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					      The Parent Community Organization newsletter of Imagine Environmental Charter School JUNE 2009 Vol. 1, Issue 5

                                                                                             A letter from Jon
moving forward                                                                               I would like to take
                                                                                             this opportunity to
                                                                                             recognize the enor-
                                                                                             mous contribution
                                                                                             made by parents
                                                                                             during our school’s
                                                                                             first year. The ECS
                                                                                             school event list
                                                                                             is testimony to the dedication and
                                                                                             generosity of ECS parents and
                                                                                             volunteers. Over the course of this
                                                                                             school year volunteers have, among
                                                                                             many other things, baked, pub-
                                                                                             lished, designed, swept, planted,
                                                                                             walked, taught, donated, sold, cut,
                                                                                             laminated, collated, organized, sup-
                                                                                             ported, and chaired. Their efforts
                                                                                             and expertise have added immea-
                                                                                             surable value to our school culture.
                                                                                             Additional thanks should be directed
                                                                                             toward our enormously talented
                                                           looking back                      See Letter, page 4

 Board members rate the                                                                      In this issue...
 success of ECS’s first year                                                                 Kids Speak Out .......................... 3
                                                                                             Connect with Nature ................... 4
 By KatE LuCE angELL                                                                         Summer Events .......................... 5
 ECS’s first year has been so successful on so many fronts that it is difficult to imagine   Treespotting................................ 6
 now that the school’s success hasn’t always been a foregone conclusion.                     That’s Debatable......................... 7
 That’s the overwhelming sense that emerges from talking to Board President Barbara          Field Guide ................................. 8
 Hicks, Board member Monte Bohna and curriculum consultant Phil Parr.                        5 Questions ................................ 9
 The topic at hand was what the three thought were the school’s biggest                      Recipe ...................................... 10
 accomplishments this year, and what became clear during those discussions was that          Summer Reading...................... 11
 we can’t start to measure those accomplishments without remembering how close
                                                                                             E-Day ....................................... 12
 ECS came to remaining just another good idea—and the years of hard work that went
 into making that idea a reality.                                                            Ambrusko Memorial ................. 13
                                                                                             Earth Day & Night ..................... 14
 For Board member Monte Bohna, parent of first grader Meg Bohna, it’s the way the
                                                                                             PCO Fundraising Report ........... 15
 See ECS Board, page 2                                                                       Giving Back .............................. 16
ECS Board reflects on success
ECS Board, from page 1                                                                       during that time were aghast at what
school has risen to the challenge of
serving its students and their parents
                                              “If our successes                              they accomplished.

that stands out.                              can lead to                                    “We had no purchasing or cleaning
                                                                                             policies—we needed to create them.
“When we tried to get a charter for
the school,” said Monte, “we got a lot        improvements in                                The building needed to be brought
                                                                                             up to code. We created the PCO.
of skepticism from the school board,
people in the city and the suburbs.”
                                              public education,                              There was so much to do as far as the
                                                                                             environmental curriculum. There was all
One big source of that skepticism, he         that’s for                                     the hiring and the training. And we had
                                                                                             no furniture or books,” said Barbara,
added, was the school’s progressive
environmental theme.                          everyone’s good.”                              listing just a few of the tasks required
                                                                                             to open ECS doors for the start of the
“The fear, I think, was that this school                                                     school year.
would be an enclave for the children of       “If our successes can lead to                  She gives credit to everyone who was
white, middle-class people who liked to       improvements in public education, that’s       involved in those harried early months,
hug trees,” he said.                          for everyone’s good,” he said. “So by          but Barbara reserved her greatest praise
But Monte said he and the others              that yardstick, too, ECS is a success.”        for the commitment of her fellow Board
on the Board, as well as community            While Monte views the school’s                 members and principal Jon McCann.
supporters, felt strongly that ECS would      accomplishments from a perspective of          “There were nights we had to grab
appeal to, and serve the interests of,        service to its constituent populations,        him and tell him to go home, to take a
three important local groups: urban,          Board President Barbara Hicks sees the         break,” she said of Mr. McCann. “But it
largely African-American families, white      success of ECS as the product of a very        was clear he just loved doing it all, even
families from immediately adjacent areas      long road, and as a result of the efforts of   when it was overwhelming.”
such as Regent Square and Squirrel            a great many committed supporters.
Hill and those students whose parents                                                        There is still much to do, Barbara
would be attracted to the environmental       “It was in August of 2006 that the             added. “We have the expansion plans
curriculum.                                   Board first came together at my house,”        to work on. The Strategic Plan will be
                                              remembered Barbara. “And we met for            out soon. And we want to work on
The proof that a self-governed,               two long years with no school.”                creating closer ties to the community
environmentally themed school could
                                              Then, in February 2008, the Pittsburgh         and to our partners in the non-profit and
work for all three of these groups, he
                                              Board of Education finally granted the         environmental worlds.”
said, can be found in parents’ reactions
to the school.                                ECS charter, and suddenly, “everything
                                              had to be done right away.”
“The school has widespread support
among parents from every segment of           The Board called on Marla Ferrency and         “We need to
the community,” he noted. “We’re not
just a success in a limited, niche kind
                                              Kristin Abeshouse to help organize the
                                              start-up, created a Marketing Committee        maintain the
of way, but a success in a broad-based        to start publicizing the school and made
                                              what Barbara said she considers one of
                                                                                             culture of the
He noted that ECS has a minority
                                              its most important decisions: picking a        school as it grows,
student population of 40%, and that
                                                                                             since that’s the key
proportion is expected to continue.           Clearly, she added, they picked the right
                                              one in Jon McCann. “Jon literally put the      to our success.”
Another element of resistance to ECS at       school together,” she said, pointing out
first, he said, was its status as a charter   that he brought Curriculum Coordinator
school.                                       Kristen Priganc with him from the Urban        Yet part of being Board President, she
“Public schools can be leery of charter       League Charter School, where he had            said, is learning to let go and have
schools,” he said. “They see us as a          been Vice-Principal.                           confidence in others—and to enjoy what
challenge to them. It makes the public                                                       has been done so far.
                                              With just spring and summer of 2008
system think harder about what they’re        to work with, there was, said Barbara,         “It took a huge group of people working
doing.”                                       “a tremendous amount of work to do to          together—using their skills, ideas and
But healthy competition is the point of       start up the school.”                          thoughts—to get us where we are,” she
charter schools, added Monte, which                                                          reflected. “And now we have 156 kids on
                                              What normally takes more than year,
is part of why President Obama and his                                                       our waiting list!”
                                              ECS staff and supporters did in four
secretary of education, Arne Duncan,          months. Barbara noted that the Imagine
have gone on record as supporting             Schools staff who helped and visited           See ECS Board, page 3
The kids speak out                                                         ECS Board
                                                                           ECS Board, from page 2
            Ms. Priganc asks 6 students:
  “What is the best thing about this year at ECS?”                         Phil Parr is recovering from a serious
                   [ P h OTO S B y K I rSI Ja n S a ]                      leg injury, and so he has perhaps had
                                                                           the most time of the three to consider
                                                                           ECS’s accomplishments.

