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  Santa Cruz Parent Santa Cruz, CA

August 21, 2014
Education is a Big Deal
Reading for Fun is the Natural Way to Learn!

On Competing, Teaching and Gaming

Steve: Complaining Geckos and Other Teaching Tools

This Week
Explore the Night Sky
Click to view our Business Directory
  Education is a Big Deal

(Photos General) LitWits-Workshops-The-Trumpet-of-the-Swan.jpgEducation is a BIG DEAL!  It's so important to us that even we parents can get panic attacks over whether we've made right decisions on behalf of our children.  In our communities, we have  many choices: traditional neighborhood public schools, public charter schools, private schools, parochial schools and homeschooling programs.  Over the next year we shall take a look at these, often in the form of a personal perspective.

A thoughtful letter from a local teacher in response to ideas on competition arrived recently.  We share it with you and encourage more of you to share your thoughts on education. For a follow-up on competition, read these passionate listener comments to Cory Turner of NPR regarding The Participation Trophy. Read it and then ask your children for their opinions.  It could be interesting!

The debate swirling around Common Core pros and cons continues to make its way into the public consciousness, this week with dueling opinion polls.  According to one article many parents (62%) do not understand what Common Core is.  I like this article The Truth About Common Core for its straight shooting.  Here's a link to more opinion articles.

After school enrichment programs in arts, sports and academics abound in Santa Cruz. We like to highlight them for you in the newsletters.

One such program is LitWits which is joining forces with The Art Factory to offer "hands-on, whole-brain experiences in great literature - a Workshop for high school kids!" ages 13-17Workshops for ages 8-12 offer children the opportunity to experience together in all kinds of sensory ways the literature they are reading. I've been watching their program grow for several years and am excited to share the literature classes they are offering to families who love reading and understand how important the enjoyment of quality, classic literature is to the development of character in children. "We bring great books to life! When kids experience great books in sensory ways, they want to read more. And kids who read more great books learn more great things."

(Photos General) Ohana_BackBends.jpgAnother program familiar to many of you is Ohana Gymnastics. Ohana Gymnastics (formerly known as Gymnastics Learning Center at Santa Cruz Sports Central) provides a fun and safe environment to Santa Cruz kids of all ages to learn gymnastics, trampoline and parkour.  Ohana recently located to a new facility, the beautiful former Wrigley building, on the west side of Santa Cruz.  We think you will like the family atmosphere, sparkling cleanliness and most of qll the quality teaching at Ohana, Hawaiian for "family".

As always the calendar has more events than we can fit into a newsletter.  Just click for everything Friday through Sunday!

Have a fine summer weekend, Parmalee


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  Reading for Fun is the Natural Way to Learn!

(Photos General) LitWits_BeckyandJenny.jpgWhen we were kids ourselves, we read for fun. Our teacher parents had read to their six children since we were born, and by following along on the page we had each picked up the skill long before kindergarten.  We found that reading to ourselves was empowering, a way to explore new situations, personas, countries and families while still safely ensconced in our own. We felt the pleasure of choosing our own worlds and wandering through them at our own pace, pausing to think, look, or feel for as long as we liked.  And there was nothing faster or flashier to lure us away.  The television we briefly owned was banished, and distracting electronic gadgets were yet to be invented. So none of us was ever without a book.  We would read in the car on the way home from school, in our favorite nooks around the house, at the dinner table with our books on our laps, in the living room before bedtime, and under the covers with a flashlight until we were caught.

When we weren’t reading, we were pretending – and most of our pretend play was based on the books we had read. On weekends we would act out favorite scenes,or do the things the characters liked to do.  It was that sensory experience, more than anything, that brought the books alive for us, that let us break from the old-fashioned syntax to feel, smell, see, taste, and hear the distant story in our own place and time.  We couldn’t read Heidi, for example, without stopping to assemble a tray of a few chunky slabs of cheese and a wooden salad bowl filled with milk. Tom Sawyer had us building forts in the nearby forest. The Secret Garden sent us beyond the rosebushes to scratch out “a bit of earth” in the hidden space along the fence. Little Women introduced us to the joy of putting on plays in our tumbledown barn, and Treasure Island  took us out to the orchard to bury our favorite objects, pirate-style.

When our reading triggered questions, our teacher parents responded with an enthusiastic “Let’s look  it up!” It didn’t take long before we were doing just that without being told.  Right in the middle of a good book we’d flip it upside down and seek out the definition, the historical context, the mythological allusion, the Latin phrase translation, the references to authors and artists, or whatever stopped us in our reading tracks.  And those digressions through The Golden Book Encyclopedia or musty sets of The Book of Knowledge often proved just as enthralling as the text we had set aside.

