Celebrate Black History

This month our country celebrates Black History Month – a month we honor historical and contemporary African American people to commemorate their importance to this country’s past and future.

“A people without knowledge of their history, is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey

Below are some resources for you to continue conversations around Black History in your home.

Kids Explain Black History Month

Who Inspires You? Kids share contemporary African American’s that inspire them.

The New York Public Library: Below is a list of wonderful online – digital resources like artwork, historical documents, timelines and much more.  For example, the Treasures of NYPL includes a series of beautiful murals by Aaron Douglas.

Articles and Information:

  • Black History and Beyond (3-5th grade): Here is a selection of articles from Newsela.  Newsela is a great resource for kids and parents because they offer current, relevant, and interesting news for kids.  It’s also wonderful because you can adjust the reading level based on your child’s grade.
  • Biography.com: Biography.com has created a collection of biographies of African Americans that have made a profound impact on our world. Click here to see the collection.
  • History Channel: The History Channel has a collection of historical African American people and events here.
  • African American Inventors (K-5): Potato chips, traffic lights, hinged mailboxes, blood banks, the multiplex telegraph – all these these things were invented by African Americans.  African American inventors have made enormous contributions to society. Click here to learn more from Scholastic.

Conversation Starters: 


  • The New York Historical Society has two online exhibits about slavery and the Civil War. You can view them here.
  • The Queens Botanical Garden is holding an event on February 20th (during mid winter break )in honor of Dr. George Washington Carver. Here is their write up, “Called the “Wizard of Tuskegee,” Dr. George Washington Carver made significant contributions in the field of botany. Learn how plants played a very important role in his early life and later achievements. Students will follow in Dr. Carver’s steps, using plants to paint and to create a healing lotion to take home. Registration required.” To learn more click here!

January’s Text of the Month


For the month of January, Mr. Bender selected the powerful quote above, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Each classroom has had 3 experiences around this quote and we’d love for the conversation to continue at home.

Below are some resources about empathy – what it is, why it’s important, and how to build it:


“Sesame Street: What is Empathy?


NYC Students: What is Empathy?



Ages and Stages of Empathy from Scholastic (Pre-k through 2nd grade)

5 Ways to Raise Empathetic Children

Activities to Build Empathy

  • This example of building empathy with literal shoes is pretty great, but if you can’t get your hands on a lot of shoes, you could always discuss scenarios like these from the Empathy Game .
  • Reading picture books is a great way to start conversations around empathy. There are tons of amazing books out there but here are some to start with.
  • When reading with your child at home, you can pause and have them put themselves in different characters’ shoes and ask them questions – How would they feel? What would they do?


Once in a Blue Blood Super Moon

On January 31st we will have the privilege of seeing a wonderful celestial event – a Blue Moon, Super Moon, and a lunar eclipse (Blood Moon) will all happen at the same time! Why is this so special, you ask? Well we earthlings haven’t seen something this wondrous in 150 years!

What do these terms mean? Well, a Blue Moon isn’t actually blue, it is a term used to describe the second full moon within a month.  There was a full moon earlier in January so this will be the second one.

A Super Moon is the phenomenon in which the moon is larger and brighter in the sky, it happens because the moon is at its closest point to Earth.  At this point, the moon appears to be 14% bigger and 30% brighter than normal.

A lunar eclipse is when the moon moves behind the earth into its umbra and is bathed in the Earth’s shadow – this phenomenon can only happen when the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon are completely aligned and gives the Moon a reddish tint. (see the image below).


When can I see this Super Blue Blood Moon? 

The eclipse will be best viewed from the Western part of North America, however on the East coast we will be able to see a partial eclipse.

At 5:51 a.m. EST on Jan. 31, space observers in New York City will see the Moon enter Earth’s penumbra (the lighter, outer part of its shadow), according to Space.com. The penumbra slightly darkens the Moon, though only a little. It will touch the umbra, the darker part of the shadow which gives the eclipse look at 6:48 a.m. local time. However, the moon sets just 16 minutes later.

alex-iby-252034.jpgOh and by the way…in case you haven’t guessed…the phrase, “Once in a blue moon,” actually refers to a blue moon, or the second full moon in a month. Blue moons happen about every 2-3 years so when you say, “Once in a blue moon,” it means that it rarely happens.

“Never Lose Infinite Hope”

Dr. Martin Luther King used tactics of nonviolence and civil disobedience to advance civil rights.  He was a minister, activist, Nobel Peace Prize winner and so much more. Since Monday our nation will celebrate his great legacy we wanted to share some resources with our school community.  Below you will find a playlist of MLK picture books , a link to his, “I have a Dream,” speech in its entirety, and some events going on around town this weekend.

