Monday, September 17, 2012

Welcome Visitors!

Austin Elementary was privileged to have one of our school board members, Tracy Fisher, join us this past Friday as we not only enjoyed our E-Time experiences, but also celebrated "International Dot Day!"  I had the opportunity to accompany Mrs. Fisher as she visited our classrooms and saw some of the exciting enrichment activities that were taking place.  Together, we enjoyed observing the students as they explored various areas of interest, and were impressed to see how the "Dot Day" message to "make your mark" was being incorporated into the enrichment activities.  Mrs. Fisher stated that she was, "so impressed by how engaged every student was during E-Time."  I couldn't agree more!   The hallways were abuzz, and the smiles on the students' faces were absolutely contagious!  Thank you, Mrs. Fisher for joining us.  We were honored by your visit!

If you would like to join us for an E-Time visit, please contact me by phone at 214-496-7335 or through email.  My email address is

Make Your Mark!

In his book, the Dot, Peter Reynolds encourages children...and let go of their fears and simply "make their mark."  The Dot is a simple, heartwarming story of one little girl's journey toward self discovery and creative expression.  In honor of The Dot, September 15th has been recognized as National Dot Day.  On that day, we recognize the importance of acknowledging and celebrating the creative spirit inside each of us.   Here at Austin Elementary, we decided to celebrate a day early.  On Friday, our hallways and classrooms were filled with dots!  Big dots, little dots, bright dots, multicolored dots, even three dimensional dots!  We went dot crazy!  Of course, we couldn't resist the temptation to pull the dot theme into E-Time, so today, I enjoyed a multitude of "dot activities" as I visited classrooms during that very special hour of our week.

Kindergarten students enjoy some delicious fun as  they sort different colored candy Dots!

Did you notice the beautiful dotted headbands.  Here they are during the manufacturing process...

Just look at that concentration!

Dominoes construction...dots everywhere!

 They may not have their names in lights...but this is certainly the next best thing!

Strategy games are filled with dots!  Who knew?

Battleship...dots, math, strategic thinking, and fun all in one place!

Pentago!  Can you out think your opponent?

Fourth graders spent some time brainstorming how the message of The Dot could be captured in pictures.  

They found something!  Fourth graders scoured the hallways of Austin Elementary looking for examples of The Dot in action.  These young men are using their IPADS to capture an image of creativity at work.  I can't wait to see what they came up with!

A fun time was had by all as we celebrated "Dot Day" here at Austin Elementary.  More importantly, students...and teachers...were reminded of the tremendous impact each of us can have on those around us if we just have the courage to "Make a Mark!"  I challenge you to make your mark this week.  How will the lives of the people you meet be different because they spent some time with you?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

SEM: The Journey Continues!

The new school year brings with it new teachers, fresh haircuts, new school supplies, and bright smiles as students and teachers eagerly make their way back to the classroom.  At Austin Elementary, the start of the 2012-2013 school year brings with it something more...a new step in our journey toward total school wide enrichment.  This year, we are so excited to continue our weekly E-Time tradition as all students and staff participate in some type of interest based enrichment activity for one hour every Friday morning.   More importantly, we are looking to expand the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) through the implementation of multi-age Enrichment Clusters.  As part of this renewed vision, we are hoping to include even more parent and community volunteers to join the fun!  Over the last couple of weeks, students and parents throughout the building have been eagerly completing a variety of interest surveys  and talent portfolios in preparation for the start of of this year's E-Time adventure.

Already, I have seen some exciting enrichment activities taking place in the classroom. This past Friday, I was amazed as I walked around the building and found our Austin Mustangs engaged in so many different learning opportunities.  Friendship salad in kindergarten, science experiments in first grade, animal exploration in second...the list goes on and on!  I  spoke with a third grader who couldn't wait to show me her origami creation, and watched in awe as some fourth graders demonstrated amazing thinking skills while working on strategy games of all kinds.  Fifth graders were working on lots of different activities.  Some were involved in arts and crafts, while others were outside working on fun and fitness during a kickball game.  Another group of fifth graders was learning how to use PowerPoint to create digital cartoons.  Amazing!

As exciting as it all is, SEM goes much deeper than mere fun and games.  It is about helping kids identify their strengths and recognize their talents.  It is about igniting within them a passion for learning, and helping them to understand the power they have to use that passion to impact their world.  It is about empowering kids to take charge of their own learning and acknowledging that they have ideas of their own...good ones!  It is about guiding them to give back to a world that has given so much to them.  One student summed it up well.  When asked by his teacher, "How can we give back to the community through a magic cluster?" he innocently replied, "We can turn all the poor people into rich people!"  Naive?  Maybe...but you can't beat the enthusiasm.  You can't teach a child to show that kind of compassion.  You can only help him to discover it!
If you are interested in joining us on our SEM journey, I would love to show you the way.  Feel free to contact me by phone at 214-496-7335 or by email at