FPQ: School Daze

FPQ

I haven’t participated in Fandango’s Provocative Question lately, but I’m back! And #104 is a good one for me, because I am a former teacher and education has always been an interest of mine:

Today’s provocative question is about formal education. We all have our opinions on how best to educate and prepare our children to succeed in today’s highly complex world. So this begs the question:

What do you think is the one subject (or thing) that should be taught in school that isn’t?

Oh, there are many answers to this question! Students today don’t learn about half the things they should nowadays, and especially in the U.S. Therefore, I cannot just name one, but three, but grade level may determine the priority given to each.

  1. Life skills: this includes how to maintain a bank account, how to treat others in a civil society, how to live on your own, conservation, the responsibilities you have as an adult, parenting, managing a household or a budget, etc. This encompasses a wide range of topics, which are always changing (for example, in the past I might have said “how to balance a checkbook” but young people don’t use checkbooks anymore). This should be taught in middle school and high school. In middle school it could be more about decision-making, civility, and diversity. The curriculum should be somewhat fluid, because different communities might have particular needs and students have different needs. High school students maybe even should have some input about what is taught.
  2. History should be a required subject every year of high school, and also middle school. One high school year is not enough to learn all of U.S. history, which is always being added to. And standards for teaching history include many things that we weren’t taught when I was in high school, such as Native American history, and minorities’ contributions to our society. (When I was in school, it was mostly about leaders, dates, etc. We had Black History but it was a separate subject and not mandatory.) At least two years should be dedicated to U.S. history, possibly three, and at least one year should be world history.
  3. Starting in elementary school, from kindergarten on, all students should learn a foreign language. This is a very rare thing in American schools and most Americans are not only monolingual but woefully ignorant about the rest of the world. Even high schools don’t always require it. All research shows that the best time to learn another language is before the age of 12. My local school district in Des Plaines used to have Spanish classes as part of the curriculum in elementary school but only once a week and this program was discontinued along with the dual language program when budget cuts had to be made. It should be as important a class as math or English. One of this country’s major shortcomings is ignorance of other peoples and cultures. We are a large country and a world power but so is China and all their students learn foreign languages starting in elementary school. In fact, BECAUSE we are a world power, we should be more knowledgeable about the world . If other nations can teach these things, why can’t we?

    One good way to start elementary school students to learn another language is to implement a dual language program. Many school districts have bilingual programs, but that is not quite the same. Each school would select a foreign language that is predominant in their community and hire teachers fluent in both languages. Then the regular curriculum – math, reading, science, social studies, etc. could be taught in both languages from the beginning! Instead of trying to figure out how to find the time to teach foreign language, just integrate the foreign language into the regular curriculum. This would have the benefit of teaching children academic as well as social language. There are some good examples of dual language programs in the U.S. (which in some cases have replaced regular bilingual programs) and Canada has had them for a long time. But it isn’t a priority here, so therefore, unless you live in an enlightened district, it won’t be done. I have taught in a couple of dual language programs and it is definitely the best way to teach children a second language.

You may wonder, how on earth is it possible to add all these extra things to the curriculum? I don’t know about life skills, but these other subjects (language, national history and world history) are part of the regular curriculum in most countries and judging from recent studies, the major industrialized countries are all doing a better job at educating their kids than American schools. I remember learning that in a typical British school, kids may have up to 11 regular subjects each year! (If you are in Britain and reading this, perhaps you can verify if this is still the case.) In the U.S., we have for too long emphasized the teaching of subjects that are part of standardized testing, so social studies and foreign language became less important or even ignored. Learning about other countries – history, geography, politics – and their languages is so important in the world we live in today, and I think we do a great disservice to our students by not giving these subjects the emphasis they deserve.

Oh, and by the way, ALL students should have, as part of their regular school supplies, an iPad, tablet or laptop computer. Yes, all this costs a lot of money, so why not budget more for education and less to build weapons?

FDDA: Him 1

Fandango’s Dog Days of August continues with today’s theme: “your first love.”

