Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Spirit of the Season

(Ellie Haga is FLOC’s Executive Assistant and Development Associate.)

I love the holiday season! The smells, the sounds, picking out that perfect gift, and spending time with the ones you love. The holidays for me mean spending time with my family, eating delicious meals, taking a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of the work day, and reflecting on what the year has brought and what the next year will bring. But at FLOC, it’s about making it a special holiday for each and every one of our kids.

Each year, FLOC approaches its community partners to ask for help in providing our students with a holiday gift. We ask each of our students to put together a wish list of items they want. We then pass out these lists to community partners, and each year our offices are filled with hundreds of gifts.

Every year, we are overwhelmed with the support of giving partners such as TerpSys, Cardinal Bank, Sharp, The American Association of Justice, Jones Lang LaSalle, The Advisory Board Company, and others who help make all of this possible. The joy and excitement and the “spirit of giving” that our partners showed constantly remind all of us of the true meaning of the holiday season. Each of our partners took great care in picking out the perfect gift for our students. Each gift was wrapped beautifully, and I kept hearing how excited they were to participate, many of them even asking for more and more kids to sponsor.

Thanks to their generosity, our kids will have a happy holiday. This is what the holiday season is about after all, giving unselfishly to those who are most deserving. Although I may not be there when each child opens their gift, I know that they will be excited to see how much the community cares for them. After all, it takes a village.

Composting Program Teaches Students about Self-Sustainability

(Lydia Hastings is working at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center as the Marketing AmeriCorps VISTA. She originally joined the OEC staff over the summer as the Kitchen Coordinator.)

Composting. While a lot of people have heard of this concept of taking raw, organic materials and creating nutrient-rich soil, not many people know the reason or principle behind doing it. Sure, it is a great way of utilizing decomposable waste, but what is the real purpose behind saving this organic matter?

While there are many variations to the process of composting, the main principle behind breaking down organic matter is to utilize the nutrients that are naturally found in food and waste products. By adding those nutrients into the ground, it enhances the soil’s health and growing capabilities.

Many visitors who come to enjoy The Outdoor Education Center of For Love of Children (OEC) might assume that the land has a well-balanced nutrient count by observing the lush tree covering and the thick groves of Paw Paws, however, a closer look reveals that the acreage on which the OEC is located has a very poor soil quality.

In an interview with the Site and Sustainability Coordinator at the OEC, Kevin Hughes stated that the reason for a low nutrient content in the soil is over-farming. OEC’s land was at one time inhabited by European settlers. When these settlers first started managing the land, they removed all of the trees and over-farmed the hillsides. The nutrients once found in the soil are now depleted and many of the native, deciduous plants on the property are no longer able to grow. The forest now covering the land has only started rebuilding itself in the last 100 years.

With this knowledge, and the ever-challenging desire to be self-sustainable, the OEC is currently in full swing with their composting program. They have been gathering organic matter from kitchen scraps, leaf litter and their composting toilets to demonstrate to students the vast benefits of broken down macrobiotic material.

The students use, actively participate in, and benefit from the composting program. One aspect is the process of taking all the kitchen and dining hall scraps and placing them into the center’s composting bins. In the bins, the organic matter is turned and broken down until ready for use. At this time the rich, black material is placed on top of the OEC’s vegetable garden. The nutrients from the organic materials are absorbed into the soil and help produce high quality vegetables. These vegetables are harvested from the gardens and used to supplement all food that is produced by the OEC’s kitchen.

All material gathered from the composting toilets are also stored and turned for three years. At that point, the matter is scattered into the woods and on the ornamental gardens to increase the health of the soil throughout the property.

By participating in this program, FLOC’s students are not only improving their own health by increasing the quality of food produced by the OEC’s kitchen, but they are also helping the sustainability of the OEC. This cycle will insure another year of healthy growth in the center’s gardens and around the grounds by enriching the natural soils of the landscape.

For more information on composting and gardening programs, please contact the Outdoor Education Center at 304.725.0409.

