VALUE CENTERED LEARNING THROUGH SERVICE LEARNING
Character building skills are an integral part of the curriculum at Academy of Our Lady School. The faculty and administration enthusiastically adopted a service-learning format during the Middle States reaccreditation process in 2003-04 that included the implementation of values into themed monthly lessons. September began with "Responsibility" and value-centered service projects; October's theme was "Attitude" and lessons revolved around compassion and tolerance of others. November brought out "Citizenship" and the student body held a mock election for President of the United States as well as a school-wide election of the Student Council. Each homeroom voted for two representatives to the student-run government and all members were inducted in a candle-lighting ceremony in a school assembly. Father Dominick swore in each candidate and Mrs. Diane Lautermilch, moderator of the student council announced the eighth grade commissioners. The student council president remarked that it was a hard-fought campaign with many excellent candidates who worked hard lobbying for votes. The students viewed the National elections, studied the voting patterns, learned about qualifications, listened to the debates and voiced their own opinions in the debate club. Mrs. Patricia Keenaghan, Principal, believes that this form of character-building skills is critical for the students to foster civic responsibility and tolerance for others. "It is a mirror of what our nation spoke of the need for moral values today." She continued, "We are fortunate that our students have an opportunity to learn and grow in this environment."
Academy of Our Lady also participates in the Congressional Youth Leadership Council’s program in Washington, D.C. sending students each year for a week long seminars where the students meet and interact with national and international leaders, visit the Capitol and the White House, and sit in on peer discussion groups building and sharpening their leadership skills. This year, three seventh graders attended the summer session and one student just completed the October session. All of the students remarked at the diversity of attendees and how they made friends easily and still e-mail each other. Service learning projects in December included collecting teddy bears for children in area hospitals utilizing our monthly theme of “Caring”. The students collected more than 150 bears! We also sent “books across the bridge” as a project with the Fathers’ Guild. The students sorted and boxed their donated books and tallied 4000 books which were brought to Mary Queen of Heaven School in Brooklyn. Our Second Grade teachers organized H.A.N.D.S. ( Helping Another Neighbor Down South) and the school raised $1200 which was sent to two families who lost everything in the hurricanes. Now we are working on grade-level projects for the tsunami victims in Southern Asia as part of January’s theme of “Leadership”. It is interesting to note how connected we are around our country and the world. The second grade teachers know a physical education teacher in Winter Haven Florida and she asked them if our school could help two of her school’s families. In Sri Lanka, Fr. Philip who worked in New Jersey and is now involved with St. Joseph’s Orphanage is our connection. Our children are truly becoming more globally aware of the needs of others as they grow in their faith and understanding that they can make a difference.
LEARNING THROUGH SERVICE
Academy of Our Lady students have been busy helping our community as well as enhancing their learning through service. Service learning has been designed to foster civic responsibility into the school’s curriculum. It is an outgrowth of President George Bush’s desire to infuse character- building skills into our nation’s schools. Students learn through thoughtful active participation in age-appropriate projects designed to serve the needs of specific community organizations. The students have found that their projects have brought an enthusiasm and generosity as well as an understanding of the needs of the communities around them.
Although all grades participate in service learning, the fifth through eighth grades were asked to comment on the projects they liked best. The eighth grade really enjoyed making apple pies for the Glen Rock Community Church ’s Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless. In this project, led by the principal, Mrs. Patricia Keenaghan, they experienced math skills in weights and measurements, science in chemical reactions, language arts in reflective writing, and social awareness in the needs of homeless people. “We were happy that we could make someone’s holiday brighter” and “we learned how to make delicious apple pies which we can now make for our families.” Another student commented that, “I liked this project because I had a chance to give back to my community.”
Last spring, the sixth graders planted a garden and gave the vegetables to The Center for Food Action. This was a major undertaking that required teamwork to complete including choosing the site for the garden, preparing the soil, fencing it in, maintaining the watering and weeding, and harvesting the crops. All the students learned farming skills and were visited by a representative from the NJ Dept. of Agriculture. They kept journals of their involvement and their science teacher, Mrs. Michele Meli, designed a rubric so each student could chart their learning progress. Satisfaction was evident when a student wrote, “…our hard work paid off when we realized that the food we grew would feed hungry people in our area.” The garden continues to be a part of our school’s service learning as a new class of sixth graders learns from tilling the soil.
Fifth graders enjoyed painting pumpkins for the children at the Audrey Hepburn Children’s House at Hackensack University Medical Center . They also gave up their Christmas grab bag presents and instead donated the money to Several Sources, an organization that helps unwed mothers and their babies. Last year, a baby shower was given to benefit this organization with some of the new mothers and their babies attending. It will be done this year in March with the students planning the entire shower. A fifth grader stated, “ It felt good because I wasn’t thinking of myself and getting a gift, I was helping needy mothers and babies. The fifth graders initiated a school-wide collection of videos this year to benefit the Audrey Hepburn Children’s House for abused and neglected children when it was learned that the children had only five movies to watch. The students collected over 800 videos, counted and catalogued them and wrote notes to the children. Several students went to Hackensack to deliver the videos and to get a tour of the facilities.
