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Augmented Reality Is Becoming A Reality at ASA

Augmented reality is a hot topic in current technology, and many gaming systems and entertainment sectors have capitalized on it, allowing gamers to seemingly experience sights and sounds that would otherwise be inaccessible. Of course, this technology can also be used in a variety of ways for educational purposes, and companies such as Google are jumping on board and inviting schools to sample exactly what augmented reality can offer their students and how it can enhance the educational experience for students of all ages.

Recently, All Saints Academy was honored to be chosen by the Google Expeditions AR Pioneer Program to participate in a day of introduction to the AR software being promoted for schools. We were excited to have Google on campus for a day of training teachers and exposing students to the amazing technology offered and how it can open up a world of learning opportunities in the classroom. While ASA has already incorporated AR into some of our classrooms (like that of Mrs. Kelly McNeil), the software brought by Google is a much higher level than many on the market, allowing students (and teachers) to “go through” and inside objects and see details of the subject matter not previously possible with other programs (such as Quiver AR, NASA 3DV, etc.). For the demonstration day here at All Saints, we had to meet certain classroom requirements and follow guidelines set by their representative, but once we met those they brought in all of their own equipment and were very helpful in using it. The hardware consists of Asus cell phones mounted on selfie sticks (this could change as the technology is further developed before being publicly released) and utilities an app. Mrs. Kelly McNeil says this about the process:

“Once the app is launched, the teacher has a ‘lead device’ and the teacher’s phone can control the other phones in terms of a pause button and go forward in the images. There are QR-type codes on laminated 8.5×11 pieces of paper all around the vicinity where the students are standing. The teacher instructs the students to scan the codes, and when they do, the Augmented Reality image pops up. There were different images based on each teacher and the lesson they chose to lead. I chose DaVinci’s Creations, so the first image was The Renaissance Man. Teachers had bits of information on their devices that they could read about each image, and students walked around the images looking at them up close and through them on their devices. Some images were a little more interactive  (like the Crossbow would actually shoot out little pebbles, the Robotic Knight had moving gears, etc.). If you are familiar with Pokemon Go AR – how you can ‘superimpose’ a Pokemon on top of the real background you see through your cell phone camera – this is how AR works. So the students were seeing giant images of all sorts through the camera while also seeing the real background of the library or room they were in.”

Other lessons taught to 362 of our students during the demonstration day at ASA included:

  • Jeanine Yacoub – Organic Chemistry and The Circulatory System
  • TJ Woolford – The World of Ancient Rome
  • John Iskra – Moon Landing
  • Amy Jahna, Heather Womersley, Marty Lopez, Kat Morris – Ecosystems of a Coral Reef
  • Jen Giansiracusa – The Space Race
  • Barbara Sheekey and Valerie Satterfield – Phases of the Moon
  • Allison Futch and Eileen Hutton – Dinosaurs
  • Virginia Drake-Jacobson and Kelly Harrington – Forces of Nature
  • Kelly McNeil – DaVinci’s Inventions
  • Grant Lyons – Topographical Continents

All Saints Academy is thrilled to have been picked to participate in trying out the trial of this technology. We look forward to offering our own feedback, as well as the feedback of our students, to further the project and hopefully move the product toward a public release and the opportunity for more schools to incorporate it into their educational programs. We look forward to seeing Augmented Realty become a reality at All Saints Academy, and hope it will only add to the already outstanding curriculum and educational environment we offer at ASA.

All Saints Academy Named 2018 Winner of the National FETC Excellence in STEM Award

At All Saints Academy, STEM learning is an integral part of our curriculum in all Divisions, starting in Early Childhood and continuing through our Upper School. We feel strongly that preparing students with strong fluency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics will better prepare them for the world into which they will enter. Additionally, as we help them gain these skills, students are also exercising their skills in collaboration, creative problem solving, innovation, and communication, all of which are invaluable as prepare for success in college and beyond.  We have intentionally increased our focus on STEM areas in recent years, proactively seeking opportunities to both enhance our programming and highlight the work that our faculty and students have done.

