He Thinks, Therefore He Wins!

Every year I send out a notification about the Philosophy Slam for Kids.  The rules are shared, the challenge is posted, interested students prepare their responses.  Every year I gather all the student entries, write out an entry fee check, and drop an envelope chock full of children’s essays, drawings, poems and thoughts into the mail.  Most years I hear nothing from the good folks at the Philosophy Slam.  This year, though, something very different occurred.  This year, one of TJ’s very own third graders was named the third Most Philosophical Third Grader in America.

AtticusThird grader Atticus Kim, pictured above, chose to answer the challenge question “Is the Pen Mightier than the Sword?”  When I read his entry I knew it was pretty remarkable, for it was balanced, insightful, and thoughtfully presented.  And apparently the judges from the Philosophy Slam agreed!  I know that if you take the time to read Atticus’ winning response, you’ll agree, too.  Below are Atticus’ insights:

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

Different points of view open new worlds, but violence only has one perspective and closes doors to new experiences.

Ideas can bring people together, but fighting rips people apart.

Writing can bring out the best emotions, but violence brings out the worst.

Sharing ideas leads to finding the truth, but violence leads to seeing who is more cruel.

Writing can bring out love and compassion, but violence brings hate and fear.

Reading and writing makes people use their brain, but violence stops people from thinking.

Sharing ideas and opinions is the beginning of a dialogue, but violence ends conversation.

When people stop thinking and talking there is darkness, until someone shares different ideas which opens new worlds, and brings people together, and brings out the best emotions, and leads to finding the truth, and brings out love and compassion, and makes people think, and begins a dialogue, and creates light.

The only way to get rid of darkness is light, and that is why the pen is mightier than the sword.

Level 2 Updates

In between kids taking the SOL tests and my administering the SOL tests to small groups, I’m actually finding the time to meet with some of the ACE Level 2 groups.

Fifth graders in my Level 2 English groups have at last made it to the portion of the claymation unit where they are filming using their original figures and the iStopMotion app.  A lot of inventive thinking and collaboration is going into the project, as students have tried to determine the best way to capture such dramatic scenes as a harpy eagle in flight, a jaguar climbing down a tree, or a tour guide being attacked by bullet ants.

Fourth graders in Level 2 English have wound up their third debate – Catherine the Great or Alexander the Great – Who was Greater?  The kids have greatly improved in their ability to provide warrants to support a claim.  We’ve made some headway in the area of providing implications for our warrants as well.  In our final debate of the year we’re going to try to pull it all together with a bit of style and panache.  I’m hoping to record the video and post it here.  Stay tuned!

Fourth graders in Level 2 Math are continuing their work with complex, multi-step problems.  My big focus over the past few weeks has been on the idea that so much of math is based on patterns and that discovering the patterns inherent in a problem can help them solve it!

Do you suffer from arachibutryophobia?  How about coulrophobia?  Third grade Level 2 English students should be able to tell you about those phobias (and more) because phobias has been the latest focus in our Word Play unit.  The kids were given a long list of phobias and attempted to decipher their meanings using Greek and Latin roots.  Sesquipedaliaphobia was easily deciphered by the kids as being the fear of really long words, for example, because they knew all about the root from when we looked at sesquipedalian expressions a few weeks ago.  The kids had the most fun, though, when they got to use the root words to create their own fears.  My favorite 3rd grade creation:  “ambul is the Latin root for walking and necro is the Greek root for dead, so ambulonecrophobia is the fear of zombies”!

Third graders in Level 2 Math completed their spatial reasoning unit (congratulations to Lorien Jackson, Greyson Carney, and Sylvia Witt, the winners of our candy box competition!) and have moved on to an algebraic thinking unit.  The work is challenging, but the kids are really taking off with it!

Boxes, Bridges, and Words, Words, Words!

ACE Level 2 students have been busy as can be these past few weeks!

BOXES:  Third grade math students have been creating boxes as a culmination to their spatial reasoning unit.  After looking at the nets of a variety of three dimensional shapes, the kids set forth to create their own nets.  Each net had to be able to form a box which could hold 18 candies of a specific dimension.  As nets and boxes were created, discarded, and improved, the fictional, yet highly demanding,  Sweet Candy Corporation added new box requirements (Closures are a must!  Customers demand boxes with pizzazz!  Boxes can’t look like they’ve been kicked around by wild monkeys!).  Next week final designs will be submitted for consideration to a panel of fifth grade judges and the creators of the winning design will receive a prize!  For now, take a look at some of the masterpieces in progress…IMG_2224

BRIDGES:  The fun problem solving work in 4th grade has continued!  In today’s example, a scenario was laid out on the blacktop using sidewalk chalk.  Two islands were connected to the mainland and each other via seven bridges.  The kids had to find a path which took them across each and every bridge once (but only once!).  Logical reasoning kicked into high gear when the fourth graders tried to explain what they discovered!  A super quick video can be found here:  7 Bridges

AND WORDS, WORDS, WORDS:  In Language Arts, 3rd graders are winding up their Word Play unit.  They’ve had great fun exploring palindromes, sesquipedalian expressions, anagrams, pangrams, Cockney Rhyming Slang and more these past few weeks.  We’re currently working on lipograms, a sort of constrained writing.  The kids were assigned a poem and told to rewrite it without a particular letter while maintaining the meaning and the rhyme scheme.  This is definitely trickier than it looks!  How would you do, for example, if you had to rewrite Little Jack Horner without the letter “i”?  Well, it might look something like this (this poem brought to you by the Schimmoller/DuBois ACE kids):

Karen van Wubble

Flew by her bubble

and danced a ducky dance.  

