Curious about curiosity?

“It is so important to allow children to bloom and to be driven by their curiosity.”                                -May-Britt Moser, neuroscientist

 

Curiosity, that desire to know, may have been blamed for killing the cat but it can contribute to academic success. Did you know that recent studies have found that higher curiosity is associated with higher academic achievement?

Curious children are better able to grasp basic math and reading than their less curious comrades. Researchers at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the Center for Human Growth and Development (their finding published this year in Pediatric Research) have found that the relationship between a child’s curiosity and academic achievement was not related to a child’s gender or self-regulatory capacities. In addition, the more curious the child, the more likely he or she may perform better in school– regardless of economic background. In fact, the lead researcher in this study, Prachi Shah, said that “the association of curiosity with academic achievement is greater in children with low socioeconomic status.” Shah goes on to say that “promoting curiosity in children, especially those from environments of economic disadvantage may be an important, under-recognized way to address the achievement gap.”

Curiously enough, a different study published just this year in Journal of Child and Family Studies, found that teens who are curious also tend to be more self-compassionate. This makes sense. If a teen is open to exploring and appreciating new experiences, it follows that the teen may be more kind and accepting of his or her self.

Curiosity is the perfect fuel that drives us to seek and learn, innovate, and create. Curious children are more aware and open to trying things and failing, and learning from those mistakes. Curious kids explore, notice, make connections, and, as other studies suggest, grow up to be curious adults who are non-defensive, non-critical, emotionally expressive, and experience positive relationships with others.

Yet, we all have met people who seem to move through life with a low or empty curiosity fuel tank. Dr. Todd Kashdan, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at George Mason University, has studied curiosity for decades. He says that a lack of curiosity is a breeding ground for such things as discrimination, ignorance, and rigid conformity.

What specific steps can we take to further cultivate curiosity in our children—and ourselves—so that we can thrive and learn to the greatest extent possible? Well, that’s a post for another time. So, keep coming back. Meanwhile, stay curious!

Trotting out Thanks

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”          -Novelist Elizabeth Gilbert

What are you thankful for?

At CIS, we are thankful for you. Your support puts CIS Site Coordinators in the schools, directly in the path of students. So when a student is in need—thanks to you—we are able to step in and work with school and community partners to address needs in a coordinated and accountable manner. Thank you for your generosity and all the wonderful forms it comes in: giving your time, your talents, your financial support and resources.

We know parents are also thankful for your support because you “fill the gaps” for their children. As one parent put it, “I want the best for my child but I can’t give them all that they need. I’m so grateful that CIS connected my child to the services she needed.”

Students and their families may not know your name, but they are grateful for you and the

…backpack filled with school supplies you placed on their back at the start of the school year.

…new shoes you slipped on two hurt feet. “These ones don’t have holes or pinch my feet!”

…tutor who visits weekly to help with reading.

…warm coat and boots you provided.

…Thanksgiving meal they will share and enjoy with their family.

The list of grateful goes on.

So, for as long as we have voices, thank you for loving our 12,000+ kids and giving them the opportunity to be the best students and people they can be!

Go vote and then read this post.

“Volunteering,” someone once said, “is the ultimate exercise in democracy.”

Why? Because when you choose to volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.

You join with others to help creating a community of hope, one in which all children can fulfill their promise. By giving just one hour a week of your time you help students in Kalamazoo Public Schools:

Stay and succeed in school
Improve in math or reading
Gain self-esteem and confidence
Have food for the weekend
Be ready for college and a career
Fulfill his or her Promise

Did you know that you are one of 43,000 community volunteers throughout the CIS network who, in 2016-2017, donated your time to 1.56 million students served by 131 affiliated organizations in 25 states and D.C.?

Thank you for casting your support of our 12,000+ children.

Interested in joining forces with our fabulous volunteers? You can change the life of a young person right here in your community by signing up today

Five Fun Fall Facts

Here’s a list of five fun fall facts to enjoy while you sip your pumpkin spice latte or other favorite fall beverage.

One.

This past September, the national organization of Communities In Schools welcomed NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal as the newest member of its national board of directors. “Every kid, no matter where they’re from or how much money their parents make, deserves the opportunity to get a good education,” said O’Neal. “My education was critical to my success on and off the court. Being in school gave me self-discipline and showed me the importance of hard work. I always knew that when my playing days were over, nobody could take my education away from me.”  You can read more here.

Two.

Fall ushers in a number of opportunities for students to participate in sports. However, by middle school, 70 percent of students have dropped out of organized sports. The number one reason? It isn’t fun anymore. The good news is that there is a roadmap to fun. A study a few years back found that being a good sport, trying hardand positive coaching came in as the top three most important factors to having fun in youth sports. Winning ranks near the bottom (coming in at 48 out of 81 identified indicators of fun).

 

Three.

John Brandon, partner services coordinator for CIS of Kalamazoo shares this fact: “Fall is when most of our school supplies are donated, and what we receive during this time will be most of what we have to distribute throughout the school year.”

Four.

