Artwork in Action

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On Monday, September 19, Frenando Olivencia’s and his eighth grade English students participated in a global Artwork for Action: Refugees and Migrants Summit campaign. They joined World Vision’s International President and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Jenkins in writing messages to the world leaders who attended the United Nations Refugees and Migrants Summit in New York City.

Along with notes to world leaders, students wrote messages of hope to their Syrian peers. Their notes were written directly onto a large truck that World Vision had wrapped with an artwork showing Syrian children behind a wire fence (depicting a refugee camp or border). 

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World Vision commissioned artist Hani Shihada to produce the artwork for the truck. Mr. Shihada, a former refugee himself, joined Mr. Jenkins and our students to explain his inspiration for the artwork and his own experiences as a child forced from his home and country.

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World Vision drove the wrapped truck around New York City throughout the day on Monday, September 19, the day of the UN Summit. 

Join us and tell UN leaders #KidsDeserveBetter:

Why I’m Excited About Athletics this Year

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August 29th was the first day of school. On that first day, many emotions were detected in the students, both hopeful and doubtful. However, for a student-athlete, the cheers and excitement of last year accompanied them as they came into a place that signifies triumph. The triumph in being the New York City Charter School Athletic Association’s (CSAA) Middle School Champions in both soccer and softball. The triumph of meeting the standards in the new Athletic Policy. The triumph for some in almost becoming champions but falling just short of victory. For those teams, the agony felt in defeat, will serve as a motivator because the next shot will be the first shot, the next strike will be the first strike, the next assignment will be the first assignment.

In the weeks and months to come, fresh faces will emerge and take on the responsibility in the form of new coaches, new students, new teachers. Zealous student-athletes and coaches will reignite the passion for their respected sport. The passion that only caring for something so much, can bring out in an individual. The passion that allows teachers, parents, coaches, and of course the student-athlete to rise to the occasion. This team of people cares enough to make sure that the student is the priority. The Athletic Policy was developed because we needed accountability for our student-athletes. Some athletes responded to the challenge by being responsible and attending study sessions, asking teachers for extra help, and spending more time studying. They showed restraint and studied when they could have easily been participating in another activity. Most importantly they showed integrity and did not fold under the pressure but instead continued to build their leadership skills.

Why am I excited about athletics at Inwood Academy this year? Additional sports such as middle school girls field hockey are expanding the athlete pool. The High School Varsity Girls Basketball Team was accepted this year to the Public School Athletic League (PSAL), another exciting change for our athletics program. Sports that have seen much success at Inwood Academy, such as wrestling, softball, and soccer, are patiently waiting for another opportunity, especially the High School Varsity Basketball Team. A team with five freshman starters who came one win away from a CSAA HS Championship. Teachers have given of their personal time to help students reach academic goals and standards. Parents have increased their overall support. All these sacrifices are what makes us family and will ultimately help us succeed.

How well will we perform this year? We can be encouraged; we can have a pretty good idea but reality is that it is impossible to say. One thing is certain, those that are truest to themselves and the program are granted its highest tributes. We do not evaluate our year by wins and losses but by the development of character.

This is Inwood Academy Athletics! We are the Inwood Academy Trailblazers!

What I Learned This Summer

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Gabriel is a 10th-grade student at Inwood Academy and he is sharing with us what he learned while working as an intern at the high school this summer.

This summer has been great. I’ve had a positive experience and great support at my first summer job, which was very exciting. I learned many things about what it takes to run an office and saw first-hand what good work ethic looks like.

This experience mostly taught me how much more I should value my parents, their work and the struggle they go through to keep our family going, and what makes a good adult. I didn’t realize until now how hard you have to work to earn a living and how I need to value work opportunities that come my way.

I’m looking forward to a great rest of the year. I hope to find work for the remainder of the year and I plan to start saving for my future goals.

Thanks to Inwood Academy for such a great experience this summer, working in their office. It taught me more than just how to have good work ethic. I’m a better person, and a better son because of this experience.

Meet Jeannie Infante, Inwood Academy’s Family and Community Engagement Associate Director

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Jeannie Infante began her career as a teacher and worked as a Community Director at a charter school before joining the Inwood Academy team in the spring. She received her undergraduate degree in Political Science at the City University of New York City College and a Master’s in Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Jeannie was raised in Inwood and she and her husband have one daughter and are expecting a son any day now.