  When                                             Going
                                               on my
                                                                           Like Barbara, he too believes the
                                                                           choice of Jon McCann has been vital

we got our                                     hikes!
                                                                           to the success of the school.
                                                                           “It’s easy to write down what you

awards.                                        — tanner Maue,
                                               1st grade
                                                                           think the vision and the values of an
                                                                           organization should be,” said Phil.
                                                                           “But actually enacting that vision—
— Mackenna amole, Kindergarten
                                                                           that’s much harder. And I think we’ve
                                                                           been very fortunate we hired a principal
                                                                           who is a leader and who understands
                                                                           the vision and values of our school.”
                                                 Meeting                   He also credits Jon with bringing on
                                                                           board “highly effective leaders” in the
                                              new friends.                 faculty and staff, and leading them in
                                                                           such a way as to create consensus to
                                              — nile Ross, 2nd grade       move the school forward.
                                                                           But Phil quickly moved on from the
                                                                           school’s accomplishments to its
                                                                           future plans.
                                                                           “We are continuing to integrate the

     The field                                                             environmental curriculum into other
                                                                           areas, and we are continuing to work

 trip to Triple B
                                                                           on using the park for instructional
                                                                           purposes,” he said.

                                                                           “We also are moving forward on our
                                                                           expansion plans,” he noted, adding
                                                                           that the school’s overwhelming
 — niko Wiley, 2nd grade                                                   success has bred its own set of
                                                                           “It’s a great problem to have,” he said
                                                                           of the quick growth of ECS, “but we

      Going                      art, because                              need to maintain the culture of the
                                                                           school as it grows, since that’s the key

 to Triple B                 Ms. Merenstein gave                           to our success.”
                                                                           The school’s past experience bodes
 Farms and                   me a compliment that                          well for that process, he said. “We

                             I am one of the best                          had so much to get done, so much to
                                                                           respond to, but the Board has stuck
 getting                                 weavers                           to its vision throughout it all.”

 to play                                 in the                            Looking back, Phil paused for a
                                                                           moment to voice something all three
 violin.                                 class!                            of those interviewed expressed.
                                                                           “A lot of people didn’t believe we could
 — naomi Shorr,                                                            do this,” he said. “Even many of us on
                                                        — Joshua           the Board and our supporters weren’t
 3rd grade
                                                        Burks-McCormick,   prepared for how successful the school
                                                        3rd grade          is. But just look at us now.”

Letter from
                                            10 Ways to help kids
Letter, from page 1
                                            connect with nature
PCO. The PCO’s hard work con-               1. Start right now. Make spending time         tured nature play increases problem
tributes to the quality of our school       outdoors a habit for your whole family.        solving skills, reduces stress, and
at every level. It is a true privilege      Parents are the most important force in        sharpens concentration.
working as part of such a caring and        reconnecting our children to the natural
generous school community.                  world, and their enthusiasm can be con-
                                            tagious. Having a family that values this      7. Sleep under the stars.
ECS has achieved much to be proud           connection helps kids to feel rooted in the    Visit a local state
of in its first year. The school has        natural world and a sense of ownership         park with your tent
established itself as a quality public      for our planet.                                or check out cabin
school of choice serving students                                                          or yurt rentals.
from across the city and beyond.                                                           Don’t forget your
2009/10 enrollment and subsequent           2. Be prepared. Pack your child an explor-     star map. For a list
lottery resulted in long waiting lists at   er’s kit and encourage them to grab it and     of parks check out
all grade levels. The school facility is    go. Fill it with notebooks, colored pencils,
poised to expand in 2010 providing          a magnifying glass and jars to collect bugs
ECS students with a state-of-the-art        and rocks. Keep rain boots and jackets
K-8 facility on the perimeter of one of     accessible, so it is easy to be flexible and   8. Encourage your kids to check out a
the city’s premiere green spaces. As        to embrace all sorts of weather.               guide book and explore a new aspect of
ECS moves in to its second school                                                          the natural world. Kids really love to hunt
year a strategic plan has been cre-                                                          for different kinds rocks, trees, tracks,
ated that articulates areas for growth      3. Watch birds instead of                          or butterflies. Experts suggest that
and improvement. Parent and com-            TV. According to the AAP,                           as familiarity with nature increases,
munity feedback has been central in         the average American                                so does the sense of connection
the development of the school-wide          kid spends more than 3                              felt by our kids.
improvement goals. The 2009/10              hours a day in front of the
Strategic Plan, currently available         TV or computer. The same
for review on the ECS web site, lays        kid only spends 30 minutes                      9. Team up with other families to form
out goals, strategies, and activities       per week on unstructured outdoor               an informal kids’ nature club, but let the
designed to facilitate school improve-      play. The National Wildlife Federation         kids’ set the pace. Meet for informal hikes
ment in the upcoming school year.           suggests instituting a “greenhour”, a          or share equipment like bikes, tents,
We look forward to the challenge of         daily time dedicated to turning off the        and kids outdoor clothing. Many of the
improving our school in a focused           electronics and to free nature play. Go to     benefits of this type of unstructured free
and deliberate manner. Thank you to for more information.        play are social, and kids often really thrive
all school constituents that helped                                                        when they are given the freedom to create
craft the 2009/10 Strategic Plan.                                                          their own games.
                                            4. Expand your living space to include
As part of an effort to improve school
                                            the outdoors. Pitch a tent or make a
communications, the next school
                                            fort, and treat it as your family room for     10. Show your support for No Child
year will bring a new web site and
                                            the summer. Set up nature table in your        Left Inside Act of 2009. Contact your
a web-based centralized student
                                            yard and a chair for reading or napping        representatives and encourage your kids
information system (SIS). In an effort
                                            outside. Eat your dinners on a blanket in      to do the same. Our kids are the next
to save paper and time, the school
                                            the backyard.                                  generation of conservationists and we
will manage all student data electroni-
                                                                                                    will all benefit as they will grow to
cally. The SIS will provide teachers
                                                                                                         respect and protect nature.
with a computer-based attendance
                                            5. Start a backyard garden. Growing                              Go to www.NCLIcoalition.
application, an electronic grade book,
                                            vegetables reminds kids of the impor-                            org for more information.
and the ability to provide homework
                                            tant connection between the earth
and parent messaging online. Parents
                                            and our food. Digging in the dirt has
will have access to grades and                                                                            For more ideas check out
                                            also been shown to be great exercise
student progress at all times through                                                                     www.childrenandnature.
                                            and to boost developing immune
a parent portal. Our administrative                                                                      org/ and Last Child in the
staff will work hard over the summer                                                                 Woods: Saving our Children
to install this system in preparation for                                                  from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard
the new school year.                        6. Rediscover the simple pleasures of          Louv. For a list of books for kids about
See Letter, page 10                         childhood like climbing trees or catching      nature see:
                                            worms, tadpoles and fireflies. Unstruc-        dren-nature-books/.