What does Michigan have in common with Alabama, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, Iowa, and Rhode Island? According to Candy Store.com, candy corn is our number one choice for Halloween candy. In Michigan, Starbursts ranks second, and Skittles third. To see the most popular Halloween candy state-by-state, check out their interactive U.S. map here. As long as we’re on this topic, did you know that candy corn hasn’t always been called candy corn? It was first called “Chicken Feed.” It came in a box with a rooster drawing and the tagline read: Something worth crowing for.

Five.

Here’s a fun fall fact worth crowing about: Communities In Schools is the nation’s largest provider of Integrated Student Supports. (To learn more about our unique model, go here.) That is a fun fact all year round!

 

Lights On!

Millions of Americans are turning the lights on as part of the 19th annual Lights On Afterschool to emphasize the importance of keeping lights on and doors open for after school programs. National Lights On Afterschool Awareness Day is Thursday, October 25, 2018, and Kalamazoo Public School students have been doing their part to shed light on the need to invest in after school programs.

A significant body of research demonstrates that students who regularly attend after school programs are more likely to improve their grades, tests scores, attendance, and overall academic behavior.

Elementary and secondary students who participate in Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) After School are coming up with their own ways to shine the spotlight on quality after school support. Students have been busy writing letters to public officials and stakeholders, making artwork, and more to raise awareness about the need for after school opportunities.

Nationwide, 11.3 million children are alone and unsupervised from 3 to 6 p.m.  After school programs offer not only a safe place to learn and grow, but can serve as a strategic way to address both academic achievement and opportunity gaps. The achievement gap between students from lower- and higher-income families has grown by 40% over the past 30 years. By the sixth grade, middle class students have spent 4,000+ more hours in after school and summer learning opportunities than their low-income peers. Consistent participation in high-quality after school programs can help close and eliminate these gaps.

Parents regularly express their gratitude for having this support within the Kalamazoo Public Schools. “I can’t tell you how many parents say how much they appreciate the homework help their kids receive as part of CIS After School,” says Phillip Hegwood, CIS After School Coordinator at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts.

In Kalamazoo, CIS relies heavily on local resources and partnerships for its core work during the school day to identify needs and connect students to the right resources to remove barriers to school success. The CIS After School Program is able to extend the learning day Monday through Thursday in 15 KPS schools thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers).

On behalf of all the children who benefit from after school support, thanks for helping us keep the lights on in Kalamazoo.

 

Breaking Ground on Future Home

Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo

Today’s post is brought to you by Pamela Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.

In early August, ground was broken for a new development in downtown Kalamazoo. It will be the new home for The Kalamazoo Promise, Southwest Michigan First, and Warner Norcross and Judd, LLP, as well as the new home for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo!

Because of the exceptional generosity of Kalamazoo’s business community, we have benefited from donations of office space and equipment throughout our 15-year history. That has allowed us to allocate financial resources exclusively for the direct benefit of students. Our new space, ready in Summer 2020, will maintain that arrangement – the generous gifts you give to CIS will sustain resources and services to students and schools: CIS site coordinators, recruitment and support of volunteers, coordination of health and dental care, addressing basic needs, providing for vision exams and eyeglasses, and more.

We are honored to be part of a new space that enhances our vision of an engaged community where every child fulfills his or her promise. We look forward to a visible and central place for collaboration and community engagement to positively impact the lives of students we serve and their families. Bob Jorth, Executive Director of The Kalamazoo Promise, highlights the unique and important partnership between the Promise and CIS of Kalamazoo that will be enhanced by our co-location in a new space:

“The Kalamazoo Promise is dependent on the system of whole child supports that CIS uses to remove the many obstacles that can divert KPS students from being able to graduate, ready to use The Promise. The co-location of CIS and The Promise mutually enhances the missions and capacity of both organizations. We hope that the Kalamazoo community continues to increase its support for the work of CIS so that the potential of  The Kalamazoo Promise is fully realized—for both individual students and for the community overall.”

We look forward to welcoming you to our new home. And, yes, there will be parking!

Courtesy of TowerPinkster

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where will the building be located?

The building will be located at the southwest corner of Water and N. Edwards Streets, across from the Arcadia Creek Festival Site.

When will construction be completed?

Construction is scheduled to be complete in Summer 2020.

What else is in the building?

In addition to offices, there are two floors planned for residential housing that will be available at rates amenable to tenants with a broad mix of incomes. In addition to CIS, other office tenants currently include The Kalamazoo Promise, Southwest Michigan First, and Warner Norcross and Judd, LLP. There will also be a multi-level parking garage with 300+ spots.

We are also excited to share that we will have dedicated space for the CIS Kids’ Closet! Both our staff who pick up donated items for students and our generous donors of clothing, school supplies, and personal care items will have good access. We thank Kalamazoo Public Schools for housing the CIS Kids’ Closet in the interim.

Will this impact what CIS does for kids?