Our book-inspired imaginings and digressions broadened and deepened our knowledge. The books we were reading simply because we wanted to  sent us off to experience and self-educate – simply because we wanted to. There was nothing pedantic or overtly “educational” about it, no awareness that we were being taught.  We were curious about experiences and issues our books had raised, and we enjoyed satiating our curiosity.  It was fun.  And we grew up to be (and raise our own) close readers and excellent students, still following book-paths down enticing trails of discovery.

Today’s students expand on their knowledge and reading by following enticing links online.  But the Internet, though speedier and far more comprehensive than our old encyclopedia sets, can sometimes lead a child astray.  For better and for worse, it’s not self-contained like The Book of Knowledge was. Not every digression is relevant, credible, or even safe. And though the Web can provide great ideas for having fun and learning more (for instance, the LitWits website!),  it certainly can’t play.  The sensory supplement is essential to experience – the tastes and touch, the smells and sights and sounds of a story.  And so is the infectious enthusiasm of a present, caring human being – something that teachers have known since Socrates.

That’s why we founded LitWits Workshops – to help kids experience great books the way we did. To help them reenact, imagine, immerse, digress, consider, decipher, play – and love to teach themselves. To help them find their way through enticing allusions and tangents. We have such a wonderful time re-experiencing our childhood books with our workshop readers, but we can’t be everywhere. With the detailed help of our complete guides and the support of our online community, you can provide these experiences too.

It's no rocket science.

But then again, it might turn out to be!

Becky Clendenen Kimball and Jenny Clendenen Walicek
Sisters, Friends, and Partners (Click here for our creds!)


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  On Competing, Teaching and Gaming

A Letter from Mike Donegan, local middle school teacher 

Just a few words about competing. I'm a middle school teacher and a new dad. I am also a big game player. In our after school program I run a 'Gamers' Club' where students play many different types of games. We have some very competitive games like 'Magic'; we play great strategy games like 'Takanoko'; and we even have collaborative games like 'Forbidden Island.' 

What I notice time and time again is that winning the game doesn't matter so much. The competition or collaboration isn't why the students play the games. They play to play. They play to laugh and to smile and to enjoy the company of their peers. 

Also, thanks for you news letter. I've been following even before I was a new dad and now that I am a parent, your news letter is even more important. 

We asked Mike to expand on "games" and how he teaches in his club. 

(Graphics) MagictheGathering.jpgI'm sure you know what a big topic game theory is in education right now. Authors like Pink, November, and McGonigal are pointing the way to using motivation and rewards in the classroom. 

In our Gamers' Club we have some favorite games. Allow me to give a list: 

Liar's Dice: a great game for strategy, math, and competition. It also is a fun game to teach students how to react to a game, what is appropriate response.

Castle Panic: A cooperative game where players work to defend a castle from trolls and orcs. Students have to communication, plan, and work as a team.

Forbidden Island: an all time great game. This is collaborative game that requires and lot of brain power. Your team's goal is to collect the treasures before the island sinks.

Fluxx: a popular card game because the rules are the never the same.

Last Night on Earth: a little more mature game. Students are either team zombie or team human. Zombies want to eat the humans and humans need to kill the zombies. We like this as it requires competition and cooperation.

King of Tokyo: Roll the dice and attack the giant monsters. Think of a Godzilla vs. King Kong style game. The students love this game. It is a blast to hear how much they get into this game.

Takenoko: a great strategy game about growing a bamboo garden. Watch for the panda...he wants to eat your yummy bamboo. This game is a pure pleasure to play. 

(Graphics) SettlersofCatan.jpgSettlers of Catan. Do I need to explain this game?

Magic: The Gathering: A deck building game that students (and a few teachers) love to play. What is so great about this game is watching 8th graders sit next to 6th graders and enjoy playing. Sure, students are  competing and there is a lot of flack talk ("there's no way your dark elf will kill my rabident") but that is what makes the game even more fun. What is funny is that the game can't be finished in the time we have to play in but it doesn't matter to the students; it's a game. They pack up their cards and come back the next day.

In my classroom, when I teach, I keep two ideas in my head:

1) What is the behavior I expect as an outcome of the lesson I teach?

2) What does it look like when a "game" ends?


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  Steve: Complaining Geckos and Other Teaching Tools

Steve Spitalny

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The other night I told a few traditional folk tales from around the world to a group of adult friends. In the middle of one story, at the part where a choice was made that had obvious negative consequences, one of my listeners gasped. When the story had ended and everything had been resolved, he said, "You don't have to explain that, the story already says it all."

From long back, long before books and libraries, even longer before computers and the internet, storytelling was the way people learned about the world and their relationship to it. Ancient folktales from diverse cultures have the same archetypes and themes because they all depict the struggle to become a whole and free human being. Folk tales and "fairy tales' from the ancient oral traditions depict soul/spiritual truths in imaginative form. 