Tutor Spotlight: Anuradha Sivaram

(FLOC is recognizing outstanding tutors who have shown enthusiasm and commitment to their student(s) in a series of articles called “Tutor Spotlight.”)

Anuradha Sivaram, a California native who first came to tutor at For Love of Children in March of this year, arrived with no tutoring experience but plenty of intelligence and a willingness to explore new ways of learning.

She was aware of the need for tutors after taking a class in college about the D.C. school system, and wanted to help in any way she could. After hearing about FLOC through a friend, Anuradha knew how to follow through on that wish.

It wasn’t long before Anuradha learned all the FLOC curricula – what she calls “the trifecta of FLOC” – tutoring math in the spring, elementary reading in the summer, and now adolescent reading in the fall.

In addition to stretching your skill set, being a great tutor involves paying attention to students’ likes and dislikes. She knows it’s important to incorporate kids’ interests, whether it’s Justin Bieber, hopscotch, or football.

Anuradha will often play what she calls “reading football,” where she would pretend to hike a ball and throw it while yelling out a vocabulary word, which the student has to then define.

“It’s all about integrating movement and activities,” Anuradha says.

Sometimes you also need to switch things up to keep a tutoring session interesting.

“What I’ve discovered is that starting with the [textbook] can get a little boring. But starting off reading a book with an enjoyable story makes it interesting. So sometimes I’ll change the order.”

Tutoring math can also prove to be difficult, even for Anuradha who studied economics. Since math is second nature to her, it wasn’t always easy dissecting and revisiting math concepts she had learned many years earlier, but she came to enjoy the challenge.

“I have a new perspective on how to make [tutoring] fun,” she says. “I don’t remember having a creative curriculum to learn basic steps, so it forced me to think about basic skills in fun, engaging ways.”

Would you like to nominate a great FLOC tutor for Tutor Spotlight? Please e-mail ntorentinos@floc.org. or leave a comment here!

Is There an Inspired Teacher in You?

courtesy of certification.inspiredteaching.org

The Inspired Teacher Certification Program is now accepting applications for the 2011 cohort!

This DC based nonprofit organization offers a 15-month state-accredited teacher certification program that recruits, selects, prepares and supports exceptional individuals who wish to serve the children of the District of Columbia as teachers.

The program is rooted in the belief that teachers can be change-makers in their classrooms, schools and society as a whole.

Two routes to becoming a certified teacher are available:

Inspired Teaching Fellows seek full-time employment as lead classroom teachers in a DC Public or Charter School.

Fellows-in-Residence work in collaboration with a lead teacher in partnership with the Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School and the Capital City Public Charter School.

For more details and to apply online, visit http://certification.inspiredteaching.org.

Meet FLOC’s Photographer!

For Love of Children would like to welcome Emily Watt to its dedicated group of volunteers!

Emily, 17, is taking photographs of FLOC’s tutoring programs and special events this year. She is a Maryland native and attends Blake High School.

Emily received her first camera for her 10th birthday and soon started taking digital photography classes.

“My mom used to work with film,” she says. “Now I’m using her camera for a dark room class.”

In addition to camera work, Emily is busy taking senior classes and applying to colleges in Ohio and Pennsylvania. She plans to continue pursuing her photography interests, and is considering majoring in biology.

Emily’s other hobbies include knitting and baking, as well as tutoring. She once tutored Jackson Road Elementary School students in reading when she was in the 8th grade.

The experience taught her a lot about kids, and now she says it’s fun to observe what FLOC volunteers are doing to help kids with reading and math skills.

“I like to see how the kids are enjoying it and taking it all in.”

Crouching Tutor, Visible Success

(Jennifer Doak tutors in the Tuesday Night Reading program and volunteered to blog about her experiences.)

My first student, to whom I taught reading and language skills over the summer, is a whip-smart, quiet third grader. She likes learning words by drawing pictures and playing games; one time, we jumped for the nouns, crouched down for the adjectives, and acted out the verbs. We even invited her more outgoing cousin, who’s also in FLOC, to join us.
She preferred to read books that weren’t challenging, but eventually I learned to make deals: Read a few pages of this harder book—just a few more paragraphs—and then we can play a game. It worked, most of the time.