It was 1964. The Beatles had just come to America. I was in 6th grade and I sat behind Steve in school. Steve was nice to me and traded Beatles cards with me. He had a huge collection of Beatles cards! I didn’t because the cards usually came in a pack of gum, and I didn’t chew gum – it wasn’t allowed in school nor at home.

However, I did manage to acquire a few cards – mainly my friends’ duplicates – and it was enough for Steve to notice me.

Actually, Steve had already noticed me. Whenever I dropped something on the floor, he was quick to pick it up and hand it to me. I started doing the same for him, which made him smile. He would sometimes tell me dumb jokes or what he thought of that day’s math homework. When the teacher had volunteers write a symbol on the board which would represent a number in our “new numbering system,” his was chosen, but mine wasn’t because the teacher said it was too hard to write fast. Steve encouraged me, telling me to “try again” but alas – none of my invented symbols were chosen.

I had the biggest crush on him because no boy had ever really been nice to me before.

Sometimes Steve would pass me a note.

My best friend Gloria had a crush on another boy named Steve in our class, so we used to call them “Him 1” (my Steve) and “Him 2” (her Steve) so that no one would know who we were talking about. But of course, girls have a way of finding out who likes who and a girl in my class found out about my Steve and decided to tell him at recess that I liked him.

She waited until the group of boys he was in was nearby, and she called out to him, “Hey, Steve!” He looked over at her and she began to tell him, “Hey, Steve, Katy– ” That was as far as she got, because the other girl she was with thought it was better to keep it a secret from him that I liked him. So she interrupted and said, “Katy is mad at you because of something you said to her.”

I had no idea this had happened, so I couldn’t understand his change in attitude toward me. When he dropped a pencil later that day, and I leaned over to get it, he grabbed it himself and didn’t even look at me. He didn’t ask me if I wanted to see the new Beatles cards he’d gotten (I knew he had gotten them because he was showing them off to other boys) whereas before he always showed me his new cards. He wasn’t overtly hostile, but he tried very hard to ignore me from then on.

On the way home a few days later, I told Gloria that “Him 1” was acting very strangely toward me. The next day, through the girl gossip grapevine, she found out the whole story and told me what had happened.

So that was the end of our “relationship” (if you could call it that). I didn’t get over him right away, though. When I walked downtown with my friends to see the Beatles movie that summer, we passed right by his house and I looked at it with a mixture of affection and sadness. I wanted him to come outside right then so I could talk to him, but he didn’t.

The next year we went to junior high, and Steve was in some of my classes again. He had gotten over his disappointment and once more acted very friendly toward me. I could have taken his hints but instead I ignored him, which wasn’t hard because we didn’t sit near each other. Anyway, I took the easy way out because I was too shy to do anything about his overtures toward me, and eventually he lost interest.

Images courtesy of Google Images.

SYW: Magic, Bad Smells, Bad Bosses, & Voting

A new week, a new set of questions in Melanie’s Share Your World!

Questions:

In your opinion, what’s the closest thing to real magic?
When the first flowers of spring appear after a long winter.

Where is the worst smelling place you’ve been?
The basement of our former house. It was an old house and prone to plumbing problems. The worst was when sewage would back up into the laundry sink or the shower (there was a shower in the basement).

What are some things that you’ve heard in your own life, which sounded like compliments but were actually insults?
I had two really horrible principals during my teaching career who often said insinuating things, to me or to others. One of them actually sabotaged my ability to get another job after he decided I couldn’t handle a classroom, because he had spent the school year doing everything he could to keep me from being successful. After he told me my contract wouldn’t be renewed, I asked if he would support me in another type of teaching job in the district and he said, “Well, you can apply…” I had many interviews that summer at various school districts and several offers, all of which were withdrawn after they talked to him. Finally, at the beginning of September, I was desperate and applied for a job as a teacher’s assistant (which means about 1/10 of the pay I’d received as a teacher). I was hired and the principal was very pleased with my former principal’s recommendation: “He said this would be a very good fit for you!”

What incredibly common thing have you never done?
Watched Game of Thrones.