Picture Book Playlist


I Have a Dream Speech


Activities at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan


The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. all weekend with a number of cool activities.  Please note, all but the mosaic require reservations or tickets.

  • Martin’s Mosaic
    Honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by creating a mosaic of his portrait.
    Saturday – Monday,  January 13 – 15 | 10am & 1 pm| All ages | Drop-in

    Historic Heroines: Coretta Scott King
    Create a children’s book in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King. Learn about The Coretta Scott King Book Award, given to outstanding African-American writers and illustrators of children’s literature.
    Saturday, January 13 | 11:30 am, 12:30 and 4:30 pm | 6 & Older | Sign-up
    Sunday, January 14 | 11:30 am and 12:30 | 6 & Older | Sign-up

    Jumping for Joy with the Double Dutch Dreamz 
    The Double Dutch Dreamz present an intergenerational experience sharing the fundamentals of creative athletics for jumping into twirling and swirling ropes. Join the call and response spoken word and poetry that accompany fast feet movements. The Double Dutch Dreamz have presented at Sugar Hill Children’s Museum, Apollo Theater, Smack Mellon Gallery, BAM, Summer Stage Kids, and Governor’s Island.
    ASL Sign Interpretation provided.
    Saturday, January 13 | 2:30 & 3:30 pm | All ages | Ticketed

    Musical Performance with Lia Holman
    Lia Holman shares the history of African American Music from past to present through song in this musical performance.
    Sunday, January 14 | 2:30 & 3:30 pm | All ages | Ticketed

    Museum of Impact visits CMOM
    Museum of Impact presents Upstanders Fest, a social justice extravaganza. Make art and build power with a healthy curiosity of understanding activism and the role you can play. Discover avenues to action and express yourself through artmaking, songs, games and crafts.
    Museum of Impact creates immersive experiential voyages into the heart of social movements, where visitors leave their own mark.
    Monday, January 15 | 12 – 4 pm | All ages | Drop-in

November’s Video of the Month: Happiness is Helping Others

For the month of November, Mr. Bender selected the video, Happiness is Helping Others – which happens to be a commercial for life insurance – I know this sounds strange but stay with me, I promise its message is incredible.

This beautiful video shows how one person’s seemingly small actions towards other living things can make a tremendous impact on a community.  Pay close attention to all of the main character’s actions and how the other people in the community react toward him throughout the video.

One thing to note when watching this with a child is that education is not guaranteed or necessarily free in Thailand.  According to Unicef, Thailand is one of the 15 countries in the world which together account for more than half of the world’s out-of-school primary school age children.

After you watch the video be sure to keep reading for discussion questions the you can use at home and some ideas about how to foster kindness with your kids this holiday season!

Here are some resources you can use at home:

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why did the main character perform these acts of kindness? Was he hoping to get something from helping other living things? In the end, what did the main character gain by being kind?
  2. Does kindness only count when it is towards other human beings? Who or what was the main character helping in this video? How did those animals or things show they benefited from the main characters kindness?
  3. What is important to the main character?
  4. The reaction people have to the main character changes from the beginning to the end of the video. How were community members reacting to the main character’s actions in the beginning? How were they reacting towards him in the end? What lesson did the main character teach people in his community?
  5. Has anyone every done something very small but very kind for you – that impacted you in a big way?
  6. Have you ever done something kind and not told anyone about it? How do you think that would feel? How did it feel?
  7. When you do something kind for someone, are you expecting something in return?


  1. Try doing something kind for someone without expecting anything in return. See how it makes you feel.
  2. Do something kind for someone and don’t tell anyone you did it. See how it makes you feel.
  3. Holiday Season Kindness:
    • Citymeals on Wheels: You and your child can volunteer to make greeting cards for homebound elderly. Check it out here.
    • Donate gently used coats to NYCares.  Here are their drop off locations!
    • Donate items to help children and families in need. Check out NY Foundling. and organization that helps foster children in Westchester and Rockland Counties, and Puerto Rico. They often need baby and hygiene items.
  4. Random Acts of Kindness is a great resources that groups acts in categories like Ideas You Can Do for Senior Citizens, With Your Kids, At Work, For Animals, etc.
  5. 14 Ways to Encourage Kindness from Parents.com
  6. How Parents Can Encourage Empathy in Children from Harvard Graduate School


October’s Text of the Month: K is for Kindness

For the month of October, Mr. Bender selected K is for Kindness from Sesame Street as our text.  Though it may seem like a simple song its message is powerful and inspirational.

