Elysian Charter School
A Positively Different Public School
February 27, 2017 Vol. 12 Issue 24
The school newsletter is sent out on Mondays. When there is a holiday, the newsletter is sent the following day.
The weekly newsletter is archived on Elysian's website, www.ecsnj.org, so that you can always access both the most recent newsletter as well as all previous ones.
How Finland’s youngest learners obey the rules — by fooling around in school
Master teacher reveals secrets of the world’s best education system
January 8, 2017
Children in Eastern Finland in what is considered one of the most important activities of the day: recess. Photo: William Doyle
It is lunch time at the University of Eastern Finland’s teacher training lab school in North Karelia, a lush forest and lake district on the Russian border.
Fourth-grade children race to the cafeteria in their stockinged feet, laughing, hugging, practicing dance steps and cavorting as they head for the cafeteria. One girl does a full handstand in the hallway. A distinguished-looking professor beams at the procession and doles out high-fives to the children. He is Heikki Happonen, head of the school and a career childhood educator.
According to Happonen, the hallway scene reveals one of the secrets of Finland’s historic success in childhood education.
Children’s brains work better when they are moving, the master teacher explains. Not only do they concentrate better in class, but they are more successful at “negotiating, socializing, building teams and friendships together.”
Finland leads the world in its discovery that play is the most fundamental engine and efficiency-booster of children’s learning. The nation’s children learn through play until age 7, and then are given guaranteed 15-minute outdoor play breaks every hour of every single school day (regardless of the weather) until high school.
Another crucial secret: the learning environment, both physical and emotional.
“Children must feel like their school is a home for them, it belongs to them,” says Happonen. “They are very clever, they feel and appreciate an atmosphere of trust. We offer them an environment where they understand, ‘This is a place where I am highly respected. I feel safe and comfortable here. I am a very important person.’ My job is to protect that environment for children. That’s why I come to work every day.”
Happonen designed much of the Nordic-modern school building himself, a network of traditional classrooms linked by spacious hallways, cinematic soft lighting and warm colors, a palatial (by American standards) teachers lounge for coffee and collaboration (complete with a sauna for teachers), and comfortable scattered nooks, crannies and couches for children to relax and curl up in with a buddy or a book.
Connecting all the pieces, flanked by the high-tech science lab, a fireplace and plush sofas, is a modular, wide-open library of books and magazines for children to enjoy.
“Master teacher” Heikki Happonen Photo: Hannu Koskela “My job is to protect that environment for children. That’s why I come to work every day.”
It is the focal point of the school. On a recent visit, a teacher from Spain was nearly speechless after a few minutes inside the school. “It’s so beautiful,” she said. “In Spain, our schools feel like prisons. But this – this is like a dream.”
Happonen points to a colorful assortment of hand-carved wooden boats mounted on his office wall, featuring different shapes, sizes and types of vessels.
“I saw those boats in a shop,” he recalls. “They were so beautiful. I decided I had to buy them, but I didn’t know why. I put them up on my office wall so I could see them all day.”
“Then I realized what they are,” he continued. “They are children. They represent the fact that all children are different, they start from different destinations and travel on different journeys. Our job as teachers is to help children navigate their journeys through storms and adventures, so they move safely and successfully into society and the world.”
Some aspects of Finland’s primary schools may be culture-specific and non-transferrable to other nations. But many other features may in fact be minimum “global best practices” for childhood education systems in Harlem, Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris, Los Angeles, Dubai, Mexico City, South Africa and elsewhere.
These practices include early learning through play, equitable school funding, highly professionalized teacher training, a research-based and whole-child approach to school management, warmth and respect for children and teachers, learning environments of low stress and high challenge, strong special education, and treating all children as gifted and cherished individuals without sacrificing their childhoods to overwork or cram schools.
Why would any of our children, especially those from high-poverty backgrounds, deserve any less?
In the United States, decades of botched attempts at education reform have led to little or no improvement in our schools. As one of the founding fathers of the education reform movement, Chester Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, recently declared, “If you look over the past 25 years at all the reforming we’ve been doing and all the spending we’ve been doing and still see flat [achievement] and slow slog as the main outcome, it’s pretty discouraging.”
For any parent, teacher or policymaker looking instead for inspiration on how we can work together to actually improve our children’s education, they can start by coming to Finland’s dream school in the forest.
This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.
William Doyle is a 2015-2016 Fulbright Scholar and 2017 Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Resident Fellow.
Please make note of the following:
1. May 19—the Community Meeting will be the 6th grade concert and will begin at 9:00 AM
2. The June 9th Community Meeting is changed to June 16th
3. On June 9th there will be the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade concert which will begin at 9:00 AM
ELYSIAN SUMMER CAMP 2017
Does the thought of figuring out your child's summer camp plans each year put you in a state of anxiety? Is your child destined to sit in front of video games all summer because the thought of 2 hours a day on a camp bus isn't very appealing? Well, we have the answer.... The Elysian Charter Day Camp!!
The camp will be open to Elysian children entering kindergarten (Fall 2017) through current 5th grade.
Daily activities will include science, arts & crafts, sports, woodworking, field trips and much more.
The camp staff will be Elysian employees.
For our inaugural summer, there will be 2 one week sessions -- the weeks of July 31st and August 7th. You can sign up for one or both weeks.
Hours of fun, air conditioned classrooms, familiar counselors ..... and no 1 hour bus ride there and back!
