Dear Sprague Community, This month, parents will have the opportunity to meet with teachers in Parent/Teacher conferences. The dates are listed below. I know you all will take advantage of this time to have a conversation with your child’s teacher about his/her progress. Teachers at Sprague are very dedicated to getting to know your children as learners and also as people. I know this is something that you already know, but I am always amazed at their insights given it is likely they have only known your child since September.  If you haven’t already, be sure to schedule your conference. Teachers have sent instructions about how to do so via email. Parent/Teacher Conferences: Dates: March 23rd and 30th, April 5th and 6th As you know, the Wellesley Public Schools places a high priority on helping children develop strong social and emotional skills. Our teachers use the Open Circle curriculum and work hard to establish strong relationships with students and a caring, nurturing classroom environment in which to learn. Even still, we are always seeking ways to support students’ social learning and encourage the development of things like empathy and resiliency that can be very hard to ‘teach.’ Our PTO is very supportive of this work and also seeks ways to help parents at home. This month, they have invited author and expert, Jessica Minahan to talk to Sprague parents. The title of her talk is, “Effective Strategies for Students with Anxiety-Related Behavior,” but she will also talk about strategies that can be used with children in situations where this is conflict, a need for self-regulation, and problem solving. We hope you will join us on Tuesday, March 22 at Sprague to hear her talk and ask questions. Please see the brief description and bio below. Jessica Minahan, M.Ed, BCBA “The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that one in four thirteen-eighteen year olds has had an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.  Without intervention, these children are at risk for poor performance, diminished learning, and social/behavior problems in school. Understanding the role anxiety plays in a student’s behavior is crucial and using preventive strategies are key to successful intervention. Effective behavior plans for these students must avoid the reward and punishment-based consequences from traditional behavior plans and focus instead on the use of preventive strategies and on explicitly teaching coping skills, self-monitoring, and alternative responses. Easy to implement preventive tools, strategies, and interventions for reducing anxiety, increasing self-regulation, executive functioning, and self-monitoring will be discussed.” Bio: Jessica Minahan, MEd, BCBA, is a board certified behavior analyst and special educator and a consultant to schools nationwide ( Jessica has over seventeen years of experience supporting students who exhibit challenging behavior in urban public school systems.  She is a blogger on The Huffington Post, as well as the author of The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students, with Nancy Rappaport (Harvard Education Press, 2012) and author of The Behavior Code Companion: Strategies, Tools, and Interventions for Supporting Students with Anxiety-Related or Oppositional Behaviors (Harvard Education Press, 2014). On a similar note, I recently read an article about key factors that nurture resilience in children. I read the excerpt in the Marshall Memo and they highlighted the fact that all people have the capacity for resilience—it is not a trait that children either have or do not have. They said, “All people have the capacity for resilience, and there are three factors that tap and nurture that potential: (a) caring relationships, (b) high expectations, and (c) meaningful opportunities for participation and contribution. The three factors help develop children’s social competence, problem-solving ability, sense of self, and sense of purpose and optimism about the future – all of which are key to dealing successfully with adversity.”  The author, Truebridge, wrote the following observations about her own research and that of several other researchers to make these observations about resilience in schools: -Resilience is a process, not a trait. -All people have the capacity for resilience; for some it needs to be tapped. -Several personal strengths are associated with resilience – being strong cognitively, socially, emotionally, morally, and spiritually. -One person – a teacher, relative, friend – can make a difference in the life outcomes of an embattled student. -Teachers, parents, and administrators who have a “growth” mindset about students’ ability to overcome adversity will get far better results than those with a “fixed” mindset. -Bad behavior doesn’t equate to being a bad person. “What the student did was display poor judgment and, as a result, the student needs to be responsible for those actions,” says Truebridge. “However, a person who displays bad judgment is not ‘forever’ a bad person.” -Challenging life experiences and events are opportunities for growth, development, and change. “Quite often,” says Truebridge, “our perseverance through tough times builds our confidence and makes us stronger.” From: “Resilience: It Begins With Beliefs” by Sara Truebridge in Kappa Delta Pi Record, January-March, 2016 (Vol. 52, #1, p. 22-27), available for purchase at; Truebridge can be reached at   From the Nurse: March is National Nutrition Month Typically, when parents think about their children’s health, they don’t think about their bones. But building healthy bones by adopting beneficial nutrition and lifestyle habits in childhood is important to help prevent osteoporosis and fractures later in life. Osteoporosis, the disease that causes bones to become less dense and more prone to fractures, has been called “a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences,” because the bone mass attained in childhood and adolescence is an important determinant of lifelong skeletal health. The health habits your kids are forming now can make, or literally break, their bones as they age. Why Is Childhood Such an Important Time for Bone Development? Bones are the framework for your child’s growing body. Bone is living tissue that changes constantly, with bits of old bone being removed and replaced by new bone. You can think of bone as a bank account, where (with your help) your kids make “deposits” and “withdrawals” of bone tissue. During childhood and adolescence, much more bone is deposited than withdrawn as the skeleton grows in both size and density. For most people, the amount of bone tissue in the skeleton (known as bone mass) peaks by their late twenties. At that point, bones have reached their maximum strength and density. Up to 90 percent of peak bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and age 20 in boys, which makes childhood the best time for your kids to “invest” in their bone health. Building your children’s “bone bank” account is a lot like saving for their education: The more they can put away when they’re young, the longer it should last as they get older.