Gratitude Section (Optional, as always)

I’m grateful for all the people who vote in the U.S. and for all the volunteers who register new voters and help people overcome the obstacles that Republicans create to keep people from voting. Hopefully, there will be a record turnout in November’s election. If there is, the Democrats will win and Trump will be history.

Joy With Kids

Cee’s On the Hunt for Joy this week has the theme Let a kid decorateI’m not around kids much anymore, so I went into my archives from my years of teaching. Since my language arts students were all of Mexican & Central American origin, we celebrated the Day of the Dead on the day after Halloween. In the school year 2009-10, the fifth grade classes made posters – they cut out skeletons and then, as a class, they had to decide on a scene and place their skeletons in the scene. When they were finished, we decorated the halls with them.
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Below are their final products!

Your Daily Word Prompt: Nostalgic

I have had many opportunities lately to feel nostalgic, mainly because we are preparing to move to a senior community in six months, so we have to drastically downsize. This means going through boxes in the basement that haven’t been touched in decades!

I have found old photos of myself and my family from the 1970s – 1990s, drawings I did in 1972 and artwork my son did in elementary school, as well as old journals (as far back as 6th grade!), comics I made and stories I wrote.

Most valuable to me at this current time is a journal that I started in 2007 which I found in a drawer of my desk. Just 12 years ago, I had only written in the first 10 pages or so. So now I am carrying it around to encourage me to write and draw instead of playing games on my cellphone! Right now it’s an all-out war between my phone and my journal! The problem with a journal is that it is larger than a cellphone and writing by hand is getting more difficult lately – my hand cramps up and nice, legible handwriting after a page or two becomes erratic and less legible! However, a journal doesn’t need to be charged after using!

My next post happens to also be about something nostalgic: the music of my generation! Here’s a link: Song Lyric Sunday: Feelin’ Groovy.

Here are some of the things I found in the basement that made me nostalgic.

My son’s childhood

Jayme at beach in Milwaukee c1986
Jayme – 18 months old – at a beach in Milwaukee

Julia Waeffler & Jayme Villa-Alvarez
Jayme, about age 3 with his cousin Julia, age 5. These two were the best of friends for many years.

Jayme Villa-Alvarez, Dale Berman
My husband, Dale, showing Jayme how to put air in his bike tires. The most striking thing for me in this photo is how black Dale’s hair was then!

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Jayme wrote me this letter from summer camp. He was about 10.

My family used to gather around the piano every Christmas and sing carols. This might have been the last time we were all together (1967). My mother probably took the photo because she isn’t in it. I am standing (2nd from left), while two of my sisters were at the piano.
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In high school I had a boyfriend who taught me how to develop photos in a darkroom. These are three photos I took and developed back then. The top two were taken at my school, Verde Valley School; underneath is the front of the house of a family that I stayed with in Oaxaca, Mexico, during my senior year.

Here I am with two of my sisters at my high school graduation! They had graduated from the same school years earlier. (I’m in the middle.)
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When I was in elementary school – and even before that! – I loved to draw more than anything else. My mother used some of my drawings on the family’s Christmas cards a couple of times. This one made the local newspaper! I was 7 at the time.
Katy's Xmas card design - age 7

In 1973, I went to Mexico with a college boyfriend (my future 1st husband) and we traveled all over the country. This photo was taken at Uxmal, Yucatán. I am climbing down a very steep Mayan pyramid, holding onto a chain as I descended. It was scary!
Uxmal, Mex-Jan 1973
After my mother became a widow, she made arrangements to move to a retirement community. She moved there after her dog died. In this photo copied from a scrapbook, taken in 2003, I am posing with her after a concert my church choir performed at the retirement home. My mother lived there many years, first in independent living, then she moved to assisted living, and finally to memory care, where she passed away in 2014.
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Posted for Your Daily Prompt: Nostalgic, 5/26/19.

Irkeepus Cultural Boma

Feb. 7, 2018

In the afternoon, six of us visited a Maasai village where tourists are welcome, the Irkeepus Cultural Boma. This community makes money from tourists: $20 to take any photos you want and be shown around, encouragement to buy their crafts, and donations for their school.