Another school-wide event initiated by the seventh grade was a book collection for St. Elizabeth’s in the Bronx . They titled this project “Books Across the Bridge” and were overwhelmed when over 5000 books were donated. “Out of all the other projects we did, this was by far the best…we gave students a chance to learn, to read, and to have fun.” Another student summed it up, “ I liked this service project because it was children helping children.” “ The students from St. Elizabeth’s wrote back to our students and now an ongoing dialog among the children opens up a more conscious awareness of the world, commented Mrs. Bonnie Moore, Assistant Principal of Academy of Our Lady . “Our students know they can make a difference. At our school, the students are learning through service and building their self-esteem and character to make their world a better place.”
ACADEMY OF OUR LADY RECEIVES MIDDLE STATES ACCREDITATION
. The Middle States Commission on Elementary Schools has conferred accreditation for Academy of Our Lady School in Glen Rock, NJ. The official certificate and congratulatory letter were received by the principal, Mrs. Patricia Keenaghan, and assistant principal, Mrs. Bonnie Moore after the commission’s April 2004 meeting. The award was announced by Dr. Patricia Kelly-Stiles, Chair of the Commission and she stated that Academy of Our Lady was one of over one hundred schools in the Middle States region so honored. Academy of Our Lady was initially accredited by this Commission in 1993. Middle States accreditation signifies the educational community of Academy of Our Lady has engaged in a rigorous process of developing self-knowledge; has hosted an evaluation team of independently-appointed educators; and has created an on-going strategic plan for the school. This year-long process was chaired by two faculty members, Mrs. Nancy Casey and Ms Barbara Romeo, who oversaw all aspects of the re-accreditation process. The protocol chosen by the faculty and administration followed a plan of action to create a service-learning school where the students learn civic and social responsibility through their curriculum and their actions toward others in the community. Many projects throughout the grades included a garden designed and maintained by the 6th graders and yielded food for the food pantries in the area. A baby shower for Several Sources Foundation who house mothers and their babies was executed by 5th graders; pies were baked for homeless people and brought to the Community Church in Glen Rock by the 8th graders; and Pre-K, kindergarten, 1st graders and 2nd graders made toiletry bags for the homeless in area shelters. Recently, students in grade 7 participated in cleaning up the Arboretum in Glen Rock for Arbor Day.
Accreditation also signifies that Academy of Our Lady has met the Middle States Commission on Elementary Schools standards for a quality school. These standards reflect current research and best practices from throughout the education profession. During the ten-year term of accreditation, the school community will engage in a Commission-directed series of reports and/or site visits to maintain the vigor of the accreditation process. The Middles States Association is the second oldest regional accreditor of public, private, and parochial schools. The Commission also accredits high schools and colleges within its region. Accreditation by MSCES is recognized around the world as an indication of trustworthiness, educational quality, and a commitment to on-going school improvement. F. Laird Evan, Ed.D., Executive Director of the Commission, offered his congratulations to the entire Academy of Our Lady community, adding: “MSCES accreditation is a recognition of both prior achievements and a commitment to greater future accomplishments.”
A KNACK FOR KNITTING
Knitting has swept through Academy of Our Lady School in Glen Rock. Students in grades 2 through 8 are knitting up a storm as they apply the basic knitting skills to their hats or scarves. Ms. Schiller, the knitting club’s moderator and AoOL’s second grade teacher notes that, “ Not only are children learning this treasured needle art, but they are developing fine motor skills, dexterity and math problem-solving skills. They are exploring their creativity, learning about the different yarns, textures, and combining colors in their projects as well as building self-esteem as they work together.”
Mrs. Keenaghan, the school’s principal, believes strongly that, “The knitting club is a fine example of using the Multiple Intelligence approach to teaching and it reaps many rewards for the students. I’m glad we are able to offer diversified learning experiences at Academy of Our Lady so our students can feel accomplished.” This after-school enrichment club is just one of the many activities that the school offers including chess, debate, running, art, chorus, dance, science and environment, French, Spanish, Quiz Bowl, Web Page, literary magazine, newspaper, student council, drama, and math league.
Members of the faculty and staff have knit six dozen baby hats for Rockland Family Shelter and for Birthright of Bergen County as part of the school’s commitment to service. The faculty took on this project as a way to role model the values of giving to others. Academy of Our Lady School is a service-learning school where the students learn through a varied curriculum that encourages civic and social awareness and responsibility.