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Be An Inventor Month Program

Nearly 100 students took part in Cold Spring Elementary's "Be An Inventor Month" in the Spring of 2001, a program designed to encourage creative problem-solving and give students a taste of the patenting process. Ninety-three students came up with their own inventions, some fanciful and some designed to solve problems they encounter in everyday life.

The program was sponsored by the Cold Spring PTA under the direction of parents Carla Krivak Meister and Michelle Yu, with some help from the U.S. Patent Office. Ms. Meister, an intellectual property attorney, developed Cold Spring's program using resources from the Patent Office, part of the U.S. Commerce Department. For PTAs that are considering developing their own inventive thinking programs, look to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for ideas and resources. You can log on to www.uspto.gov and then click on the "Kids" link or go directly to: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ahrpa/opa/kids/kidsite.htm. Once there, use the search term "inventive thinking." This will lead you to information on PROJECT XL. Click on this. This brings you to the Inventive Thinking Curriculum Project. You can also write to the Department of Commerce, Patent and Trademark Office, Washington, D.C. 20231, and request the booklet, "The Inventive Thinking Curriculum Project." The materials, including links, found here will get you started on tailoring an inventive thinking project of your own. Other helpful sites of interest include:

www.patentcafe.com,     www.inventorsmuseum.com,     www.kidinfo.com.

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E.L.V.E.S. (Everyone Loves Volunteering at Elementary School)

It is very fitting that the concept for E.L.V.E.S. came from the children’s tale of the shoemaker and the elves! Joanne McGrew, the volunteer coordinator at Judith A. Resnik Elementary School, heard from parents in the 2000-2001 school year who really wanted the opportunity to volunteer for the school but felt left out because they had daytime jobs. There was also a need, with Reading Initiative starting in the school, for volunteers to do prep work for teachers. The Reading Specialist and many of the Reading Initiative teachers did not have parent volunteers. Joanne McGrew devised an action plan to fulfill these two needs at Resnik Elementary.

Joanne contacted parents (through volunteer forms) to determine the interest in evening volunteering and which evenings the parents would be available. After she had a core group of volunteers, she checked the school’s master calendar to ascertain which evenings the school was used the least. Next, she developed a procedure for staff to leave work, including instructions for the volunteers. Staff was given a deadline of when their request had to be turned in, there was an instruction sheet for staff to fill in, and staff left their work in a central place. Since most of the volunteers had not worked in the school before, training sessions were held on how to use the copier, laminator, and how projects should be "put together." In the beginning, experienced volunteers worked with the "elves" to help them with the tasks. A "head elf" was appointed to coordinate the other elves and contact the volunteer coordinator if there were problems. At the end of the evening, the "elves" return completed work to the teachers’ classrooms -- and just like in the fairy tale, "they lived happily ever after!"

Additional considerations for this program are transportation, child care, and translators. Carpools may need to be coordinated for those parents without transportation. Some parents still need to have child care in the evening and students in the community can earn student learning hours by providing child care at the school. Your ESOL teacher can assist with supports for parents that don't speak English but still want to volunteer.

If you have any questions about E.L.V.E.S, please contact the MCCPTA office at (301) 208-0111 to reach either Joanne McGrew or Karen Fritz.

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Community Service Committee at DuFief Elementary

The Community Service Committee began in early 2000. We wanted to concentrate on activities in which the children could easily participate and not just have their wonderful parents always donating money, etc. Our first monthly program was called "Closet Clean-out". We asked the children to go through their closet with the help of a parent and donate an article of clothing that didn't fit or that they didn't need any more. The collection continued for about 2 months with special days identified for the children to bring in clothes. Parents and staff could bring in clothes also at any time and deposit them in a large bin placed in the front hall of our school. As the bin was filled, we transferred the clothes to large garbage bags and lined them up and down the main hall so the kids could see their progress. By the end of two months, we had collected almost 200 large garbage bags full of clothes! Our Community Service Committee delivered the bags to the Interfaith Clothing Center in Rockville.

