, 30354
11:45 a.m. Maynard Jackson High School – 801 Glenwood Ave., SE, 30316
11:50 a.m. Mays High School – 3450 Benjamin E. Mays, Dr., SW, 30331
About Atlanta Public Schools
Atlanta Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the state of Georgia, serving approximately 50,000 students across 98 learning sites. The district is organized into nine K-12 clusters with 87 schools, 17 charter schools and two citywide single-gender academies, where students are offered rigorous instructional programs that foster success in school and life. For more information, visit www.atlantapublicschools.us.
About the Captain Planet Foundation Partnership with APS
The Atlanta-based Captain Planet Foundation’s (www.captainplanetfoundation.org) Project Learning Garden program helps teachers substitute a hands-on garden lesson for a classroom lesson, while teaching the same required curriculum standard in math, science, social studies, health or language arts. The Foundation has expanding its Project Learning Garden program through the implementation of a 2015-2016 school year “Garden-to-Cafeteria” pilot in selected Atlanta Public Schools, including M.L. King Middle and Maynard Jackson High School. Each school will expand its existing gardens in order to grow and provide garden produce for its cafeteria. Sodexo-Jackmont, APS’ school food service vendor, helps fund the Garden-to-Cafeteria expansion of this project, as does Kaiser Permanente. CPF’s FoodCorps (www.foodcorps.org) service members assist schools with tasting events, lessons, and other garden-based activities.
About Mirror Image Mentoring
Mirror Image Mentoring is a longstanding partner at Mays whose mission is to grow youth through sustainable agriculture and community gardening. Williams, who has years of experience in agriculture and gardening, mentors students through his organization, using behavior modification principles, and provides employment opportunities after high school.
Running and jumping, and filled with wild exclamations of delight, 157 of APS’ bright Pre-K scholars explored the exciting Children’s Museum of Atlanta .
The energy and excitement filled the room, as students from Perkerson, Parkside, M. Agnes Jones, and Kimberly elementary schools “learned through play,” at various interactive stations.
“I love this game!”…“Let me try, let me try!”…“Hey did you see what I did!”…“This is so fun!” and “Come look at this!” were just a few of the gleeful shouts heard throughout the newly renovated Children’s Museum.
Even APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen, Ed.D. joined in the fun!
The Children’s Museum provides highly engaging, immersive, informal learning focused on the whole child. Children latch on to what is fun and interesting, exploring their world.
School psychologists are among the army of educational professionals dedicated to ensuring a child’s complete well-being at Atlanta Public Schools, but you probably aren’t fully aware of their role in a student’s life.
Each of the district’s psychologists serves between three and four schools, acting as clinicians, to provide student assessments and consult parents on everything from academic to social, emotional and behavioral concerns.
“School psychology is such a hybrid of so many different disciplines: clinical, educational, counseling. There is training across multiple disciplines because public schools are forced to deal with all problems that society is facing. There isn’t a single thing that isn’t happening in the community that schools don’t also have to deal with,” explains psychologist David Hosking who has been with APS five years.
Patricia F. Earley, an APS school psychologist for 23 years, says psychologists do more than identify potential problems, “It’s not just about a student becoming a straight-A student or even a straight-B student, it’s about a student reaching their fullest potential.”
Psychologist Vivian Nichols emphasizes the wholeness of a child, “It’s about resiliency, it’s about total well-being, it’s about making sure that students are not just successful academically but socially; they’re learning life skills, they know how to navigate in school and their communities. They are healthy, happy, whole.”
The National Association of School Psychologists’ theme this year is, “Strive. Grow. THRIVE!” APS Psychological Services Coordinator Dr. Darnell T. Logan emphasizes what that message means at APS, “Psychologists recognize that children must always come first and that our focus is to assist school personnel with making decisions that are always in the best interest of the children that we serve.”
David Hosking earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology but didn’t consider working in schools until he spent some time in a clinical hospital setting. The experience in acute, long-term care prompted him to think about how he could make a difference earlier in a person’s life.
“I feel most proud when we see evidence that something works, something clicks, a light bulb goes on, and you realize you’ve changed someone’s life,” Hosking said.
Learning-based problems and classroom-based behaviors are the areas of top concerns to parents in his cluster. His work, however, goes beyond the school building. For an upcoming parent workshop, Hosking will discuss how parents can help their students with study skills, managing peer pressure and managing high school life.
Hosking describes psychologists as problem solvers though he knows he doesn’t have all the answers. His approach to helping students is to support their parents and teachers, guide them on how to access help, in any form available, and by being a good listener. Hosking says that allows him “to hear and understand the root of a problem.”
Patricia Earley, Ph.D enjoys speaking to parents just as much as she does students. She grew up fascinated with studying the mind but her admiration for her mother, a former APS teacher, also drew her to consider teaching. Earley pursued her degree in psychology and discovered school psychology was the perfect combination.
“I do think so much of what happens in a school can make a lasting impression and can definitely enhance a student and a student’s family far beyond the school day,” Earley said.