811The village, or “boma” (compound) consists of one large extended family: the chief, his 15 wives and about 70 children and grandchildren. A total of 86 people live there. Each wife has her own house. The children are welcome in any house and treat all the wives as their “mothers.” Maybe the relationship is more like aunts. Our guide, probably the best English speaker there, was the son of wife #4. He led the tour: first there was a dance we were all invited to join in on – the women adorned us with necklaces – which consisted of everyone standing in a row holding hands, bending our knees and moving our feet to the beat of the song, which we tried to sing with them – it was repetitive. Every so often one of the men would jump high into the air – impressive!

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SONY DSCThe second demonstration was to show us how they make fire. Their first attempt at this was not successful so they had to start again. The first step is to rub a stick against a stone with depressions in it until it sparks. Then they put dried grass on it and finally breathe on it very slowly and gently (pole-pole*) to coax the fire out.
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Our guide’s (and everyone’s in the village) native language is Maasai, which is oral – not written. In school he learned to read and write in Swahili (his second language) and English (his third language). After he finished high school, he returned to the village.

2-7 fence made of nettles & acacia thorn branches-Maasai compound
This fence of stinging nettles and thorn branches surrounds the compound. It’s very effective at keeping wild animals out!

The community has 40 heads of cattle, as well as goats and sheep. A man’s wealth is measure by how many cattle he has and David thinks the chief has more than 40. Bride price starts at 4 head of cattle and can go higher. They use their animals for meat, milk and milk products (such as yogurt and to a lesser extent, cheese). They also drink goat’s and sheep’s milk. That’s about all they eat except for fruit they can get from local trees.

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Cow shed and storage shed

The huts are round with a curved entrance, a bit like the beginning of a spiral, because, we were told, it keeps the wind from getting in – the wind is strong at this high altitude on the crater rim. The man showing Dale and I the house told us to be careful when entering  because the inner wall of the entrance had been freshly plastered with cow dung! They have to do this about every 3 months to replace the dung that has dried – they strip this off and apply fresh dung (and there were several cow pies in the yard outside the compound!). The dry dung they strip off is then used for fuel.

2-7 Dale & Katy in front of Maasai house
Dale and I standing in front of the hut we were shown into – we are of average height, which shows how small the house is.

Inside there’s a fire pit for cooking and keeping warm but no vent in the ceiling, as I would expect, having seen several types of Native American houses. He pointed out a tiny vent hole in a bedroom wall. Still, the smoke hung in the air. The guide said the smoke is good for getting rid of insects. Apparently the fire is extinguished when the family goes to bed. The smoke fills the hut only when no one is there. It clears out the bugs so the family can sleep.837
The hut was very small and dark – we had to use cellphone flashlights. There are two bedrooms side by side, used primarily for sleeping. They lay soft branches and leaves on the floor and cover it with a cow hide. Some other small rags were in one of the rooms – to use as pillows, perhaps? Or a blanket for a young child.
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Most activities are conducted outside, which is why they don’t need much inside their house. The boys love to play soccer in the yard. Girls help their mothers make crafts with beads and wire.
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Children of both sexes attend school. The elementary school is an adobe structure outside the compound walls.
2-7 elementary school at Maasai village
20 children from the village and 20 from a neighboring village attend school here. The community is proud of its school, which they built themselves, funded with donations from visitors.  Although they value education, when the boys get a little older they are allowed to get out of school to herd the cattle if they want to.
2-7 blackboard at school-Maasai village
The one-room school has rows of benches with table surfaces attached as desks. There were many adults and children inside; the adults were having a village meeting. We met a couple of the teachers, who greeted us warmly, especially when we told them we had also been teachers.2-7 teachers at Maasai school
On the back wall were the children’s drawings of animals, each one labeled with its Swahili name. on one wall was an ABC chart using syllables, like we teach Spanish to primary kids! The blackboard in the front had a lot written on it. At a desk in the corner sat an administrator and a secretary, both men from the village. They were there because of the meeting.
2-7 children in school at Maasai village
A group of small children clustered together at desks behind two teachers. They were shy until I held up my hand for a “high 5” and they all knew what it was – is high-5 universal? They extended their little palms for me to high-5 them. (I found out the Maasai handshake is actually a version of this – you touch the palm of the other person but don’t grasp their hand.) Then I did a fist bump and the kids all know that too and wanted to “fist bump” with me!  That’s how I broke the ice with them. Then they all sang two songs, the second a version of the ABC song – halfway through it diverts into some other words, perhaps the Swahili alphabet.