Last week, All Saints Academy’s efforts were recognized with the STEM Excellence Award for high school at the annual Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC). This national award was presented to a cohort of faculty and administrators in recognition of our Innovation Studio curriculum and our partnership with NuVu Cambridge.  During the presentation, a video compilation of our Fall 2017 Exhibition was displayed for the audience of several hundred attendees, showcasing our students’ work and the unique nature of our Innovation Studio curriculum. Following the award presentation, Mrs. Knowles gave a detailed presentation about our NuVu partnership and how we are inspiring independent thinkers, principled leaders, and humble learners at All Saints Academy.

We are honored to receive the national STEM Excellence award and are excited to see how this will have an energizing effect on our curriculum planning for future years. We deeply believe that the time our students spend in Passion Periods, Tech & Design, and Innovation Studios compliments our core curriculum to establish a learning experience that is unique to All Saints Academy. We are proud of the many ways our faculty draw out each student’s individual talents while also challenging the student to achieve his or her personal best. This drive, paired with state-of-the art learning spaces, like the Baldwin Center for Innovation & Collaboration, create an environment where creativity and innovation thrive.

In the coming year, we plan to expand our partnership with NuVu Cambridge and actively seek opportunities and experiences for our students that result in a transformational education, providing them with the tools and skills on which future success is based. At All Saints Academy, STEM programming is simply an extension of the extraordinary learning opportunities that take place each and every day.

Quality Education with Plenty of Extras: How Extra-Curricular Choices Are Different at ASA

Electives, co-curricular courses, and extra-curricular options are certainly not new concepts to enhance education; however, they can sometimes get pushed to the side or eliminated altogether in the wake of testing requirements or budget restrictions. At All Saints Academy, we recognize the importance of supplementing the core curriculum subjects of language arts, mathematics, science, and the humanities, with coursework that is integrated into the school day through electives and co-curricular options, plus opportunities for extra-curricular activities before and after school. These opportunities both play a major role in understanding and mastery of core subjects as well as allow a student to engage in their learning process in their own way while pursuing activities and experiences about which they are passionate to learn.

In support of this goal, we have tailored our class schedule to give students the opportunity to choose multiple electives, which provides them with exposure to an expansive array of topics to pursue, including fine arts (dance, painting, music, etc.), technology, athletics, and many more. Since electives give our students more chances to connect their in-class learning with hands-on experiences, we know that their education is being enhanced in the best ways possible.

In addition to electives, there are a variety of extra-curricular activities at ASA in which students are actively encouraged to participate. Students have the opportunity to strengthen leadership skills through various clubs and organizations, explore and enhance their talents in dance and theatre, and improve their performance in the athletic arena. Coaches and mentors are pro-active in establishing partnerships that will make the experience shine. For example, our Dance Ensemble students just had the honor of participating in Master Class dance workshops at the Walt Disney World complex, culminating in a performance in front of guests at Disney Springs. This provided the dancers with the opportunity to learn from new instructors and hone their performance skills — both of which helps prepare them for future success.

The best part about our extra-curricular options are they’re not just limited to high school students; dance, sports camps, the musical, and more, are all available for student participation in the Lower, Middle, and Upper divisions.
Are you considering All Saints Academy for your student this coming year? We would love to discuss the many options available, and create an educational experience uniquely designed for your student. Contact our Admissions team today and explore the many ways that electives and extra-curricular courses can enhance your child’s educational journey!  

ASA: The 2018 Merit Scholarship Competition

All Saints Academy is proud to offer an independent, college preparatory education of the highest quality in Polk County. As a school, we are committed to making the All Saints Academy experience accessible to mission appropriate students. We frequently reach out to the community to share information on the various tuition assistance and scholarship opportunities that are available. We feel fortunate to be able to offer these opportunities to families in our community, in recognition of a student’s hard work and dedication.

One example is our Merit Scholarship, which is awarded through an annual competition that is open both to students currently in our ASA family, as well as prospective students who would excel in an independent school setting.  The merit scholarship competition is for students entering the 6th or 9th grades in the upcoming school year, giving them the opportunity to compete with their peers through an exam created specifically for this contest. This exam is teacher-written to showcase students’ strengths and skills in both humanities and math. Top-scoring students will advance as finalists, and will then participate in a panel interview with select All Saints Academy faculty and administrators. In the end, multiple winners will be selected, and those winners will receive our merit scholarship and be invited to join the ASA family in the coming school year.

