You’re walking through my doors for the start of the school year soon. You’re not the same kid you were a few months ago when you left for summer break. You’re bigger, stronger, and smarter.
I know you may feel so small and not ready to be in this classroom, but let me tell you- you are needed here. You have a place, a desk, a seat in here. And you are more than ready to start this school year in this classroom.
This year you’ll make new friends, meet new teachers, and explore the walls of not only our classroom but our school. You are here to make your mark and take up space, and I cannot wait to see how your school year unfolds!
I am excited to meet you and get to know you and your heart. I cannot wait to learn more about you, what your favorites are, and how your mind learns.
This school year we’ll not only build a classroom, but we’ll also build a family. And you are an important part of our classroom family.
Brain breaks are so important in school! It’s hard to sit down and cram your brain with so much information for several hours a day. So teachers, listen up! Here’s a list of (actual) brain breaks for you to use in your classrooms. This list applies to all ages of students, too.
Let me start off with this tidbit first. When choosing brain breaks, remember that the goal is to rest the brain, not make it work differently. What I’m trying to say is, Kahoot! is a great resource, but its time and place aren’t during brain breaks.
Take a walk. Walk around the hallways of the school together or if it’s nice enough outside, take a walk around the school outside. A change of scenery can do wonders for the mind!
Color a picture. There are a lot of free and paid printables online or ask parents to donate coloring books. Coloring and drawing can be so therapeutic!
GoNoodle. I *think* that most teachers are aware of this resource, but just in case you’re not, GoNoodle on YouTube is great for movement brain breaks! They are videos designed to get students up and moving.
Dance party or freeze dance.Turn the music up and play freeze dance or just have a dance party! I don’t think they’ve done any official studies on it yet, but I’m pretty certain the more dance parties that happen in a classroom, the happier the teacher and students are!
Read a picture book.Kids are zoning out during a math lesson? Why not switch it up a bit and grab a fun picture book for them to enjoy before you get back to dividing fractions?
Turn on relaxing music and play Sleeping Lions. The goal of sleeping lions is to be the lion that sleeps the longest. Everyone chooses a safe spot to lie down on the floor and rest while relaxing music plays. Go until the students start getting restless.
Yoga.Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube is a great resource, or there are other yoga videos for kids you can look up as well.
The time has come to unveil the new branding for our scholarship! As I stepped into the role of scholarship chair and content writer, I began noticing some variations in the way that those who came before me referred to the scholarship. The original name for our scholarship was the Design A Better Future scholarship (which I’m assuming came from the fact that the projects needs to be based on the design thinking cycle). But as the years went on, it also started being referred to as the Build A Better future scholarship and both titles started being used interchangeably.
In order to *hopefully* limit future confusion, I decided to update the scholarship logo and declare one title to be the official title from now on. The HGU scholarship will henceforth be known as the Build A Better Future scholarship. I felt as though using the verb “design” was too passive and wasn’t giving our applicants enough credit. Yes, they are using the design thinking cycle but they are also going above and beyond to bring their designs to life.
In addition to updating the logo and title, the website has been updated with all the information needed for our 2023 scholarship! I look forward to seeing how the next group of applicants works on building a better future for their communities. If you or anyone you know is a high school senior that will be graduating in 2023, you can find more information regarding the scholarship here and here. Please email email@example.com with any questions. Good luck!
Here is a brief list of book recommendations for middle grade readers (3rd-6th Grade).Stay tuned for more recommendations and more age groups!
Hooky by Miriam Bonastre Tur
One scoop of graphic novel, one dash of fantastical adventure, and two heaping tablespoons of witch makes this book the perfect recipe (or spell!) for the hesitant reader in your life. With beautiful illustrations and an engaging storyline, this is the perfect way to introduce middle-grade readers to novels without making them feel like they are reading a novel.
“When Dani and Dorian missed the bus to magic school, they never thought they’d wind up declared traitors to their own kind! Now, thanks to a series of mishaps, they are being chased by powerful magic families seeking the prophesied King of Witches and royals searching for missing princes.” -HaperCollins Publishers
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
“Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona… she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined.” -GoodReads
This book is the perfect reminder of the importance of friendship, courage, and acceptance (of yourself and others).
