Wednesday, October 7, 2015

FLVS Blog Post-The Virtual Voice

“Volunteers are not paid—not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.”
Do you volunteer or did you when you were young?

Do you remember who Candy Stripers were? They were hospital volunteers. Working as a Candy Striper was my first experience volunteering and it taught me real-world experiences that helped shape my future.

I volunteered each Sunday from 12 – 4 p.m. at Pembroke Pines Hospital in South Florida. There were many rules and the expectations for the teen volunteers were high, dauntingly so. We received intensive training that resembled that of a NASA Astronaut.
It was the most amazing summer and I came away with a new level of self-confidence. I made new friends and gained work experience to add to my resume.

Does your family volunteer?
Volunteering is not limited to adults. Check with community event listings to see what opportunities are available! If you’re a parent, see which ones offer tasks for smaller children who are elementary age. There are many agencies that request handmade birthday cards, letters to children in hospitals, school walk-a-thons to benefit charities, as well as reading to cats in animal shelters. (Check out these kids reading to cats in shelters.)

Today, my family volunteers for the non-profit cat rescue organization, Candy’s Cats. It just started off by fostering a cat or two until it was adopted. Now I am a board member and my daughters have learned countless life lessons. The girls, ages 8 and 12, love every aspect of being a volunteer. They do not earn high school hours nor do they earn pocket money from us. Weekends are often spent at the adoption center performing clerical tasks, working with the cats, cleaning, and organizing supplies. They have learned that passion for volunteering must be intrinsic. It’s most important to give of yourself.

We have also participated in many FLVS volunteering events including Give Kids the World 5k, community food drives, children’s homes repair/drives, and more!
Florida Virtual School and Service Learning
FLVS courses such as Leadership Skills Development and Parenting Skills promote the practice of volunteering in the community. From the general insight into the benefits of performing community service to fully developed projects on volunteering, these courses offer our students the opportunity to research and explore all aspects.

In the FLVS Parenting Skills course, students learn that they must complete two hours of community service within six weeks. They have a wealth of resources provided to them if they have difficulty identifying an area in which to volunteer. Module 7 highlights youth organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club of America and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). In the lesson, students learn that leadership skills and self-esteem can be developed through active volunteering. In their assignment, students reflect on how they see themselves volunteering and ways that volunteering can positively impact their lives. These responses always move me emotionally.
How much could a student learn in just two hours of volunteering?
Ever try to eat just one potato chip? While the Parenting Skills course has an expectation of just two service hours, it is our hope that the “potato chip effect” will take hold where they crave more volunteer experiences. When students submit their reflection of their community volunteering experiences, the responses are varied. Some students will complete the course expectation, while others invest themselves in the assignment and come out transformed by the experience.
I ask students about the volunteering experiences during the final discussion-based assessment. It is important to respect the opinions of all students during these discussions and I am always asking questions whether the experience was seen as positive or negative. Students may convey that it was something they enjoyed or absolutely hated, but I always ask those probing questions that might be the difference in turning a bad experience into a revelation.

With the summer upon us, where will YOU volunteer? Will you give two hours (or more) of your time to your community? Teach by example and volunteer in your community. Not sure where to start? Check out our list of ideas below!
Volunteer Resources in the State of Florida
Volunteer Florida
Volunteer Match
American Red Cross
Boys and Girls Club of America
Students Against Destructive Decisions
Feel free to share in the comment section where you volunteer!
Jeanne Giardino-Zanegood

About Jeanne Giardino-Zanegood

Jeanne Giardino-Zanegood, Parenting Skills instructor, has a true passion for all things literacy and enjoys the collaborative process in promoting reading in all aspects of virtual education. Having held a variety of positions with FLVS during her 10-year tenure, she brings a global perspective to her current position. After 20 years in the field of education, she maintains a wealth of literacy knowledge and enthusiasm for student success.

Family 2015

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cows, Hens, and Ducks OH MY! Reasons Why It’s Important to Use Children’s Picture Books in Life

By Jeanne Giardino-Zanegood

Once Upon a Time…

I always get chills when I read these first few words contained in many children’s books. They bring me back to a simpler time when reading was filled with colorful illustrations, playful words, and the promise of happily ever after.

My daughters, ages 7 and 10, are voracious readers and they moved quickly from picture books to chapter books by 1st grade.  While I would delight in their accomplishment reading books like The Magic Treehouse series it worried me that they might not recall the joys of reading books that could tell a story in both illustrations and words.  Our weekly trips to the public library to check out books no longer included time in the children’s reading room, but instead we sat on the floor in the juvenile fiction section looking for books by Sunshine State Nominees and Newberry Award winners for excellence in writing. Would my children ever remember the Caldecott-awarded picture books of their childhood and the beauty they possess?

