Information Night and Open House Schedule for Ridge and Valley Charter School

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Ridge and Valley Charter School will be hosting an series of Information Night and Open House events for the 2016-2017 school year for prospective families interested in learning more about the school.

Information Night:

Thursday October 6, 2016 7PM-8PM

Thursday, May 4, 2017 7PM-8PM

Open House:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017 830AM-1030AM

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 830AM-1030AM

If you or someone you know would like to consider RVCS as an option for your child’s education, please contact Jen Ross at 908-362-1114 to RSVP for the event.

Information Night Aug 25, 2016 – Ridge and Valley Charter School

Information Night Aug 25, 2016 – Ridge and Valley Charter School

Ridge and Valley Charter School will be hosting an Information Night on Thursday, August 25, 2016 at 7pm. for prospective families interested in learning more about the school. If you or someone you know would like to consider RVCS as an option for your child’s education, please contact Jen Ross at 908-362-1114 to RSVP for the event.

How Children Learn Best

Children are born with an immense potential to learn, explore, connect and grow joyfully in the region and the social context in which they live. A Ridge and Valley education is an experience of emergence, wonder, support and guidance that allows young people to grow into the fullest expression of their interests, passions and joys so they become self-directed, confident, responsible and informed adults. On this journey, children build cross-discipline skills that integrate subject matter through hands-on experiential activities that activate a wide range of sensibilities, skills and awareness.

Our school encourages children to wonder, to think, to discover and to question.

About Ridge and Valley Charter School

Local community members established Ridge and Valley charter School to pursue innovative and personal excellence oriented teaching methods within the public school system, gaining approval of the school’s charter in 2002 and opening the school for students in the 2004-2005 academic year.

Ridge and Valley Charter School is a public K-8 school of choice that provides students an education for a hopeful sustainable future. Our educational program and curriculum honors children as individuals and emphasizes personal excellence, hands-on experiential education, self-directed and outdoor learning, project-based learning, earth literacy, bioregional studies– all in the context of our 13.7 billion year-old Universe.

RVCS is a tuition-free public school that follows NJ state education standards and testng requirements within the context of our mission.

Want to Learn More?  RSVP for our next Information Night on on Thursday, August 25, 2016 at 7 p.m by calling Jen Ross @ 908-362-1114

Student Volunteers Plant Trees on Paulins Kill – Ridge & Valley Charter School

Student Volunteers Plant Trees on Paulins Kill – Ridge & Valley Charter School

Ridge and Valley Charter School student volunteers helped to plant 163 trees on the banks of the Paulins Kill in Stillwater, New Jersey to mitigate invasive species that prevent reforestation and ultimately, cause erosion. After learning about watersheds throughout the school year, students were compelled to volunteer to help the Paulins Kill watershed that runs behind their school.

Student Volunteers & the Restoration Effort

Ridge and Valley Charter School partnered with the Stillwater Environmental Commission and the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group who have been working on a reforestation and restoration project since 2012. The planting of trees is part of a larger project to mitigate invasive species and prevent erosion.

While volunteering, students were able to see the stream bank erosion first hand and by helping to plant trees were an active part of the restoration effort. Ridge and Valley Charter School student volunteers hope to come back to measure the survival rate of the trees, fix the tubes that are protecting those trees, and track the progress of the area.

Service Learning Opportunities at Ridge and Valley Charter School

This is just one example of the many voluntary service learning opportunities (integrating meaningful community service with instruction and reflection) that students at Ridge and Valley Charter School undertake each year.

For more information about the students’ volunteer experience check out the write up in the NJ Herald here!

 

Service Learning Expedition to the Delaware Bay at RVCS

Service Learning Expedition to the Delaware Bay at RVCS

Sixth and seventh grade students from Ridge and Valley Charter School (RVCS) went on a service learning expedition recently to the Delaware Bay. The students volunteered with the American Littoral Society and the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. Expeditions such as this are an integral part of the RVCS curriculum.

Service Learning as Extension of Students’ Work

This service learning expedition was deeply rooted in the students’ work throughout the year. Their studies included collecting information through research, formulating opinions and arguments, identifying counter-arguments and rebuttals, understanding natural history, collecting and analyzing data, exploring culture, civilization, and how we as humans use resources, as well as fostering a growth mindset leading to a better understanding of “Who am I as a learner, and as a human being?”