The camp is being organized by John Rutledge (renowned 5th grade teacher and everyone's favorite Mystic tour guide!) and Pam Gorode (enrichment club organizer and Assistant Business Manager).
CHILI COOK-OFF THANKS - Thank you to Grace and Todd Leong and Gary Thomas for their wine donation at the Chili Cook-Off! CHILI COOK-OFF FOUND ITEM - One of our wonderful chili chefs left a lid at the Elks Club. Just looking for its owner! If that happens to be you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CHOCOLATE ROSE THANKS - Big thanks to Michele McCue who put in many man hours of prep work! Thanks also to Dusty Weideman, Anne Marie Schreiber, Nicola Hoelzl, Veronica Rifkin, Mona Sarafa, Pam Laden and Michele Linder, who jumped in to help for two days. Roses would not have gotten out on the 14th without their help!
And, thank you to the middle schoolers who came in during their recess to also help out!
It was a successful fundraiser, with all proceeds going to the Spring Fling. Thank you to everyone for participating!
Friends of Elysian Auction 2017
Thank you to everyone who has supported the auction so far by both buying auction tickets and donating auction lots. We really appreciate it!
EVENT TICKETS ARE STILL AVAILABLE! DON’T MISS OUT! And for those who are planning to come but still need to get your tickets, please buy them as soon as you are able.
Also, don’t forget our special $75 price per guest for all Non-Elysian parents/guardians. Please consider reaching out to friends and extended family to join us for an extra special event this year! (And thanks to those who have already done so already.)
2017 Annual Friends of Elysian Fundraising Party & Auction to benefit the Campaign For Elysian
Friday, March 10 • 7 – 10 pm
HUB 16 Hudson Place • Hoboken, NJ • 07030
Heavy appetizers • Open bar
$125 per guest in advance
$135 per guest at the door
$75 per guest for all Non-Elysian parents/guardians
Deadline For Donating Auction Items: 2 days away! (Wednesday, March 1)
• Thank you very much to everyone who has already donated auction lots! There have been a lot of really great things donated!
• If you are able to coordinate or donate auction items, it would be greatly appreciated! Please email us at email@example.com.
Thank you very much for your consideration of this request and for your support!
Deadline For Raffle Tickets (Advance Sales): ONLY 9 DAYS AWAY!
The final deadline for all advance 50/50 raffle ticket sales is Wednesday, March 8! Tickets will also be sold at the event on Friday, March 10 and the drawing will take place at 9:30 PM at HUB (You do not have to be present to win.)
Please start digging through those backpacks and piles on your countery! We need your help to make this a success for Elysian!
TICKET PROCESS - UPDATED: When tickets are sold, please have the buyer fill out the stub with their info, and then turn in those stubs and the payments to your teacher (each class will have an envelope for collection) OR Deb or Susan in the office. And please, NO CASH. Please translate to checks payable to "Friends of Elysian Charter School." (Also, if you receive individual checks from ticket buyers, they should also be written out the same way.) Thank you!
CLASS PRIZES/RETURNING TICKETS: Prizes are for the top three classes that sell the most tickets. But this year, y ou get your choice of a prize! You can choose a pizza party, ice cream party, or a collection of games for the classroom. Most important, though, the 50/50 will also raise valuable dollars to help support Elysian. We certainly hope that all families will participate, but for anyone unable to sell or purchase all of their raffle tickets, we simply ask that you return any unused ticket to your teacher. Thank you.
Parents, please be sure to dress your children appropriately for winter weather. When we have our monthly fire drills, students do not have time to get their coats.
Elysian Collects Box Tops and LABELS for Education:
Look for the container near Deb's desk in the office! Thank you!
As per state law, we no longer publish the exact location of trips for security reasons.
Please read the calendar weekly, as changes are updated regularly
Monday, February 27
- Board of Trustees Meeting, 7:00 PM
Tuesday, February 28
- Basketball: 5th Grade White Team at Wallace, 6:45 PM
Thursday, March 2
- 7th & 8th Grade Basketball Clinic, 3:00 - 4:00 PM
Friday, March 3
- 6th Grade Basketball, 6:45, Wallace
- Girls' Basketball Championship, 6:30 PM, Multi
Saturday, March 4
- 4th Grade Basketball, 1:50 PM. Wallace
- 3rd Grade White Basketball, 2;40 PM, Wallace
- 3rd Grade Green Basketball, 5:00 PM, Wallace
Wednesday, March 8
- PTSO's Meet the Candidates
- 6th Grade trip, 8:15 AM- 2:30 PM
- Angela's Kindergarten trip
Thursday, March 9
- Josie's Kindergarten trip
- "Culture of Death" Seminar trip
- 5th Grade Green Basketball, 6:45 PM, Wallace
- 6th Grade Basketball, 7:45 PM, Wallace
Friday, March 10
- 5th Grade White Basketball, 6:45 PM, Wallace
Saturday, March 11
- 3rd Grade White Basketball, 1:50 PM, Wallace
- 4th Grade Basketball, 3:20 PM, Wallace
- 3rd Grade Green Basketball, 6:40 PM, Wallace
Monday, March 14
- Elysian's Annual Meeting and Election of Board of Trustees
Wednesday, March 15
- Half Day of School for Staff Development. 12:30 dismissal. Afterschool program available as usual.
Friday, March 17
- Community Meeting, Parents are invited to attend
Monday, March 27
- Board of Trustees Meeting
1460 Garden Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030
Harry Laub, Ph.D., Director