She yelled, “Yucky cheese!

Can we have less, please?”

Then her bubble was popped by a lance!

Each class worked on one lipogram together before the students set off to create their own masterpieces!

Meanwhile, 4th grade ACE Level 2 students are using their words to engage in a series of historical debates.  Opposing sides have already argued about which trip was better – the Titanic or the Hindenburg.  Some have also debated about which job was preferable – digging the Panama Canal or carving Mount Rushmore?  Up next:  Alexander the Great or Catherine the Great — who was greater?

Finally, in 5th grade, rain forest research is finished, scripts are set, background scenery is complete, and claymation characters are almost done!  Here’s a sneak peek of how things are shaping up:  IMG_2226

Filming should start within the next week!

PBS Kids: A Writing Contest!

I just learned about this opportunity, so the deadline is practically here, but I know lots of ACE kids who love to write and might have something they’d like to enter into the PBS KIDS Writers Contest!

WHRO invites Kindergarten through 5th grade students to create a great story, illustrate it and enter it in our PBS KIDS Writers Contest!  The 2017 Writers Contest is now open. Deadline for receipt of entries is Friday, March 24th at 5:00pm.
Download the Rules [PDF] | Download the Entry Form [PDF]Please send entries to:
WHRO’s PBS KIDS Writers Contest
5200 Hampton Boulevard
Norfolk, VA 23508

All students entering the contest will receive a special PBS KIDS Certificate.  A first place and honorable mention winner will be named in each grade level.  Winners and their families will be invited to a special reception and studio recording of the WHRO Young Storytellers awards program.  We appreciate your help getting students involved with this fun and creative contest!


  • Contest aligns with Virginia Standards of Learning writing requirements: K.12; 1.13; 2.12; 3.9; 4.7; and 5.7.
  • Helps develop 21st Century Skills including critical thinking, personal initiative, effective written communication, curiosity and imagination.

You can find all of the details and previous winners here.


A Note of Thanks

Over the past few weeks my life has amped up because of my role on the Odyssey of the Mind Board of Directors and my part in running a Math Kangaroo center.  As hectic as things have been, nothing could have been accomplished without the help and support of parents and staff.

First of all, I’d like to thank Jess Sabo and Brian Kulok for sorting out all of the t-shirts, pencils, certificates, and souvenirs by testing site.  Their organization and willingness to give up a chunk of time in the middle of the day was a tremendous help!

I’d also like to give a shout out to Motrya Manalac, Dawn England, Brooke Davis, Christine Stillwagoner, and Jillian Johnston for giving up their classroom spaces so that the Math Kangaroo competition had a place to unfold.  All five of these ladies graciously agreed to let me fill their rooms with unknown kids and parents!  An extra nod of gratitude to Ms. Johnston for jumping in to help lay out all the t-shirts, certificates, pencils, and testing papers on Thursday.

Thanks also go to Jeanne Seabridge and the ESOL Advisory Committee.  When we realized the Library had been double booked, Jeanne graciously agreed to relocate her meeting.

I also appreciate Bridget Kraft and Debbie Liang.  They took on the Math Kangaroo registration desk, greeted everyone warmly, and kept things running smoothly.  Bridget even jumped in to run an unexpected testing site when a parent and his child showed up late, rather than have a child be disappointed.

Lisa Mueller, Lisa Allan, Shelly Skomra, Rob Carey, Layton McCann, Scarlett Williams, Mary Kelly, and Karin Ritchey all proctored testing sites.   They kept a watchful eye on the students and helped everyone stay calm and focused.

I’m doubly grateful to Lisa Mueller, Lisa Allan, Shelly Skomra, and Rob Carey because not only did they show up on Thursday for the Math Kangaroo event, but they ALSO dedicated an entire Saturday to Odyssey of the Mind.  They cheered on some of TJ‘s teams, ran the front desk at the competition, and supported every last minute need I threw at them!  (And there were plenty of those!!)

A final note of gratitude to Paul Swanson.  As a principal, he’s called on to do all sorts of things and the demands on his time are myriad, so it means even more that he showed up at the Odyssey of the Mind competition to show support for all of our teams.

If I’ve forgotten anyone I apologize.  But please know that I’m extraordinarily grateful to work in a community where support is always just around the corner or up the stairs.

William & Mary Summer Enrichment

During the summer, the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary offers a series of classes for highly capable children called the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). SEP is a challenging program with an emphasis on inquiry-based learning. The program offers courses in science, math, humanities and the arts for children in grades K-12. The courses are held on William and Mary’s campus, and take place from June 26-30 & July 10-14 in both morning sessions and afternoon sessions.
Check out this general flyer:   William and Mary Summer Enrichment  You can get an idea of the courses on offer by clicking here:  SEP Brochure 2017 Summer
If you have any questions about SEP, you are welcome to email Lindsey Bauserman at ltbauserman@email.wm.edu or sep@wm.edu. More information can also be found through the Center’s website at www.cfge.wm.edu.