This year’s scholarship competition takes place on Saturday, January 20th. We look forward to seeing all participants at the scholarship competition on Saturday, January 20th. We wish the best of luck to all students taking the exam and can’t wait to find out who will be our next recipients of the Merit Scholarship Award!

Finishing Strong: Being Your Best At The End of The School Semester

As Christmas break quickly approaches, and we prepare to wrap up the first semester of the 2017-2018 school year, it can be hectic with various holiday activities, school assignments, exams, presentations, performances, and more. While all of the flurry can be fun with the anticipation of this special time, it can be helpful to have some tips to help you through when the days seem full and you aren’t quite sure from where you’ll pull the time or energy to make it through the next thing on the calendar. We are encouraging our students (and teachers) to finish strong this semester, and put their very best self forward at the end of 2017.

Some tips we offered them in the classroom might help you too, so keep these things in mind as you prepare for the upcoming holidays:

Be Intentional with Your Time

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you look at a to-do list, or a weekly calendar, and see a variety of due dates and activities facing you. If you just start running from one thing to the next with no forethought or a plan, you might end up wasting valuable time. Have a loose “game plan” for each day, with the highest priorities at the top of the list, and things that could wait at the bottom. If items could be grouped together (such as, studying for a final exam on the bus ride to your basketball game) it will save time and effort, and could leave you with more checked off your list each day than you expected! Also, have a planner or calendar where all activities, homework assignments, exams, games, etc. are listed with times and specific notes. This gives you a “master plan” to work from each day, so nothing important gets overlooked. This intentional planning of your time will guarantee that you end the semester with everything checked off and ready to enjoy the holidays!

We Succeed Together, NOT Solo

Teamwork is important in education, and not just in collaborative projects or on the football field. At ASA we encourage students to think of their teachers, mentors, advisors, and other school faculty as part of their team, and to use them as a support system when trying to finish the semester strong. We want our students to succeed, so extra help is ready and waiting for those who ask. Don’t struggle along by yourself! Pull resources from those around you so we can all enjoy a successful end to the semester.

Take Care of YOU

Don’t forget about yourself in the hustle and bustle. Taking time out for health and wellness is most important at this time of year, since no one wants to be under the weather over break! Engaging in regular physical activity through exercise such as yoga, running, sports, or other fun choices is a great way to relieve stress, improve circulation and cardiovascular function, and give you a clear head to keep working hard. Be mindful of what you eat as well, since holiday treats are lurking at every corner and the excess sugar can actually decrease energy and make you feel worse instead of better. We aren’t saying you can’t enjoy a Christmas cookie or a party treat, but make sure you’re fitting in all your healthy choices too! Finally, get enough SLEEP. Lack of sleep is a common issue at the end of the school year, but failing to get your 8 hours each night could have consequences far greater than dozing off in class. Lack of adequate sleep means you’ll have a harder time studying and paying attention to lectures, might struggle on exams, and have overall poor performance which is not how you want to finish out 2017.

As we prepare for the next couple of busy weeks here at All Saints Academy, we hope you feel encouraged to finish strong. Whether you presented at the Innovation Studios NuVu exhibition this week, performing in the Upper or Lower school holiday concert, or gearing up for exams, know we are here for you and ready to help you accomplish your goals and be your very best in the coming New Year.

Integrated Education: How Our Youngest Students Learn Through Play

Here at All Saints Academy, the phrase “no pencils required” is often used to describe our educational philosophy. This means we strive to provide learning through a variety of experiences, hands-on activities, rich literature and reading materials, and discussion among educators and students. For our youngest students in our Lower School​,​ a lot of this learning comes through play.

Play is something that comes naturally for children, yet gives them a wide array of educational opportunities​, and we endeavor to create an environment where “learning” and “fun” are one and the same for our young students. ​ Walk into one of our Pre-K or Kindergarten classrooms here at ASA and you’ll find days filled with music, dancing, imaginative play, visits to our hydroponic and vegetable gardens and pond habitat, and of course, plenty of time in our “Discovery Zone.”