What’s going on here? (LOCaL Fun FOr yOur FaMILy)
                                                                                                                                         ECS t
OngOIng EVEntS:
                                                       ECS Days at Forbes & Braddock Playground
June through August                                    Summer 2009                                                                       Eve
Solar CoNCErt SErIES
The hit summer concert series is back!                  Bring the whole family to get together              kINdErgartEN
The summer sun powers the sound                         with your child(ren)s classmates at the             Saturday, July 11, noon - 3 p.m.
                                                        playground this summer. Each 2009-2010              Sunday, July 26, noon - 3 p.m.
system for Pittsburgh’s first green con-
cert series every Wednesday at 12:15                    grade-level has two dates organized by the          1St gradE
pm, June through August. It’s presented                 PCO. Feel free to organize and publicize            Sunday, July 12, noon - 3 p.m.
in front of the Children’s Museum in                    more get-togethers on your own.                     Saturday, August 1, noon - 3 p.m.
Allegheny Square on Pittsburgh’s                                                           the green        2Nd gradE
historic North Side, and free for all.                                                     family           Saturday, July 18, noon - 3 p.m.
For more information, visit                                             enjoying         Sunday, August 2, noon - 3 p.m.
                                                                                           the ECS
                                                                                           Potluck last
                                                                                                            3rd gradE
June through August                                                                                         Sunday, July 19, noon - 3 p.m.
CItIparkS rovINg art Cart                                                                                   Saturday, August 8, noon - 3 p.m.
Pick up a paintbrush, sculpt with clay,
                                                                                                            4tH gradE
create 3D objects with paper and much
                                                        Some social events will be held at the              Saturday, July 25, noon - 3 p.m.
more as the Citiparks Roving Art Cart                                                                       Sunday, August 9, noon - 3 p.m.
                                                        school during the summer as well. Check
celebrates its 36th season of inspiring
                                                        the calendar at to confirm           All dates held at the playground at
young artists in the City of Pittsburgh.
                                                        dates and get updates on summer events.             Forbes and Braddock.
The Roving Art Cart visits city neighbor-
hood parks and playgrounds beginning
in June and concluding in August. The            summer and fall by visiting Citiparks             discover how magical the woods can be
Roving Art Cart visits one site each             Farmers’ Markets. All markets will sell           by the beam of glow sticks and fireflies!
Tuesday through Friday (10 a.m. to 1             farm-fresh fruits, vegetables, meats,             Cost: $20.00 family. Fee is based on a family
p.m.) and weekend community festivals            cheese and baked goods, while sev-                of four. Otherwise cost is $5 per person. For
and citywide special events (hours vary          eral locations will also sell flowers,            more information, visit
per event). The Roving Art Cart festivi-         small gifts and gardening items.
ties kick off with a special opening day         For more information, call 412-422-6523           Sunday, July 26, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
celebration on Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at         or visit             Venture Outdoors presents:
the Super Playground in Highland Park.           html/farmers_market.html                          FaMIly BIkE rIdE
For more information, call 412-665-3665                                                            Join our experienced guides on this
                                                 June through September                            family-friendly ride through Highland Park.
June through August                              WEdNESday NIgHt WalkS                             The route is a paved, 1 mile loop- per-
CINEMa IN tHE park                               IN tHE WoodS                                      fect for cyclists of all ages. Participants
Grab a blanket and head out for an un-           The popular Wednesday-night walks in              are welcome to practice their cycling
forgettable evening of cinema under the          the woods runs from June to September,            skills with one loop or complete more
stars. The 2009 “Dollar Bank Cinema in           visiting a different regional park each           for a fitness ride. Bike supply is limited,
the Park” schedule will include Slum-            week. Docents familiar with the parks             so advanced registration is recom-
dog Millionaire, Star Wars: The Clone            and their neighborhoods provide a tour            mended. Feel free to bring your own.
Wars, The Dark Knight, Mamma Mia!,               that touches on the history, ecology,             After the ride, we’ll enjoy a picnic lunch.
WALL-E, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa              and improvements to the parks over                Cost: $20.00 family. Fee is based on a family
and many other current movie favorites           the years.                                        of four. Otherwise cost is $5 per person. For
                                                 For a schedule of walks, visit:                   more information, visit
for all members of the family. Return to
your favorite movie location at Flagstaff
Hill, Riverview Park, Grandview Park in                                                            Saturday, August 22, 8:15 a.m.
                                                 OnE-tIME EVEntS:                                  rUN aroUNd tHE SQUarE
Mt. Washington, Arsenal Park in Law-
renceville, Brookline Memorial Park, East                                                          Run – or walk – through Frick Park’s
                                                 Sunday, July 5, 8 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.                beautiful Fern Hollow. Citiparks and the
Liberty or West End/Elliott Overlook.            Venture Outdoors presents:
For more information, visit citi-                                                                  Regent Square Civic Association host
                                                 gloW StICk NIgHt HIkE                             an event featuring musicians, costumed or call 412-937-3039                   Gather the whole family up as the sun             characters and themed-water stops
                                                 sets and head to Riverview Park for an            sprinkled throughout the course.
June through November
                                                 enchanted evening hike. The pace will             For more information, visit
CIty FarMErS’ MarkEtS
                                                 be leisurely, as our guides lead us along
Satisfy your appetite for fresh-picked
                                                 this flat, 1.5 to 2-mile trail. Together, we’ll
fruits and vegetables throughout the

