Thursday, February 26, 2009

Unsung Hero: Children's Alliance

Heroes are often thought of as having super-human powers. At First Place our heroes have super-human hearts. Some of them we have never met and some of them walk through our front doors every day. We want to share with you who our heroes are and the impact they have in the lives our children and families.

Our hero today is the Children’s Alliance. In addition to their work ensuring that laws, policies and programs work for kids, the Children’s Alliance is also the organizing force behind Have A Heart For Kids Day. Friday, February 27th, the annual Have A Heart For Kids Day will bring First Place students, parents and staff in partnership with over 500 child advocates from across Washington State to develop advocacy skills, learn about current laws supporting children and showcase their knowledge in meetings with legislators.

First Place has been a member organization of Children’s Alliance since 1989.

At the 2008 Have A Heart For Kids Day First Place teamed up with students from Tulalip Elementary school for a full day of advocacy and a tour of the Capital. Here are some photos from last year.

Above: Students had an opportunity to meet Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen and ask questions. Below: After lunch, Senator Claudia Kauffman addressed First Place and Tulalip Elementary students answering questions and explaining the importance of getting involved in advocacy and how it can make a difference to the community.
Below: From left to right Dr. Doreen Cato, Executive Director of First Place, Representative Eric Pettigrew and former First Place Board President Dawn Mason.

Check back next week for a full report on this year's Have A Heart For Kids Day. Thank you Children’s Alliance.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Success Story: Divided Family Comes Home

Within the walls of First Place, and in the lives of the families we touch, successes happen every day. As often as we can, First Place will share these successes with you. This is what we would like to share today.

In 2007 First Place began our Family Unification Program to assist incarcerated mothers rebuild their lives and regain their children. For mother of two Jalea* this program came just at the right time.

In January 2008 Jalea was rejoining society without any means to gain housing, employment or reuniting with her two children in foster-care. Stable housing and stable employment are two key components of being able to reunite with children who have been displaced during incarceration.

Jalea's first step to getting her children back was calling First Place.

“Jalea had months of work ahead of her to meet her requirements to the court system and the department of social and health services,” said Ms. Charlene Bowen, a case manager at First Place. “She also had personal goals of attending classes to achieve her GED and learning how to prepare a better life for her children.”

After working with First Place staff for over 6 months to attend all her meetings, study for her tests and gain housing in a First Place facility Jalea become a mother again when her 18-month-old son came home.

“Now over a year after beginning with our Family Unification Program Jalea is one week away from attaining her GED and is preparing for her next stage as a student and a mother,” said Ms. Charlene. Her second child, a 4-year-old daughter is coming home to her in the beginning of March.

* for privacy sake client names have been changed.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

From the Kids: Kindergarten Funnies

Sometimes you never know what is going on in the young and inquiring minds of the Kindergarten class. Thankfully Kindergarten teacher Ms. Molly and her instructional assistant Ms. Jenni keep us up to date. Each week they forward the staff a list of quotes and anecdotes from the kids.

Over the course of this year we noticed the Kindergartners are always asking who the boss is. Here are a few quotes from the classroom.

The Fire Station Boss
During a visit to the fire station, talking to a regular firefighter wasn’t enough and one student asked: “I want to see the big boss.”

Her request was met later on, when the chief came up to visit and watch. With the chief watching we learned about who can be a firefighter.

Firefighter Kurt: "Anyone who wants can be a firefighter. Boys, girls, if you’re black, white, green or purple."
Kindergartner: “There ain’t no green people.”
Firefighter Kurt: "And if you want to be a firefighter, you have to pay attention in school and do your work and have a good attitude."
Kindergartner, turning to the chief: “Big boss, you pay attention in school?”

The Cheerleading Boss
The Seahawks and Seagals visited our classroom. The Kindergartners understood the Seahawks were football players, but who were the women?

Kindergartner: "Who you?"
Seagal: "We’re cheerleaders."
Kindergartner: "You guys are cheerleaders?"
Seagal: "Yup."
Kindergartner: "Who’s the boss?"

The Boss at School
Kindergartner: “Ms. Jenni, who’s your boss?”
Ms. Jenni: "Mrs. Phillips is my boss."

The next day during breakfast Mrs. Phillips the Director of Educational Services happened to be passing through and the same Kindergartner said “Mrs. Phillips, Ms. Jenni’s not helping me!”

