Monday, February 22, 2010

extra, extra, read all about it!

There's a lot of hype about the Newseum.  You could spend two days there.  It's the best museum ever.  I love it more than I love my children.  Really folks?  Never having seen it, I was pretty skeptical when we loaded up our four buses and 100 some-odd mentors and mentees.  We arrived about 10:15 this past Saturday morning.

At 12:30, about fifteen minutes before we were scheduled to depart, I was running around furiously to see if we could squeeze in another half hour and mentors and mentees were asking (begging to see) if our tickets were good for 48 hours.  The hype is well-deserved.

From a stunning set of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs on the first floor to the view (at right) from the sixth floor terrace, the place simply did not disappoint.  There are clips from the Daily Show, newspaper headlines from the past two centuries, and everything in between.  Mentors and Mentees gushed about the 4-D theater, the 9/11 exhibit, and the section of the Berlin Wall.  One mentor described this last highlight as "an exhibit that glorifies the breaking of one wall which makes us think of the others that are being built today."

No matter the exhibit, it was the hands-on nature of the whole experience that really moved the group.  Every floor has touchscreens and various ways to engage in the news and the history on display.  None of the exhibits, however, provided more immediate engagement than the Be a TV Reporter station pictured at the top of this page.  In that picture, Keona Archer and Aris Ellison are reporting while their mentors, YaVonne Dubose and Nidhi Patel, look on.  As Courtney Jones explains, "I was able to see a news reporter's point of view and to see how much they had to do.  Being a news reporter and getting out of my comfort zone was fun."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Snow storms in DC shut down everything and left the entire district immobilized. And the Green Club grew lettuce.

Three thoughts from the post-blizzard scenes at TMA:

1. Even a few days of 40+ degree weather hasn't cleared much snow. The field, the garden, and the basketball court remain hidden. The headline image is a stark contrast (and not just because of our new sign) to this picture of the same scene from the summer:
 2. All of DC is still buried in three feet of snow.  Schools were shut down.  The Metro stopped service.  But thanks to a few cold frames, the lettuce in our organic garden continued to grow.  See the picture below?  That's two feet of snow there on the left and then, inside the cold frame, that's lettuce.

3. Our green club is awesome.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Update from the Supreme Court

Along with the entire District, the Thurgood Marshall Academy basketball teams have spent the last few weeks in hibernation.  For the rest of the Washington Charter School Athletic Association, this was a welcome reprieve, as the Warriors had been on a tear to start  2010.

The girls team hasn't lost a game since December 12th and have won five straight contests.  The team has begun to gel around seniors Chanae Watson, Shaterika Turman, and Jasmine McPhaul.  They feature a balanced attack that includes dominating post play and a deft touch from the guards.  Freshman Ni'Asia Bond continues to make a case for rookie of the year.

And the TMA boys have been just as hot.  Since losing a close battle with perennial powerhouse Booker T. Washington, the boys have won seven of eight.  Contributions from Houston Brewer, Matt Thomas, and the return of Demetrius Begeman have added depth to their already formidable lineup.

As the league scrambles to schedule make-up games and get ready for the playoffs, look for the Warriors to continue their hot streak and land a top seed in both the boys and the girls playoffs.  This week features three games, and we'll have another update before the playoffs start.  Go Warriors!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Club Highlight: Sister Action Sister Stregnth

Dozens of clubs have been meeting weekly since the start of the school year. Among these is Sister Action Sister Strength, better known as SASS. Every Monday, a positive community of about 15 teenage women gather to openly discuss real issues of importance to them. Club leader Kara Johnson had this to say:

Can you please describe the focus of the SASS Club?
Sister Action Sister Strength (SASS) is an initiative of the DC Rape Crisis Center. Its primary task is to conduct clubs for adolescent girls where they can explore relationships in a context that challenges the views of femininity and engages them in exercises that allow them to define various means of self-expression and communication. They will explore power dynamics and how those dynamics may influence them and contribute to the culture of violence. We will use such tools as media analysis, facilitated dialogue, and team-building exercises that will culminate in an outreach activity to the community around the prevention of rape and sexual assault during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). They will also have an opportunity to engage in activities with Men Can Stop Rape’s MOST clubs.

How and why did the SASS club develop? How long has TMA had an active SASS club?
The SASS club was developed four years ago by our Community Education Department based on the need for a program like this, the many requests we got for this and through our desire to provide such programs. Originally we started with only high schools, but this year we have expanded to middle schools as well.

SASS Club has been at Thurgood Marshall Academy for a couple of years and we have always received a lot of support from the school.

As a facilitator, please describe some challenges in leading the SASS club?
One of the challenges is getting everyone involved and help them experience what they need to experience individually. We go over some tough topics that aren’t openly talked about in society so sometimes the girls have a hard time opening up, but after trust is built within the group the girls share more and more.

The DC Rape Crisis Center has always had some difficulties getting into the school systems, but there are plenty of passionate teachers and counselors that are willing to work with us to give the girls this experience.