The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel
Nothing captivates a reader like the suspenseful twists and turns of a good mystery, and this book is no exception! Read aloud or read alone, you’ll find your readers on the edge of their seat.
“With a dad who disappeared years ago and a mother who’s a bit too busy to parent, Emmy is shipped off to Wellsworth, a prestigious boarding school in England, where she’s sure she won’t fit in. But then she finds a box of mysterious medallions in the attic of her home with a note reading: These belonged to your father. When she arrives at school, she finds the strange symbols from the medallions etched into walls and books, which leads Emmy and her new friends, Jack and Lola, to Wellsworth’s secret society: The Order of Black Hollow Lane. Emmy can’t help but think that the society had something to do with her dad’s disappearance, and that there may be more than just dark secrets in the halls of Wellsworth…” -Sourcebooks
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
Alright, this recommendation might come from a place of self-indulgence as this was a series that I absolutely LOVED as a kid. But I’ve also reread them as an adult, and they still hold up.
“For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary is one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite . . . Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken, powerful forces of evil are unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives, to save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world.” -Shadow Mountain
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
“Boys don’t keep diaries—or do they? It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary.” -ABRAMS Publishing
Anyone who has been a kid, is a kid, has kids, or has even looked at a kid has heard of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This series is another resource to encourage disinterested readers. I mean, Jeff Kinney wouldn’t be able to write a 17-book series because kids aren’t reading his books, so he clearly knows a thing or two about getting kids excited about reading.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
“Accidentally built sideways and standing thirty stories high (the builder said he was very sorry for the mistake), Wayside School has some of the wackiest classes in town, especially on the thirtieth floor. That’s where you’ll meet Bebe, the fastest draw in art class; John, who only reads upside down; Myron, the best class president ever; and Sammy, the new kid—he’s a real rat.” -HarperCollins Publishing
Comedic, clever, and kooky; this book has it all! With chapters that read like short stories, it is ideal for reading out loud. These far-fetched stories will fetch a laugh or two (or 89).
This is part of a series of blog posts introducing you to our 2022 Build A Better Future scholarship recipients and their projects. We hope you will find their stories as inspiring as we do! For information on our scholarship, click here.
The final scholarship awardee I have for you is Shoshana Folic! Shoshana’s project, Wishing’ U Well, earned her our top spot; which means that in addition to her $10,000 scholarship, she was awarded a $5,000 grant to continue funding her project.
From a very young age, Shoshana began noticing a lack of resources made available to the special needs community. Even before she started Wishing’ U Well, she volunteered with the Best Buddies organization, which offered her valuable insight into the needs of the community and the issues they face. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it exacerbated the disparity and Shoshana knew she needed to do more. She started the Wishing’ U Well platform at the age of fifteen, using her skills as a STEM student to maximize the resources that she wanted to make available. To quote Shoshana directly,
“Wishing’ U Well is a free online platform that is focused on improving the mental, physical, social, and spiritual well-being of those with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The Wishing’ U Well website is equipped with a multitude of different resources, sponsors, and social meetings between Florida high school volunteers and the special needs community.”
The website includes several sections, including workout tips and videos, basic nutrition information, coloring pages and playlists designed to encourage relaxation, mantras and affirmations, and–my personal favorite–the Fun With Friends program. Fun With Friends matches a special needs individual with a high school volunteer based on interests and hobbies and allows them to meet once a week via Zoom to talk, laugh, and bond with each other. Wishing’ U Well also hosts virtual group activities, such as drawing and cooking classes.
When it first launched, Wishing U’ Well only had five members in the special needs community, but has now reached over 850 special needs members from 17 different countries. They have also had over 100 high school students volunteer for the Fun With Friends program. Shoshana is actually trying to encourage more special needs members to join this community, as they have more volunteers than they know what to do with.