Did you know that children’s literature covers topics such as history/political science, building and maintaining relationships, coping strategies and even retells the literary classics?  That you can help children understand the complexities of the human experience all from reading a picture book.  One of my favorite books is about teaching children about social injustice and the conceptual foundation for civil rights/animal rights. 

In Doreen Cronin’s book Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type, “The animals in Farmer Brown’s barn are unhappy with the way they are being treated. All day long they post typewritten notes to Farmer Brown, demanding better working conditions. Ultimately, the cows and hens threaten to go on strike. Click, Clack, Moo, a Caldecott Honor book, is a humorous and thought-provoking analogy that demonstrates the importance of taking action in the face of injustice.”*

This is what you get when you have a trained lawyer write a children’s book.

Reading picture books such as, Click, Clack Moo: Cows That Type, at the different grade levels will solicit a wide spectrum of responses based on prior knowledge.  Looking at the ever changing landscape of educational standards children are being asked to master at a young age, picture books open doors to deep discussion with the support of rich, meaningful text. Parents and teachers can pull a variety of topics from this beautifully illustrated and cleverly written book such as life on a farm, fiction vs. non-fiction, and fairness. Click, Clack Moo: Cows That Type is a 2nd grade level picture book, but with the the import of higher level vocabulary words in the story such as: compromise, negotiate, improve and strike; students can begin to explore historical/current events and dare I say even maybe cultivate some interesting dinner time conversation with children of a variety of ages.

I used Doreen Cronin’s book as it is one of my daughters’ favorite books to read both independently and as a read-aloud. When they were preschoolers it was a silly story about farm animals who wanted to use electric blankets in the barn to keep warm at night.  As the girls grew it morphed into a parable and became a lesson in communication, negotiating, conflict resolution and passive resistance.
Who knew?

Ode to the Unabridged Dictionary in a Digital World

Now that I am an official blogger for FLVS I am ensuring my moments of creativity are forever encapsulated on my own personal blog.

Ode to the Unabridged Dictionary in a Digital World


Do you remember what it was like before we had computers? No?

Well, I do. It was tough, real tough…especially if you needed to spell a word.

I remember from a young age asking my parents how to spell a word and they would tell me to prepare to write. I would grab my fancy yellow pencil and lean into my paper awaiting their wisdom. They always spelled the same exact word no matter what. Really! They would spell the same exact word for years and years.  I would ask them how to spell government, and they would be all smiles as they carefully spelled out the word d-i-c-t-i-o-n-a-r-y. It was the same every time and became a silly game growing up. I knew very well they would never spell a word for my older brother or me if we could grab our unabridged Webster’s dictionary and learn how to spell the word on our own. To this day, when my daughters ask me how to spell a word I will always spell “dictionary.”

It wasn’t that long ago we had to use reference books – like a dictionary – to spell words correctly. We would have to leave the kitchen table where we always did our homework under the watchful eye of my mother and tromp to my father’s office to get the family dictionary that weighed at least 50lbs. It was “unabridged,” which is code for a book that you could never lift and it took you at least 20 minutes to find your word because the book contained every single word in the English language!

Today our children rely on word processing spell check software, websites, Siri (I am so guilty of this and my own children mock me!), and other electronic devices to spell accurately. What has happened to the lost art of spelling by accessing a mammoth hardcover dictionary? Will they ever know the excitement of scanning guide words or dragging their finger down a page scanning for their word all the while stopping to see other words that catch their interest? Growing up it was always exciting to learn new words and find the meaning in the thin, crispy pages of the dictionary.

My daughters are in a traditional elementary school, anxiously waiting to join the fun at Florida Virtual School once they get to middle school, and each week are required to spell a set of words based on a grammar rule. As a literacy coach I live for each week’s lists. We encourage our daughters to use the words in their creative writing, pen pal letters, and even texts to their cousins. They have a passion for spelling and love to reference the family dictionary. However, more and more they are reaching for their electronics to spell words they need for school work.

I often wonder if the physical, unabridged dictionary will soon become obsolete much like the library card catalog. Will our children know what a non-digital unabridged dictionary is in five years?
What concerns me as a parent/educator is whether we are adequately preparing our children for a world that is highly competitive, where spelling and word usage will set them apart. Will they ask their peers how to spell words accurately, lean heavily on technology, or learn the art of spelling?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day 3: Helicopter, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Early morning helicopter tour over Manhattan. Ellie and Fred sat up front!

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day 2 in NYC! Empire State Building and Natural History Museum!

Museum of Natural History-Discovery Room

Dum Dum (the statue behind Ellie)

Famous Blue Whale

Hot Chocolate!

Vegan Restaurant for Lunch

Funny Bella

Macy's for Mommy!

Police Dog!

Cant see anything! Empire State Building is in the CLOUDS!

Empire State Building!