Open Mic Night

Open Mic Night is a tradition we have that dates back to the early days of the music program here at Parker Academy. Although it has evolved over the years with our students and our school, the spirit of the event remains the same. It is an opportunity for any and all students to share the music they love, and gain valuable experience through live performance.

At Parker Academy our instruction is student centered and highly individualized to enhance strengths and support needs. Our music program is no exception. Students get to choose the songs they will be learning and performing, and each song is arranged and tailored to the individuals who will be playing it. By starting from where our students are at, and building our instruction around their strengths and interests, we are able to make the learning experience more meaningful and authentic.

Music is part of what makes us human, it connects us to our feelings and to each other. No matter the style, genre or time period, music has this ability. It is something we value a great deal here at Parker Academy, and it’s on full display at each of our Open Mic Nights.

Thank you to all the friends and families that came out to support these talented young musicians!

Multicultural Food Fest at Parker Academy

An amazing Multicultural Food event was held at Parker Academy as a diverse potluck party. Students and staff brought here the favorite dish that represents their family culture, or the one they simply enjoy.





Taking a count from the feast yesterday our families’ heritage include at least these 15 countries: Columbia, Iraq, Puerto Rico, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Ireland, Russia, Italy, Nigeria, French-Canada, Albania, Philippines, U.S.A, Norway.

We all enjoyed varieties of delicious food such as Swedish meatballs, Irish chicken stew, Puerto Rico – rice and gandules, Iraq’s noodles chicken & raising, French-Canadian meat pie, German dumpling, Nigeria’s rice, smoked salmon with onion, capers & cream cheese with dill, BBQ chicken wings, macaroni & cheese, oysters, brotchen- German sandwiches, spaghetti-es, sweet & sour cocktail meatballs, Swedish braid, Italian cookies, Russian cake, waffles, Viennese “Xmas Trees”, cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies, baklava, spicy pumpkin pie cookies, and brownies.

Our students had some excellent conversations about the food and the different flavors. This event was wonderful, with everyone feeling really good about all of the various foods. It gave everyone a chance to socialize around a multi-cultural event. We are proud of the students and this showed that they are proud of their heritage.

-Ermira Nakuci

Taking Part: State House Scarves

In the true spirit of giving the middle school students have spent the past few weeks making scarves to hand out. They designed and created scarves for those who are cold and in need this winter. The students went downtown and tied the scarves to trees and posts for those who may want or need them.

‘State House Scarves’ or ‘Scarvesgiving’ has been a Parker Academy tradition held for many years and we hope to continue giving back to the community throughout the year.

Consider A Social Media Diet

From the Tribune News Service

According to a paper in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology’s December issue,
tightening Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat use can lower loneliness and depression.
University of Penn. psychologist Melissa Hunt led the study, which surveyed 143 students.
The study did not ask students to abstain from social media. The researchers explained this
choice in the paper, noting, “It is unrealistic to expect young people to forgo this information
stream entirely.” Rather, the students who were cutting their screen time kept to 10 minutes on
Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat each day — no more than a half-hour on all platforms

The social media diets didn’t have much of an influence on anxiety or self-acceptance, but after three weeks, students who limited their time on the apps scored lower on the UCLA Loneliness Scale. For students with depression, symptoms declined by the end.

A Cigna study released this year found that 41 percent of people in the Philadelphia area — and
nearly half of Americans — are experiencing loneliness. That research found that the younger
generations were the loneliest. Hunt explained: “The extent to which young people are using
social media can interfere with time spent on activities that can more genuinely foster selfesteem,
like getting work done, or true intimacy, or hanging with your friends in the real world.”

The trouble, she explained, is that many social media users curate what they post and leave the
rough times (and rough selfies) out. People may share bad experiences in Reddit communities,
while Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat feeds might read more like only best moments. In
real intimacy, she noted, the ups and downs are expressed in the same space. On social
media, Hunt observed, “you don’t get that healthy mix that you need in growing healthy
relationships, with both the good and the bad.”

For depression and loneliness, though, the results suggest that “awareness alone is not
sufficient,” Hunt said. Social media diets can make a particular impact in this regard because
the platforms, she explained, give “the illusion of connectedness and not true connectedness.”

Taking Part: Celebrating 10 Years with Hal Liberty

This Wednesday afternoon November 7th, Parker Academy hosted a special visitor, Hal Liberty.