In ancient times, the shamans and the initiates at the various mystery centers around the earth developed knowledge of the natural and spiritual worlds. This information was embedded in images, as stories. In long ago times the intellect was not as developed as it is today, and so for the average person to have access to those truths, it had to be learned as a story. The stories spread from the mystery centers out into the diverse cultures of the earth. Variously called troubadours, minstrels, bards, griot, minnesingers, and more - all are the storytellers who shared traditional knowledge stories on their travels and told them throughout the lands. These old stories come from a time when humanity was more closely connected to nature and the world of gods and goddesses.

What I think of as "true' fairy or folk tales give information about the path of development an individual can take to create a balanced path in life, uniting soul and spirit and body, and learning to walk in harmony. Nowadays this information would be offered as a book; perhaps.......Read more>>>>

Explore the world of the young child with writer, speaker and consultant Stephen Spitalny. Steve was a kindergarten teacher at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School for 24 years and is a former member of the Board of WECAN (Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America). His book "Connecting with Young Children: Educating the Will" was published in 2012. Steve now offers workshops, coaching and mentoring in the U.S. and around the world. Find Steve here.


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  This Week

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Events in the Parks

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School Corner


Gateway's Life Lab is on the Edible Gardens Tour! Sat Aug 23


SSCDC Preschool Open Houses Tuesdays & Wednesdays


Discovery Learning Center, Preschool Outreach 8/23


LitWits Master Classes High School, September


Gateway School K-8, Still Enrolling, Open for Tours


Spring Hill School K-6, Open House 9/10


Mount Madonna, Campus Tour Day 10/22


Tara Redwood School Pre-5, Call for a Tour

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Meet Adoptable Dogs(Special Event Images / Graphics) Buttery_Adoption.jpg

2nd & 4th Saturdays

at The Buttery

Next event:
SATURDAY September  6, 12-2pm

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Seahorse Swim School
is giving back
to the community!


FREE lessons are
the first Saturday
of each month


Lifestyle Fitness



Schedule a consultation session with Steve.

The start of a new school year is around the corner.

Get a head start on working on your family issues with your young children before school starts.


Special August rates.

Contact Steve at
for details.

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 Explore the Night Sky

Explore the Night Sky

Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
Learn about the basics of observational astronomy, planets, galaxies, the moon, plus constellations and the stories behind them.

Saturday | August 23 | 9-10:30pm - Click here to register for August

explorenightskyDiscover your place in the universe through observation of the night sky. Join naturalists and astronomers from the UCSC Astronomy Club for a Museum star party!

Learn to identify summer constellations, track the movement of planets, and spot far-off galaxies.   Each evening will begin inside the Museum with a talk on a unique celestial subject and head outdoors for guided sky-viewing. The program will include a short drive to the nearby mountains for guided stargazing. Space is limited. Best for ages 5 and up.

FREE Museum Members | $5 General

Location: 1305 E Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz Map  •website

Education is a Big Deal!
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  Education is a Big Deal!
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"Pioneering the Valley: The Chinese American Legacy in Santa Cla
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  "Pioneering the Valley: The Chinese American Legacy in Santa Cla
Saratoga Historical Museum
Date: Every Su, Fri and Sa (Jul 13-Oct 26) from 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Details: History of the Chinese American Community in the Santa Clara Valley from the 19th century to today with highlights of community
City: Saratoga view all details >>
Aloha Celebrity Races & Polynesian Festival
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  Aloha Celebrity Races & Polynesian Festival
City of Santa Cruz
Date: 08/21/2016 from 9:00am to 5:00pm
Details: Discover the excitement of outrigger canoe racing, taste of the tropics- fresh flower leis, Hawaiian shaved ice, Maori face pain
City: Santa Cruz Phone: 831-420-5273 view all details >>
Capitola Begonia Festival
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  Capitola Begonia Festival
Capitola Village
Date: Every day (Sep 1-Sep 4) from 7:00am to 8:00pm
Details: A Labor Day weekend filled with fun events for the whole family. Beautifully decorated floats, concerts, sand
City: Capitola Village Phone: (831)476-6522 view all details >>
Education is a Big Deal!
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  Education is a Big Deal!
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Education is a Big Deal!
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  Education is a Big Deal!
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Music in the Park
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  Music in the Park
Louden Nelson Community Center
Date: 08/23/2014 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Ages: All ages
Details: Relax in Laurel Park while listening to local musicians!
Special Instructions: Bring a lunch, chairs and two items to tie-dye!
City: Santa Cruz Phone: (831) 420-6177 view all details >>
Baby Sign Language Introductory Class
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  Baby Sign Language Introductory Class
Touch Blue Sky Baby Sign Language
Date: 08/25/2014 from 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Ages: Birth to 18 months
Details: Introductory Workshop on how easy it is to teach signing to your baby
Special Instructions: Early bird registration $40.00
City: Soquel Phone: (650) 571-0337 view all details >>
Education is a Big Deal!
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  Education is a Big Deal!
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Education is a Big Deal!
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  Education is a Big Deal!
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