Outdoor Education Center

Leaders in Action Visit Willow Tree Manor

Our Leaders in Action program focuses on many hands-on experiences, one being community involvement. On February 9th, 2013 our Leaders in Action students volunteered at a local nursing home called Willow Tree Manor. The students previously participated in a canned food drive, made sick kits for children undergoing chemotherapy, and have been individually donating their time to an organization of their choice throughout the year. We collectively agreed that volunteering at the nursing home would be a way to give back to a unique demographic, one that doesn’t necessarily need our donations, but could benefit from the joy and enthusiasm we bring.

During our time visiting Willow Tree Manor, our students participated in many activities with the residents including playing games such as bingo, cards, Sorry, and Yahtzee and painting the women’s nails. Some other residents simply enjoyed the company of our students, by reading them a story or talking with them. As we know, February tends to be a month focused on appreciation, and as a result of the loving spirit, the students made Valentine’s Day cards for the residents while some residents made cards for their significant others. Luckily, we had the opportunity to view their wholesome smiles when we presented them with their Valentines.

The residents and students had a wonderful time visiting with one another, ending with many of the residents asking when Leaders in Action could return for another visit. We are hoping to provide this volunteer experience again throughout the year to our students. Visiting the residents of Willow Tree Manor was a worthwhile experience for all who attended.  We participated in several fun activities with people of a different generation and enjoyed their company while we learned about their life experiences.

(Sarah Nowicki is an AmeriCorps VISTA at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center).

Student Spotlight

Meet Nicholas: A Motivated FLOC Scholar

From left to right: Nicholas, Elshadie and David.
From left to right: Nicholas, Elshadie and David.

At fourteen years old, Nicholas has already been with the FLOC Scholars Program for about two years.  One of his favorite times at FLOC was a summer zoology program that took students on a field trip to the Smithsonian National Zoo, which he brought up and seemed to remember enjoying quite a bit.

The eighth grade student was working on homework and chatting with two of his friends when I found him in the student room at For Love of Children.  “I usually eat and do homework before our program starts,” he explained to me.  “Or I talk to my friends and maybe play a game with them.”

When I asked him what he is currently learning about in program, he told me about his theme-based workshop: Global Positioning.  This month, our middle school and high school Scholars were given the choice of at least three different theme-based workshops led by our volunteer expert workshop facilitators.  These workshops were designed to enrich our Scholars’ learning experiences and give them a chance to explore potential interests that they might not be exposed to in school.

“So far in my workshop, we’ve learned where different churches and famous buildings are in the world,” Nicholas told me.  “We’ve also learned the names of these buildings and little bit about the civilizations of cities at different times in history.”

Nicholas likes coming to FLOC because he says that the instructors treat the students well and his time here has helped him meet new friends and learn how to work well with others on a team.  In his free time, he likes to play the trumpet and sports like basketball and football.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the interview for me was at the end when I asked him if he had thought at all about what he would like to do for a job in the future.  The very articulate eighth grader informed me that he would like to be an entrepreneur and sell his own product.  “I would like to study business in college and hopefully live in Miami, Florida.”  It was not the first time that I left an interview marveling at the intelligence and ambition of our students here at For Love of Children.

(Rachel Baxter is the Bilingual Recruitment and Outreach Assistant at FLOC).


FLOC Gears Up for First Ever March Madness Tournament

It’s almost that time of year again: time for the most anticipated event in all of college basketball, March Madness!  For those of you who may not know, March Madness takes place throughout the month of March and early April and is a single-elimination tournament to determine the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball championship game. The games are played throughout the country and televised nightly. There are over sixty games played leading up to the final championship game. In recent years, bracket pools have been created amongst coworkers, friends, and other groups to predict the outcomes of each game and ultimately determine the overall champion. The individual with the most accurate bracket at the end of the tournament wins!

This year, FLOC has decided to partner up with Collaborate to Impact (CTI), a nonprofit in DC whose mission is to build a collaborative network of nonprofits and donors that produce unique social initiatives and results in driven solutions to local and global issues. For our collaborative event, FLOC will be creating our own March Madness bracket! The bracket will be available on Sunday, March 17 once the teams are announced for the tournament. CTI and FLOC will be hosting a Bracket Bash event on Tuesday, March 19 from 6:30-9:00 p.m. at BlackfinnDC to kick off the tournament! There will be happy hour specials available. Please join us to mingle with other basketball enthusiasts, CTI volunteers, and FLOC supporters. A bracket is $10 to fill out and if you cannot make the event, you can still participate in the bracket by signing up online (website coming soon!) All the proceeds will go directly to serving FLOC’s mission. Throughout the weeks following the Bracket Bash, CTI will send out weekly updates about who is leading in the brackets and a spotlight on FLOC’s work. There will be first, second, and third place prizes.

We are excited about this opportunity to work with CTI and to reach out to a wider audience to spread the word about FLOC and what we are doing in the community. Please join us in this year’s March Madness Tournament and we hope to see you on March 19!

(Kate Fleischer is the Development Assistant at FLOC).

Scholars Program

The FLOC Scholars Theme Expo

A group of FLOC Scholars presents what they have learned in their theme workshop.
A group of FLOC Scholars presents what they have learned in their theme workshop.

