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Pittsburgh Parenting Blog by Sewickley Academy

Sewickley Academy's Private School Blog

5 Reasons I Use Graphic Novels to Teach History

Lovers of history know that there are innumerable ways to experience the past. To this end, our history classes at Sewickley Academy engage students in literature, film, speakers, art, music, field trips, and travel to support our curriculum. One of my personal favorite styles of literature, which I find myself leaning into more and more, is the graphic novel.  While many are familiar with Art Spiegelman’s "Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History," which tells the story of his father’s experience in Nazi-occupied Poland, there are many more stories like it that communicate strong voices of past generations. Here are five reasons why I use graphic novels to teach history.  

1.  Historic Content

A graphic novel would not be worth teaching in a history course if it didn’t have content merit and provoke discussion of historic themes. All of the books I list here in this post connect to the courses in which they are positioned and support the content of those courses. For example, in my Modern Middle East elective, I have used the graphic novel "Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood," a memoir by Marjane Satrapi, which provides historic background to the Islamic Revolution in Iran. This short book, which can be read in only two nights, provides the foundation of historic understanding through a personal narrative, to better understand the many nuances of Iranian society at the time. In class, this framing also allows us to then go beyond the literature and discuss additional historic details absent from the book, to contextualize events. As developments have unfolded in the Middle East, I am looking to try a new book about Iran, one that focuses on more modern challenges the country is facing. Next year, we will read "Zahra's Paradise" (One of Amazon's Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens) by Amir and Khalil, which is a fictional story weaving together real events around Iran’s political upheaval in the summer of 2009. 

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Topics: Education

4 Lessons From Albert Einstein - A Grade 5 Commencement Speech

Good morning! I extend a very warm welcome to our Parents, Relatives, Faculty, fellow Administrators, and most importantly, to our 58 smiling fifth Grade students…the class of 2022 here in front having just received their Lower School certificates on our 177th year as a school. Congratulations! Today is your special day—the crossing from the comfort of the known, our Lower School, to the new and unknown to many of you, the Middle School. New classrooms, a new dining room, a new library, new teachers, and new classmates. These are indeed exciting times ahead for you and likely a small bit of nervousness may be mixed in with these feelings, too.

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Topics: General

Why Do We Care so much about History? A Grade 8 Commencement Speech

Good afternoon students, families, faculty, administrators, staff, and guests. This is a bittersweet moment for me, as I am saying goodbye to Sewickley Academy, my home for the last nine years, and to my beloved 8th graders, truly one of the best classes I have ever taught. This year’s students have been generous with their kindness, effort, and enthusiasm. They assumed goodwill on the part of their teachers and their fellow students, which made them easy to work for and with. They devoted themselves not just to fulfilling the requirements of their courses but to honing the skills by which they could become more thoughtful, reflective students and citizens. This year, I was fortunate to work with them as they came to understand not just the processes of government and rights due them, but the civic responsibility they owe to their fellow citizens and to the generations of Americans who worked for, fought for, and died for our country.

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Topics: Education

Is Your Kindergartener Playing Enough?

Play in early childhood is a hot topic of conversation among child development specialists, teachers, and researchers. Just Google “play in kindergarten” and watch the overwhelming number of results appear stating the importance of play in child development. Play develops the senses, small and large motor skills, communication skills, thinking skills, and self-regulation skills. It is critically important for preparing a child for future learning and academics. Children need significant time to play at home and at school in order to build a strong foundation for future academic success. In addition, half of that play time should be done outdoors so that they can explore nature. Children need to observe, imagine, create, and move.
 
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Topics: Education

2 Tips for Picky Eaters

My kids are 7 and 11, and they are OPPOSITES.

I have one defensive kid who likes bread and cake, and one seeker kid who is a devout carnivore and eats raw purple onions and chives right out of the garden.

Successfully feeding them both is an adventure!

If you have a picky eater in your family, child or adult, these two tips will help to make mealtime pleasant for all at the table, including you!


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Topics: Food

Sewickley Academy Does Not Have Everything

At Sewickley Academy, we are proud of the range of academic, athletic, arts, and extracurricular offerings. That said, it is true that we don’t have everything that a student might want in a school, but we do try to be responsive. For example, Sewickley Academy has a varsity squash team because one student felt we should have a team. As you can imagine, one student does not a team make; however, this student recruited other students, found squash courts where this nascent team could practice, and gained “club” status for squash through the athletic department. After a full year of practices and scrimmages, the team officially gained varsity status. This year, after the founder graduated, the team boasts 39 students, and is one of our more popular winter sport alternatives.
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Topics: General

8 Tips for Keeping Your Organic Garden Free of Insects, Weeds, and Disease

Organic gardening is a fabulous trend that is hopefully here to stay. Plants or food that are considered organic are grown without using pesticides or chemicals. The plants or seeds themselves are not special in any way other than they grow free of insects, weeds, or disease with a little bit of help from their owner.

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Topics: Food

Why Our Global Studies Program Matters

Sewickley Academy's Global Studies Certificate Program has helped me develop my opinions on global interaction. Before participating in the program, I had a vague idea that there was a world beyond the small town of Sewickley, but I had little incentive to step outside my comfort zone and become a part of it. Through my international travel and the Global Gtudies courses, both required by the program, I’ve become a more informed global citizen.

The Global Studies courses offered by the school were one of my favorite parts of the program. After three years of summer travel abroad, I had reached a point where I wanted to learn more about other cultures. Yes, one learns most effectively by immersion, but being a student, I hardly had the time to pack my bags and travel the globe. These courses offered an alternative method to learning about the sensitive issues in other countries. Too many times when I traveled had I experienced kids my own age mocking American ignorance.

“Americans are so full of themselves.”

“Americans don’t know about politics besides their own.”

“Oh you wouldn’t know about this issue, you’re American.”

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Topics: Global Studies

Being Ready to Listen

I’m always a little jealous when I talk to other parents who seem to know EVERYTHING about their child’s school day. They know who sat with whom, and who got called on, and what happened at recess, and which girls are best friends. Meanwhile, my reaction to this knowledge is more along the lines of, "Wait, there are girls in my sons’ classes?   I’m just kidding, of course, but to hear my sons talk, you’d think Sewickley Academy was an all-boys school.  I hear very little about girls, or about anything that goes on most school days, to be honest.  I once learned from a friend that she had substituted for my son’s class for three days.  “I’m sure he told you,” she said. Actually, not a peep. 

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Topics: Parenting

It Pays To Have Responsive Classroom

In a February 26 article in Education Week, Timothy P. Shriver & John M. Bridgeland describe recent research into the efficacy of social-emotional learning programs in schools, including Responsive Classroom (RC), which we have implemented here at Sewickley Academy in Grades Pre-K through 5. Often in education, particularly in the tax-payer funded sector, education programs are judged on a cost-benefit basis, the benefits having to demonstrate themselves most often in improved test scores. This article reviews recent research undertaken at Columbia University that examines the costs and benefits of social-emotional learning programs to determine their financial costs and their economic benefits, if any. The authors conclude:
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Topics: Education

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