• Arts Integration

    Posted by Brooke Stidham on 2/21/2019 12:15:00 PM

    February 21, 2019

    Tomorrow evening is our first “A2 STEAM Arts Showcase!” We are very excited about this combination Art Show, Variety/Talent Show and Silent Auction Fundraiser, as it gives our students another venue to share the wide range of talents and interests. Ms. Jensen and Ms. Alseri have been working diligently behind the scenes for months with their art classes to ensure our students have creative art work to display in a professional format, while our PTO volunteers organized the student performers who will be singing, dancing, and playing their instruments.  

    Arts Integration is at the core of our A2 STEAM programming. Students attend vocal music, art, coding & technology, band/orchestra, choir and/or media classes weekly at grade levels. Different than other, more traditional schools, these co-curricular teachers meet with grade-level teachers to plan units of study and engaging Project-Based Learning units to integrate multiple content and arts standards. Research has shown that Incorporating the arts throughout the curriculum can boost student success. “From 2011 to 2014, the average improvement in math proficiency across our schools was 22.5 percent, and reading proficiency improved by 12.6 percent,” reports John Abodeely, deputy director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities Turnaround Arts Initiative. Integrating the arts gives our teachers more pathways to use culturally responsive pedagogy, as well as other opportunites for students to show their thinking and display understand of core content areas through creative expression and authentic products, rather than just standardized tests.

    In addition to the performance based assessments that our teachers utilize, they are also typically accompanied with a written piece - perhaps a research paper, non-fiction booklet, a fictional story, or even a personal narrative. One way we wish to enhance our writing curriculum at A2 STEAM is through the Washtenaw County Writing Centers Project (WC2P). Next school year we will be one of only four Washtenaw County schools to participate in the first cohort of the WC2P, and the only K-8/elementary school included! Mrs. Haddas and the Literacy Team have begun the brainstorming process and we are excited to develop our own Writing Center and course work to support all students.  

    We hope you’ll be able to join us tomorrow evening for the Arts Showcase and continue to support our PBL & Integrated work. Thank you for entrusting your children to us.

    Meg Fenech & Brooke Stidham
    A2 STEAM Administrators

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  • Black History Month

    Posted by Meg Fenech on 2/7/2019 7:00:00 PM

    February is Black History Month and we are embracing this important designation throughout the school.  We are featuring the contributions, lives, and struggle of African Americans in a variety of ways, from an assembly on NAAPID day, to teaching students freedom songs, to a dynamic bulletin board featuring African Americans who have shaped the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and/or math. In our library, Ms. Reader is adding novels that feature African American protagonists and books that are authored by African Americans.  As a staff, we are engaged in professional development to ensure that the history we bring to students isn’t whitewashed. We want to highlight the innumerable contributions of American Americans but also capture the struggle. Black history is American history, and we seek to complete the American narrative by including the history of minority groups whose powerful stories often remain untold.

    We invite our community to help us in this continuous task by bring their expertise to A2 STEAM!  If you have ideas, time, or expertise to offer with respect to Black History Month and our equity and inclusion efforts, please reach out.  We love guest speakers, resources, ideas for assemblies, and critical friends. For the last two years our staff Equity Team has been working on three facets  - Initiative 1: Staff Introspection & Cultivating Cultural Competence, Initiative 2: Equity-Focused Learning and Teaching and Initiative 3: Family and Community Engagement.  Because we are a PBL school, this work is driven by a question. Our Equity Team’s driving question is, “How can we partner with the staff and community to provide a safe and inclusive learning experience that empowers ALL of our students?”  Please email or stop by if you have input, ideas, feedback, or a desire to join our Equity Team. We meet biweekly after-school on Mondays.