Our next activity was called the "Bag Lunch Bunch". On an early release day, our committee arranged to have all the necessary supplies on hand in the All Purpose Room for the children, in assembly line fashion, to make bag lunches for the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless. At the first table, students decorated a white lunch bag with colorful pictures or messages of good cheer. Next, they moved onto the sandwich table where volunteers helped students make and wrap a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to put in their lunch bag. Following down the line each of three more tables was filled with individually wrapped chocolate chip cookies, a piece of fruit and a juice box and napkin. Once their lunch bag was full, the children brought them to the end table and lined them up for delivery. DuFief students made almost 150 lunches in one afternoon. Enough to feed everyone at the Coalition for the Homeless for two days!

In April of 2000, we began "Back Pack Round-Up". Each class was assigned to bring in a specific school supply item such as a glue stick or box of crayons. Students could also bring in $1.50 from their own savings so that the Community Service Committee could buy the supplies for them. PTA funds enabled the committee to purchase 50 back packs which were then filled by the students during their lunch/recess time with all the school supplies collected. The back packs were delivered to an elementary school in our own town in the end of June so that some less fortunate children could start the new school year in September with the supplies they needed to do their best..

When DuFief students returned in September of 2000, the Community Service Committee had lots of plans for the new school year. In September, about a dozen families from DuFief traveled to Beltsville, MD to the Washington Area Gleaning Network's warehouse. There, we boxed thousands of pounds of pears that weren't quite pretty enough for the grocery stores but were nonetheless delicious to get them ready to transport to local food banks.

The committee also started an ongoing project called "Bountiful Birthdays". Children can bring into school and deposit in a big box wrapped in birthday paper any extra gift bags that are left over from their own birthday parties or perhaps even a duplicate present that they may have received. The "gifts" will be donated to local charities such as Children's Hospital or homeless shelters.

Another trip on our day off from school to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, took about 50 DuFief students and their parents to the Shady Grove Nursing Center to visit with the residents, sing songs, play instruments and even demonstrate some karate. We also brought supplies to make a Love Flower Pot for each of the lunch room tables to be used as centerpieces in February for the residents to enjoy.

During January, another collection was happening at DuFief. This one was known as the "Teddy Bear Campaign". The outline of a teddy bear was sent home with our weekly newsletter for the children to cut out and sign their name. Then, they attached the cut out "teddy" to a real stuffed animal of their own that they wanted to donate to a child who might need a new friend to love. We collected over 160 stuffed animals of all sorts and donated them to Love and Action, an organization that refreshes the stuffed animals and recycles them to children in need.

These are some examples of how our wonderful Community Service Committee, headed by PTA members Nancy Hadad and Maria Henry, in its very first year of being, has helped DuFief students, parents and staff give back to our community. We plan to continue monthly activities and repeat Back Pack Round-Up again this spring. Questions, please contact Anne Marcinko, DuFief PTA President.

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YBMP: Young Black Men with Promise

Highland View Elementary School initiated a mentoring program "Young Black Men with Promise under the direction of the Black Concerned Educators (BCE) at Highland View. The desire of this team of educators was to assist the African American families in the community. It was not enough to work with the children, but they felt that the parents were the important partner in the program for there to be success for the family and the school community. The BCE recognized that a mentoring program would be the best way to meet the need of the children and parents and set-out to develop the Young Black Men with Promise (YBMP) program.

With a clear vision of what the group wanted to accomplish, they first identified twelve young African American males in grades two-five. Securing mentors who would commit to spending one hour each week with these students took several months. By the end of the summer, the team had ten mentors from The People’s Community Baptist Church, the National Institutes of Health and Fitzgerald Auto Mall.

The first gathering of the mentors, parents, young men, and the BCE was specifically for team building through a variety of activities, including lunch together. Prior to Back to School Night, the mentors and parents met with Highland View’s principal and the teachers of these young men.

When the mentors meet with the mentees they engage in various activities such as, reading together, helping with homework and projects, working on hobbies, talking and sharing what has taken place during the week. Teachers of the young men drop by the media center to visit with the mentor and students to share success, concerns, suggestions, and just keep in touch.

Future plans for this group include a trip to the White House and to Made by You to paint their own pottery. There will be a number of guest speakers invited to talk with the young men about a variety of careers.

The BCE keeps in contact with the mentors to help make this a rewarding experience for everyone. The BCE recently facilitate a meeting with the entire group of mentors and young men and their parents will be meeting to share successes, discuss concerns and listen to suggestions for improving this program.

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