What insights have our TMA students given to you?
Running the SASS club at TMA is something that I look forward to every week. I really hold a lot of respect for the girls that attend. I admire their drive for learning new things and openly talking about topics that are something hard to talk about. Many if not all of the girls have self-confidence which shows me that I can be more self-confident about myself too.

Thanks to Kara and the DC Rape Crisis Center for the leadership and commitment to the students of TMA! Look for more club highlights soon!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

America's Next Top Blogger - Week Five Winner - Kyle Holley (Again)

Can you believe it? We're already done with our fifth week of this heated competition. This week's topic focused on the recent devastation in Haiti. We at A.N.T.B. asked students to convey their initial reactions and what they feel would be an appropriate response from their communities. We received several stellar responses, though once again Junior Kyle Holley distinguished himself as a standout journalist. Reprinted below is his response:
As the world recovers from the devastating occurrences on the island of Haiti, I myself have mixed feelings. While the general reaction is shock, disbelief, and sympathy for those involved, which in reality is all of us, I find positive strides in the rebuilding processes. In the wake of a nightmare experienced by everyone in Haiti on the afternoon of January 12th, eyes opened to the timely aid of the United States Government, Special Forces and Military. Though an estimated 150,000 people lost their lives in the epic quake and aftershocks that followed, Americans proved strong and true once again, that in times of hardship, we as a people can come together for the greater good.
I believe our government also made a strong statement with their timely response. When I saw the almost immediate action to the victims in Haiti, I instantly thought of the less than urgent response to the victims of the notorious Hurricane Katrina, which slashed through the U.S. soil of New Orleans, only a short five years ago, in August of 2005. The Obama administration's quick relief efforts spoke volumes to me, in reference to the promising direction our country looks to take under this team. I believe this also lead to the speedy reaction of American citizens, with donation text lines and relief effort concerts being organized, just days after this series of misfortune.
Even in the hallways of Thurgood Marshall Academy, steps have been taken through a dress down and supply drive. In the midst of all the bad came a silver lining and I believe that lining stems from our government. A statement was made; and I believe it said, "We stand together and we stand strong."
The standings for America's Next Top Blogger are now: Kyle Holley-2, Nadean Talley-2, and Marcellus Sanders-1. Whoa! Can you feel the heat? This is going to be a race to the finish. Remember, the first blogger to earn three nods for blogger of the week will be crowned America's Next Top Blogger. As always, stay tuned for the newest topic for the week and keep those posts coming.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How do you spell debate? V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!

The snowstorm that immobilized much of the district this past Saturday kept many in the comfort of their homes, but not TMA's fearless debate team. Despite the snowy conditions, members of the debate team made it out to Roosevelt Senior High School for the Urban Debate League's fourth tournament of the season.

The two topics they were set to debate?: The relevance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in modern education and whether or not the federal minimum wage should be raised to ten dollars an hour.

After three hours of intellectual exchanges and intense debate, the results were in. TMA went nearly undefeated during the course of the day, winning 7 matches and losing just one. With a dominating performance and an 87.5% winning percentage, TMA took home first place overall. In addition to taking taking home top honors, TMA earned some individual and team accolades. Tamara Johnson placed 14th overall out of all individual speakers. The team comprised of Tamara Johnson, Brian Crawford and Demetrius Suggs was 10th overall with a 3-1 record. Deycha Robinson and Alicia Hargrove's team earned 4th place by going undefeated on the day (See picture above. Wouldn't you be smiling if you were undefeated?)

Below is a picture of the entire debate team with their cache of trophies and medals along with with advisors, John London, Marielys Garcia, and Eleanor Lewis. If you're interested in joining a top-notch debate team and winning a lot of awards appeals to you, see Mr. London or Ms. Garcia. They are specifically looking for 9th and 10th graders to join their roster of great debaters.

Monday, February 1, 2010

TMA students earn their PhDs (Practicing Healthy Decisions)

This past Tuesday, the TMA community gathered in our gym to dance, get their blood pressure taken, learn about safe sex, and even jump rope. What was going on? Students from Kena Allison's health class were putting on the annual TMA health fair, that's what.

The students spent the last semester studying different topics related to personal health and wellness. For their final project they were asked to produce an informational booth or demonstration aimed at teaching those in the TMA community about how to develop and maintain healthy lifestyle habits. The projects would then all be put on display as the annual TMA Health Fair.

During the Health Fair, students could determine their BMI (Body Mass Index),  learn about the importance of getting your blood pressure taken, and even partake in an original cardio routine developed by  the students pictured above. Another room in the gym housed the healthy eating room. Thanks to the generosity of Whole Foods there were fruit salads, fruit cups, and fruit smoothies everywhere!

There were also laughs and smiles everywhere and there was genuine experiential learning taking place. Thanks to Ms. Allison and all her students for giving us all a great way to spend our Tuesday afternoon. Can't wait until next year!