    Your family might also choose to learn about Black History beyond the school day.  You can bring the whole family to learn about African-American art, history, and culture at one of these Black History Month events in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties (see https://goo.gl/rTx8zd).  Locally, the AADL is hosting a variety of events (see https://aadl.org/blackhistorymonth) and University of Michigan events can be accessed at http://oami.umich.edu/um-mlk-symposium/events/.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t also share that A2 STEAM will be the first AAPS middle school to offer an African American Humanities class. With the support of administration and the leadership of Ms. Brittany Sayles, our 7th and 8th graders will have the opportunity to take this trimester-long course starting this spring!  The purpose of this course is to develop an appreciation and understanding of African-American culture, its historical, political, and social significance and its impact on the total society. The course will cover key themes of events of African-American history (i.e. slavery, slave revolts, Civil Rights Movement) with the African origin and lead up through 21st century America.

    Lastly,  we look forward to ALL of our families joining us on NAAPID to celebrate the important connections between families and school. Joe Dulin, former principal of Roberto Clemente High School, created NAAPID to invite African American parents to their child’s school. Over the years, NAAPID has evolved to welcome all families! Unlike other days you might come to visit the school, we will have special activities planned during the day and hands-on learning opportunities relevant to your child’s education. The workshops are designed to support parents in supporting their children and will run by staff and members of our larger school community. Whether you can stay for an hour or all-day, we hope to see you on Monday, February 11th.

    Link to the NAAPID flyer -

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ik4NCTRsQrnxY5gl_eI7wOrsaPLBCiZK/view?usp=sharing

    Thank you for entrusting your children to us,

    Meg Fenech & Brooke Stidham
    A2 STEAM Administrators

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  • MLK and Social Justice

    Posted by Brooke Stidham on 1/16/2019 3:00:00 PM

    There seems to always be something exciting happening in the hallways of A2 STEAM and this week is no exception! On Thursday, we will honor the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with two school assemblies. As we have done in previous years, our music department has taken a lead on planning. This year Mr. Campbell has organized a wonderful musical tribute of student talent to celebrate Dr. King and teach our younger students (Young 5s/K - 4th grade ) about his Civil Rights. This assembly will take place at 2pm. New this year, our A2 STEAM Equity Committee has planned a different learning opportunity for students in Grades 5-8. This assembly will expand upon Dr. King’s message and his commitment to social justice. We are proud to host a panel of local activists who will share their own story and efforts to achieve equity. Along with a Q & A, will be asking our students to to consider a vision for a positive future with questions like, "What compels you?” or "How can YOU be an agent of change?" Although we do not have school next Monday, January 21st, in observance of the MLK Jr. holiday, we hope these activities, along with the classroom lessons and their PBL work, will encourage the development of civically active and engaged youth. If you are looking for educational opportunities for your child on Monday, we invite you to review the activities shared via email on January 8th. The U of M, Eastern Michigan University and the Ann Arbor District Library are all hosting dozens of activities, lectures, symposiums, and fine arts performances throughout the winter in honor of MLK Jr. and in the vein of social justice.

    On Friday, all 4th grade students will participate in the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living’s Disability Awareness Workshop. The Disability Awareness Workshop is a one-day program to teach 4th graders an empathetic understanding of physical, developmental, and learning disabilities. The hands-on-activity based program is designed to help students understand how difficult and complex daily living can be for individuals with disabilities. At the same time, the workshop’s, “I Can”, message challenges cultural stereotypes that marginalize people with disabilities. Where others see adversity, challenge and problems we see opportunities, possibilities and potential. The workshops help to build a culture of understanding that is invaluable, with the goal to learn, through experience. Students learn that given the right tools and adaptations, individuals with disabilities can accomplish everyday tasks, be successful and live happy lives. AAPS elementary schools, including A2 STEAM, have been participating in this event since 2005 and continues to be a highlight for all 4th grade students! There are still a few volunteer opportunities available at: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0d48acaf2da4f49-a2steam.

    If you have resources, ideas, or time to support school-wide diversity and inclusion efforts, don’t hesitate to reach out.