Q. What excites you most about Inwood Academy’s mission?

It’s how we are preparing students for both life beyond high school and after college that excites me most about Inwood Academy’s mission. If we want students be to be happy and successful in life, we must educate the entire child—the cognitive as well as the social and emotional skills. With a dedicated staff, committed students, and caring parents, the school has built a strong foundation to do just that; help students achieve academic success and to empower them within their community—preparing them for college and life.

Q. How do you plan to build a more welcoming school environment for parents this year?

Before I joined Inwood Academy, the school had established many ways in which they encouraged families to participate in school activities. Also, last year the Parent Council enabled great communication between families and the school and I plan to build on what they already put in place.

I am dedicated to establishing authentic relationships with families which involve a three-part process. First, I’ll learn where students and their families live, work, go to church, eat, and play. The second part involves assessing the needs of our families. Finally, I’ll use this information to create opportunities that are relevant to parents, such as coming to the school and volunteering, supporting academic work within a classroom or at home, obtaining services, and/or attending events.

Q. Is it the role of the school to help parents be more involved in their children’s education?

Yes. Children receive powerful messages from strong family relationships between family and school. That’s why schools must develop ways to collaborate with families. We are calling on every family to participate in their child’s education and become role models by volunteering at the school or within the community. I’m here to facilitate their involvement. I encourage all parents to go to Inwood Academy’s website and download the calendar for the Middle School and High School and check the online calendar regularly.

Q. What type of workshops will you offer to parents?

This year we are going to offer various workshops and the exact topics will be determined once we survey parents to assess their needs. However, we have our first set of workshops for the middle school and high school on September 26 at 6:00 p.m. Details will be made available on our website.

Q. How can community partners become part of the school’s family involvement program?

Partnerships in education enhance and improve the quality of education, meeting the needs of students and educators. Community partners understand that schools can’t do it all on their own and can help families feel more connected to their community by providing resources and strengthening school programs.

Q. What are your goals for the future?

I am passionate about making a difference to level the playing field in education, especially for under-resourced schools. My goals are to build on the success of Inwood Academy through the use of traditional and nontraditional approaches to family involvement, as research shows that family involvement strengthens and supports students’ learning and well-being.

Q. What are nontraditional approaches?

Traditional approaches focus on what parents can do to support the school or academic achievement while nontraditional approaches focus on what schools can do to support parents. It’s the parent engagement model where the school and families collaborate; distributing the weight of involvement more evenly between us. That’s why I’m taking the time to get to know our families and working with Parent Council to elicit ideas from parents. What we’ll end up with is parent energy driving the family engagement efforts at the school.

Q. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us.

When I am not working or spending time with my family I love to connect with nature by engaging in adventurous pursuits like zip-lining and running. I haven’t been able to do any activities lately but I have a few things on my bucket list for next year.

Embracing Mistakes and Feedback

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There is a science behind learning from your mistakes, after all, learning is a process, but how do you teach that concept to students and how do you encourage them to take advantage of feedback they receive from their teachers?

One of the ways we accomplish this at Inwood Academy is to display classroom work, with teacher remarks and all, on the bulletin boards that are displayed throughout the halls of the middle school.

Bulletin boards display very different things than when I was in school. Typically, only the prettiest handwriting or best projects were displayed; and usually by the same students month after month. Even today, schools use bulletin boards for diverse purposes. At Inwood Academy, we want to make our students feel good about their learning so we showcase what is actually going on in the classroom on a daily basis.

The boards often include tasks done at different levels based on student need or choice, evidence of how students worked toward understanding of the task, and feedback on the work they did or how the work could be extended. By displaying their work that represents the academic process, students learn that it is the struggle and progress we value, and not just the finished product.

Enjoy some of our work in the month of May! Notice the difference in tasks or choice for students, the academic struggle needed to complete the tasks and the feedback from teachers.

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View more boards in our Bulletin Board photo album:

Bulletin Board: May 2016

 

 

Mastery–based Learning

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We began our first school year in 2010, a small group of eager teachers, myself included, housed in a trailer outside a local public school. We were entrusted with 125 fifth graders, charged with the task of supporting their educational growth by meeting their specific learning needs.

This first group of children will be entering the 11th grade in the fall of 2016. They know we not only expect them to graduate but expect them to be prepared for post-secondary education and the workforce. Just as we crafted an educational program to meet their specific needs in literacy or mathematics when they were in the 5th grade, we have adapted to meet their specific needs as high school students in order to prepare them for their postsecondary success.