Moving forward, Shoshana would like to build up her network of sponsors and content creators to spread the word, increase special needs engagement, and supply even more resources. If you are (or know) someone who might be interested in sponsoring, promoting, or creating content for the Wishing’ U Well organization, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sponsors can be anyone from businesses, non-profits, sports teams, and social media influencers.
Likewise, if you know someone in the special needs community who you think could benefit from the resources provided by the Wishing’ U Well organization (hint: that’s everyone!), or if you would like additional information, please visit the official website: https://www.wishinguwell.org/
Wishing’ U Well can also be found on the following social media sites:
Facebook: Wishing’ U Well
A big congratulations to Shoshana for winning the top spot and a huge round of applause for her and all the work she has done in providing resources to the special needs community.
This is part of a series of blog posts introducing you to our 2022 Build A Better Future scholarship recipients and their projects. We hope you will find their stories as inspiring as we do! For information on our scholarship,click here.
Up next on our scholarship winner docket is Brooklyn Conrad! Brooklyn has been a member of her local 4-H since the fourth grade, which provided her with countless service opportunities. Some of those opportunities included gathering donations for her community food shelf. She began noticing that most of the food being donated was highly processed and it opened her eyes to the lack of fresh and healthy foods available to those in need.
And thus, the “Feeding Growing Minds for a Healthy Future” campaign was born.
Brooklyn began meeting with local and county government officials, stakeholders, and community members and explaining the importance of making healthier food choices available to those in need. Through her own research, she learned how to make garden beds from IBC totes and wire cattle fencing. With the help of master gardeners and the food shelf coordinators, she received instruction on what produce was most in-demand and which plants would be best for her garden.
In May of 2021, she was ready to get to work. Brooklyn was able to use her 4-H connection to assemble a group of volunteers and together, they planted a variety of vegetables. She watered the garden throughout the summer, and by July, there were vegetables ready to be harvested and donated to the food shelf. She continued nurturing her project and at the time of her application in May of this year, they had already prepped and planted the gardens for another season of fresh produce.
By partnering with her 4-H chapter, she made certain that her food shelf will continue to receive healthier food alternatives. She has been teaching current 4-H members how to maintain the garden and she connected them with a master gardener for additional expertise. Moving forward, Brooklyn hopes to share her project with other counties and is actively gathering resources and materials to help them start their own food shelf gardens. She also wants to set up a system where community members can donate extra produce from their own gardens to local food shelves, ensuring that an even greater variety of fresh fruits and vegetables are going to those who need them instead of going to waste.
It’s hard to believe that summer is winding down and students, teachers, and parents everywhere are gearing up for a new school year. This time of year can bring about many changes and stressors, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, there are many tools to combat those stressors, including positive affirmations.
“Today is going to be a good day, and here’s why: because today at least you are you. And that’s enough.”
Dear Evan Hansen
Positive affirmations are phrases or statements that are used to challenge negative thoughts. The concept of positive affirmations might seem hokey or awkward at first, but with consistent use, they can rewire and increase neural pathways. Not only can affirmations have physiological benefits, but they have been shown to reduce stress, boost self-esteem, aid in interventions, and increase academic performance. Our core beliefs are often formed during childhood and introducing affirmations to young children is an excellent way to instill a positive sense of identity.
Whether you are a parent looking to recite affirmations with your children in the morning, a teacher looking to incorporate them into her class routine, or a student who wants to practice them individually; here is a list of some affirmations to get you started!
I am smart
I am talented
I am kind
I am loved
I can learn anything
I always try my best
I am a problem solver
I am needed
I am valued
I respect myself
I am in control of my learning
I deserve joy and success
I can meet my goals
I do not compare my success against the success of others
I am proud of myself
I can do hard things
I am brave
I am important
My brain and/or body is powerful
I choose to include others
I can try again
I choose how I respond to things
I am responsible
I am prepared for my test
I can make a difference
I am creative
I am organized
I am capable
I see the best in myself and others
I listen to others
There is no one better to be than myself
I bring joy to others
I can adapt to any situation
I challenge you to choose two or three affirmations that resonate with you and apply them to your daily routine. If you need a little more inspiration, I highly recommend checking out this video: