Friday, December 18, 2009

She Did It!

She did it!  Miss Olivia placed 2nd in her school’s 5th Grade Science Fair and to say Loverman and I are pleased, as punch would be an understatement.

It’s mandatory for all 5th grade students to participate in the school’s science fair.  The kids are provided with an outline detailing the 10-week process and to be honest I was intimated when I first reviewed it. Loverman and I have artistic spirits.  Science isn’t really our thing, but being that this project represented a huge part of Olivia’s science grade, we knew we’d have to dive in with our girl to support her through this process.

Olivia decided to stick close to home with her experiment.  She wanted to learn if dog saliva prohibited bacteria growth better than cat saliva. She swabbed the mouth of our dog, Zoey, and our cat, Max; mixed each sample with a bit of Yannick’s toe-jam and after just two days, we witnessed the explosive growth of bacteria in the Petri dish with the cat saliva.  Let’s just say, you really don’t want to be licked by a cat. Olivia tracked the changes in the Petri dishes daily and we took lots of photos.  Once finished with tracking the results, Olivia had to create a display board that illustrated her process and the results of the experiment. 

The display was due on Mon., Dec. 7 and the science fair was scheduled for Weds., Dec. 9th.  Olivia meticulously wrapped her display in a huge trash bag before heading to school on its due date.  I felt good when I saw her confidently walk into school with the project and I couldn’t wait to hear how it measured up to the other projects.  When Olivia got into the car after school, I was bursting at the seams in anticipation.  She seemed pretty nonchalant about how her experiment stacked up to her friends’ projects, in fact, she was genuinely impressed by the efforts of most of her classmates.  It looked like I’d have to wait until Wednesday’s science fair to see for myself.  When we finally got the science fair, I saw quite a few of interesting projects, but Olivia’s definitely stood out and was one of the better-executed projects.  We learned later that evening that the winners of the science fair wouldn’t be announced for a few days, but I was very confident she’d get a good grade.

At the end of last week, I began to think the school would never announce a winner and pretty much put it out of my mind.  It wasn’t until Olivia came beaming into my office on Wednesday that I thought maybe she had received word about the science fair.  She proudly presented me with a bright red ribbon emblazoned with 2nd Place Winner.  Whohooo!  Olivia gave me the details about how the winners were announced and how hearing her name being called caught her by total surprise.  She even mentioned how some of fellow students were “haters” and tried to undermine her win by making snide remarks. 

Whatever!  There’s absolutely no shame in her game… Miss Olivia worked hard and is deserving of this win.  It’s not just that she placed, but it’s also great she’s being recognized for putting forth a lot of effort and doing her best, especially after a few disappointments this summer and hearing me and Loverman go on and on about how winning isn’t important all the time--- this affirmation of her efforts will go a long way in bolstering her self-confidence and let’s be honest… it’s so much more fun to win at least some of the time!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Under Pressure

I have a dilemma.  Olivia wants to start reading the Twilight series and see the movies and thus far, I haven’t allowed it because at only 10 years old, I don’t think the series is age-appropriate for my girl. 

I’m an avid reader and Olivia is also becoming an avid reader and that makes me ecstatic.  On one hand, I’m happy she’s interested in reading the books, but on the other hand, I have to mediate her choices. 

Last year, I spoke with Olivia’s English teacher about the Twilight books and she mentioned she had banned the books from the lower school.  She explained that a lot of the 4th grade girls were reading the book and seemed to be obsessed with the books.  She also said that she didn’t think 8-10 year olds should be reading the books.  My reasoning for banning the books last year was bolstered by this teacher’s input and seemed to placate my dear girl for a bit, but with the media blitz surrounding the release of New Moon and all of her friends cackling about the book and the movie, she’s now doubled her efforts in getting my permission to read the books and see the movies.   Sure, I know I’m the parent and what I say goes, but my “It’s not age-appropriate” mantra is wearing thin.