Hal has an extensive woodcraft shop in Bradford, where for 33 years in his retirement, he has been making wooden toys for children who otherwise would have little if anything under the tree. Parker students have been volunteering to help Hal with this project for ten years, and it has been a great collaboration.

Hal spoke to the school about his background, how he got into this project, and who are the volunteers and beneficiaries. He also brought many samples of his work, to the delight of students and teachers, including planes of all types, cars, trucks, and even a cradle.  All are handcrafted from a variety of woods – including mahogany, maple, and walnut – and are designed to be completely safe for use by any child.

When Parker students are volunteering at his wood-shop, Hal walks them through safety procedures, then sets each up at a particular station, instructing them how to operate the various machines used to make the toys at different stages in the process.  Hal is personable, jovial, and very patient, and his love of making toys for kids is infectious. At the end of his presentation, Hal was presented with a Parker t-shirt and a certificate conferring on him the title of “Honorary Industrial Arts Teacher.”  Oh, and he is 85.

By Joe Webster


Counteract the Effects of Toxic Stress

by Martha Burns, Ph.D

STRESS!  Just the word alone causes an anxiety reaction for many of us even though stress is a part of everyone’s daily life. In fact, days on end without any stress at all would be pretty boring even though we probably all long for that sometimes.

Neuroscientists have explained how some stress is actually good for us; it helps us stay alert and adapt to changes in the world around us.

Educators and athletic coaches have found that the stress of competition through grading or scoring helps students and athletes maintain motivation. But stress can also be very harmful.  I suspect all of us have had personal experiences where we made a critical mistake or forgot something very important because we were stressed out about a problem in our daily life. So what’s the difference? Is there a dividing line between good stress and bad stress? Is it the type of stress or quantity that matters?

Although a simplistic explanation is that stress may be like many other inevitable aspects of human life – in moderation stress is good for us, in excess it is harmful. Brain scientists clarify the distinction from a biological and psychological perspective. The scientists differentiate between “tolerable stress” and “toxic stress” and emphasize how the effects on the body are quite different.

Tolerable vs Toxic Stress 

To understand these two types of stress it’s helpful to begin with an explanation of the brain’s stress mechanism. For these purposes we can separate the brain into two major divisions. We are all familiar with the advanced thinking part of the brain – the cerebrum. When we conjure an image of the human brain, it is the cerebrum we picture. But beneath that part of our brain is a more ‘body function’ oriented brain region that handles emotions, as well as basic body states like hunger and sleep. In that region there is the limbic system where emotions like fear, anger and joy are processed. Nearby is an area called the hypothalamus and a gland called the adrenal gland which work together to release hormones in response to emotions or other body states.

What physically happens with stress?

One hormone produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress is called cortisol. That hormone is used by the body to increase our blood sugar level to enhance metabolism – helping us turn food into energy. But at the same time it suppresses our immune system, making us more susceptible to illness. Many of us are familiar with the practical effects of increased cortisol if we feel ravenously hungry, for example, after a stressful day.

Another hormone produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress is adrenaline, also known as epinephrine.   Adrenaline causes an increase in breathing rate as well as blood circulation while it prepares our muscles for exertion. Like cortisol, adrenaline increases metabolism, especially for carbohydrates – thereby giving us the energy we need to avoid or tackle whatever it is that causes our stress.

Tolerable stressors give us the energy and strength through the increased metabolism and heightened bodily response, to get a job done effectively and efficiently.  For school-aged children, the stress of an upcoming test may provide a student with the motivation and energy to read and memorize new material. For an athlete, the stress of competition should help provide the edge needed to win. In all of these examples, the stress remains tolerable because there is an end in sight – the work project is completed.   The excess hormones then decrease, and there is a period of rest or relaxation that follows.

The difference with toxic stress is that there is no relief – the stress is ongoing and unremitting. The fight and flight hormone levels remain elevated for extended periods of time, not only negatively affecting the human body, but also changing the brain.   It’s important to remember in this regard that the brain is an experience dependent organ – it gets better at what it does most. Practice the piano a lot and you will push your brain to increase musical skills.

But, herein lies the problem with chronic toxic stress – the brain is focused on and therefore over-exercising stress responses (fight or flight).  When that happens, the brain is preparing us to act quickly and decisively, no time for thinking about the problem. So in essence, the thinking brain is blocked, so it is not exercising skills needed to do well in school.

