Nurturing Problem Solvers and Reimagining Math

This is the second in a series of blog posts highlighting the “Deep Dive” Professional Development Process at The Peck School in Morristown. Faculty members with more than three years of experience are expected to take a Deep Dive every four years to participate in a meaningful, reflective activity or project that will benefit them personally, as well as their students and the school. The goal of the Deep Dive is to have a lasting and direct impact on their teaching craft and curriculum.

TRANSFORMATIVE LEARNING THROUGH PROBLEM BASED MATH: A DEEP DIVE WITH AMY PAPANDREOU
BY CHRIS STARR – DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH

“There is one thing I’ve observed in my years of teaching. Too often, students are taught how to do things without being taught how to apply what they are learning to solve real world problems,” says Amy Papandreou, Upper School Math Teacher. So when Amy heard about the Anja S. Greer Conference on Math and Technology at Phillips Exeter Academy last summer and its focus on “Problem Based Learning (PBL) in the Math Classroom,” she knew it was the professional development opportunity for her.

Too often, students are taught how to do things without being taught how to apply what they are learning

Problem-based math is an approach that jump-starts the development of the skills essential to mastering higher-level math. Traditional mathematical concepts are still covered, but the problem-based approach makes learning math more intellectually rigorous and creatively engaging. In math, as in life, there may be a variety of ways that a solution can be reached. By capitalizing on this notion in the math classroom, teachers can encourage ingenuity in learning math while discouraging students from quitting on a problem when they feel they aren’t on the right track, or locating the “right answer”.

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Engaging a School Community with Mindful Moments

CHRIS STARR, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH:

At The Peck School in Morristown, parents (in addition to students) are learning that the practice of mindfulness improves cognitive abilities and increases brain density in areas associated with improved attention, learning, self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, happiness, and compassion.

At the forefront of this movement is Peck’s Mindfulness Trainer Suzy Becker. This past December she held a four-week course exclusively for parents entitled, “Introduction to Mindfulness.” The workshop not only presented neurological and psychological studies supporting the tremendous benefits of mindfulness, but also taught parents specific mindfulness techniques and introduced them to online and offline tools that support a practice of mindfulness.

We are often our own worst critic…

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Why Cursive is Good for the Brain

CHRIS STARR, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH: Sometimes it seems that much of what we historically associate with primary school education is on the wane. The majority of U.S. States have now adopted the Common Core standards for education, and its curricular dictates are driving many school districts to scale-down or abandon traditional subjects. Music, fine and industrial arts, and cursive handwriting classes are being abandoned. In some parts of the country, schools are also abolishing recess.

Sometimes it seems that much of what we historically associate with primary school education is on the wane.

Quite to the contrary, new brain science is illuminating the direct cognitive benefits of these jettisoned pastimes. Scientists and researchers are offering strong evidence to support the power of play, and the brain-activating effects of disciplines that require fine motor control—such as practicing cursive.

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“The New Scourge” in Youth Sports

CHRIS STARR, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH:

The new player emerging in youth sports
is the overuse injury.

So often we hear the refrain, “No pain, no gain,” specifically as it relates to athletics. Coaches want their athletes to work hard and are likely to encourage, motivate, and in some cases even push their charges to run faster, hit harder, or throw greater distances.

As children increasingly become specialized in certain sports, they are likely to undertake repetitive skill training. They may “drill” at a certain task over and over again – often for hours on end. What they may not realize is they are about to meet an increasingly visible and insidious new player in the sports arena.

The new player emerging in youth sports is the overuse injury, and it is making its presence known with younger and younger athletes. The overuse injury, once the provenance of adults and professional athletes is showing up on a national scale and is concerning the medical profession enough that it has become the subject of recent articles and special reports.

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Can a measurement of values alter the way schools think about education?

CHRISTOPHER STARR, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING & COMMUNITY OUTREACH:

What is a brain without a heart? Not as smart, recent research suggests.

No doubt this is why truly great schools consider character education on an equal par with academic rigor.

But a difficulty arises for schools like The Peck School in Morristown, NJ, whose motto states; “In life, knowledge must be guided by values.” The problem is that knowledge can more easily be measured than character skills such as ethics, resilience, and curiosity.

Like many independent schools, The Peck School is hoping to change this dichotomy by joining a consortium of nearly 100 institutions that will conduct the Mission Skills Assessment (MSA) throughout this fall semester. The assessment has been developed over a period of five years by the Independent School Data Exchange (INDEX) and Education Testing Services (ETS) to scientifically gauge each school’s success rate in promoting six character skills that are labeled “essential” for success in school and life: teamwork, creativity, ethics, resilience, curiosity, and time management.

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