This past week, the 9th and 10th grade Scholars held their first ever Theme Expo.  This was an opportunity to share what they were learning about in theme workshop with each other. The students were able to choose from three different themes: Astronomy, International Women’s Rights, and Poetry, each led by a volunteer Expert Workshop Facilitator. The International Women’s Rights group shared the different NGOs that they created to help solve the issues they studied.  One example was a NGO that wanted to shine a light on and help decrease the rate of HIV/AIDS in women in Botswana. Each student in the Poetry group bravely stood up in front of their peers and shared a poem that they wrote. Lastly, the Astronomy group presented on interesting facts and subjects that they learned about, such as black holes and the Doppler Effect, and created their own timeline of the universe.

This was a great experience that not only helped our students practice their presentation skills but also gave them a chance to learn from their peers. We look forward to the next Expo, which is taking place in early March with our Middle School Scholars.

(Sara Dia is a Scholars Program Specialist at FLOC).

Outdoor Education Center

Leaders in Action field trip to Charles Town Historic Court House

Leaders in Action 2013, kicked off this year with a curriculum based on local government in Jefferson County, WV. The unit has given our students at Charles Town and Harpers Ferry Middle Schools the chance to focus on community involvement, Jefferson County government, and local, independent businesses. Not only are our students learning about laws and policies that effect their everyday lives, they are actively understanding the importance of our government in a lively, interactive setting.

On February 4th and 5th, students attended a field trip to the Charles Town Historic Court House. We were graciously hosted by the honorable Judge David H. Sanders, Jefferson County Delegate Stephen Skinner, and Dale Manuel, the newly elected President of the County Commission. The students were exposed to important West Virginia history including the opportunity to sit in the exact seats where the West Virginia Supreme Court previously was held. This court room also held the notorious lawsuit trials regarding the separation of West Virginia and Virginia, an essential part of our state’s past.

Judge Sanders greeted us as we entered the court house and then elaborated on the rich history that the Charles Town Historic Court House encases.  We discovered that the actual court house has appeared in famous movies as a result of the interesting past and historical significance that lies beyond the surface. Charles Town Court House is well known as the home of the John Brown Trial, following a failed attempt by Brown to incite an uprising to abolish slavery in the country. John Brown, an abolitionist in 1859, was tried for treason and hanged a short distance from the Court House steps. Judge Sanders gave us many interesting facts regarding the trial along with additional information from other historic hearings.

Dale Manuel, president of the Jefferson County Commission, gave the group a detailed background concerning the overall duties of the Jefferson County Commission. While showcasing his specific duties, Commissioner Manuel discussed the overall process to become an elected official. The students were then introduced to a citizen volunteer position known as a page. A page is used to deliver messages and run errands while state legislature meetings are in session. The page experience can expose young adults to the process of making laws and solving issues that directly affect our community.

Stephen Skinner, Jefferson County Delegate and local lawyer, introduced the students to what it means to be a delegate. As an experienced debater, Stephen led a discussion focused on education at the counties’ public schools.  Our students were able to discuss what they would like to change about the current education system; some examples were healthier food options at lunch, starting school at a later time, and having longer weekends. Delegate Skinner chose two representatives to debate the option of having Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off of school. One student described their viewpoints regarding why Jefferson County Schools should have longer weekends, while the other student defended the current weekend system. Both students used excellent examples of why they believe the weekends should or should not be changed, as well as solutions to fix the problem such as shorter summer breaks to make up the missed days. The case was closed with a final decision to keep the current weekend system in place.  Lastly, Delegate Skinner encouraged the children to watch the “State of the State” on West Virginia Local TV as they will be discussing concerns that influence their lives, including education.

Overall, the field trip to the Charles Town Historic Court House enriched our students’ minds and allowed them to interact with the officials who help shape our Jefferson County community.

(Sarah Nowicki is an AmeriCorps VISTA at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center).

Scholars Program

Meet Karina

Karina is a 9th grade Scholars student at FLOC. She is passionate about music and sports. At the holiday party Karina received red headphones; which she uses to listen to music before stepping on the soccer field. During the poetry workshop series, Karina shared a poem she wrote about her pregame preparation process.

(Maryanne Hall is a Scholars Program Instructor at FLOC).

Neighborhood Tutoring Program

The Tester Experience: A Firsthand Account from a Volunteer Tester at FLOC

Laurie Kauffman delivers an assessment test to a FLOC student.
Laurie Kauffman delivers an assessment test to a FLOC student.

Who doesn’t have test anxiety? Ostensibly, my job as a volunteer tester is to make sure every kid knows one unit before advancing to another. But my real job is to make them feel smart and brave, whether they pass or not.

Every kid who comes to me has too much experience with failure. They don’t yet recognize the cues demarking a vowel as short or long. Whether a phrase is a subject or a predicate isn’t clear to them yet,  nor is the difference between “ I am”  and  “I’m” when speaking to the Principal.

Sometimes context gets in the way of the concepts they’re trying to learn.  What they read does not always speak to their experience. They haven’t seen a real bat cave, or called a trash can a “bin”, or been to a family-owned vacation cottage.

So they’re not thrilled to take a test.

Accordingly, I do my best to give them the chance to do their best. We review short vowel sounds. We look at the test on the page so they can see it is brief. We read the questions out loud.  I tell them that, if they don’t pass this time, next time they only have to re-do the questions they missed.

Still, one child cried when he got questions wrong. Another pushed his chair away from the table and made to leave the room.  Too many  focus on pleasing me instead of mastering the material.

But usually, they pass their tests. There’s a certificate to go on the refrigerator and a sticker. A gorgeous paper with an “A” on it. Best is the pride in their accomplishment.

Being a tester lets me work with every child and every tutor in my program. It’s a great way to see the difference FLOC makes, and how far we have to go.

(Laurie Kauffman is a volunteer tester at FLOC’s Thursday program at Tubman Elementary).