Treespotting: Mad Horse
By paul g wiegman                                         The next step is to remember the phonet-           Your identification work isn’t done yet.
Now that the trees are green, identifica-                 ic device “MAD Horse”. That translates
                                                                                                             There are several species of maples to
tion turns from the bark to the leaves.                   to Maple, Ash, Dogwood, and HORSE
                                                                                                             be found in this area. Those include the
                                                          Chestnut. These are the four groups
With the wide variety of species growing                                                                     common red maple, along with sugar
                                                          of native trees in this region that have
on the uplands, slopes, and bottomlands                                                                      and silver maples. In addition, there are a
                                                          opposite leaves. If you check the leaf
of Frick Park, learning which species is                                                                     couple of maples that are small trees or
                                                          arrangement and find that the leaves are
which can be daunting. There are some                                                                        shrubs. All have the familiar simple palm-
                                                          attached to opposite sides of the twigs or
short cuts.                                                                                                  shaped leaf. Well, all except one. Box
                                                          stem, the tree is one of these types.
                                                                                                             elder, despite the name, is in the maple
The first step is to look at the way the                                                                                     family but has compound,
leaves are arranged on                                                                                                       instead of simple, leaves.
the twigs. There are three                                                                                                   However, the leaves are
basic patterns of leaf                                                                                                       still oppositely arranged
arrangement: whorled,                                                                                                        on the twigs.
alternate, and opposite.
                                                                                                                            Just like the maples,
Plants with more than two                                                                                                   there are several species
leaves attached around                                                                                                      of ashes including white,
the stem at the same                                                                                                        red, and green. White ash
point are in a whorled                                                                                                      is the most common so
arrangement. This is the                                                                                                    when you find an ash tree
least common pattern.                                                                                                       in Frick Park it is likely to
Plants with the leaves                                                                                                      be white ash.
attached along the stem
alternating from one side                                                                                                   Dogwood is easier. Only
to the other have an alter-                                                                                                 the native white dogwood
nate attachment pattern.                                                                                                    gets to be tree size. The
Finally, plants with leaves                                                                                                 rest of the members of
attached along the stem                                                                                                     this group are shrubs.
at the same point on the                                                                                                    And finally, Horse refers to
twig but on opposite sides                                                                                                  Horse Chestnut and there
of the stem have opposite                                                                                                   is only one commonly
leaf arrangement, as you                                                                                                    found species, the familiar
see in the photograph of a                                                                                                  buckeye.
young maple.                                                                                                                The next time you’re in
Checking the arrangement                                                                                                    the park remember MAD
of the leaves is the first step                                                                                             Horse, and see if you can
in identifying what species                                                                                                 find yourself a maple,
of tree you have found.                                                                                                     ash, dogwood and horse

                         Endangered Species                                                 Would you like to provide your child with a
                                                                                            wholesome, delicious packed lunch every day?
                         Action Team
                         Good group... good food... good cause!                                         Y-LUNC           Pack-My-Lunch is a mother-
                                                                                                                         owned catering business

                                                                                                             H.C M

                                                                                                                         delivering great lunches
                                       We would love to have you     join us                                             directly ECS. We pack the

                                       whether you have a lot of time, just a minute,
                                       or no time at all but have a lot of interest!                                     lunches that you would
                                       Contact: Kathleen at
                                                                                                                         pack if you had the time to.
                                       or Bett at

                           An o cial campaign of the Sierra Club Allegheny Group             Visit for more information.

That’s debatable: homework
The opinions expressed in this column won’t necessarily lead to the changes their debaters desire, but they should serve to
open up more discussion—which is just what responsible newspapers should foster.

Do you agree with the school’s homework policy?