Yes! Among the greatest challenges we have faced is our visibility. The opportunity to be present in this exceptional space will breathe new energy into our efforts to be visible and accessible to our students, their families, our partners and volunteers. Being a part of this unique place where education and economic development come together will foster the continued collaboration and community engagement that is crucial to helping every child in our community fulfill his or her promise. What will remain the same is the continued ability to direct financial resources to students, not to office space.

At the groundbreaking ceremony

 

Every child deserves a Mrs. Wolfe

While each school year brings changes, this year feels especially different. That’s because Liza Wolfe, a Kalamazoo icon, has retired. Since 1976, Liza Wolfe has launched the success of over 1,000 children by offering high quality preschool through Mrs. Wolfe’s Preschool. She transformed the basement of her Westnedge Hill home into a preschooler’s dream, complete with books, a slide, huge building blocks, dolls, art materials, and more. For 43 years she prepared kids to be the best future students and citizens they could be by teaching them how to listen and share, how to be patient and how to participate.

Mrs. Wolfe’s Preschool has been such a part of the beautiful and whimsical fabric of Kalamazoo. Even if you don’t have a child, grandchild, niece, or nephew who attended her school, you probably know of her. Each June, you might have seen Mrs. Wolfe and her friends marching through the streets of downtown.

Heading off to Do Dah

Since the Do Dah Parade’s inception in 1985, Mrs. Wolfe, her students, parents, and on occasion, alumni, have joined in the fun, parading through the streets in zany outfits they’ve made. When the Kalamazoo Gazette asked Mrs. Wolfe why Do Dah? she said, “We do the parade because when I was little, I never got the chance to be in one but I could play in the street,” she said. “Now, kids can’t play in the street anymore but they sure can do a parade.”

Mrs. Wolfe as “Keeper of Tales” in Do Dah, 2011

Through the years, Liza Wolfe has also taught parents important lessons. For instance, she’s helped helicopter parents set down their hovering tendencies. Parents have always been welcome to visit during their child’s morning or afternoon session under one condition. “You must be a fly on the wall,” Mrs. Wolfe instructs parents at the start of the school year. She explains that when conflict arises it’s important to give children space to solve their own problems. Rush into solving the conflict or intervening for any reason, and you rob kids of the opportunity to learn.

While early childhood is “hot” right now, Liza Wolfe embraced it long before it was “a thing.”  She’s been around long enough to see trends come and go. When it comes to ideas about how preschool should be taught, the importance of play in early childhood education programming has, at times, been undervalued in favor of direct instruction. Ever the champion for children and what they truly need, Mrs. Wolfe has protected and reinforced the role of play in her students’ early childhood development.

Fred Rogers pointed out that, “Play is really the work of childhood.” Mrs. Wolfe knows this and because she recognizes that play is the foundation of learning, she takes play seriously.

Mrs. Wolfe takes a break from sorting books.

As with all high-quality preschool programs, she helps students answer their own questions through exploring different options, experimenting and engaging in conversation. She focused on basic building blocks, growing young people’s social and emotional skills, language and vocabulary, imagination and creativity. Her graduates, numbering in the thousands, have learned much from her. The behaviors they practiced over and over during their preschool years (repetitive practice has a tendency to instill habits), served them well in their elementary school years and beyond. From her, they have learned:

Hang up your coat.
Wait until everyone is served before you start eating.
Take only what you need.
Learn to wait your turn.
Follow instructions.
Co-operate with others.
Listen to stories.
Work together.
And more.

Imagine what the world could be like if everyone had a Mrs. Wolfe. We might all be better at listening to each other and cooperating for the better of all.

 

Read this post on reading

Summer is slipping away. Have you had a chance to read as much as you hoped? If you hurry, you still have time to snag a book from The New York Times summer reading list. You can find the list here.

For summer and beyond, don’t forget to turn to local sources for inspiration:

–Visit the library! Before you do, it can be fun to learn what Kalamazoo Public Library staff are reading and recommending. Just go to their Staff Picks: Books.

–Visit one of our fabulous independent bookstores: Kazoo Books, Michigan News Agency, and Bookbug / this is a bookstore. Bookbug / this is a bookstore staff also regularly post what they are reading. Here’s what Shirley Freeman (who also volunteers with CIS!) has been reading.

–Read The Cyberlibrarian Reads, a wonderful blog by Miriam Downey, a retired librarian who is also a proud KPS grandparent. Miriam, who also co-edited the anthology Immigration and Justice For Our Neighbors, (a project we blogged about here last year and includes works by students from Arcadia Elementary School) read The Journey by Francesca Sanna at the anthology launch to the grownups and kids in attendance. In one of her more recent posts, she blogs about reading Sanna’s beautifully illustrated new book, Me and My Fear, with her granddaughter. You can read her post here.

–Ask your neighbor, your kid, your friends what they are reading! We asked a couple CIS board members and here’s what they said:

I’m reading a few books at the moment. Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, Elizabeth Sherrill, and John Sherrill, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.  -Dominic Pullo

Just finished Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. Very interesting!  -Susan Einspahr

I am reading Love Does by Bob Goff. -Sara L. Williams

Happy reading!