The second, who I’m working with until April, is a bright, boisterous 11-year-old, talkative and easily distracted. She knows all the FLOC staff and has lots of friends here, but it’s occasionally difficult getting her to focus. She prefers interactivity, games with drawing or lots of movement, but between her mom’s hectic schedule and my admittedly infirm grasp of the language learning program we’re using, it’s slow going. I hope we’ll be able to finish out the year having made some progress.

Tutoring takes some getting used to. It’s a matter of negotiation, reading moods and gauging tolerance for stretches of word repetition and sentence reading. It’s also a matter of translation. When learning vocabulary, for example, the first definition that comes to my mind may not be something the student can relate to. If she’s never been outside DC, farm animals or foreign countries won’t register. I’ll throw out different metaphors or comparisons until one sticks.

I’m not a current or former educator by trade. The closest I got was working for a nonprofit that advocated for a collaborative, forward-thinking teaching model to be implemented in public schools. While there, I read up on the hardworking people who are trying to figure out the secret sauce for higher test scores and engaged students. Overcoming challenges in education isn’t like the multiple-choice quizzes my students sometimes take; even “all of the above” won’t do when the options given are insufficient.

It’s sometimes hard to set aside this big picture, even when working on such a micro level. What does two hours a week matter when faced with the overwhelming issues at hand—issues that my students experience on some level every day? And if what works for one student doesn’t work for another, then wouldn’t it follow that a system that works for one school fails miserably the next town over?

Maybe. But it’s also good to know that students like the two girls I work with, despite these challenges, are getting individual attention from us when their overworked teachers just can’t find the time. It’s encouraging to volunteer for an organization that, in their own small way, recognizes the value of one-on-one time spent learning educational building blocks like literacy and numeracy. I’m probably not the best tutor, and some days I feel like nothing sticks. But I think these students, mine and others, feel there’s value in knowing that tutors are taking the time to try.

The Outdoor Education Center Harnesses Wind Energy

(Lydia Hastings is working at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center as the Marketing AmeriCorps VISTA. She originally joined the OEC staff over the summer as the Kitchen Coordinator.)

West Virginia is the largest producer of coal in the United States, and with more than 30 states receiving the majority of their electric power from this natural resource, the industry is stronger then ever. The West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety, and Training reports that West Virginia alone generates 99 percent of its electricity from coal mined in the state.

It is widely understood that these fossil fuels will not be around indefinitely, and there is a push to figure out ways to harness new energy sources.

Wind Generators, some people believe, are the new wave of renewable energy sources. The towering, free standing generators produce no greenhouse gas emissions and significantly less waste products, and have no effect on water sources. West Coast Energy, an independent wind energy developer, states that a single wind turbine can save more than 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Wind power is not a new concept. The knowledge and the means to harness wind power has been around since the 7th century AD. It has been used for irrigation pumping and milling for decades, but only since the late 1970s has it been a large-scale producer of electricity. West Virginia installed its first large scale wind farm in 2002.

The Outdoor Education Center of For Love of Children is taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint by erecting a small-scale wind turbine, which will help supplement the electricity in their Lodge’s power grid by producing 1.75 kilowatts of electricity per hour.

Any energy not consumed by the Lodge will be sent to the Allegany Power grid and supplement electricity for local consumption. This seven-foot diameter wind turbine will not only reduce the OEC’s dependence on coal-generated electricity, but also be used as a teaching tool for the students in addition to the OEC’s already existing solar panel. Both teaching tools will show and demonstrate the powerful use of alternative, renewable energy sources.

While research continues for cleaner energy sources, the OEC continues to advance its own technologies and remains on the leading edge in environmental education. We are strongly dedicated to creating a well-built, self sustained learning environment for all who come to enjoy the center’s wilderness.