Mrs. Phillips caught on quickly and gave our kindergartner a look that seemed to say 'are you kidding with me?' and her look was met with a giant mischievous smile.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Day 4 at IslandWood Camp

Thursday, February 5, saw some First Place 4th, 5th and 6th graders ready to return home after four days of learning in the woods and laughing in the lodges, and others upset that they ever had to leave IslandWood.
After packing and giving a rousing applause to our IslandWood cooks, Team Marsh took one final outdoor adventure at the floating classroom. Fighting ducks, a surrounding of trees, and a lesson on maps while the water swished below was a calm end our week.What did the students have to say about the trip?
“It was so much fun and I didn’t want to leave! When we got on the bus I cried because I didn’t want to go home.”

“I had a lot of fun and there were a lot of games!”

“It was fun! We saw five deer on the way to camp.”

“It was long days.”

“I miss everyone, but it was exciting!!”

“I got to socialize more with others.”
Special Thank You's:
IslandWood coordinator Melissa, IslandWood instructors Whitney, Heidi, Corwine, Brian and Otter, and everyone else who made for a fantastic week.

Howard and Barabara Wollner for making the learning experience possible for First Place students.

REI for donating the use of sleeping bags for the trip.

First Place staff members Mr. James, Mr. Jamal, Ms. Carol, Ms. Di, Ms. Lakesha, and Ms. Tappin.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Day 3 at IslandWood Camp

The last full day, February 4th, at IslandWood was a long one for First Place 4th, 5th and 6th graders.
Long walks took Team Marsh for an early morning of bird spotting and crab catching in Puget Sound.Mastering their fears Team Wave crossed the forest suspension bridge on their afternoon walk to learn about the five kinds of trees they could reach out and touch the tops of.
Lots of preparation made perfect for the Team Pond Drum Circle at the evenings friend circle talent show.
Check back tomorrow for our final day!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Day 2 at IslandWood Camp

From 6:30am to 9:30pm on Tuesday, Feb. 3, First Grade 4th, 5th and 6th graders sped through field studies and lots of learning while playing at IslandWood. Because the students have been split into three field groups we're going to allow the pictures they and their field guides take to speak for the experience (with some modest explanations). Enjoy!

A new look on old lessons. First Place students from Team Wave relearned their ABCs (Antibiotics, Biotics and Culturals) with a hands (and feet) on experience in the forest, in the greenhouse and in the laboratory.

Each IslandWood activity has both time in the field and time in the classroom. As Team Marsh journaled on what they found in the organic-garden that provides food for our meals, Team Pond discussed their day-hike to the Harbor and a documentary on Bainbridge history.

Nature doesn't hold itself back at IslandWood. Break-time after an early breakfast brought a family of deer, hawks, eagles and adventurous squirrels.

At IslandWood there are a few constants. The Friendship Circle brings us all together every morning and evening. PROPS (Proper Respect of People Speaking) is expected of everyone equally. And the occasional chalk-board advertisement reminds of the things our different schools have in common.

Check back tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Day 1 at IslandWood Camp

Feb. 2009
Islandwood 09

On Monday (Feb. 2, 2009) First Place 4th, 5th and 6th graders began a week of eco-field tripping at IslandWood, one of the nation's most innovative educational facilities. Many students experienced their first ferry ride to travel to the 255 acre outdoor learning center on Bainbridge Island, where they've joined East Port Orchard Elementary School.

Throughout the week First Place students will be learning about environmental and community stewardship through hands-on interaction with nature and by practicing sustainable habits in their daily activities.

Feb. 2009
Islandwood 09
After Monday's lunch, Team Marsh (one of three First Place activity teams) began their lessons right away by hiking to the Bird Blind, a wooden gazebo in the middle of Cattail Marsh. Outfitted with dozens of peepholes students were able to peer out upon the marsh's natural ecosystems without being spotted.

Islandwood 09
While inside the Bird Blind the team also developed their "Community Agreement". Agreeing to "have fun" "be on time" and always stick to their first goal of "working together in a positive way", the First Place 4th, 5th and 6th graders have laid the groundwork for a success week.

Islandwood 09

First Place would like to thank Howard and Barbara Wollner for their support in making this trip possible. For many of our students, it is their first time at a camp!

Stay tuned for another update tomorrow.