After you watch the video be sure to keep reading to learn about ways to foster kindness with your kids at home.

K is for Kindness (With Chris Jackson)

There’s a word I know and it starts with K
That word is kindness hear me when I say
K is for kindness. A simple word its true.
But its amazing what a word can do, can do
Amazing what a word can do
When you help someone in need
That’s kindness
When you plant a little seed
That’s kindness
When you give a pet a home
That’s kindness
Gently hold a ladybug
That’s kindness
And when you try a little kindness, kindness
And you help someone for real
You might be surprised to realize
How good it makes you feel
When you try a little kindness
When you try a little kindness
When you listen and stay calm
That’s kindness
Make a cookie for you mom
That’s kindness
When you scratch a puppies ear
That’s kindness
Help wipe away a tear
That’s kindness too
Yes I know
And when you try a little kindness, kindness
And you help someone for real
You might be surprised to realize
How good it makes you feel
When you try a little kindness
When you try a little kindness

Here are some resources you can use at home:

  1. Kindness Video Playlist from Sesame Street: If you liked the video above, you will enjoy these as well.
  2. Random Acts of Kindness is a great resources that groups acts in categories like Ideas You Can Do for Senior Citizens, With Your Kids, At Work, For Animals, etc.
  3. 14 Ways to Encourage Kindness from Parents.com
  4. How Parents Can Encourage Empathy in Children from Harvard Graduate School

This resources were pulled from SesameWorkshop




September Book of the Month: How to Heal a Broken Wing

Every year Mr. Bender carefully selects a text for each month of the school year.  These texts are always connected by a particular theme which changes from year to year.  This year’s is a really powerful theme, but we aren’t going to tell you what it is just yet.

At the end of each month, we will share the Book of the Month with you in the hopes you will discuss it further with your children. And while you’re at it, see if you can figure out Mr. Bender’s theme!


September’s Text of the Month was, How to Heal a Broken Wing, by Bob Graham.  The story takes place in a busy city where no one sees a bird lying on the pavement with a broken wing. “No one but a small boy called Will.  He and his mom carry it home and, with time, rest, and a little bit of hope, the wing mends and the bird is free once more to soar over the city. The language is deceptively simple; however, this story is enhanced through illustrations that are laden with symbolism, adding a strong visual literacy component.” Listen to the story below!

Here are some resources for you to use at home:

Resources for Pre-k – 2nd grade:

Discussion Questions:

  • What kind of person is Will? You can look at his actions in the book to come up with an idea and support your thinking.
  • Everyone in the city, except Will, walked right by the pigeon with a broken wing. Why didn’t they stop and help?
  • How do you think Will feels when he releases the bird? Why do you think that?
  • What do you think the author, Bob Graham, was trying to teach you?
  • Could Will have saved the bird alone? Why not? What help does Will get that in turn allows him to help the bird?
  • Have you ever help an animal or person in need?
  • Does Will remind you of anyone you know?
  • What are some small things we could do to be kinder to the people and animals around us?
  • Really young students could retell you the story. Make sure they include the beginning, middle, and the end.

Art: Make a Soda Bottle Bird Feeder

Nature: Learn more about pigeons here!

Resources for Grades 3-5 (these resources come from Walker Books Classroom Ideas):

  1. Empathy: Look at the main characters in this story: The pigeon, Will, The mother, and The father. Talk about how you would tell the story from the different perspective of each of these characters.
  2. Author’s Craft: Bob Graham uses images and text to tell his story. Does the story change if: You only read or listen to the text? You only view the pictures? How do the text and the pictures help to tell the story together?
  3. Theme: Different ideas and themes are contrasted in this book. Explore the following idea: Apathy vs Empathy. Find the definition of these words. Which characters are apathetic? Which characters are empathetic? How has Bob Graham shown the apathetic characters? What do you feel empathy for in your own life?
  4. Art: How is color used in this book to convey: – Mood – Setting – Character – Time • Look at different types of colors. How is colour used to convey meaning? Find a color ad in a magazine or newspaper. Discuss how colour is used. Re-create the ad using a different color scheme.
  5. Symbolism: 
  • This book is a sequence of events. Bob Graham uses several symbols to convey time. What are these? How do we know how much time has passed? What other symbols of time could have been used?
  • Look for symbols throughout the book that may convey messages of war. Falling Bird: What do you think the bird represents? Why? Why has Bob Graham chosen a pigeon to convey this message? Compare the first drawing of the bird with the last. The feather: What do you think this represents?
  • View the page that depicts the bird being placed in a box lined with newspaper. What does the newspaper show? View the page with the image of the television. What does the screen show? What do these images tell you about the outside world?

