Executive Functioning – From Principal Tom’s Newsletter

Prefrontal_cortex-executive-functioning-parkeracademyWhile many of you know that we do a great deal of work to help our students develop social pragmatic skills, emphasizing social communication and emotion regulation, you may not know that our efforts also include helping our students to develop the executive functioning skills that compliment them.

Executive Functioning Skills (EFS) encompass a number of interrelated sub-skills that are necessary for purposeful, goal-directed activity. These include planning, being organized, mentally playing with various ideas, giving a considered rather than an impulsive response, and staying focused.

The interplay between Social Pragmatic Skills and Executive Functioning Skills (EFS) can be seen in areas such as stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety can inhibit the ability of students to develop and maintain EFS. There are concurrent associations between underdeveloped pragmatic social skills and executive deficits.

Although you cannot always draw a straight line between them, improving pragmatic social skills helps to relieve stress and anxiety. Reducing stress and anxiety improves learning EFS. Improving EFS, in turn, improves student performance. They also include strategies to de-escalate anxiety, promote health and physical activity, yoga, and our specialized curriculum.

Principal’s Corner – February 2020


Second semester is off to a good start. The students have taken on their new classes and are working hard. Now that the daylight hours are getting longer, the students appear to be in good spirits.
We recently had a presentation on vaping and smoking by our school nurse. The growing number of students who vape is disheartening. After e-cigarettes were deemed as a tobacco product, they were prohibited from all schools. They are no longer allowed where smoking is prohibited. We urge you to talk with your child about the health effects of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
We recommend that you prohibit e-cigarette use around your child. You may not know this, but you can also choose to send your chil

d to a college or university that is tobacco-free, including e-cigarettes. For questions regarding e-cigarettes and vaping, contact the NH Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program at TPCP@dhhs.nh.gov.

As you know, the February vacation period starts on the 24th of February. The school will be closed for the week and our teachers are looking forward to some time off to rest and spend time with their families.
This year’s Empty Bowls fundraiser is scheduled for Tuesday, March 24th from 5:30 PM-7:00 PM. We hope you can make it to this great fundraiser. All monies raised are donated to a local food pantry. We have hosted an “Empty Bowls” fundraiser for many years and have raised over $1000 each year for the past twelve years.
School safety and security is a high priority here at Parker Academy. We work hard to make sure that this is a safe place for our students and staff. If you have any concerns about your child’s safety or security, please do not hesitate to call us. The phone number here is 410-6240.
The NH Department of Education has been reviewing Parker Academy’s policies and procedures this year. Although we will get a written report in late March, their preliminary comments were very complimentary, with high praise for our teachers and our curriculum.

Parker Academy Student Accepted to RIT

Jessie Bair, graduating in 2020, was offered early acceptance into RIT, School of Illustration. 

We are so excited for Jessie Bair, a member of our 2020 Senior class, who has just been accepted through early decision to her first choice of colleges- Rochester Institute of Technology where she will be majoring in Illustration. Jessie’s goal is to become a writer and illustrator of children and young adult books.

Jessie has always enjoyed and excelled in the arts, taking every art class that Parker Academy has to offer. She enjoys Drawing and Painting the most, but has had a lot of fun working in Ceramics, too. Her favorite medium is watercolor and colored pencils which she uses to create her favorite subject- mythical creatures. One such work, titled “The Hippocampus” was displayed in Crust and Crumb in downtown Concord. 

Jessie first came to Parker Academy part time for tutoring, but it was soon after that she enrolled full time as a Freshman. Prior to Parker Academy, she had been home schooled by her parents. Jessie lives in Epsom with her parents and two older brothers. 

Congratulations, Jessie. We are so proud of you, and we look forward to hearing all about your upcoming adventures. 

Jesse RIT Bound

Jesse Artwork

Congratulations Parker Academy 2019 Graduates!

Parker-Academy-2019-GraduatesParker Academy celebrates its 2019 Graduates. This small, yet diverse, group of students has come a long way. They each should be extremely proud of their accomplishments. We certainly are!

All of these students have grown and shared so much with each other. The bonds they have developed are almost like they are all members of the same band, playing Rock N Roll music together….and that is not just because they are loud!

Good luck graduates!

Don’t be strangers.

Parker Academy’s Applied Arts Program

At Parker Academy we believe the work we are doing with our students is really important. We are hoping to have an ongoing dialogue with the people and programs that make Parker Academy what it is.

Today we are getting to know more about the Parker Academy Applied Arts Program. Like most of the arts, this program is expressive and intuitive; and we are spending time with applied arts teacher, Sheldon Cassady, to find out a little more about why this program is so important in socializing, student success, and harboring creativity throughout a lifetime.

Your shop class is part of the visual arts program at Parker Academy, what makes your class differ from the fine arts?