Observing Horseshoe Crabs during service learning trip

Students Work Alongside Professionals

While on the overnight service learning expedition, students became citizen scientists working side by side with professionals from the American Littoral Society, whose mission is to protect marine life, protect the coastal ecosystems from harm, and to empower others to do the same. They also worked with professionals from the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, whose mission is to conserve shorebirds and their habitats through a network of key sites across the Americas.

Tagging Horseshoe Crabs

Student scientists worked in small groups to tag horseshoe crabs over two nights. After drilling to create a small hole in the side of the horseshoe crab’s carapace or shell (the crabs don’t have nerves in the shells) students installed a white, round tag with an identification number and contact number. These are used to track the migration of the crabs from night to night and spawning season to season. It allows scientists to better understand whether crabs prefer to return to the same areas to spawn or if they move more freely up and down the eastern coast.

Horseshoe crabs service learning trip to the Delaware Bay

Measuring the Horseshoe Crab Population

As well as tagging crabs, student biologists used square meter quadrats and a measuring rope marked off in meter measurements to collect information on how many crabs are coming onto the beach during the mating season. This data, collected by a representative from the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, will be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in an annual report to further analyze the population of the horseshoe crabs and monitor trends in their recovery from near extinction (90% decrease in population during the 1990s and early 2000s).

Throughout this important service learning work, students also combed the beach, flipping crabs who were stuck upside down and who would otherwise likely die in the heat of the day, while scanning for previously tagged crabs, documenting their identification number, gender, and physical health, including any visible injuries. This data, too, will be submitted with the census to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Exploring the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge

Each student exemplified maturity, leadership, and professionalism during their 2-3 hour long evening service learning volunteer sessions. During the day, students and their teachers (referred to as “Guides” at RVCS) traveled to the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge on the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Wildwood Crest. Students scanned the beach for shorebirds, observing semipalmated sanderlings, semipalmated plovers, and an American oystercatcher. The students also spent some time running along Two Mile Beach, just south of the refuge, discovering horseshoe crabs buried in the sands along the high tide lines while exploring the tidal pools for shells, crabs, and a starfish.

Post Service Learning Expedition Observations

RVCS Students jumping in air during a service learning to the the Delaware Bay

After the service learning trip, one of the students spoke about their experience in this way,

I have been challenged by stepping outside of my comfort zone and working with people that I don’t have a lot of experience with. I have learned that the people in the community and local environment are very patient and caring. I have learned that I want to do more work like this over the summer and when I’m older helping marine life and endangered species. I think the most important thing I learned is that I am making history right now and that every thing I do has an effect.

The Delaware Bay service learning expedition was not only educational, but was also an experience these students at Ridge and Valley Charter School will never forget.

 

Taking the Classroom Outdoors: Forest Fridays at Ridge and Valley Charter School

Taking the Classroom Outdoors: Forest Fridays at Ridge and Valley Charter School

On a cold morning in March as my students saunter into the classroom, I hear the words, “Yay, it’s Forest Friday!” I frequently hear this announcement on Friday mornings as students arrive to the Honeybee classroom. My co-teacher, Lisa, and I are often packing our wagon with Forest Friday supplies and preparing tea for later in the morning when fingers begin to chill and energy runs low. Excited and ready for a day outside, students eagerly prepare by putting on their appropriate gear for the weather, because come rain or snow, the students know that we will be outside for at least three hours.

Sit Spots and Nature Connection

Forest Fridays child writing in nature journal at sit spot

While the entire time we are outside is beneficial, the most important part of Forest Friday is the time at our sit spots. A sit spot is a special place in nature that one goes to often to sit and observe what is going on around them. Jon Young, a famous naturalist, tracker, and author, describes them as the “magic pill” for nature connection. In school, we use them as a way to connect to the local landscape, and as a jumping off point to tie together many topics we study in the classroom. By using sit spots in this way, it allows us to create an experience where our students take the the academic skills they are learning in the classroom and use them in an authentic way.

The standards-based academics can be seen from the moment the students circle up after their cooperative, free play time in the woods. They quickly run and grab their foldable chair and form a circle. We take turns reminding each other of the various senses and awareness skills we should use during our sit spots. If we have the pleasure of having a parent volunteer join us that day, the kids also take a moment to tell them what sit spots are and how we experience them. Next, we pull down the “veil of silence”, signifying that it is time to honor only the noises of the forest. Finally, we head off slowly “fox walking”, a more complex way to tiptoe, to our sit spots.