     6. Social Justice: Pigeons are often seen as nuisances or pests. How are pigeons viewed by society? Explore the idea of ‘social outcasts’.

imgres-1.jpgBob Graham on writing How to Heal a Broken Wing: “I have long wanted to write a story about a pigeon, a story that connects with the times we live in where we seem to be losing touch with the natural world.

I wanted to write a story of hope, putting empathy in the hands of a child – because children are our future and our hope for a more caring world to come. When all of the world’s horror and inhumanity appear daily on the televisions in our living rooms, I wanted to show a human counterbalance to these things enacted in ordinary, everyday and seemingly insignificant events.

In doing this, I tried to tell the story using a minimum of words and to let the pictures do the talking.

A very strange thing happened as I was drawing the final picture of the small boy jumping in the air to catch floating feathers. The telephone rang, and as I answered it I watched what appeared to be a fine ash floating down outside my window. As I finished my conversation it dawned on me that it was not ash but very small downy feathers, floating down from a clear blue sky. I picked up six or so and stuck them in my notebook to remind myself I had not imagined it, before finishing the book soon after.

Summer Fun for Your Ears: Podcasts

Podcasts are especially great during the summer months because you can listen to them anywhere you are; at home, on vacation, or in transit. Here are some kid-friendly podcasts that will keep you thinking and learning all summer long!

Click the images below to take a listen! Descriptions below.

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Wow in the World: Wow in the World is a podcast and a new way for families to connect, look up and discover the wonders in the world around them. Every episode, hosts Mindy and Guy guide curious kids and their grown-ups away from their screens and on a journey. Through a combination of careful scientific research and fun, we’ll go inside our brains, out into space, and deep into the coolest new stories in science and technology.

But Why: But Why is a show led by you, kids! You ask the questions and we find the answers. It’s a big interesting world out there.On But Why, we tackle topics large and small, about nature, words, even the end of the world.Have a question? Send it to us!

Brains On: A podcast featuring science for kids and curious adults.

Stories Podcast: The Stories Podcast was created to provide family-friendly content to families on the go, Always free, the podcast is a great way to entertain kids on the go and limit screen time while encouraging imaginations. This podcast is even great for Pre-k Kids! This is one of our favorites! 

Stories Alive: The Stories Alive podcast is a partnership between JPR and Stories Alive. The podcast is a fun, unique audio theatre experience for all ages. Each episode features three to four amazing, original stories written by elementary students. Stories Alive brings them to life with professional actors, sound designers and musicians.


An Underground Library on Wheels

If you take the E or F train, be on the lookout for the awe inspiring Subway Library Trains!

As of this week, 10 subway cars have been transformed into larger than life libraries – a tribute to one of NYC most beloved institutions, the New York Public Library.  Subway benches are now wooden, the car walls are adorned with bookshelves and masonry work, the ceilings mimic windows and frescos.  However, the Subway Library isn’t just a pretty train, the NYC Public Library and the MTA have partnered to bring commuters six weeks of free downloadable books using the Transit Wireless Wifi network.

How do you get the books, you ask? Well, when you go underground sign in to the Transit Wireless WiFi network.  Once you are on you will see a prompt for SubwayLibrary.com.  From there you can browse all the available books, here is the list of the available children’s books.  They have a smattering of fiction and nonfiction on a variety of reading levels.

What a perfect way to inspire summer reading in the city! Enjoy!

Here is a silent video that shows you the newly decorated trains!

Can You Solve the Winning Question?

Probability and Statistics is one of the more modern branches of Mathematics (several hundred years old as opposed to tens of thousands of years old).  Having a firm grasp of this new-ish branch of Mathematics, helped a 13 year old win a national math competition last week.

Luke Robitaille won by answering the question below in less than a second. See if you can solve it.  Please comment below with your mathematical thinking.

We will reveal how you can solve the problem on Monday!

Here is a clue, when you are trying to find the probability it helps to consider the possibilities. Enjoy!

In a barn, 100 chicks sit peacefully in a circle. Suddenly, each chick randomly pecks the chick immediately to its left or right. What is the expected number of unpecked chicks?