Shedding Light on Learning

September 1st, 2012

The website, has a wealth of information: upcoming summer conferences; 18 new short news items to stay up-to-date; graphics you can copy and use; articles; brief book reviews; provocative quotations; and other interesting, related resources; plus information about us.

Eighty-three new book reviews cover themes of Leadership, Special Education, Beginning Teachers, Literacy, Brain Theory, Instruction, Schools, Families, and Community Partnership, Curriculum, Assessment, and Student Performance.

News: ASCD Social Networking Community

April 30th, 2012

With the introduction of ASCD’s new social networking platform, ASCD EDge, ASCD leaders have access to new opportunities to connect, share information, and engage with fellow leaders, members, and colleagues within the ASCD community. Go to to get started by creating your own free profile page. You will be able to network and share with other colleagues interested in brain-based learning by joining the Brain-Compatible Learning and How the Brain Learns social networking groups.

ASCD Networks are now ASCD Professional Interest Communities (PICs)

As a result of this policy change, The Brain Compatible Learning Network will be known as The Brain Compatible Learning Professional Interest Community.

Sidwell Friends School

April 23rd, 2009

Yes, it is private and expensive but wouldn’t it be wonderful for all of our children? The lower school has a team of teachers with younger students in classes of ten. Fourth graders are in classes of sixteen. They use themes to investigate important ideas in science and social studies while integrating math, language and the arts and utilize the community with field trips and service projects. The school is modeled on Quaker principles and an online photo shows children making their weekly apple crisp to take to a nursing home.

Teachers offer an early morning math class for parents who are interested in helping with homework, including algebraic reasoning for 4th graders. Another parent math class is entitled “125 Ways to Teach Thinking.” Teachers emphasize the uniqueness of each child. Individual learning styles are respected and expected. Weekly “Morning Math” problems are shared with parents as well as extra similar problems.

The Lower school has a long relationship with ‘Martha’s Table,’ a center serving the homeless and low-income families. Early in the school year people from ‘Martha’s Table’ lead an assembly discussion on their organization. Every Wednesday students bring a vegetable from home and take turns making a 50 lb pot of soup that is then delivered to the center. Every third Saturday, a class and parents cooks together at ‘Martha’s Table.’ They also have a relationship with another school with which they collaborate for reading and art projects. In addition, they visit a senior citizen center.

In the Lower school students enjoy a technology rich curriculum. First and second graders learn Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, digital photography and Adobe Photoshop, math including the Graph Club, idea mapping with Kidspiration, beginning programming in GEO-LOGO and Internet safety ( The technology curriculum is further developed in third and fourth grades. A school representative states, “. . . we believe that the appropriate use of technology can enhance the ‘rich and rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum,’ provide ways for our students ‘to stimulate creative inquiry, intellectual achievement and independent thinking in a world without borders.”

Fifth and sixth graders focus on cooperation and student-initiated activities. Language arts and social studies are integrated and taught in homerooms using novels and writing with a Middle Ages theme. There is a rigorous physical education program, special classes for the arts, science and Spanish.
Seventh and eighth graders are grouped in teams of about ten students with an advisor. Seventh graders focus on American history and the 8th graders on the rise of civilizations along with all of the special programs.

Sidwell Friends is typical of other progressive schools. Progressive education has a clear set of principles originally defined by John Dewey. Teachers focus on the whole child – mind, body and spirit. Students are engaged in meaningful active learning, cooperating and collaborating with each other. They work for social justice in the community. Teachers listen to students and together they guide classroom activities within the curriculum guidelines. I am proud to have helped create and taught at a progressive school in Minneapolis that continues to be excellent after forty years.

Launa Ellison