Thursday, August 28, 2008

Festivals . . .festivals

Since Utah has such a large, mostly homogenous culture, I'm really grateful for all the cultural festivals that I can take my kids to and give them some exposure to something different.

More festivals coming up. This weekend is the Salt Lake American Muslim cultural festival (Aug. 30 & 31st from 3 to 8 p.m. at Washington Square). More info here:

The IndiaFest at the Krishna Temple is a nice day trip kind of festival that I hope we can make it to (our one and only family car is giving us some grief lately). That's happening on September 13th starting at 4 p.m. at 8628 S. Main in Spanish Fork:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Singing Children of Africa - this Friday

On Friday, August 22, 2008 at 6:30 p.m. at the Sorenson Multi Cultural Center at 855 West California Avenue (1300 South), The Singing Children of Africa will perform an exciting show of traditional African music and dance. The world tour called “Love is all Around us” - sponsored by The Samson Chivatsi African Children’s Appeal, is to bring awareness of the plight of the children in Kenya .

About the Samson Chivatsi African Children’s Appeal

The Samson Chivatsi African Childrens Appeal was established in 1998 by Maureen and Ian McIntyre, after visiting a school whilst on holiday in Kenya . They were so affected by the poverty, poor health and lack of facilities at the school that, on returning to Scotland , Maureen set up the charity and sponsorship program to give the poorest children access to a good education in the area of Utange, near Mombasa . The charity was named after the first child that Maureen and Ian sponsored. For more information regarding the Samson Chivatsi Charity or The Singing Children of Africa Choir visit or or email Maureen McIntyre at

Not sure about cost -- looks to be a donations accepted type of event.

Ring Around the Rose - high quality entertainment for kids at bargain prices

I just got the new season info for Ring Around the Rose, which is a series of performances geared for little ones at the Rose Wagner Theatre Downtown (a short walk from the Gallivan Trax station). It's a great way to get your kids some culture without the worry of your child's behavior at adult programs. Kids at these performances are free to wiggle in their seats and don't have to be perfectly silent throughout the performance.

This year Ring Around the Rose will feature Brazilian Dance with Samba Gringa, Dance from Ballet West, Repertory Dance Theatre and Tanner Dance Theatre, a interactive performance with Utah Opera, a performance by actors involved with Youth Theatre at the U., a magic show, African Drumming and a performance by "Partch", which is described as "weird and wonderful muisc played on instruments he (Harry Partch) invented himself."

There are nine performances in all from September through May, and if you buy tickets to six or more of the shows as a season package, the tickets are only $4 a piece.

More info can be found at

Friday, August 15, 2008

How to insure a good jr. high experience for your kids

Those years in Jr. High were the worst years of my life so far, and from conversations I've had with others I'm not alone.

So I was thrilled when the excellent optional, public school program my eldest daughter was enrolled in became a charter school and added 7th and 8th grades to the kindergarten through 6th grade that they already had.

The Open Classroom, which had been around since 1977, has a strong emphasis on community. They believe in working out issues as a part of the learning process. Bullying at the O.C. is rare and usually caught early on and worked through as part of the community experience. I also get to know the kids who are friends with my daughter, and often their parents as well.

An added bonus, last year we started a whole new kind of lunch program, one that includes a lot of healthy, fresh and whole foods. Salt Lake City Weekly named it the best school lunch in their Best of Utah edition.

This will be our 9th year in the O.C. -- the last year for my 8th grader. Next year, my youngest daughter will go to kindergarten at the O.C. (there usually is a waiting list for the younger grades, so it's not certain). I basically can't say enough good things about this program, and as much as my older daughter has benefitted from it, I think my younger one will benefit even more.

In an effort to let other Salt Lakers know about this wonderful program, I'm publishing some of the latest promotional info on this blog:

The Open Classroom still has spaces available for the coming school year! We have spaces especially in grades 5 through 8, but may have room in some other grades as well. For more information about the Open Classroom, visit our website at -- and keep reading below, especially the testimonials from students and parents. You are also invited to our Open House, Tuesday August 19th at 6:30 at the school -- 3rd Avenue between D and E Streets.
The Open Classroom is:
• A teacher-directed, parent supported, child-centered school.
• A school for students in kindergarten through 8th grade.
• A parent-cooperative school where parents participate in the classroom every week, providing a better adult/student ratio and allowing small group learning.
• A thriving and successful program, now in its 31st year.
• A Charter School within the Salt Lake City School District.
• A school that has individual classrooms with a certified teacher for every classroom – but with an open attitude about learning!
• A school with multi-age classes where students deepen their understanding of subjects by teaching and learning from each other.
• A FREE public school.