As the brain gets better and better at responding quickly to stressful situations, the individual who has experienced toxic stress reacts more impulsively to potential stressors, like a bump on the shoulder, which may not bother someone else at all.  And, he or she remains agitated for a much longer period of time. For a student in school that can translate to highly impulsive behavior and increased aggression.  It may appear to be a lack of self-control and poor listening skills.  The student is essentially on high alert at all times which might work well in a boxing rink or basketball court but can be very problematic in a classroom.

What are some of the causes of toxic stress among school age children and is there a solution? Researchers know that chronic neglect or abuse in the home can cause toxic stress. But there are also other more subtle causes of toxic stress like ongoing marital strife between parents, chronic maternal depression, and very toxic we now know, poverty.  So what are the solutions to reducing stress for our children? Fortunately, they are more available than one might think.

  1. Supportive role models and environments: Psychologists have found that access to at least one supportive adult in a child’s environment can markedly reduce the effects of toxic stress. That can be a coach, a relative, a religious figure or, in many cases, a teacher. In fact, if you talk to successful adults who had very difficult or stressful childhoods, or who overcame extreme poverty, they will often single out a teacher or two who served as role models, inspirations and supporters.

But not only can a supportive teacher provide a relief from toxic stress – the school itself can provide a safe haven as long as the child feels protected and respected.  For that to occur, the student needs to be successful at learning, which is not easy for many students from unstable or low socioeconomic status environments.  However, several available methodologies are at hand to turn struggling learners into successful ones.

  1. Adopt a growth mindset: We have learned that when students believe that intelligence is not fixed but rather ‘smarts’ can develop through the process of learning, called a “growth mindset”, achievement is significantly accelerated.
  2. Relax: There is emerging evidence that brief periods of relaxation, meditation or yoga can relieve stress and have a positive effect on learning.
  3.  Build Cognitive and Literacy Skills: Finally, there are neuroscience-designed interventions that research indicates can specifically target and build those regions of the brain known to be important for learning, resulting in dramatic improvements in academic success.

Taking Part: Multicultural Festival

We at Parker Academy are always looking for new ways to reach out to families to include them in our adventures and successes. This is our second installment of ‘Taking Part’ in our 2018-2019 year and we hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

Parker Academy students have been creating signage for the many countries being represented at the festival. They will learn about a location’s racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity as they volunteer for this Multicultural event. These beautiful country signs and tent menus will adorn the sidewalks and allow visitors to visually understand aspects of each culture via their art work.
The Multicultural Festival takes place on September 23rd from 11AM-4PM on the State House lawn for an amazing day of cultural diversity along with a showcase of all their hard work!
Multicultural Festival: Our mission is to create a Welcoming Community for all by fostering a culture of appreciation for diversity, providing engaging learning opportunities, and empowering new Americans with opportunities to successfully integrate and be part of our community.
The Festival is a celebration of all cultures, featuring 4+ hours of entertainment performed by local musicians and dancers, more than 20 food vendors selling delectable cuisine from their home countries, local artists selling their unique crafts, traditional arts demonstrations, activities for all ages, an international flag parade with more than 40 countries represented, and so much more.

Taking Part: Day of Caring

We at Parker Academy are always looking for new ways to reach out to families to include them in our adventures and successes. This is our first installment of ‘Taking Part’ in our 2018-2019 year and we hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

Parker Academy took part in Granite United Way‘s ‘Day of Caring’ this morning. They tackled five different locations to make a difference in their community! From painting a building, removing brush or picking up litter, these kids put their all into the tasks at hand. #dayofcaring2018

US History and the Civil War – By Joe Webster

parker-academy-us-historyIn US History, the class has been learning about slavery and the Civil War. With a class size of four, the students have a lot of opportunity to ask questions and share their ideas.

We started with reading aloud portions of “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave” in an effort to get them used to using a “ primary source” This helps them to get an eyewitness view of the cruelties and spirit crushing impact of slavery.

We followed this with lessons on the various compromises of the antebellum period in which Congress tried unsuccessfully to balance the interests of “Free Soil” states with slaveholding states. The class engaged in a notetaking and discussion exercise with excerpts from Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” documentary.

The unit ended with a reading of journal entries by John Wilkes Booth and others about the Lincoln assassination.

The unit was a great chance to see what the students knew about the Civil War and to add to their knowledge base. It helped students to develop an understanding of the issues Americans were struggling with at that time.