My class differs from the fine arts because it’s applied. Which means it deals with the application of design and aesthetics [to objects of function] and their everyday use. The creating we deal with is more industrial design oriented, furniture or machinery, welding- that kind of thing. However, my background is in fine arts, so it does have an artistic flare, but it tends to be more applied.

“Whether the students realize it or not, it is mostly socialization skills and team building.”

We don’t see this class existing in a lot of middle and high schools currently. What do you think the benefit of having a class like this is?

A lot of why we can offer this class is because of the nature of the school. Whether the students realize it or not, it is mostly socialization skills and team building. We are creating a space to have an introduction to the shop, and expose them to things that they might not get to be doing outside of this class. It is really exciting to see when it all comes together. We have had our students go on to college or trade schools to continue with things like welding or mechanics that they have gotten a taste of and enjoyed. Our small class sizes [usually three to five students] help with tailoring projects and maintaining safety. There are very few accidents due to everyone following the rules and a lot of individual attention.

Being an artist yourself, how do you think that translates into how you teach your students?

As an artist I understand that it is the process that is important to me. Rather than just give them a blue print or rubric, I make them design their own projects. The students create the prototypes that they use here. I stress the part of the brain that has to develop the thing, as much as the thing itself. A lot of kids at this age do not have the ability to make something exquisite. I tell them I would rather have them make ten mediocre pieces building up to the good one, than beat one thing to death. Due to skill level, I choose to stress the creative side of what they are doing, and how it is going to work, rather than the end result.

“It gives them a level of achievement that is important in growing. I think we undervalue these successes because we do it all the time as adults.”

What are some of the core lessons and important concepts that you incorporate into your classroom?

The important concepts vary so much because of the individual nature of what we do. Right now, I have one class where we are focusing on team building. Students are learning how to work together as a cohesive unit to create something. It has less to do with product or personal development with those kids right now. We are lucky enough to able to be flexible with these kids. They are here, in applied arts, for other reasons. From emotional issues, isolation, home schooled and the need to practice social skills- to autism etc. It’s hard to pin point. As a teacher you accept the child’s individual profile and move into a place that they can thrive. You find out who the student is and how to help them through the process of making things. It’s amazing to see the satisfaction when they finish a project. You have to realize that some of these kids have never really had a success like this before. Maybe they are not as good at reading or math, but they just made a beautiful wooden bowl. It gives them a level of achievement that is important in growing. I think we undervalue these successes because we do it all the time as adults. But for some of these students to be able to make something, have it function, and be beautiful- it really makes them want to go on and proceed with making more things. We have some emotional kids that really need some positivity in what they are doing. It is a physical thing they can hold and see the success in.

Found object sculpture

“I know how it sounds, but the best part of this, the thing that I am most happy about achieving is- every now and then you really get success with a child. You see them go on to something great.”

What are some materials you utilize in this class?

As far as materials go, whatever we want to work with. My background is in wood but I have also been a mechanic. We work with a number of materials but it really varies on the student’s interest. Sculptures are made from found objects to car parts. I try to be flexible and work in the direction of the students for the most part. Sometimes we are limited by the tools we may or may not have, such as glass work. These road blocks allow us to problem solve and find different avenues to create our projects.

What do you think is the most interesting thing that your class has accomplished?

We have had so many amazing accomplishments over the years. One of my favorites was a 14-foot sailboat, another time we made ten little skiffs, rowboats. Students built them all in one year, and different classes worked on them in teams. At the end of the year they got to row around in the pond together after graduation. It was really neat to see. In reality we make so many different things, bike part chairs, mousetrap race cars. Some of the little things are really great too. There have been small metal boxes that students have soldered together with different kinds of metal that came out really nice, artsy, and exceptional. I know how it sounds, but the best part of this, the thing that I am most happy about achieving is- every now and then you really get success with a child. You see them go on to something great. They really respond to whatever it is you were doing at the time. Sometimes it surprises you how much of an effect you have had on them. The product here is really inconsequential, and to focus on that I think would be a mistake. We are makers, learning through the process of our own ideas, to produce something that is uniquely our own.

“We are makers, learning through the process of our own ideas, to produce something that is uniquely our own.”

Taking Part: Empty Bowls

Empty Bowls is a grassroots international fundraiser to relieve hunger. Parker Academy has been involved with Empty Bowls for at least ten years as an annual effort to raise awareness of hunger and support food security in our local area.

4 stages of bowl making: from forming and decorating clay, under glazing, glazing, and firing

Everyone in the Parker Community is able to participate in this event. Parents, staff and even former students, provide soups and breads for the evening. Students of all levels enrolled in ceramics classes create the bowls, and a student volunteer group transforms the “big room” into a dining room for our event.

To make the bowls, we use a method of hand building so that all students can participate and a potter’s wheel is not needed. The students experience the entire process from forming to loading and unloading the kiln. After the dinner students have the satisfaction of knowing their efforts provided food for others.

This event has become a joyful celebration of community at Parker Academy. When we all work together we can not only share a meal, but give to others as well.