Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sundance Elementary: Early Act, Mentor Programs

So a while back I wrote a post regarding Box Tops, Campbell's Soup labels, and those little metal tabs from the tops of soda cans. One of the people I spoke with regarding these items was Mrs.Waters from Sundance Elementary.  The thing I thought was especially cool about the whole can tabs collecting was that it doesn't really do anything to benefit the schools who participate in it.  It is a perfect example of  how even though teachers are struggling to provide for their own classrooms, and even  though students are suffering because of lack of funding they still are willing to do things to benefit others. (The tab program benefits The Ronald McDonald House)

Mrs. Waters and Mr. Bowers

Mrs. Waters is also in charge of Early Act.  Early Act is a group of students, that is sponsored by the local Rotary Club. Early Act looks for various programs that they can provide service for or help donate too. The Early Act group at Sundance is made up of approximately thirty 4th and 5th grade students.  They help organize the Box Tops and Campbell's Soup labels brought in by their fellow students. They have raised money for Relay for Life,  hosted different dinners for the local rotary club,  helped with the local city wide clean up, and they hold car washes, as well as after school movies and school dances to help raise money for their programs.  In fact the year end goal for these students isn't a trip to a theme park, or a party.  They hold and serve a dinner for their parents. 

Inside a Power Box

Today they were helping out Side by Side Humanitarian . This is a local food bank that among other things helps "to resource and distribute food in the San Gorgonio Pass communities of Calimesa, Beaumont, Cherry Valley, Banning and Cabazon, California. Future plans include expansion into eastern Riverside and surrounding desert communities." It's founder, Kevin Bowers, came to the school with food and boxes and the kids eagerly helped make power boxes to give to local homeless.  Power Boxes are boxes that contain one meal for one person.  Within roughly over 30 mins they had made 100 boxes. The kids don't get any reward for this, no medals, no special prizes. Yet none of them complained and they were even looking forward to helping again.

 If you are a local group that would like to become involved with Sundance's Early Act feel free to email Mrs. Waters at
Not part of a local program or group but would like to be involved?  Sundance also has a Mentor program.  A Mentor adopts a class and once or twice a week goes in to help out.  For example they help read to students, or work one on one with the students. You don't need to have a child in the school to help out, but you do need to get fingerprinted.  Interested? Just go in to the school and speak with the secretary at the front desk.

Gosh, as I said before, isn't it amazing that with currant economic problems and everything else, the teachers at this school are still making the effort to instill a sense of compassion in their students.  Huh, really makes you think. I'm not saying all teachers are super heroes, or that all teachers go above and beyond, but in that same reasoning not all teachers are lazy and apathetic only working so they can have off for summer vacation.  That being said maybe you don't have time to spare helping out at the school itself, but how hard would it be to clip a box top or two and drop it off at your local school? Maybe a soup label? These programs help bring in funds that the schools can use to help continue such programs like Early Act. 

To find out more about Side by Side Humanitarian click here.

Act clubs sponsored by Rotary clubs aren't just limited to elementary age children if you are a teacher and interested in starting your own Act club click here for more info.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Looking for a way to help out your school and the environment? I just found out about this one from one of my readers, Dustin Bell. (Thanks again!)

 Sungevity , a home solar installer, has set up  a program that helps schools raise money by getting the surrounding communities to go solar.   For every customer that the school refers the school can receive up to $1000.  This program  is currently available in Colorado, Arizona, and most parts of California, but they say on their FAQ page that they are looking to expand to new states in 2011.  This looks like a great program!  Not only does it help the school it also benefits the environment, and helps save the home owner who has the solar panel systems installed money in electric bills. (Something everyone likes) The program can be run at anytime in the school year, as often as the school wants to run it.  Since Sungevity solar products are for homeowners it  helps to involve the whole community not just parents of children in the school.     They also have an option where the school would receive $500 and the homeowner would receive $500. (if helping out the local school and the environment, aren't enough)
If you know of a school or a group that might want to raise money through, go to their website to enroll.  They will provide the school with all the outreach materials and information they need. Plus, not only to the have their Internet site to answer questions, they also have a 1-800 number that the school can provide to the community.  In my personal opinion, the more ways a program has for people to get their questions answered is always a good thing.  
 They  have a blog were you can find out more information on this program, and others that they are involved in, or click here to go to their FAQ page.