yes                            Doing Homework: from
                               Hassles to Habits
                                                                  no                                 Less Stress Leads to
                                                                                                     Better Performance
                                                                                                     We could lessen the unfortunate
                               We all struggle with do-
                               ing homework to varying                                               amount of stress children face
                               degrees, but for those with                                           these days by modifying ECS’s
                               1st-3rd graders, most agree:                                          homework policy.
                               it can be a hassle. Homework                                          We moved here from Finland
                               lengthens the school day                                              last summer, and our first-born
                               (especially if kids ride a bus).                                      started first grade. In most
                               It can take time away from                                           every way I am happy with the
unstructured play, create stress for kids (and parents), and          ECS. I have had, though, a hard time accepting the pressure
foster a negative attitude towards school.                            and stress the children are exposed to early on. Homework is
Yet homework also is a good habit to instill. Good habits are         one part of this. Given the ECS has extended school days and
attitudes and behaviors that help our kids gain autonomy              school year, the type of homework given merits some thought.
and take on new responsibilities. Saying “thank you” and              What does a child really need after the final bell? Time for
doing small chores are examples. Doing homework is                    free and uninterrupted play? Time to be with friends? Time to
another. Some habits take months (or years) to instill in             explore nature? Time to get enough sleep? Or another 15-30
our kids. First there might be a resistance phase, then a             minutes of school work on top of the 7-hour (plus commute)
“continually needing to remind them” phase. Finally, with             school day?
persistence, a habit forms where doing becomes more
automatic.                                                            Homework might be intended to take 15 minutes, but with the
                                                                      struggle involved it often exceeds half an hour. How many of
Here are a few ideas we’ve found useful on making home-               us adults want our tasks to follow us home after a long work
work more of a habit than a hassle for our 1st grader. First,         day?
try to keep the amount of time spent on homework within
reason. A rule of thumb is 10-15 minutes starting in 1st              I prefer to raise my child to know how to relax – just be – one
grade, adding about 5 minutes a year through 6th grade.               who knows what leisure time means rather than promote a
Second, reward effort, not achievement. Instead of saying,            stressed-out, workaholic lifestyle that is sadly the norm for
“good job” for just doing the work, we try to praise Matthew          many adults.
for activities he works hardest on. Third, make homework              Research has shown that homework during the first school
fun. Participate in activities included with the homework             years does not guarantee improved academic performance.
assignments. Improvise with novel ideas related to the                There is plenty of time in later grades to learn good study
learning unit. Fourth, encourage doing homework early so              habits. I am also concerned that homework at the elementary
there’s more free time afterward. Finally, make rewards con-          level may lead to an anti-school attitude.
tingent on promptness and cooperation in doing homework
(e.g., dessert surprise, get to watch PBS kids). This is a last       All of us wish the best for our children. If the ECS requires
resort to help kick start a good habit.                               homework starting in 1st grade, then at least make it fun.
                                                                      For example, the Love and Logic Institute promotes the
In sum, homework is a good habit for kids. And more                   idea of no-paper-and-pencil-homework. It might mean extra
extensive take home projects (that go beyond homework                 thought and added creativity from teachers and parents, but
exercises) also are great experiences that help kids learn            there are many options to old-fashioned homework.
how to plan, follow instructions, and exert mental and
physical effort to complete a task. If you persist in trying to       See:
instill good homework habits, it will pay off.                        People, youth and adults alike, do better in life and are
- Gerard Beenen                                                       happier when they are relaxed and free of undue stress.
                                                                      - Kirsi Jansa

Want to get into the fray?
Post your thoughts on the PCO message boards at Click on Newsletter for continued
healthy discussion.

diary of                                       stumbled upon what looked like scat with
                                               a skull in it! Everyone bent down to take
                                               a closer look. Was the skull a carnivore
                                                                                                were walking! Nobody screamed and
                                                                                                nobody shouted. Instead, a calm group
                                                                                                of at least 30 1st grade students qui-

the Field                                      or herbivore? Its teeth said herbivore and
                                               the size indicated a woodchuck. Then
                                                                                                etly observed the snake as it navigated
                                                                                                through the tree roots and pebbles. I was

                                               we pondered what would eat a wood-               so impressed that I emailed the whole
                                               chuck as I was pondering how in the              staff about it!
                                               world something could pass a skull that
                                                                                                Kids retain more in a hands-on fashion.
                                               size in their scat!? As we were poking
By aMy BIanCO                                                                                   Repeated hikes to the same places
                                               around at the skull, a large, unidentified
                                                                                                reinforce what they’ve learned. I had
Dear diary,                                    bug crawled out from beneath and we
                                                                                                the opportunity to lead Ms. Raimondo’s
                                               all took the time to check out the bug
The school year is coming to an end! It                                                         Kindergarten class on a leisure hike
                                               and discuss its characteristics. It was an
went by as fast as the leaves appeared!                                                         through the park. While looking for signs
                                               awesome nature mystery.
It’s hard to believe I’ve been on ap-                                                           of spring, the kids kept pointing out
proximately 70 hikes with the staff and        The largest hiking group was always 1st          some of the more, well, stinky things
students since January. The students           grade. All three classes would go out            along the trail, namely dog poop. So, our
have come a long way with their hiking         as one big group. One sunny day, while           conversation turned to animal scat, scat
etiquette. They know why it’s important        venturing into Frick Park, Miss Dessell          being the professional word that scien-
to stay in the trail and to “respect nature”   noticed a young garter snake right beside        tists use to describe poop. I encouraged
and they know to put the roofs back            the trail, just two feet from where we           the kids to use the word scat since they
on the pill bugs’ houses. Students did                                                          were young scientists. Aside from more
very well practicing quiet observation                                                          scat sightings, we found mayapples,
using their ears and eyes. One time,                                                                          garlic mustard, and other signs
Mrs. Brunger’s class was so quiet; I                                                                          of spring breaking through the
thought birds were going to perch on our                                                                     ground. It was a great hike with
heads! The teachers did a fantastic job                                                                      great conversation. The follow-
of coming up with cool activities that                                                                      ing week, I went out with Miss
incorporated the environmental studies                                                                     Raimondo’s class again. I was
curriculum into the outside time. Some                                                                    pleasantly surprised to hear one
of my favorites were finding things that                                                                 little girl say, “Look Miss Amy, dog
were one foot long with paper feet rul-                                                                 SCAT”! And, again, pleasantly sur-
ers and using magnifiers to study the                                                                   prised to hear half the class yell,
“tiniest things” on the ground within                                                                  “MAYAPPLES” when we passed
a pipe cleaner circle. Other times,                                                                    some I didn’t even see!
just loose observation walks to the                                                                   Although I’m looking forward to the
stream led to the most awesome                                                                       summer, I’m going to miss sharing
discoveries.                                                                                         summer’s outside progression with
There were many highlights on the                                                                   the students and staff. I’m confident
hikes; things I know will be remem-                                                                 that the kids will be looking and lis-

bered by teachers and students                                                                     tening on their own and perhaps get-

alike. On a casual hike with Ms.                                                                  ting even dirtier on family outings! I’m
Handron’s 2nd grade class, we                                                                     already looking forward to next year!