As we were leaving, I extended a fist bump to one of the teachers, telling him we had learned it from our president (meaning Obama, who was familiar to them). One of our group members reminded me he wasn’t our president anymore. I replied, “I know, but I wish he were.”
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The people had adorned a fenced-in area with all their craft items. I liked the little animals made with beads and wire and decided to buy a lion since we had seen many lions today. I had the lion in my hand when I was at the school. I showed it to the children and said, “A lion, see?” Then I made a roaring sound, which made them laugh.
Perhaps $35 was too much to pay, and I could have bargained, but I didn’t. These people needed the money – their life was hard and they worked hard from a young age. There was a donation box at the school, so Dale put all his leftover euro coins in it!2-7 beaded lion I bought from Maasai
I have read that 85% of Tanzanians are poor and I’m sure that is true for the Maasai who live traditionally. Yet financial poverty is not total poverty: their possessions are few but they have their cultural traditions and when they look out at the countryside where they live – that vast country of green, gentle hills and huge sky, where one can admire giraffes, zebras, or gazelles that pass by, they can be sure that, in fact, in some ways their life is very rich. The beauty of nature is all around them, they live in harmony with it, they are surrounded by loved ones, and are comfortable in their traditions.

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The green countryside near the village

Money, of course, is necessary also – to buy materials to build schools, to send their children to high school, and to buy supplemental food products, among other things. It’s unavoidable – so if we could help by putting money into their community to help them buy what they need, I’m glad for it.841

 

*pole-pole: Swahili word meaning “slowly-slowly” but with the connotation of “gently” or “carefully” as well.

 

Rio de Janeiro: Flamengo and Cinelândia

November 27, 2016

Our intention today was to visit MAM (Museum of Modern Art) in the morning and then take my sister-in-law to Sugarloaf.  We got sort of a late start, however, so when we got to MAM it was already close to lunchtime, and my husband’s stomach does not like to wait!

We stopped at the courtyard outside the museum to look at a photography exhibit. While there, I noticed a young boy who was quite entranced with an interactive installation in the shape of a square box frame full of colorful strings. I took this series of photos of the boy trying it out:

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We asked at the museum if there was a café or restaurant nearby and were told that the museum has its own café in the back of the museum.  Trying to find it, however, we ended up stopping for a minute to watch a group of young people with percussion instruments playing a batucada:

I would have stayed there listening to them longer, but Dale was anxious to have lunch. We were on the wrong side of the museum (it turned out) to find the café so we wandered, looking for some sort of eating establishment.

We crossed some streets and ended up at nearby Cinelândia! This area is named for the number of movie theatres one can find there, but it also has some beautiful historic buildings and monuments.

 

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Memorial to “Never Again:” honoring the resistance and struggle for amnesty in Rio de Janeiro. This memorial is dedicated to military personnel that were hunted and persecuted (during the dictatorship of 1964-1985) for defending democracy and constitutional rights. For truth, memory, reparation and justice. So that we never forget. So that it never happens again. (Erected on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the dictatorship, Rio de Janeiro, April 1, 2014)

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Municipal Theatre

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We ate at an outdoor restaurant, where I indulged in way too many fries!   Having lunch rested us, so we walked back toward MAM and entered the museum.
(See separate post.) 

KODAK Digital Still CameraAfter viewing some interesting and sometimes bizarre exhibits, we went back outside and followed a walkway past a pond to an entrance to the museum shop, where the (expensive) items for sale were artworks themselves.  Next to the store was the café!