What Is Osteoporosis? Isn’t It Something Old People Get?

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become fragile and break easily. When someone has osteoporosis, it means his/her “bank account” of bone tissue has dropped to a low level. If there is significant bone loss, even sneezing or bending over to tie a shoe can cause a bone in the spine to break; hips, ribs, and wrist bones also break easily. The fractures from osteoporosis can be painful and disfiguring. Osteoporosis is most common in older people but can also occur in young and middle-aged adults. Optimizing peak bone mass and developing lifelong healthy bone behaviors during youth are important ways to help prevent or minimize osteoporosis risk as an adult.

How Can I Help Keep My Kids’ Bones Healthy?

The same healthy habits that keep your kids going and growing will also benefit their bones. One of the best ways to encourage healthy habits in your children is to be a good role model yourself. Believe it or not, your kids are watching, and your habits, both good and bad, have a strong influence on theirs. The two most important lifelong bone health habits to encourage now are proper nutrition and plenty of physical activity. Eating for healthy bones means getting plenty of foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D. Many kids do not get enough calcium in their diets to help ensure optimal peak bone mass. Are your kids getting enough calcium?

How Does Physical Activity Help My Kids’ Bones?

Muscles get stronger when we use them. The same idea applies to bones: the more work they do, the stronger they get. Any kind of physical exercise is great for kids, but the best ones for their bones are weight-bearing activities like walking, running, hiking, dancing, tennis, basketball, gymnastics, and soccer. (Children who tend to play outside will also have higher vitamin D levels.) Swimming and bicycling promote kids’ general health, but are not weight-bearing exercises and will not help build bone density. Organized sports can be fun and build confidence, but they are not the only way to build healthy bones. The most important thing is for your kids to spend less time sitting and more time on their feet and moving. Alone or with friends, at home or at the park, one of the best gifts you can give your kids is a lifelong love of physical activity. What Else Can My Kids Do Besides Eating Calcium-Rich Foods and Getting Plenty of Weight-Bearing Exercise to Keep Their Bones Healthy? They should avoid smoking. You probably know that smoking is bad for the heart and lungs, but you may not know that it is harmful to bone tissue. A number of studies have linked smoking to higher risk of fracture. You may think it’s early to worry about smoking, but the habit typically starts during childhood or adolescence. In fact, most people who use tobacco products start before they finish high school. The good news? If your kids finish high school as nonsmokers, they will probably stay that way for life.

How Can I Get Through to My Kids? They Sure Don’t Think About Their Bones.

You are absolutely right. Research has shown that children and adolescents do not tend to think much about their health. Their decisions about diet and exercise, for example, are rarely made based on “what’s good for them.” But we also know that you have a much greater influence on your kids’ decisions and behaviors than you may believe. For example, many teenagers, when asked who has been the greatest influence in their life, name parents before friends, siblings, grandparents, and romantic partners. The best way to help your kids develop healthy habits for life is to be a good role model. Research suggests that active children have active parents. If you make physical activity a priority and try hard to maintain a healthy diet, including plenty of calcium, chances are your positive lifestyle will “rub off” on them along the way. Here are some things you can do:

  • Be a role model. Drink milk with meals, eat calcium-rich snacks, and get plenty of weight-bearing exercise. Don’t smoke.
  • Incorporate calcium-rich foods into family meals.
  • Serve fat-free or low-fat milk with meals and snacks.
  • Stock up on calcium-rich snacks that are easy for hungry children to find, such as:
  • cheese cubes and string cheese
  • single-serving puddings
  • yogurt and frozen yogurt
  • cereal with low-fat milk
  • broccoli with yogurt dip
  • calcium-fortified orange juice
  • individual cheese pizzas
  • calcium-fortified tortillas
  • almonds
  • Limit access to soft drinks and other snacks that don’t provide calcium by not keeping them in the house.
  • Help your kids to find a variety of physical activities or sports they enjoy participating in.
  • Establish a firm time limit for sedentary activities such as TV, computers, and video games.
  • Teach your kids to never start smoking, as it is highly addictive and toxic.
  • Look for signs of eating disorders and overtraining, especially in preteen and teenage girls, and address these problems right away.
  • Talk to your children’s pediatrician about their bone health. If your child has a special medical condition that may interfere with bone mass development, ask the doctor for ways to minimize the problem and protect your child’s bone health.
  • Talk to your children about their bone health, and let them know it is important. Your kids may not think much about health, but they are probably attracted to such health benefits as energy, confidence, good looks, and strength.

Dates to remember: March 4: A-Catemy Awards—students encouraged to wear ‘glamourous clothes or accessories’ for our red carpet March 5: Kindergarten Roundup in Sprague library from 9 am-12 pm March 10: PTO meeting @ 9 a.m. March 11: Walk to School Day March 14: School Council @ 3:15 p.m. March 17: Kindergarten Parent Information Night 6-7 PM March 17: 5th Grade Parent Night @ WMS 6:30 PM March 18: Open House—Parents invited from 8:00-9:00 a.m. March 22: Jessica Minahan Parent Talk @6:30 PM “Effective Strategies for dealing with Anxiety-related Behaviors” March 25: No school—Good Friday April 7: Grade 5 Basketball Game Parent/Teacher Conferences: Dates: March 23rd and 30th, April 5th and 6th          

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Weekly note from Ms. Snyder–March 1, 2016
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