                                   Lenore P. Wossidlo
                                   Group Manager & Mother

                                   7457 McClure Avenue
                                   Pittsburgh, PA 15218

                                   412-480-7473 cell                      PUBLISH YOURSELF NOW. WE MAKE IT EASY.
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                        questions                                           Get to know an ECS community member better through 5 inane
                                                                            questions...this month, Melissa Raimondo, Kindergarten

1. What is your favorite item in              I’ve never eaten there and I’ve heard it’s         5. Preferred caffeine-delivery
your classroom?                               delicious!                                         beverage? (Or are you naturally
                                                                                                 that energetic?)
Ellie, my guinea pig. I love her!             3. Most surprising moment so far
                                              at ECS?                                            Coffee...mild blend with a shot (or 4) of
2. If you could have lunch with any
                                                                                                 hazelnut and cream! Mmmm. Haha...but,
Pittsburgher, living or dead, who             Oh, wow! Let me see...I was very
                                                                                                 I’m pretty energetic on my own too!! :)
would it be and where would you               surprised to find out Ms. White would
eat?                                          not be coming back. We will miss her!
Hmm, great question! I think I would like     4. What songs do you belt out in the
to have lunch with Mr. Rogers. I actually     car, when no one is listening?
was fortunate enough to spend a bit of
                                              How did you know I belt out songs in
time with him growing up, but now as an
                                              the car? Have you been following me?
adult/teacher I think having lunch with
                                              Haha. Just kidding. I sing along with
him would be really fun! I would definitely
                                              pretty much any song that is on the radio.
pick his brain about a number of things.
                                              Some of my favorites are: Bob Marley
What a great man he was! I would like
                                              and Justin Timberlake.
to have lunch with him at the Frick...

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get Fresh:                                                                      Letter from
A seasonal recipe from John Lash                                                Jon
                                                                                Letter, from page 4
                                                                                Our educational partnerships continue
INGREDIENTS:                                 1 cup chopped dates                to expand as our “place based” environ-
                                                                                mental curriculum grows in sophistica-
6 cups rolled oats                           2 cups assorted dried fruit        tion. Over the summer, all elements
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour                 1 Tbsp. Salt                       of our EE curriculum will be reviewed
                                                                                by leaders in the field of environmental
1 cup wheat germ                             1 cup honey
                                                                                education to provide important critical
1 cup coconut                                1/3 cup molasses                   feedback. As we wind down the year
                                                                                in academics and instruction, we are
1 cup chopped nuts                           2/3 cup canola oil
                                                                                forging ahead in the development, refine-
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal                      1/3 – 1/2 cup cinnamon             ment and enrichment of our environmen-
3/4 cup raisins                              1/2 cup hot water                  tal education program. With an added
                                                                                environmental specialist on deck for the
3/4 cup golden raisins                                                          2009-2010 school year (Laura Micco),
                                                                                and new projects with partnering organi-
                                                                                zations on the horizon, our environmental
TO PREPARE:                                                                     program will continue to create engaging
                                                                                experiences for each of our students.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
                                                                                This summer, faculty will be working to
Combine dry ingredients, then add wet until thoroughly combined. Bake on        develop more fully integrated units that
cookie sheets until done, at least 20 minutes, stirring every 5 or 6 minutes.   reflect the content and concepts of focus
                                                                                in our five-unit EE curricular program,
                                                                                and additional supplies and resources
                                                                                will be added to the science education
                                                                                classroom to enhance outdoor investiga-
                                                                                tions. We look forward to beginning the
                                                                                2009 school year with children ready to
                                                                                explore the Pittsburgh urban landscape!

                                                                                Final note: This year our school dealt
                                                                                with the devastating loss of both Kate
                                                                                and Peter Ambrusko. During those
                                                                                difficult days and subsequent weeks it
                                                                                became apparent how powerful and
                                                                                supportive our school community has
                                                                                become. We continue to think about
                                                                                Kate and Peter and take comfort in
                                                                                working with Mrs. Ambrusko to ensure
                                                                                Kate and Peter’s wish for a playground
                                                                                becomes reality here at ECS.

