Thursday, October 28, 2010

Anne Beers STEM

It was 6 PM and the STEM program at Anne Beers started. I had to wait until my wife brought my daughter back from dance class before I could leave the house. She doesn't get out of class until 6:30 PM, so I didn't get to Anne Beers until around 7 PM.

The first thing that I noticed as I arrived is that there were cars around several blocks. I've never seen the street next to Beers so crowded. I thought I was going to one of my old Pittsburgh high school football games. As I walked past the field and around the side to the front door, I seen people every where in the school. Since I was late, some people were leaving but most people were in various rooms within the building. The last STEM program I went to, I just remember going to the auditorium and that was it. It looked as though the entire school was being used for the STEM demonstration.

As I walked into the door that let to auditorium, there were people everywhere. People upstairs, downstairs, in the auditorium, in the library, in Mrs. Harris NASA simulation and various other rooms in the school.

I spent most of my time in the auditorium speaking to a couple parents and looking at the exhibits. The first exhibit that caught my eye was a plastic human torso that a few young girls were putting together and taking apart. Another young lady (I believe from the children's museum) was explaining how the stomach works and the large and small intestines. The young girls giggled as she mentioned the last step of human digestion, "this is where the poop comes out". I'll be honest, I giggled too... a man's giggle (if that exists), not a little girl giggle!!!!

The next exhibit was two real pig lungs hooked up to an air pump. One of the lungs was injected with die to simulate a smoking lung. The smoking lung also had a fake tumor to demonstrate what happens to a lung when the air pathway is restricted. As the children pressed and depressed the air pump, you could see the lungs expanding and contracting. Both of the healthy lungs would expand and contract as you expected. The smoking lungs with cancer barely expanded at all because of the restriction in the air pathway caused by the tumor. There was one little girl that kept touching the lungs. I didn't dear put my hands on those things, but she didn't mind. The young lady working the both had to keep giving the little girl a baby wipe to clean her hands. But I only seen her use it once. Maybe she'll be the next real Gray's Anatomy star. I'm sure she'll learn to clean her hands properly by then.

There were a few other exhibits that were interactive and had many children surrounding the table. I didn't want to get ran over, so I watched from a distance.

The last exhibit I visited was a group of Georgetown students that were running a Marine Discovery Program. To my surprise, Anne Beers is the only school with this program. Basically, once a month, students from Georgetown will come to Anne Beers and teach students about and dissect different marine life. They are dissecting a squid next month. Go here for more info, or email

In conclusion, the STEM night was a huge success and was a treat for all. Mrs. Payton and Mrs. Harris and the rest of the school staff did a wonderful job and I'm certain that with the help of the parents and the community, Anne Beers can be one of the, or the best, school in the city.

To learn more about STEM, go here

Sunday, October 17, 2010

HCCA Education & Recreation 1st Social Mixer

Sam schooling the group

The EduRec committee had its first social mixer on October 15, 2010, 7:00 PM at my house. It was a wine tasting, let’s talk about education mixer. The timing for the meeting was perfect with the election of our very own Vincent Gray, the resignation of Michelle Rhee and the national publicity of DC public schools. The purpose of the meeting was tri-fold. First, I want to get to know my neighbors. Second, I want to discuss talking over the schools in our neighborhoods. Third, I wanted to have fun drinking wine for a good cause :-)

Karen and Shawn making a point
Not including myself and my wife, we had six people join the mixer. Shawn Bucker, a neighbor I met at one of the HCCA meetings several months ago. Sam Clayborn, another neighbor I met at the HCCA meetings and at the recreation center in the weight room. Monica Bell, a neighbor that I met at events around the neighborhood that are focused on the children. Kimberly ?, a neighbor that I met for the first time at the social mixer. Karen Williams, the HCCA president. Derek Andrews, a neighbor I met that lives a block up the street from me.

Derek poppin' bottles
The beginning of the night started with people talking about all the reasons why education in DC is so horrible. Some suggested that parents were the issue, others thought it was teachers and most thought it was a combination of the two. There were a slew of other reasons that our kids were not succeeding educational but aren't worth mentioning.

After letting people discuss the reasons that public education is failing, I swiftly moved the conversation to, "We know the problems, so how do we fix it'". Below describes a few of the thoughts that were discussed.

Monica sips and listens, sips and listens
I basically boils down to resources (a.k.a. money), resources that fill in the gaps that the government can't fill. For most schools that do well, this resource generating organization is the school’s PTA. In order to fix the educational issues with our public schools, we (the community) need to work with the school’s PTA to raise money to hire teacher assistants, councilors, special education teachers, etcetera. The community can raise money by writing grants, holding fundraisers, soliciting businesses, and etcetera.

The community can also organize a small army of volunteers to come to the schools to help the school staff in various capacities. Volunteers can be mentors, tutors, read to the children, sports coaches, hall monitors or anything else the staff needs.

I'm getting tired of writing so I'll get to the result of the meetings.

1. Start of movement by getting as many people involved with revolutionizing the schools in our community (includes but not limited to parents of school age, school principal and staff, PTA, concerned citizens of the community).
2. Start small and choose one school to support (HCCA has already chosen Beers).
3. Establish concrete goals and measures for success.
4. Develop a strategic plan.
5. Implement the plan

Overall the meeting was very production and entertaining. I'm sure the 6, 7, 8, ummmm (whose counting anyways) glasses of wine didn't hurt either. Hopefully we'll see more of our neighbors at the next social.

P.S. This was a kid friendly event. The kids had a great time destroying my basement (my kids did most of the destroying).

Boyle Stuckey
HCCA Educatioon & Recreation Chairman