Career Readiness

Many of our students are drawn to a more hands-on style of learning, where they can acquire the skills needed to promote career readiness. At Inwood Academy, we started to combine career training with academics as a way to get our students more interested in pursuing a post-secondary education, which may be a certificate from a trade institution or attending a two-year school or a four-year college.

As the economy continues to fluctuate, all of our students need to be prepared for a job market that is highly competitive and where a college degree doesn’t guarantee immediate employment. As reported in The U.S. Job Market And Students’ Academic And Career Paths Necessitate Enhanced Vocational Education in High Schools, there’s a widening gap of skilled labor to fill middle-skill jobs, which represents 42% of the U.S. workforce.

States and school districts across the country have recognized the need for career and technology training for high school students. The manufacturing industry is growing at an exponential rate all across the country, contributing to an increasingly large market for skilled job opportunities. Learning by “doing” has become a major force propelling the rise of business opportunities for entrepreneurs. Studies done on the small subset of high school students that have access to vocational training indicate that a growing number of graduates move on to well-paid, highly skilled postsecondary careers.

This movement toward career training at the high school level is merely a course correction from the assumption of the past few decades that all students will benefit from the same college preparatory courses and that every child should attend a four-year college right out of high school. As told in The New CTE: New York City as Laboratory for America report, New York City has been at the forefront of the national revolution in career education for the past ten years.

A student choosing a vocation or career over college should be a decision made with the same resources and in the same regard as choosing a college. That’s where Inwood Academy’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program comes in.

As a founding teacher at Inwood Academy, my focus has been on building relationships with my students in order to understand their perspective – the unique set of experiences, challenges, fears and hopes that make them who they are and influence their decisions. I see a real need for a broader scope of options beyond the traditional academic pathway to graduation that we currently offer our students.

To meet the needs of students who would most benefit from alternative pathways to graduation, we have begun the process of establishing an official CTE program at Inwood. Universally recognized and endorsed by the New York State Department of Education, CTE programs are meant to provide an additional level of individualized support in the educational program and to increase the number of options for students to achieve postsecondary success.

Fundraising Campaign

Inwood Academy currently offers an introductory woodworking course that takes place during the school day, along with a program for advanced students offered afterschool and on weekends. Starting next year, we will add other classes including auto mechanics and metalworking. Our plan is to grow this program over the next two years with additional CTE course offerings and an expanded workshop facility. To raise the funds necessary for such an expansion, we have begun a crowdsourcing campaign on Indiegogo.

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If we raise the funding needed to expand our CTE workshop, Inwood Academy will be able to fully develop our CTE program as an alternative pathway to graduation with additional coursework and alignment to industry standards. Although we are fortunate enough to have dedicated classroom space, we cannot sustain our CTE program without additional funding. Contributions made to our campaign will be used to establish a facility with the resources, materials, and equipment that encourage creativity and facilitate deep learning.

Please visit our fundraising page and share it with anyone who might be interested in helping out:
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/urban-woodworking-project#/

Every little bit counts!

Civic Leaders at Inwood Academy

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One of our goals at Inwood Academy is to ensure our high school graduates are young men and women of good character, with outstanding leadership ability.

Sometimes my job is easy because I believe you can be a natural leader and my tenth grade student Leydiann is one such student. Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer thinks so too. Last week, Ms. Brewer announced the members of her new Council of Young Leaders of Manhattan and Leydiann was appointed to serve as a member, one of fifty teenagers. Her term started last week and runs through June 30, 2017.

Serving on the Council of Young Leaders of Manhattan will provide Leydiann with a unique opportunity to address issues facing our community and will help her to develop skills that will serve her throughout her life. We are fortunate to have Leydiann represent our community. It’s young voices and their civic engagement on subjects from urban planning to police-community relations that will make a positive difference in our neighborhood and throughout the borough of Manhattan.

What does a natural leader look like to me? It’s someone who is concerned about making a difference, pays attention to what’s around her, and understands that she has to be proactive in order to make change. That’s Leydiann. While she displays all of our school’s character traits—honesty, integrity, responsibility, caring, and restraint—it’s how she cares for others that stands out most to me. She’s a great listener and is very aware of her reaction and response to situations.

Each day, staff recognize the positive impact that a student or teacher is making and we formally recognize achievements when we celebrate our Students of the Month. However, I chose to recognize Leydiann here, on this blog, and to thank her for all she does in our school community, for being the founding President of Inwood Academy’s High School Student Council, and to how she humbly stands out and leads by example.