The rewards for Earley are many. She enjoys one-on-one time with students, seeing them make strides academically and/or behaviorally as well as being able to consult with her colleagues. She adds, “we can always learn more and share ideas and concepts. So that’s been extremely rewarding as well.”
Earley welcomes the chance to share not only with colleagues but students. She and fellow APS psychologist Vanessa Mims plan to speak to psychology majors at Spellman College about pursuing school psychology as a career.
Earley serves three APS schools: M. Agnes Jones and Fickett elementary and Deerwood Academy. She is married, a mom to two young children and is also an APS graduate. Her sister is a teacher.
Vivian Nichols’ three older sisters all teach, as did her mother for a short time. But it was actually a family friend who urged her to consider school psychology. For Nichols, it’s more than a job; “I don’t really look at this as a career. For me it’s a calling.”
Nichols’ best moments involve smiling, thankful parents, “you are able to tell a parent why their child is struggling academically or behaviorally and you see that light bulb moment. Because once that child is identified, then comes the help and resources and gains made. It’s that part that is very rewarding.”
Because each school population is different, Nichols says it’s important psychologists take an “ecological” approach to understanding students, “We’re looking at the various systems that influence that child. So that’s family, that’s community, even inside of the school, its school culture, its school expectations and administration. When we do assessments we’re looking at all those factors, all of those various systems in school, out of school and community that impact that child.”
This is Nichols’ third year at APS and she is hoping to do more parent education and workshops as well as develop strong partnerships with the community and key school personnel.
Fifty Atlanta Public School (APS) sites have been approved to participate in the Bright from the Start Supper Meal Program for the 2014-2015 school year. A collaborative effort between the APS Nutrition Department and the Expanded Day/Special Projects Department, the “Supper on Site” Program provides students with a free afterschool supper while attending their participating school’s traditional afterschool program or athletic activities.
The program started September 15, and students enrolled in traditional afterschool extra-curricular and sports programs at the 50 participating schools receive a nutritious meal after the school day. These activities may include band, football, volleyball, robotics club, yearbook club, dance team, as well as academic programs such as After School All-Stars program and afterschool care. Earlier this month, the program was piloted with 58 students receiving meals at Long Middle School, 300 students at Mays High School and 150 students at Douglass High School. The supper menus range from oven baked cheese pizza with celery, carrot sticks and a ripe banana to slow cooked spaghetti with meat sauce, steamed broccoli and an orange.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) at the national level. The program is administered by Bright From The Start Georgia. The Bright From The Start Supper Meal component offers federal funding to afterschool programs that serve supper meals to children in low-income areas. The following 50 APS schools are eligible to offer the supper program based on more than 60 percent of their students qualifying for federal free-and-reduced meals program and the schools administering an after-school activity or program:
Gideons Elementary hosted a chess tournament and coaching meet on March 25th. Twenty-nine students from Gideons, Venetian Hills, Peyton Forest and M. Agnes Jones participated. Students from Morehouse, APS staff, Chess Coach Andrew and Mr. Alan Pinado with Kappa Boule of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity were all present, coached and facilitated the chess tournament. When asked about the importance of teaching chess to the students, Mr. Alan Pinado answered, “We do this because there is a correlation between playing tournament level chess and math and science aptitude. Chess students learn patience, thinking in advance, strategic thinking, respect for your opponent, ‘what if’ theory, x and y coordinates, it helps them with their graph and map functions and they learn how to delay gratification. In addition, there is a building of self esteem factor for chess players. Chess players are regarded by others as being smart and guess what? That makes them feel that they are smart. It’s a big self esteem generator and that’s an important part of the program.”
The Morehouse students reflected on their years of playing chess to being important for them in building critical thinking skills, development of spatial learning, learning patience, perception of value, forward thinking skills, exhibiting good sportsmanship and the development of abstract learning. Congratulations to M. Agnes Jones as the overall winning school at the tournament. APS and Gideons thank all the students and facilitators who made the chess tournament a success.
Students at M. Agnes Jones Elementary recently had the opportunity to learn about science through fun and engaging methods as a part of the SEED Academy. The SEED Academy, led by 5th grade teacher and academy administrator, Ms. Veronica Wilson, is an after school program that aligns with Common Core and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) standards to enhance knowledge in the use of technology and science. The program is designed to increase student proficiency in the use and operation of technology through the integration of reading, science, and math standards.
Ms. Wilson, along with Spelman Bonner Scholars, implemented “Fun Labs” where students participate in fun, but educational projects in a lab setting. During this month’s lab, the students were asked to identify the organs in the fetal pig and compare them to human organs. They were asked the essential question of how pigs and human organs are alike and discussed the different organs that humans have, while also explaining the functions of these organs. Students then predicted what organs they would find in a fetal pig.
Under the supervision of Ms. Wilson, Breagan Ricks and other Spelman volunteers, the students dissected a real fetal pig. The students listened intently to directions to correctly dissect the pig, and they followed the scientific method and recorded their observations. The project was a huge success!
Special thanks to Ms. Wilson and the Bonner Scholars, led by Ms. Breagan Ricks, for another amazing and successful program!