Each child has their very own sit spot, and they know exactly where they are headed once the “veil of silence” has been pulled down. The children form a deep connection with their individual sit spots and when a guest joins us for the day, such as a parent volunteer, it is often a place they are very excited to share.

Connecting to the Local Environment is Paramount

child putting leaf to her face at Ridge and Valley Forest Fridays

This connection to our local environment is considered paramount by professor and author, Dr. David Sobel, who specializes in place-based education. The idea is to not spend too much time focusing on studying a far away bioregion, but rather to see the beauty and learn about our own valuable flora and fauna in our own backyards. By taking the time to study the environment in which one lives and experiencing it first hand, a child will form a connection and gain knowledge of the land. This way of learning is more meaningful than reading about a landscape in a book or seeing it in a movie.We sit for ten solid minutes. This is a lot to ask of some five and six year olds, but we have increased the time throughout the year to match their greater stamina. The hope is that they will realize that the more still they sit, the more they will see and hear and experience.

As we sit there, I see a student cup their hands behind their ears as they use their “deer ears” to hear more. I see another student quietly digging a small hole with a stick they found at their sit spot. They use their “racoon touch” as they run their fingers through the dirt. Some have a relaxed look on their faces as they lean back in their camp chairs and look up at the treetops and the sky. Another student is intensely following an insect as it walks across the log in front of them. All of these activities are acceptable for sit spot time. It is these experiences that the students will use in their journal entries

After ten minutes sitting and observing the world around us, I softly bang a drum, which is the signal that sit spot time is over. The students quietly walk back to our circle area, sit down and begin drawing and writing their observations. One student is writing about a spider that visited him at his sit spot. Another student draws a picture of a dark bird that soared overhead. Their focus during this time is incredibly intense. All I can hear are the birds chirping and pencils and crayons being pulled this way and that way across their papers. When people begin finishing up, we have circle, where we take turns sharing the various stories of what happened during our individual sit spots. As each child speaks, the rest of us listen and sip on warm, berry flavored tea. The tea heats my insides and perks me up, as it seems to do for the children as well.

Circle Time and Tea

children sitting in circle on Forest Friday at Ridge and Valley Charter SchoolThis circle time gives students a chance to work on all areas of literacy, which include reading, writing, speaking,and listening. From writing down their experience to listening to their classmates, the students are using their literacy skills in a way that is relevant to them. These skills are experienced directly, rather than indirectly, creating a more meaningful educational experience. Each individual journal entry is placed in the child’s nature journal which has become a record of the advances the children are making in their literacy studies each week.

Wrapping Up

After each student has shared their sit spot story, the students dash off for another short cooperative free play time. We will make the hike back to the classroom after a math activity and more cooperative play time. It is amazing how fast three hours can go by when you are outside.

I announce the plan to head in and one student asks, “Why is it time to go in?” I explain that we need to eat lunch and let people use the bathrooms. That response is followed by, “But, I’m not hungry!” and “But, I don’t need to use the bathroom!” Another student chimes in saying, “I can’t wait until next Forest Friday!” I smile and follow a gaggle of happy and hungry children back to the classroom.

References:

Young, Jon, Ellen Haas, and Evan McGown. Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature. Shelton, WA: OWLLink Media, 2010. Print.

Sobel, David. Place-based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities. 2nd ed. N.p.: Orion Society, 2005. Print.

Information Night

Information Night

Thurs., June 2, 2016 at 7 p.m.

Ridge and Valley Charter School will be hosting an Information Night on Thursday, June 2, 2016 at 7 p.m. for prospective families interested in learning more about the school. If you or someone you know would like to consider RVCS as an option for your child’s education, please contact Jen Ross at 908-362-1114 to RSVP for the event.

Student led conferences

Student led conferences

Our annual student-led conferences are one of the many things that make Ridge and Valley Charter School unique.

Student-led conferences are meetings with students, parents, and guides, during which a student shares work and discusses his/her progress. The intention is for the student to lead the meeting from start to finish. Student involvement in a conference makes learning active, provides opportunities for students to evaluate their own performance, and encourages studentsto take responsibility for their learning. Having students take charge of the conference makes them more accountable for what they are learning.