I reached out to the same English teacher a few weeks ago and explaining the pressure I’m under, I asked if she thinks Olivia’s ready for the books. She offered a solution that absolutely won’t work for me… she suggested that although she still thinks the series isn’t age-appropriate for Miss Olivia, that maybe Olivia and I could read the series with Olivia and by doing this, I could mediate how Olivia processes the story and the subtext of non-sexual sexual tension between the two main characters.

O.K., as much as I’d like to think I’m that kind of mom, willing to sacrifice my beloved reading time to bond with my beloved girl over the tales of the Twilight saga, I don’t think it’s going to happen.  I’m way too selective about what I read and I’ve never been into vampires.

Fortunately, another teacher from the kids’ school recently posted her favorite books for African American middle school students on Facebook.  Thanks Tr. Ericka… this list is right on time!

My Top 10 African American Books for Older Readers

Here are my favorites for older kids (5th-8th Grade) I have read these books, or used them in lessons when I instructed a Civics Class and Enrichment Classes for 5th-8th Grade. I think that this list may be a mix of Fiction and Nonfiction, I really liked some in each category.

1. Eyes on the Prize-Juan Williams and Julian Bond-NONFICTION
This book literally changed my life. My grandfather gave this book to me when I was in the 8th grade, and I read it until the book practically fell apart. IT'S A SERIOUS BOOK, so it's not light reading, BUT it's got amazing detail and black and white imagery that you won't ever forget. SOME GRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHY.

2. Freedom Riders-Ann Bausum-NONFICTION
The Freedom Riders remain some of the most heroic and fearless individuals to ever be forgotten about by American History. This book discusses the Freedom Rides that took place all over the country, to test the enforcement of the Civil Rights Act, in detail. SOME GRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHY.

3.Miracle's Boys-Jacqueline Woodson-FICTION
I think that Jacqueline Woodson might have her finger on the pulse of the African American Urban Adolescent. Miracle's Boys is a book about loss, forgiveness, redemption and the family bond that endures. Three boys deal with the harsh realities of life in NYC, they must learn to depend, and forgive each other, and themselves.

4. Locomotion-Jacqueline Woodson-FICTION
This book is written in journal form, a POWERFUL tool for a middle school student to understand and utilize. Lonnie uses writing to come to terms with what is happening to him and his sister.

5. Bird-Angela Johnson-FICTION
An interesting book about a young girl and how she follows her stepfather, convinced she can make him return home.

6. Brown Angels-Walter Dean Myers-POETRY/PHOTOGRAPHY
You read right-Walter Dean Myers! I love this book-it is definitely angled toward the girls, but it's filled with beautiful and diverse images of young girls and boys. The poems are endearing and the photography shows all the beautiful shades of black and brown.

7. Monster-Walter Dean Myers-FICTION
This book has SERIOUS CONTENT and may be too much for anyone younger than 7th grade. It's a novel written in mixed media, some of it as a journal, others in the form of a movie screenplay-as a youth that is charged withand incarcerated for a serious crime, tries to come to terms with reality, and the consequences that can result from one bad decision.

8. Love that Dog-Sharon Creech-FICTION
A boy that hates poetry learns to use it as a tool of expression, and a tool for helping him deal with a traumatic event that he finds difficult to remember.

Kadir Nelson's personal reflections on the amazing and historical words of Barack Obama through artistic expression. Beautiful, reflective and empowering.

10. Witness-Karen Hesse-FICTION
This book is exceptional as it uses perspective to examine what happens to a small town in the 1920's when the Klu Klux Klan arrives.

*As a resource for your young historian who asks you questions you can't answer...
A true and factual handbook for any truth seeking young history buff!

THERE are many, many more-but these are the tried and true that I have read, and would purchase for any of my friends children, as well as my students. Again, they are generally for middle school. As the content begins to mature, you have to be careful what you expose the "tweens" in your life to, let them be young as long as they can....I'll keep you posted on anything else that I come across.