Sunday, June 18, 2017

Yearend Reflections

 ·        The 2016-2017 school year was: AMAZING!!!!! I will admit that change can be daunting, but the change from a self-contained classroom to being departmentalized was nothing like I expected. I have always been very close to my students and also very possessive. I will admit that I was afraid to share “my kids” but it wasn’t long before I learned the advantages of doing so.

First, I found that sharing my students allowed me to share their accomplishments and concerns with my colleagues and this was good. It gave us reasons to have meaningful conversations about how to help students. Second, I had the opportunity to teach 100 students instead of 25 students. This was both amazing and sobering. Every day I was reminded why I got into teaching. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of my students. Suddenly instead of making a difference in the lives of 25 students, I needed to make a difference in the lives of 100 students. It was a task I took seriously!

Some of the ways I hope I made a difference in the lives of my students was by teaching them about civic responsibility through our class election and class government. This responsibility spilled over into the care of the pets and of course the pets did their own thing to touch the lives of all of the kids.

See our videos on our YouTube Channel:

In my role the areas I focused on were: creating a curriculum that was hands-on that met the old science standards while moving more toward the Next Generation Science Standards. I also wanted to continue expanding on our Maker’s Club and learn more about Maker’s Clubs and makerspaces in general. I was accepted to present at PETE & C which is our state’s educational technology conference and I created the following presentation: :

While doing research to make the presentation, I came across an article on the website Massachusetts K12 Engineering. The article, by Tony Wagner, entitled, “Most likely to succeed: preparing our kids for the innovation era,” contained the following quote:

Creative problem-solving. Over and over, employers tell us that the ideal characteristic they’d like to find in new hires is being a creative problem-solver. And, over and over, it seems to have been “schooled” out of fresh graduates, irrespective of their academic pedigree. For almost all schools we visit, the prevailing attitude among students is, “Just tell me what I need to know to get the right answer.” And too many faculty members unconsciously seek a specific answer. We need to teach kids to be innovative and creative problem-solvers.
To me this is what our Maker’s Club is about and it’s also what the New Generation Science Standards are about. We need to teach our kids to be innovative and creative problem solvers. A few years ago we called it, “being the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage.” Is it scary? Absolutely! But I have always found in the end it is so gratifying. If you give kids a goal, but don’t specify the details, they will far surpass anything you would have asked them to do. Below I will share just a few examples of the creative and hands-on projects we did in science this year.

·        The goals that I focused on this year – The goal that I focused on this year was to create a science curriculum that instilled a love for science in the students. I wanted to create memories that made them look back on science as the most fun, coolest subject ever, and one they would want to continue to explore on their own. I hope you enjoy these pictures of some of our memories.

Check out our Science Blog:

·        Looking back on the school year I wish – This is a tough one, because I really did have a great year. Probably the one place I felt I fell short was putting in extra time with students after school and doing a community service project and working on the soft skills employers look for in their employees. I think this was the first year since I started teaching that I didn’t do some kind of community service project, and I do feel bad. I will give a shout out, however, to my homeroom class. I gave them a book called “Do Kind Things,” and as part of our class government, they formed a kindness committee. One day one of my students came to school with a laundry basket full of snacks and asked if we could take them to our neighbors at the fire department. That was a really proud moment for me and goes to show, if you hand some tasks over to the kids, they will really surprise you!

·        Planning for the 2017-2018 school year I will – have plenty of tissues on hand. I am going to try not to dwell on it, but it’s going to be hard not to say or at least think, “This is the last time…” every time we do anything next year. I am going to do my best to savor and enjoy every moment, and, of course, take lots and lots of pictures. The last few weeks of this year, the schoolyard habitat/vegetable garden was on my mind a lot. I thought back over the seventeen years I spent in that garden with hundreds and hundreds of students. In 2000, that plot of land was just a piece of grass like the rest of the schoolyard. Now sections of it are woods with path winding paths.

My biggest challenge next year will be to decide what to do with it. There are moveable raised beds for growing vegetables, thousands of fall bulbs, and thousands of perennials. What will I move? Will Hempfield be ready for any of it and if so when? Should I open the garden to the community to take some of the perennials? How will I move what needs to be moved? When will I move it?

Click this picture to learn the whole history of our schoolyard habitat

The pictures below are in the habitat that started with just a grassy spot. All the trees were planted no more than 17 years ago. All the trees and plants were donated by the community and planted by former students. First, I am including a few pictures of the habitat as it looked in 2000 when we first started it.

ADOPT A TREE PROJECT: Each student chose a tree in the habitat to observe and research. Here are a few students with their trees throughout the seasons. These pictures more than anything show the changes of the habitat over the years.

Although the move will be very much on my mind, first and foremost will be my students and their education. I will continue to use what worked well this year while always on the lookout for more hands-on challenging opportunities for my students.

·        I am grateful for – the opportunity to continue living out my lifelong dream as a teacher in a school district that allows me to be me.

                                                                           JAN ABERNETHY

P.S. These pictures by no means tell the whole story of my fabulous year. Feel free to check out my websites at:
               Picture of the day:
               Science Blog:
               Class Blog:
               YouTube Channel:
               Class Website:    

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Is this differentiation?

Putting together our "Trout in the Classroom" quilt

Building a Meccasaur robot
Loading filament into 3D printer

Working on revolutionary war project

Getting our new sewing machine to work.

Slicing files to 3D print
Dowloading, Editing, and Sharing fidget spinner files for slicing
Combining student Rev War projects in Google Slides

Writing this blogpost!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


The Mighty Moose have a book that is full of kind ideas and ways to show kindness. One of our moose, Hemi, found a great idea and she carried through on it. She took money from her savings and bought a whole basket of snacks for our neighbors, the fire fighters. Today, we delivered her gift to them. What kind act will the Mighty Moose come up with next?


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Rock Painting

On the day before Easter break, instead of coloring eggs, we decided to do something a little more permanent. Next year is the last year we will be at East Elementary and it is the last year we will have the Schoolyard habitat that was started by fifth graders in the spring of 2000. We painted rocks and sprinkled them throughout the habitat. Hopefully they will keep our garden bright and pretty long after we are gone!


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Food Chain Stories

In Science, we are writing food chain stories. Read Giulianna's story below. Go to Our Science Blog to read more food chain stories.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Groundhog Day

We made these SMARTamps about Groundhog Day for our international friends on the "Bridging Cultures" blog.

The United States has a very odd tradition to determine when spring will begin. We use a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil who lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to tell us. Phil the groundhog lives approximately 100 miles from our little town of Greenville.

Punxatawney Phil even has his own website:

Here are some SMARTamps we made to teach you a little more about February 2, Groundhog Day.