For those who dare to daydream,
For those who don’t belong,
For those who feel out of place,
I know where you belong; I have been there and back.
I think you will love the family and friends the Open Classroom can give you.
May you find a new life like I have.
Recent graduate
My daughter was in a neighborhood school with 39 students in sixth grade. She loved being invisible! We moved her to the Open Classroom for seventh and eighth grades. She learned to love not being invisible. Her transformation was remarkable. I can’t say enough about the positive influence her dedicated teachers had on her attitude towards learning. Never social, she became an avid socialite!
As a retired Air Force officer, I taught at the OC regularly and loved the kids and my parent partners. There was a new challenge every six weeks. It kept my own interest from completely drying up.
If your child is normal, slightly off center, colorful or just creative, I’m confident they will prosper academically and socially in the Open Classroom. I’d be happy to discuss my experience with you; just communicate via this website.
Robert King, parent of recent graduate
The Open Classroom understands that we have something to learn from every individual we meet, and that the "self-fulfilling prophecy" of teaching is learning. To be a part of that co-operative learning community is powerful and awesome.
Kathy MacGregor, parent
You have your friends, you have your family. You'll have them both at the Open Classroom.
Recent graduate
It was such a privilege to be there with kids during adolescence. I didn't feel I had abandoned my daughter at the edge of the forest.
Bonnie Weiss, parent of recent graduate
When I'm here I feel like I'm home.
I feel guilty that we aren't paying tuition. The teachers and staff are really that good. I love that I am not only allowed but actively encouraged to participate in all aspects of my daughter's education. The time I spend in the classroom is priceless.
Deb Lyon, parent
The Open Classroom is like a second home--a second family. Because if you shed a tear, they'll shed a thousand. If you laugh, they'll laugh. If you decide to break into song, everyone will join in. Because these friends are true friends. The kind that you will remember forever. Thank you, Open Classroom, for showing me a school can be more than just a place for academics.
Helping in my child's classroom and having the opportunity to work on projects with a committee made it so most of the Open Classroom became like an extended family to me, my husband, and my kids. Really knowing the parents and family members of the children who were playing with my kids was reassuring.
Nora Gallegos, parent
As a parent I like the OC because my child learns to communicate his feelings and needs in a way that is applicable not only to school but for effective, lifelong communication.
Felicia Marie Baca, parent
I have attended many faculty meetings, and I was amazed when I came to the Open Classroom. I have never seen a faculty that gets along and works together so well.
Shauna Olson
Elementary School Support Supervisor
Salt Lake City School District
When I attended my first Steering meeting, my jaw dropped. I have never seen a faculty so willing to let parents take part in important decisions.
Dellis Hatch
(New) OC Principal (after his first Steering meeting)
You’ll see the big things when you come into the Open Classroom – how we work in small groups, how parent co-opers are a huge part of the learning. But it may take you awhile to see other things. The way that new kids or kids who are shy or different are embraced. The way kids love school – my daughter fakes being healthy when she’s sick so she doesn’t have to miss school! The way there are no fashion police – kids are comfortable wearing what they like. And, the way that disrespect is handled. Although kids say mean things in any school, not many schools have so many adults around to deal with it so quickly. By the time kids get older they have internalized those lessons and you’ll see older kids successfully and respectfully challenging mean behavior themselves. All of these things – and the memory of how different this was from the way I grew up – make me so happy to be part of the OC community.
Laura Lockhart, parent
When I heard two years ago that our sons' school was transitioning to a full K-8, I was excited to think that they could continue their middle school education in the same stimulating and humane setting that they had spent their elementary years from kindergarten. But when our sixth-grader was about the enter seventh grade, my husband and I had to really consider where the best place would be for him to spend middle school. After all, there are a number of attractive options now among the public and charter schools, and it would probably make my own life simpler not to have to volunteer at school anymore, after having spent seven years already as a parent co-oper. I'd like to tell you why a family like ours chooses to continue with a program like the Open Classroom.
With the Open Classroom now entering its second year as an official district charter school and its third year after forming an "Upper House" of 5th through 8th-graders, I can see the tremendous progress that has been made in this development, even as the framework from the old K-6 model remains vital and in place. The philosophy has stayed the same--the commitment to embracing and teaching to the individual while at the same time building a community around that individual. That basic respect that everyone is offered has not diminished one bit, nor has the framework that allows creativity and problem-solving to flourish, encouraging an ever-evolving curriculum and active involvement among the community. Some things on the surface may change, like course offerings or scheduling, and this is something we considered seriously,
but in the end, the more important criteria became "Will my child be able to develop his talents and will he feel good about the person he is becoming during the most emotionally challenging years of his education?"

In most middle schools, a child may have seven teachers, and they may be very caring, committed teachers, but the child is not guaranteed that one of those teachers will make sure he/she doesn't slip through the cracks. We've all heard that an at-risk child can be saved by one caring adult. At the OC, this is not left to the good will of the teachers or to the oversight of an overburdened school counselor. Even in the middle school grades, each child has a homeroom teacher and cohort of students--their "home base" at the beginning and end of school each day. As a parent, I can trust that not only do my children have the support of that homeroom teacher, but also of all the other upper house teachers. I have seen countless examples of the kind of individualized attention and collaboration among their teachers that I think is rare to unheard of in a middle school environment.

What happens when you get a whole body of people moving according to these principles and practices? You get to see what I saw at the annual air guitar assembly, where kids who might blend into the background at a normal middle school performed, rockin' and rollin' with a fluidity and sense of confidence that some of them never would have found. You get to see children who experiment with make-up and wild clothing slowly shedding the protective disguise to reveal their genuine selves. You get to see your own child demonstrate patience and compassion with a younger child, as he reads to him, teaches him the rules of 4-square on the playground, or helps him transition to the next grade.

But you only get to see these things if you show up. So yes, my child will show up to seventh grade at the Open Classroom next year, and so will I.

Karen Salas Wheeler, parent
The Open Classroom is dedicated to the inclusion of all students without regard to race, creed, color or national origin, economic status, language or cultural background.