Know of programs or fundraisers that are helping schools and wanna get the word out? Email me at and let me know!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Creating A Successful Student by V. Furnas

So just a little intro, and then you can all get right into my guest author's post.
The beginnings of this guest post originally started with The Cubicle Chick's post 5 Tips to Help You Stay Active In Your Child's Education, Which I found while scrolling through posts on Seeded Buzz. Valerie had referred back to The Cubicle Chick's post in her own post Christmas in August on her blog Life 4 Me by Me. I thought it would be a great idea if I could have her do a guest post about how a teacher feels are good ways to get involved in your child's education, since that was what Cubicle Chick's original post had been about. And She was nice enough to spare some time from her very busy schedule to do just that.
Even if you don't have time to spare to help out with extra-curricular activities, you still would like to know that your child is getting everything out of their education that they can, right?
And while you might not have the most time to spare that you would want, this post at least helps to point out ways that you can focus the time you do have so it will hopefully be it's most beneficial. So enjoy her very informative post, and feel free to take it and use it to help yourself and your child get the most that they can out of their school time.

V. Furnas

Even though I may not have a closet filled with sweater vests that fit every season, dripping with colors and animated characters (you know the ones, the uniform of the elementary teacher), I have loved being a teacher for the last eleven years.
Teaching at its core is connecting and helping others grow. It is being there to hold the hand of parents while they take the step of letting go and allow their child to take responsibility. This looks different for every age group. I happen to teach 7th grade, the best year ever!! Teachers know it is truly a magical time of transition. The child that comes into your classroom in August that still plays with toys leaves in May a teen ready to be the young adults filling the halls of high school. The transition is different for each child. However, there are some serious predictors of success.
I know that sounds scary. Looking at your little precious with his left over milk mustache and cookie crumb facial, it is hard to picture him begging for the keys to the car. And we all worry that if we fail to make that call or email your child’s future is a goner. There are ways to help your child make this leap. That will not damage either of you. Parental support can be broken down into three different stages: early development,
relationship with educator and the at home follow up.

Early development
This is a topic that is vast in range and depth. If you are interested this link is to the government website.
 It is choked full of 30ish pages of useful and exciting ideas to implement.

Keep it basic.
• Read to your child. Children that are taught to love books early love them forever.
• Teach cooperation. Teaching children in teams is professionally encouraged. Many times students can explain things to each other better than you can. Plus it saves huge amounts of time if they can ask each other questions instead of pecking at me with the same ones over and over.
• Teach empathy. These days educators are attempting to wipe out the bullying that used to be common. Programs like Rachel’s Challenge, are being introduce holding students responsible for being the ones to step in when they see bullying take place. Empathy is key to this movement.

Relationship with educators
Taking that big step into middle school parents appear to be as lost as their child. Everything changes. A teacher instead of focusing on the same 24 kids for the day, now have 150 and don’t know their names until twelve weeks into the school year. And those numbers are predicted to only grow.

• Introductory email. The best way to have your child stand out from the pack is an email at the beginning of the school year. Introduce yourself, and your child. Give any information about your child’s educational experience that will be helpful for the school year to proceed. For example, if your child has anxiety related to math, or working with groups, or needs to have the teacher check that he understands, these are all very useful. Honestly, I typically only get one to two emails of this nature every year. This does not mark your child as a problem. It separates him from the masses.

• Ask the teacher if you have a question. Two years ago I had a parent come up to me during open house. She introduced herself, told me her son loved my class. She leaned into to me and in hushed tone made a pact with me, “If you promise not to believe what my son says about me then I will promise not to believe what he says about you.” I laughed and jumped at that opportunity of immunity. Sometimes the middle school child leaves out major parts of stories focusing on a single sentence out of context. Keep that in mind when your child tells the wild tale. Shoot an email and remember 12 year olds exaggerate.

• Act quickly and proactively. Middle school is where students are learning their own organization that fits for them. Unfortunately sometimes they think it works only to find out at the end of the grading period it was a huge fail. Let them feel that. It is good to try and not be successful. Teaches amazing lessons, painful ones but it is better to get those out of the way while they are in middle school not high school or college. If they are struggling then contact teachers get recommendations. Set up a homework folder. On one side keep the work that needs to be done. On the other side work that is complete and needs to be turned in. In the brackets you can keep calendar sheets that your child will fill out daily and you can check. Works every time. There are other plans feel free to see which one works for you.

At home follow up
Students are watching you. The attitude that you have about school is the one that they will take on as well. Priority or not they will mirror it. If you come up with a plan with the teacher to help them succeed then do your part. If you feel it is not working then regroup and try something else.
The best advice I can offer parents is stay plugged in to your child. You don’t have to be the mom that is up at the school every day to be involved. Success is all about communication.

Like what you read? Want to read more from V.Farnas? Check out her blog
Life 4 Me by Me.
Interested in being a guest blogger? Let me know, send me an email at