    Thank you for entrusting your children to us,

    Meg Fenech & Brooke Stidham
    A2 STEAM Administrators

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  • Reflecting & Celebrating

    Posted by Meg Fenech on 12/20/2018 4:00:00 PM

    As we near the end of 2018, we are engaged in process of reflection and celebration.  Last week’s exceptional K-5 Expo has left us feeling gratified and energized by the creativity and collaboration our students demonstrated.  Thank you, families, for being in attendance and supporting our PBL school. We hope you had an easier time parking and navigating the school as compared to our K-8 Expos.  Just as students critique and revise their projects, we cogniate and modify our schoolwide practices, policies and procedures. Splitting some of our events into two evenings, like Curriculum Night and Expo, prompted compliments by many families but we welcome all feedback, good, bad or neutral.  Reflecting upon the 2018, we are also celebrating the successful integration and benefits incurred, from bringing remarkable teachers on board. This fall we welcomed Mr. Campbell (music), Ms. Essenberg (2nd grade), Mr. Smead (MS social studies), Mr. Stearns (MS math), Ms. Wales (Coding/PLTW), to our staff and we couldn’t be more pleased with their contributions to our school community.  We are also celebrating and reflecting upon the curricular modifications we made this fall. From increasing the amount of time students are learning the language of coding, to adding an elective hour in the middle school, we are seeing students engaged throughout the building. In 2019 we look forward to making some improvements with respect to student safety and traffic congestion We will need adult help to smoothly roll out these changes so please consider if you have time to give at drop-off and/or pick-up.  We’ll solicit volunteers in the new year.

    With a two-week break just a day away, we hope our staff, students, and families find time for much needed rest and rejuvenation.  We recommend that families reconnect, engage in free play and disconnect from electronic devices, while maintaining some predictability and routine.  It can be a challenge to keep students engaged for two weeks, so consider reaching out to other families for playdates. The school directory was sent to everyone on November 20th so recheck your email if you’ve misplaced it.  The Ann Arbor With Kids website is a great resource for daily activities  throughout the county. If you’ve never seen, I highly recommend visiting https://annarborwithkids.com/events/   during the break.  It organizes activities for all ages and many are free.

    Wishing you a healthy, happy, and joyful 2019!!

    Meg Fenech & Brooke Stidham

    A2 STEAM Administrators

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  • Learning & Sharing About Our Community

    Posted by Brooke Stidham on 12/5/2018 5:00:00 PM

    A2 STEAM offers a variety of unique and engaging ways for all students to “Engage, Communicate, Collaborate, Create, and Think Critically” as they learn to navigate the world around them. As you wander the hallways, you will see and hear our students presenting their theories, ideas or innovative solutions to real-world, authentic problems as they prepared for annual K-5 Expo. Last week, several students presented at the Michigan Theater for the STEAM “Rosie Revere, Engineer” performance. This casual student presentation and showcase gave our students the opportunity to share their work in a meaningful, authentic way with community guests that were blown away by the vocabulary our students used and ease in which they could speak about their schooling experiences. This is due in part to the amazing work A2 STEAM teachers do each and every day to make meaningful connections to the grade-level appropriate content. They ensure all students have a voice and their opinions are valued, encouraging them to be architects, engineers, scientists, artists, civic activist, and much more! Please join us next Thursday evening, December 13th for the fall Expo, as the students will share their deep understanding of such things as light & sound, the economy, Michigan tourism, and how the brain works.

    Thank you for entrusting your children to us,

    Meg Fenech & Brooke Stidham

    A2 STEAM Administrators

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  • Cultivating Kindness & Gratitude

    Posted by Meg Fenech on 11/14/2018 5:00:00 PM

    Heading into the Thanksgiving break we want to invite our community to collectively take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate the many things for which we have to be thankful.  For many, families and friends are high on the list as things for which are we grateful. Many of us are also grateful for this wonderful school community that we share. We are appreciative of our partnerships with parents, students, and one another, and we are working to spread acts of kindness throughout the school.