What is this Discovery Zone? Essentially, this area is where students in Pre-K through Grade 1 are introduced to math, science, technology, and design concepts through ​the ​exploration that comes naturally to children of this age. Activities like the magnetic wall, the light table, engineering blocks, sensory table, artistic tinker lab, and even robot exploration are available for children to enjoy through play, all the while building the foundation that will make up their education throughout their time at All Saints Academy, all the way up to our Upper School Innovation in the Baldwin Center for Innovation and Collaboration.

Collaboration is another important part of our Lower School (Pre-K to Grade 5) at ASA, and we incorporate it through programs ​like our ​Learning Buddies, pairing students across grade levels,, and through various clubs and extracurricular activities available for various age groups. These clubs and activities also bridge subjects like performing and fine arts, leadership opportunities, technology, and more. Nothing is one-dimensional in the curriculum at ASA. Our goal is for each activity, and each learning opportunity, to engage many parts of our students’ minds, and give them the highest quality, well-rounded education possible.

If you are interested in learning more about how we approach education from the earliest age at All Saints, we have plenty of information here, and with a simple click or two you can learn more about our learning opportunities and curriculum for middle school and Upper School students as well. The spark of a love for learning begins early, and our goal is to fan that flame and turn it into a blaze that motivates our oldest students far beyond their days at ASA.

Meet The New Staff at ASA: Getting to Know Ms. Channa Comer

“I’m happy to be here and looking forward to learning from everybody. I see myself as a learner first before anything else…that’s an important mindset to teach and foster in kids.”

-Ms. Channa Comer

This year at ASA, we want to take time to introduce our wonderful educators, and give you a glimpse into who they are and how they make a positive impact on All Saints Academy. This month, our spotlight is on Ms. Channa Comer.

If you were to ask for her to sum up herself in one sentence, Ms. Comer would say “Science takes up my life!” She is the Science and Engineering Coach for our Lower School and a recent addition to the ASA family. She received her Bachelors in Business Management from Baruch College in NYC and her Master’s in Science Education from City College, and has a long list of impressive contributions to the science and education fields. Ms. Comer came to us from the DC Metro Area US Dept. of Energy, she and was part of the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship: Sponsored by US Department of Energy for STEM Educator across the country to work in federal agencies. She also worked in the office of science at the Department of Energy and Coordinated the National Science Bowl. Teaching young people is a passion for Ms. Comer, and she loves middle school education (especially 6th grade). She was the science dept. chair for Baychester Middle School in the Bronx, and is credited with starting many STEM-based after school programs including the GREEN Team, and Baychester Science and Engineering Club. She believes in enrichment for students of all backgrounds, and was able to pursue this through her position as curriculum specialists for the after school program at Baychester.

Ms. Comer’s career in science also influences many of her hobbies, as she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and cooking using publications such as Cooks Illustrated and Cooking Science magazine. Gardening and repurposing items are also hobbies, and she often turns old glass bottles into drink ware, or repurposes vintage clothing (Ms. Comer loves making headpieces for her dance costume). In her free time she enjoys yoga, dance, reading, and international travel. So far, she has been to multiple places in NA, SA, Asia, Africa, and Central America including Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Egypt, and Korea. Some of these travel opportunities were related to education and/or science, as she taught in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Korea. When she comes home though, the loves of Ms. Comer’s life are her two cats, Teena Turner and Lucy Luu and makes sure to spend quality time with both of them. She says if she was stuck on a deserted island with only three things, two of them would be her cats, and the third would be duct tape!

Some fun facts about Ms. Comer?

  • Favorite foods are pizza and ice cream (but she does try to eat healthy!)
  • She loves vampire movies (like “Twilight”)
  • She’s a big Stephen King fan
  • She’s working on two children’s science books right now, one in development (5-7) and a graphic novel about leaf cutter ants in Costa Rica.
  • Her dream, and goal, is to open a string of independent schools for underprivileged students in communities where they don’t have access to high quality education based on fostering learning and not test scores.
  • She has studied MMA, Kung Fu, and Karate.
  • She was a professional body builder back in the day.
  • She ran the 1994 London Marathon to raise money for the Leukemia Society.

We are so glad to have Ms. Comer as part of our team of educators here at All Saints Academy, and we can’t wait to see the great things she has in store for our students this year and in the years to come. Welcome Ms. Comer to the ASA family!