Let’s all congratulate Leydiann on her appointment to the Council of Young Leaders of Manhattan.

A Silent Debate

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While a silent debate might sound like an oxymoron it was a tool that I used to encourage my students to come up with ways to reduce waste in their daily lives. From thoughts on unplugging unused electronics, to changing construction materials, the sixth graders made some very viable suggestions to reduce energy costs.

When the team from Google Classroom came to visit Inwood Academy on April 13th, sixth grade scientists were able to show off their skills using Google Classroom, an online forum that helps teachers develop a collaborative work environment in the classroom. My class was using the “question” function to have an online, silent debate about recycling and reducing costs in their homes. This feature in Google Classroom provides a forum for students to step up and have a voice. Even students who do not traditionally participate in discussions are active in the online debate. It’s wonderful to see what everyone has to say with the risk of embarrassment minimized.

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After observing the class’s silent debate, the team from Google asked a number of questions about how to improve their products and offered suggestions about ways their current products could be utilized in the classroom more effectively. It’s great to get the feedback from the developers and have a team from a company the size of Google stop in and care about our students and how they are learning.

Now let’s celebrate Earth Day every day.

Scholarship, Leadership, Service, Citizenship and Character

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Parents, families, students, faculty, administration and friends of Inwood Academy celebrated scholars at the 2016 National Junior Honor Society Induction Ceremony.

The National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) recognizes the highest achieving students. More than just an honor roll, NJHS welcomes students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of Scholarship, Leadership, Service, Citizenship and Character.

Thirty-four Inwood Academy scholars were inducted into the NJHS on Wednesday evening. One student, Alysha Urena, who has been consistently on the honor roll since her first year at Inwood Academy, spoke last night; here’s an excerpt:

“Middle School isn’t easy. There happens to be a lot of distractions! To continuously push yourselves academically and stick with challenges in order to achieve scholarship is quite a feat. You didn’t get here because you’re smarter than everyone else. You’re here because you determined to be here. Josely Jimenez asked me almost every day if her average was where it needed to be to become a NJHS member- even when she had to stay an extra week in the DR! She emailed me consistently to get to get her assignments and ask about her grade point average.

Another quality you demonstrate is leadership. Other students follow you not because of your magnetic personalities, but because of the choices you make. Your example in the classroom, cafeteria, hallways and neighborhood is noticed by others. So, leadership that is compelling results from your character, another hallmark of a NJHS member. Your character has led you to understand that right is right, even if everyone else seems to disregard it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone else seems to think it’s okay. A person of character does not take a poll to determine the right actions.

Finally, you are now becoming members of NJHS because your character and leadership cause you to serve others. You are citizens of this neighborhood, city and country who look out for the needs of others. Now you have each other. When you come back from break, your NJHS 2016 T-shirts will be ready for you to wear. Wear them often, not out of pride, but because of what you signal to others: An Inwood Academy student who leads through serving others, by encouraging them to develop the same character to choose the right path and to persevere through academic and personal struggles.”

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Congratulations to all of our NJHS members and their families.

To view more photographs from the ceremony, see our 2016 National Junior Honor Society photo album.

Young Scientists

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It’s amazing when young scientists come together!

The Inwood Academy Middle School science fair became far more than was expected. The sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students that were featured in the 2016 Science Fair represented an elite group of young scientists at the school. As the projects came in, the science teachers couldn’t help but recognize the level of effort and research that our students put in this year. The competition, held in the middle school gym on March 23rd, showcased 45 young scientists from across the three grades. With projects that touched on genetics, plant growth, the Stroop Effect, dissolving an egg shell, and the effects of friction, our students learned a lot and were thrilled to share all they knew with all those in attendance.

Watch Marlenie describe her project, the effect of additives on eggs.

Visitors and judges were wowed by presentations and discussions with all our students. We even highlighted a fifth grader that completed a project independently even though he wasn’t required to. Science at Inwood Academy has found a way to become very relevant to our students. They have so many questions that our annual science fair allows the students the opportunity to explore and showcase their own interests. The hardest part about the fair was choosing the participants.

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The level of performance this year only raises the expectations for future science fairs at Inwood Academy. Come out next year and be amazed at what you can learn.

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To view more photographs, see the Middle School Science Fair photo album on our school’s Flickr page.

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