Summer reading for Parents and Teachers
Not the typical summer reading list,          each of the food chains that sustain us–       fast, to mimic adult sophistication while
this one includes non-fiction books that      whether industrial or organic, alternative     secretly yearning for innocence. Elkind
address some of the core concepts             or processed–he develops a portrait of         offers parents and teachers insight,
of environmental education. The PCO           the American way of eating. The result         advice, and hope for encouraging healthy
Library Committee selected                        is a sweeping, surprising exploration      development while protecting the joy and
these books because they                               of the hungers that have shaped       freedom of childhood.
give us all the opportunity                            our evolution, and of the profound
                                                                                             Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Chil-
to learn about some of                                implications our food choices have
                                                                                             dren the Freedom We Had Without
the issues vital to healthy                          for the health of our species and
                                                                                             Going Nuts with Worry by Lenore
childhood. Enjoy!                                   the future of our planet.
Last Child in the                                   Coming this fall: The Omnivore’s         How come we had so much more free-
Woods: Saving Our                                  Dilemma for Kids: The Secrets             dom when we were kids? How can we
Children from Nature-                              Behind What You Eat. This young           give our kids that freedom now? In this
Deficit Disorder by                               readers’ adaptation of Pollan’s            funny, fed-up book, Lenore encourages
Richard Louv                                      famous food-chain exploration              parents to let their kids be kids. She’s all
In this groundbreaking                           encourages kids to con-                               for helmets and car seats but
work, child advocacy expert Richard             sider the personal and                                 insists children do not need a
Louv directly links the lack of nature in     global health implications of                             security detail every time they
the lives of today’s wired generation–        their food choices.                                       go outside. The book reads
he calls it nature deficit–to some of the                                                                like a conversation with your
                                              Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
most disturbing childhood trends, such                                                                    funniest, most honest friend.
                                              by Barbara Kingsolver,
as rises in obesity, Attention Deficit                                                                     Readers will find themselves
                                              Camille Kingsolver, Steven
Disorder, and depression. Environment-                                                                     laughing out loud while shed-
                                              L. Hopp
based education dramatically improves                                                                       ding their fears. For anyone
                                              Bestselling author Barbara
standardized test scores and grade point                                                                    who remembers the days of
                                              Kingsolver brings us her first
averages and develops skills in problem                                                                      walking to school, playing
                                              nonfiction narrative that will
solving, critical thinking, and decision                                                                     outside, or eating a kernel of
                                              open your eyes in a hundred
making. Even creativity is stimulated by                                                                 unwrapped candy corn–and
                                              new ways to an old truth: you are
childhood experiences in nature. Parents                                                     longs to bring them back to childhood–
                                              what you eat. Hang on for the ride: with
have the power to ensure that their                                                          this book is a must-read.
                                              characteristic poetry and pluck, Barbara
daughter or son will not be the “last child
                                              Kingsolver and her family sweep readers        I Love Dirt!: 52 Projects to Help You
in the woods,” and this book is the first
                                              along on their journey away from the           and Your Kids Get Outside, Get Dirty,
step toward that nature-child reunion.
                                              industrial-food pipeline to a rural life in    and Enjoy Nature by Jennifer Ward,
Sharing Nature With Children by               which they vow to buy only food raised in      Susie ghahremani and Richard Louv
Joseph Bharat Cornell                         their own neighborhood, grow it them-          Oh, what fun a child can have by jumping
As Joseph Cornell’s classic book              selves, or learn to live without it. Part      in mud puddles, collecting bugs, and
reached its 20th anniversary, Cornell         memoir, part journalistic investigation,       listening to the birds! And yet, many
drew upon a wealth of experience in na-       Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a pas-        children today have become so occupied
ture education to significantly revise and    sionate case for putting the kitchen back      with TV, computers, and video games,
expand his book. New nature games–            at the center of family life and diversified   that unstructured, outdoor play is sadly
favorites from the field–and Cornell’s        farms at the center of the American diet.      becoming a thing of the past. I Love
typically insightful commentary makes                                                        Dirt! is a call to parents, educators, and
                                              The Hurried Child by David Elkind
the second edition of this special classic                                                   caregivers to help children recover one of
                                                      With the first edition of The
even more valuable to nature                                                                 the great joys of childhood. Through fifty-
                                                       Hurried Child, David Elkind
lovers world-wide.                                                                           two activities, readers will find a wealth of
                                                       emerged as the voice of par-
                                                                                             creative ways to actively engage children,
The Omnivore’s Dilemma:                                 enting reason, calling our
                                                                                                               ages four to nine, in
A Natural History of Four                               attention to the crippling
                                                                                                                     nature. Each project
Meals by Michael Pollan                                 effects of hurrying our
                                                                                                                     is meant to promote
A national bestseller that has                           children through life. He
                                                                                                                     exploration, stimu-
changed the way readers                                  showed that by blur-
                                                                                                                    late imagination, and
view the ecology of eating, this                         ring the boundaries of
                                                                                                                    heighten a sense of
revolutionary book by award                               what is age appropri-
winner Michael Pollan asks                                ate, by expecting–or
the seemingly simple question:                             imposing–too much
What should we have for dinner?                            too soon, we force
Tracing from source to table                        our kids to grow up too

E-day wraps up our first year
By KRIStan aBESHOuSE                            Drummers and storyteller Mrs. Connie          I know the E-Day team is getting it right
It is hard to believe our first year is wrap-   Robinson. They also spent an afternoon        when I hear on a daily basis, a child say
ping up in E-Day, the extended day pro-         deep in Frick Park with Creek Connec-         to their parent, “Oh… I’m not ready to
gram at Imagine ECS, and what a year. It        tions, exploring the marsh and its effects    go!” or “You’re here already?” and as
has been a true pleasure to spend the af-       on the park.                                  good parents do, they patiently wait in
ternoons with the children, and watching                                                      the hall to allow their children to finish that
                                                We also had fun for fun’s sake, with a
them grow and mature over the inaugural                                                       clay pot, or dance the last Charleston,
                                                celebration or two. We hosted a wel-
year has been a gratifying experience.                                                        prior to yelling good-bye to their friends.
                                                come back to school party in January
As I reflect over the year I am delighted       and a Harry Potter themed day with a
by all the fun times we have shared with        special magic show by Hagrid (aka Mr.
the children in E-Day. The E-Day kids           Kaufman). This spring the children were
have had numerous hikes and soccer              treated to a live cooking demonstration,
games; created clay pots and bird feed-         and had the opportunity to taste sautéed
ers; examined bugs and even a juvenile          organic dandelion greens along with iced
garter snake; played recycle relay and          dandelion tea as a wrap up to native
musical chairs to live banjo music; have        plants week.
put on a puppet show and danced the             This first year in E-Day has been ex-
Charleston.                                     ceptional due largely to the dedicated
E-Day has even had its share of special         and talented team. Each person has
events to enrich the program. The chil-         strengths that round out our program
dren were both entertained and educated         and a joy for life that they bring to E-Day
during a performance by Umoja African           every day.

  Are Y

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Kate and Peter ambrusko, remembered

Kate Ambrusko, a first grade student at ECS,
    and her younger brother Peter died in an
     automobile accident on April 6th, 2009.

  The ECS community and family and friends
of the Ambruskos gathered to plant two trees
   at the school in memory of Kate and Peter.
 Their mother, Amy, is pictured here shoveling
        dirt on one of the trees at the planting.

     The Kate and Peter Ambrusko Memorial
  Fund has been established by the family to
 benefit the school. Memorials may be made
  to The Kate and Peter Ambrusko Memorial
 Fund and sent to The Environmental Charter
      School at Frick Park, 829 Milton Street,
     Pittsburgh, PA 15218 and marked to the
       attention of Mr. Jon McCann, Principal.