Backpack 101: Organization Tips to Keep Your Student’s Bag Under Control

We’re well into our first full week of school here at All Saints Academy, and we love having our students and faculty back on campus ready to enjoy a GREAT year. The first part of the year is always fun, because the newness and excitement carries over into the classrooms, and all the way down to the students’ supplies. New backpacks, new folders, new pencils, fun erasers, and all of the other goodies picked up in preparation for school are now ready to be used, and it gives the beginning of the year an extra bit of joy, especially for younger students. However, that fresh new backpack and shiny pencil case can quickly turn into an ugly mess if you’re not prepared. Backpacks undergo a lot of wear and tear each year, and that’s just on the outside! Inside, by next semester, you could likely find crumpled papers, lost homework, remnants of snacks and wrappers, half-used pencils, and a plethora of other things. So, how can you keep your student’s bag under control all year long?

A few organization tips can make all the difference!

  • Prepare for organization with designated pockets, folders, binders, and bags. Much like organizing their bedroom, or you organizing your office, if your student has a predetermined place for each item in his or her bag, it’s more likely to stay organized for the long term. Have a particular bag for pens, pencils, and related supplies, so they stay together and are easy to access. Your student’s teachers will likely provide instruction on organizing homework folders, binders, etc., but there might also be general use notebooks or binders in your student’s bag. Have them labeled, and take out anything that doesn’t have a purpose or isn’t used regularly. Don’t forget to include the little things in your plan! Smaller items like earbuds, cell phones, etc. should also have a set spot within the bag.
  • Have a weekly “bag dump”. Fridays are a great day for this, since it’s the last school day for the week and it gives you a fresh start on Sunday night when you’re preparing for Monday morning’s school routine. Have your child(ren) empty their entire bag of its contents, and sort through everything. Older students can do this on their own, while younger children might need some help. Any unneeded papers, garbage, crumbs, etc. can be cleaned out and thrown away, and you can “reset” the organization system for the week by making sure everything else in the bag is put back in its place. This is a great way to ensure you don’t miss important notes from teachers, permission slips, etc. as well!
  • Add it to your laundry list! Periodically, use the weekly bag dump as a time to wash and dry your child’s backpack if possible. Many of them can be washed on the gentle cycle and hung to dry. This will keep it fresh for the entire school year. If you can’t fully launder it, spot clean it as needed, and let it air out for the weekend before repacking it!

Hopefully these tips will keep your student’s backpack ready to go all year long, and you won’t be left with a huge mess at the end of school. The same ideas can apply to lunch boxes, gym bags, and even your own briefcase for work, so set yourself up for a successful year and get organized!

Back to School: Preparing Your Young Student

Excitement is buzzing here on the All Saints Academy campus, because this week is our first day back for the 2017-2018 school year! For returning students, we’re sure you have already checked off your lists for supplies, uniforms, and even athletic equipment. Some of you may have even started your team practices or had club meetings already. We have a few tips to help you give your child the best start possible to a successful school year:

  • Adjust to an earlier bedtime. If you don’t already, aim to have your child in bed by no later than 8:30 on a school night if possible. If you have a bedtime close to this already, you shouldn’t have to do much to prep for the start of the school year, but if your young student is used to a late summer bedtime, begin transitioning to an earlier time in increments. Shoot for 10 minutes earlier, then 20, and so forth until you work your way back to a reasonable time. Adequate rest equals more success for students of all ages.
  • Attend any orientations offered so your child can meet his or her teacher(s), see their classroom, and begin to feel comfortable in the environment at school. If allowed, take photos of the classroom when you go for a preview, so you can look at them repeatedly with your child at home and talk about what their days will be like at school. Being prepared verbally AND visually can help reduce anxiety, especially for young children.
  • Make their first day something special to look forward to. Many families have first day of school traditions. Make yours something your student will look forward to. This could be a small gift, a special breakfast, or a treat in their lunchbox.
  • An old fashioned note in your child’s backpack or lunchbox is never a bad idea. Even older students can use a word of encouragement on the first day of school, and it helps you feel not so far away. For young children, a simple note (or even a drawn picture!) is a great idea. For older students, just knowing you’re thinking of them can be a huge boost in their day.

We can’t wait to see all of our students, old and new, on campus this week at ASA. We are ready to make this the BEST school year yet!

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