It being a nice day, there were a lot of people in the park behind the museum. We saw kids on stilts and tightropes, graduates of the college of veterinary science posing for pictures, lovers walking hand in hand, murals, and of course, the beautiful view of Sugarloaf from Flamengo.

 

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KODAK Digital Still Camera

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Find out what’s at MAM next!

 

 

 

 

 

WPC: Partners

There are different types of partnerships throughout life. As children, we pair up with a “best friend” or two. In school, we are taught to work with others and often are assigned to work with partners. As adults, we may have partners at work (such as law firms, where the name of the firm consists of the last names of all the partners) and we may find a “life partner” – i.e. a spouse. All sorts of endeavors are accomplished by partnering with others; it’s called “teamwork.”

I have chosen pictures for this challenge that involve two people in different stages of life.

CHILDHOOD: SCHOOL PARTNERSHIPS

As a former teacher of bilingual students, I often used Reader’s Theater, which the kids loved, to improve their reading and speaking fluency. Here are two second grade boys who worked on one short play together to perform in front of other classes.

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These boys (cousins) in my class were the only ones to memorize their play! It was such a natural fit for them!

Children do a lot of things quite naturally with a partner. Here are two kindergartners who are proud to show off the scene they made out of blocks. (Another partnership creates their own structures behind them.)

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These bilingual kindergartners were sweet & cute and I loved their buildings!

I was in charge of an ecology club one year, and we had a paper drive competition between the classrooms. The students in the club partnered up to do different tasks during the drive. Here are two boys helping each other with taking the recycling bins full of paper out to the container behind the school.

Chris and Stratos unload the cart.
5th grade boys unload the cart.

CHILDHOOD/ADOLESCENCE: COMPETITION PARTNERING

In my home town, Christmas trees are set up in a downtown plaza, and different groups of school kids decorate a tree with ornaments they’ve made, as a competition between schools.

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YOUNG ADULTHOOD: WORK PARTNERSHIPS

Recently we hired two young men to paint several rooms in our house as well as our front porch. One of them is semi-professional and the other is his apprentice. Their partnership works well and they did a professional job!

 

ADULTHOOD: MAKING MUSIC TOGETHER

At my niece’s wedding, her brother and his father-in-law paired up to play music at the ceremony.

Tom on sax & Alicia's dad on guitar for Amazing Grace
Sax and guitar duet “Amazing Grace”

MIDDLE ADULTHOOD: FINDING LIFE PARTNERS

Friends of mine recently got married, forming a new partnership in mid-life.

Bride & groom gaze at each other with love.
Bride & groom gaze at each other with love.

MOTHERHOOD: PARTNERING COMPETING INTERESTS

Finally, here is a funny picture to illustrate a different sort of partnership: Another niece at a wedding, holding, in one hand, an “adult” cup, which contained an alcoholic beverage, and in the other, the sippy cup of her toddler son, half-filled with milk. It’s an illustration of her life: the competing interests of being an adult and caring for a child.

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Jen says, “This sums up my life – a gin & tonic in one hand and a sippy cup in the other!”

 

 

 

Cee’s FFC: Pets – The story of a family of ducks

The ducks were like pets (Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge) at the last school I worked. There was a great view of them from the windows of the cafeteria.

Every spring a mother duck would fly into an enclosed courtyard. There she would lay her eggs, incubate them, and when they hatched, teach her ducklings about the world around them. The students and staff would watch them every day.

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Mama duck took good care of her young until they were grown up enough to fly away on their own.

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This female duck returned every year because one of the teachers provided her with water to drink and little fish and grain to eat.

Kim Haas also puts out food for the ducks.

The teacher made a little swimming pool for the ducks by inverting a children’s plastic pool to make it accessible to the baby ducklings.

Kim Haas creates this little "pond" for the ducks to swim in.

One year, the ducklings grew up and flew away just before the end of the school year. The following year (my last year), unfortunately, the ducklings were all snatched up by a hawk or an eagle.

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The bereft mother stayed around for a few days, as if she didn’t know what to do. Eventually, she flew away, but she probably returned again this spring.