Prior to conferences, the students, with guide support, collect work that reflects what they have learned. Students then evaluate their work and, as they conduct their conference, explain skills they have learned and share goals they have set for themselves. While a guide may serve as the conference facilitator, the student will lead the conference.

Student-led conferences offer the opportunity for students to play an important part in their own educational process. This approach fits beautifully with the holistic, student-centered focus of our mission that recognizes children are capable and responsible. We have chosen to use this format because of the many benefits to the students, including:

  • Having greater accountability for their learning;
  • Learning to think about and evaluate their own progress;
  • Gaining a greater commitment to school work and learning;
  • Building self confidence and self esteem;
  • Encouraging student/parent communication;
  • Building communication and critical thinking skills;
  • Placing greater responsibility on the student;
  • Allowing students to become more actively involved.

Families benefit from this format as well as it:

  • Helps families learn more about their child’s learning and skills;
  • Offers an opportunity for families to help their child set positive goals;
  • Encourages active family participation in their child’s learning.

Conferences are a wonderful opportunity for families to see, hear and experience their child’s learning and progress.

Bio Blitz

Bio Blitz

When:
Friday June 3 – Saturday June 4, 2016

Locations:
White Lake Preserve – 97 Stillwater Rd, Hardwick, NJ and Ridge & Valley Charter School – 1234 RT 94, Blairstown, NJ

All are welcome to this family friendly event!

Join the challenge to document as many species as possible in the Ridge & Valley Bioregion in our 1st Annual BioBlitz. Meet naturalists, learn about the species at White Lake Preserve and become a citizen scientist by participating in data collection and observation.

Camping Registration (PDF)
Participation Release (PDF)
T-Shirt Order Form (PDF)

Ridge & Valley aerial

The preserve is recognized regionally by bird and insect enthusiasts for its abundance of observable species. And it is home to some of the rarest plant communities in the U.S.

Many BioBlitz activities will be offered at the White Lake Preserve located on Stillwater Road in Hardwick, NJ. The 394 acres of Warren County’s White Lake Preserve are home to some of the rarest plant communities in the U.S. In the center of the preserve is a 69-acre, spring-fed limestone sinkhole lake surrounded by marl fens, wetlands and meadows. In the upland areas are limestone forests, cedar glades, and rocky outcrops teeming with moss, ferns, and fungi.

BioBlitz participants are also welcome to will explore the various wetlands, meadows and streams on Ridge & Valley Charter School’s 18 acre campus located at 1234 Rt 94, Blairstown, NJ. Abbreviated activities will be spaced throughout Friday and Saturday to accommodate those who need a slower pace and the ability to stay close to a home base. Overnight primitive camping will also be available on the RVCS campus.

Primitive overnight camping will be available to the first 30 families for the event. A 10’x10′ area will be allocated to each family. Locations will include:

  • Lower Octagon area
  • Lower Meadow
  • Four Directions

Please see the attached registration form to list your preferences. Camping sites will be given by preference on a first come first serve basis to those who pay the $20 camping fee and fill out a complete camping registration form. No refunds will be given as this will pay for needed facilities.

Primitive Camping Agreements for RVCS Campus:

  • Rain or Shine
  • BYO dinner and snacks
  • BYO camping equipment and gear
  • No alcohol, drugs, smoking
  • No pets, grilling or open fires
  • No access to electrical outlets
  • Primitive camping with Portable Toilet Facilities only
  • Carry in, carry out
  • Shared fresh water available
  • Parental supervision of children at all times
  • Sites packed up by 11AM. Leave no trace

Join us on Saturday morning for a Fundraising Bake Sale. Coffee, Tea and baked goods will be available for purchase.

Community Service Day

Saturday, April 16
10:00am – 2:00pm

Community Service

Join other families in showing gratitude for a school that honors, nurtures, and guides your children.

A lot of work is completed for the students, guides and school. There are always a variety of projects such as:

  • printing out resources
  • organizing materials
  • removing invasive species
  • pruning and trimming
  • sorting through classroom libraries
  • preparing the garden for Spring
  • photocopying

Please consider participating in this very important event.

Your contributions, large and small, greatly benefit the children of RVCS and the entire school community. Even an hour or two of your time is greatly appreciated!

Integrative Learning in action

Integrative learning is a cornerstone of the Ridge and Valley education. Students learn by doing and subjects are interwoven. Here students continued their study of Colonial America by researching, designing and then creating a food storage system on the school property.

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