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Celebrating Earth, Day + night

                                                                            at ECS.

Jon McCann with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl at the Frick Environmental Center’s
Earth Day celebration.

End-of-the-year PCO Fundraising report
The PCO Fundraising Committee has                    Mini-grants                                 Recipient: Kathy Hoel, Librarian
organized many successful fundraisers                The PCO gives back to the school by         Amount: $202.65
this year. The numbers below reflect                 awarding mini-grants for school supplies,   35 clip-on shelf markers for the school
money raised as of early May 2009:                   special projects, programs for students,    library: The fiction, series, and nonfiction
Bake Sales                   $1200.65                etc. Mini-grants awarded as of early        shelves need bookends/dividers which
Smencils                      $352.00                May include:                                will prevent the books from falling off
                                                                                                 the shelf and will provide visual cues for
Spirit T-shirts               $758.00                Recipient: Diane Karichko, 2nd grade
                                                                                                 students browsing the sections.
Gingerbread House Event         $72.78               teacher
Fall Festival                 $289.83                Amount: $102.39                             Recipient: Jon McCann, Principal
ArtStamps                     $353.00                Reusable tote bags and watercolor paints    Amount: $60
School Supply Kits            $547.26                for an Earth Day project.                   Five self-contained first aid kits which will
Plant Sale                  $2,100.00                                                            be available in backpacks stocked for
                                                     Recipient: Kindergarten team
School Directory Ads          $163.00                                                            outdoor use and used by each teacher
                                                     Amount: $255 Affiliate Program $170.30                                                             leading a class outdoors.
                                                     3 sets of Frog Reading and Language set
Target’s Take                                        Level R for small group centers.            Recipient: Sharon McCune,
 Charge of Education            $64.05                                                           2nd grade Room Parent
                                                     Recipient: Lya Laberge, Parent
Box Tops                      $281.10                                                            Amount: approx. $150
                                                     Amount: $185
Cartridges for Kids             $40.35                                                           The 2nd graders took a field trip to see
                                                     Money will be used for membership
Giant Eagle Apples for Students                                                                  the musical Charlotte’s Web at Point
                                                     fees and regional costs for Odyssey of
 ECS earned points to receive                                                                    Park University. The mini-grant provided
                                                     the Mind, an international educational
 playground equipment                                                                            financial assistance for admission fees
                                                     program that provides creative problem-
                                                                                                 to ensure that every student was able to
For more information on PCO fundraisers,             solving opportunities for students from
please visit and click on             kindergarten through college for the
“Support”.                                                                                       For more information on applying for a
                                                     2009-2010 school year.
                                                                                                 mini-grant, please go to:

                                    Providing quality printing and

                                    copy services to community

                                    groups, non-pro t organizations

                                    and businesses.

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ECS Students give
Back to the Community                                               to contact us, e-mail:
Throughout the school year, ECS students had several
chances to learn about the importance of giving to                  CONTRIBUTORS:
community members in need.                                          Kristan Abeshouse             Marla Ferrency
In the fall, the local Girl Scout troop held a food drive at        Kate Luce Angell              Kirsi Jansa
                                                                    Molly Bennett                 Ailish Luedde
the school. Each classroom collected non-perishable food
                                                                    Amy Bianco                    Felicia Turano
items and other basic necessities. This 2-week food drive           Emily Escalante               paul g wiegman
brought in enough donations to fill an entire minivan. The
Squirrel Hill Food Bank was very happy to receive it.
The month of December brought a new tradition to ECS:               comPOSt is printed on 100% recycled paper.
Reindeer Penny Wars. Students enjoyed bringing their
loose change in every day and “voting” for teachers and
staff members by placing their coins in containers labelled
with staff names and pictures. The “winners” (those
teachers with the most pennies) donned antlers and led a
school-wide sing-along. But more importantly, all of those
donated coins were given to a family in the Imagine Schools
                                                                       The Parent Community Organization newsletter of
community who experienced a tragic house fire. ECS sent
                                                                       Imagine Environmental Charter School is distributed to
over $1000 to this family in Columbus, Ohio.
                                                                       every family attending ECS in addition to many Partner
The Ruzanic family, led by 3rd grader Annie Ruzanic,                   Organizations and a broad range of community support
organized the Have a Heart Blanket Drive in February. In               groups. ComPOST is also available online at
just 10 days, students donated close to 50 blankets. On      
Valentine’s Day Annie and her family gave the blankets to
Family Links’ homeless shelter for youth in the lower Hill             Insertion Fees:
District. Annie is hoping to be able to donate more than               1/8 pg (3 5/8” w x 2 3/8” h) ......................................$15
200 blankets next year!                                                1/4 pg (3 5/8” w x 4 7/8” h) ......................................$24
                                                                       1/2 pg (7 1/2” w x 4 7/8” h) ......................................$42
Parent Sharon McCune, with help from Heidi Green,
                                                                       full pg (7 1/2” w x 10” h) ...........................................$80
planned a sweater drive in honor of Mister Rogers’ birthday
on March 20. Over the course of two weeks, ECS families                Deadlines:
and friends donated 193 sweaters which were given to                   All materials are due the 1st of each month for publication
POWER, the leading provider in Western Pennsylvania of                 in the next month’s issue.
gender-responsive addiction treatment designed specifically
for women ( Sharon would like to               Submission Guides:
turn this into an annual tradition at ECS.                             Preferred ad format: high-resolution, press-optimized PDF
                                                                       file. Acceptable formats: InDesign, Quark, Photoshop and
Clearly, our students have many generous role models and               Illustrator. For a small fee, we will design your ad!
are quickly learning the value of donating time, money and
goods to charitable causes. Thank you to everyone involved             Send inquiries/files to:
in these real-life lessons.                                  

                                                                    Imagine Environmental Charter School
                                                                    829 Milton Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15218
                                                                    412-247-7970 |
annie Ruzanic delivering blankets donated by ECS students.


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