Monday, August 12, 2013

What's For Lunch?

With all of the discussions around "Back to School" we often overlook one of our most basic needs, food; what is for lunch? 

Are your children eating foods that are rich in the components necessary for the development of their brains? 

Are they eating foods that sustain energy and support their ability to focus in the classroom? 

Are they eating foods that promote healthy classroom behaviors?

Gluten Free - Double Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

An article from about children and nutrients: Click Here

Just as the under-fed child will have trouble focusing; the child loaded with refined sugars and packaged meals will likely struggle just as much. 

(When I taught in Skid-Row, Los Angeles, many children came to school hungry, and before learning, eating had to take place. When I taught in affluent/middle-class communities, many children came to school fed with donuts and pastries, and struggled to focused and show motivation and enthusiasm for learning.) 

It's really hard these days, when the grocery stores make it so easy, and the competition amongst children is fierce.

In today's classroom children are allowed to bring their own snacks, and in some places, they can snack throughout the day as needed. This gives the child the freedom to make choices for themselves. 

The problem: 

The snacks and lunches provided typically have limited nutrition and encourage the development of poor eating habits (long-term). 

This link gives a list of "healthy" packaged snack options - a effort by the USDA HealthierUS School Challenge. How many of these items actually seem "healthy"? How many are free of most gluten and added sugars? How many have real protein, real fats, and whole grains? -> Click Here

So what are we supposed to do?

Homemade Goldfish - Who has time right?

Yeah, making your own homemade goldfish crackers - not realistic.


1. You know your child best. What do they prefer?

2. Allow your child to be part of the decisions - guide them in their choices.

3. Visit Pinterest for school lunch ideas. The visuals are quick and easy.

4. Always include a fruit and a vegetable; two of each, even better.

5. Team up with other families and share the responsibility; make it a community effort. 
School Lunch

Please leave comments and links to share what works for you! :)


Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Space for Learning

"The Classroom"

Why is it that our classrooms have become detached from what is natural? 

In most elementary classrooms we see bright colored posters with disconnected "inspiring" quotes. We border everything with crazy colorful patterns that have nothing to do with the beautiful work being displayed. In fact, no longer is the display on the wall an effort to highlight brilliant learning that is taking place. Rather, it is distracting the entire purpose, it is distracting the learning. 

John Muir

I share this quote from John Muir - the man we can credit for having a beautiful oasis of National Parks throughout the United States. What if we took this quote to heart, and began to think about the classroom as an oasis? A place to relax, to take things in, to be inspired, a place to receive.

In my experiences:

...walking on stage at the Hollywood Bowl and imagining the symphony
...Disney Concert Hall - listening to symphony under Gustavo Dudamel
...sitting in the Spanish Mission chapels in San Antonio
...looking out into the Pacific from Palos Verdes
...stomping through the Living Desert in Palm Desert
...observing the spinning of a cacoon by a silkworm

The most common factors involved here were things of nature and things of art.

Now, realistically, these young learners spend most of their hours in a building, and not out on "paseos" around the city. So how do we capture them day to day in the mundane rectangular box called "The Classroom"?

Here are just a few ideas:

Cozy Spaces

Create a cozy space somewhere in the room. Even if you can't find a free couch, scrape up a few pillows and cover them with some old fabric. Throw them down on a rug. Your children will congregate here to cozy up with a book, write their newest narrative idea, or even problem solve through a few word problems.


 If you are blessed enough to have a classroom with windows, let that light in!!! Keep each space in your room as organized as possible. Allow the children to see opportunities for creation and learning through the material you have set out. 

Hands On

Create first hand experiences for observation by setting up a space for exploration. As your science focus evolves over the year, continually change the materials you have out. Encourage the children to bring things in from home that are related to the study. One year I had each student bring their own sample of soil. We spent an afternoon just exploring the variations and textures. 


Trade those individual seats for group gathering spaces. This creates opportunities for collaboration and community growth. It's impossible to learn most things in isolation; when we listen to others we learn how to learn.

Space to Move

Keep your space fresh, relevant, and tidy. Leave space for movement. Children prefer to get out of their seats and move about. It may seem that they aren't learning, but surely they are learning more if they are making decisions for themselves.  

Just remember, your classroom is a place of purpose and a place for community.