    Research supports that engaging in kindness and gratitude practices can have a remarkably positive impact.  Gratitude activities can enhance positive emotions by both the person receiving and expressing the words of appreciation.  When our staff and students feel appreciated, trust is fostered, which can facilitate engagement, creativity, and effective collaboration.  These attributes are particularly important in a project-based learning environment, but more importantly, we want each and every person at school to know they are valued.

    We foster kindness at the start of each student’s day with a kind welcome into the classroom.  Simple things, like making eye contact, smiling, and acknowledging one another by name can make a positive difference in a school setting and workplace.  The morning meeting that kicks off every school day is also a time that teachers and students can share gratitude and words of appreciation. And during the last two weeks students have been invited to share acts of kindness that they experienced at school.  These examples, written on paper links, will be strung together in a kindness chain reminding students that acts of kindness can cause a chain reaction. We have also encouraged our staff to write notes of gratitude to one another, because feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. (William Arthur Ward)

    This time of the year can be particularly taxing for teachers given the lack of breaks, extensive report writing, and impending Expo Night.  To remind teachers that their efforts aren’t overlooked, we invite parents to show their appreciation throughout the remainder of November. Please consider giving thanks by bringing something small to the staff lounge like a card, flowers, or edible treat.

    Looking for ways to increase gratitude in your life or workplace? Consider borrowing ideas from the University of Michigan’s Be Kind Be Well campaign or utilize a monthly gratitude calendar.   As AESOP is quoted, no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.  A smile goes a long way!  

    Smiles are certain to abound at our upcoming Thanksgiving Assembly.  Our K-5 students will attend an assembly next Monday at 9:30am to foster the spirit of Thanksgiving and showcase many student performers.  Parents are welcome to join us. We hope you enjoy the Thanksgiving Break and relish time spent with family and friends reflecting upon the many reasons we have to give thanks.   “Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” -Hausa Proverb

    Thank you for entrusting your children to us,

    Meg Fenech & Brooke Stidham

    A2 STEAM Principals

     



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  • #A2gether at A2 STEAM

    Posted by Brooke Stidham on 10/31/2018 3:00:00 PM

    In light of our the tragic events in Pittsburgh, we feel that it is more important than ever for us to come together, to care for ourselves and each other, and to reach out to those who are hurting. These are challenging times, and in response we must deepen our commitment to the core values of welcome, respect and embrace for ALL among us, care for each other and for this Ann Arbor community we share together. Last week’s A2 STEAM’s Celebration of Culture and Heritage was a beautiful evening for our school community to come together through storytelling, sharing artifacts and games, and food, we connected and celebrated what makes us unique and similar. Inspired by our own A2 STEAM middle school students after the viewing of the TedTalk  “I am more than a single story” by Chimamanda Adichie, this year’s annual fall festival transitioned into a new event that we hope to continue to grow and expand in future years.

    On Monday evening, several Middle School students will also be embracing our #A2gether theme, as they present their Project-Based Learning curricular units at their first MS “work in progress” Expo! The 6th grade students are answering the Driving Question “How can we provide healthy food to people in our community?” The students have grown food, created food items that can be delivered to people that need healthy food, and delivered them in a way that is standardized, efficient and sustainable. Likewise, the 8th grade students are trying to solve “How can we make change happen in our community?” They have focused on learning more about local government and the political process. Leveraging the passion and ideas of young people, this project empowers students to actively engage in issues facing their community through avenues of civic action open to all concerned individuals. We hope you can join us on November 5th from 5:30-7:15pm for the MS Expo. Please remember that there is No School on Tuesday, November 6th due to Election Day and polling locations at the AAPS school buildings, but we encourage you to get out and vote as well!

    If you have resources, ideas, or time to support school-wide inclusion effors, don’t hesitate to reach out.  

    Thank you for entrusting your children to us,

    Meg Fenech & Brooke Stidham

    A2 STEAM Principals

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