Nat for Citizen Schools

Citizen Schools

Citizen Schools National

Nat for Citizen Schools

3/1/2012 - UPDATE

Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to this great cause. Today is the apprenticeship fair at the Edwards Middle School, which means I get to leave my desk a little early and recruit my team of sixth graders for the spring semester. It also means that I spent the hours of 6:30 PM - 1:30 AM or so last night getting ready! My incredibly helpful dad gave me a ride to the Weymouth Lowe's, where I bought the first round of supplies for our projects. 

24 linear feet of 1/2X4" pine? Check.

32 linear feet of 1X4" pine? Check.

120 brass 1" screws and 300 zinc 1" screws? Check and check.

You get the idea.

In addition to helping with the shopping, my dad also gave me some valuable pointers on how to cut (wood, not fingers) more precisely on the table saw and how to best plane boards to make a smooth joint. Thanks Dad!

After bringing the raw materials home, I started the prep work. Because the Edwards doesn't have a wood shop, anything involving power tools needs to be done at home. I used the table saw to cut the wood down to size, then planed the boards to an even thickness before drilling guide-holes on the drill press. All the parts will be ready to go by the time they get to the students. Ready for sanding, screwing together, sanding again, adjusting, sanding again, unscrewing, rescrewing, staining, and finally tuning, that is.

Finally, I assembled a rough cut of our final instrument so that students at today's apprenticeship fair can see exactly what we're making. That's the model you see to the right, and it sounds pretty good!

Thank you so much for your support. Citizen Schools could not continue to offer apprenticeships like this without you!



Hello friends and family,

As many of you know, I have been involved with Citizen Schools since mid-2009. If you live within driving distance of Boston, chances are good that I’ve invited you to one of my students’ WOW!s. If you don’t, or if you haven’t yet been able to attend, allow me to explain.

I’m a volunteer Citizen Teacher at Citizen Schools. (I’m also an Education Pioneers Analyst Fellow, placed for the year at CS Headquarters. If you want to know more about that, I’d be happy to talk your ears off. Call me!) That means that once a week I take the 92 or 93 bus from downtown Boston to Charlestown. I get off at Walker Street and walk into the Edwards Middle School, which is where I meet my team of ten sixth-graders—my apprentices. Over the course of ten weeks, I lead my team through a project-based curriculum, culminating in a final presentation of their work. We call that presentation a WOW! because when you see what these kids have done, you’ll just have to say…

I taught my first Apprenticeship in the fall of 2009. Together, the students and I built a beautiful marimba for their music room. This past fall, I decided to bring that curriculum back to the Edwards. Instead of one marimba, though, each student made three instruments for themselves: a table guitar, a straw oboe, and a PVC recorder. It was awesome.

This Spring, we will build on last semester’s progress—literally! I have an ambitious program to lead the team in building professional quality lap harps (simple dulcimers). Each student will start with a scrap model. We’ll introduce our basic competencies for the class with this project, learning about types of screws and sandpaper, measuring accurately and precisely with rulers, practical applications of fractions and percentages, and the basics of musical acoustics. We’ll then move on to a working model that lets us practice applying our knowledge to a full-sized but replaceable version of the harp. Finally, we’ll use everything we’ve learned in the first half of the course to make beautiful finished products that the students can be very proud of. It’s been such a joy to see the work that my students have produced in the past—I can’t wait to see how they succeed at this new challenge.

Unfortunately, this great experience isn’t free. I’ve started sourcing my materials already for the Spring. Assuming I have as many students as I did in the Fall, the total cost of materials and tools for the apprenticeship will be $388.16. That’s $13.77 to cover the scrap model, $58.37 for the working model, and $316.02 for the final product for a class of ten students, with enough extra materials for two spares.

Citizen Schools works with middle schools in low-opportunity areas to expand the learning day for their students. Although its headquarters are here in Boston, it’s a nonprofit with a national scope. Citizen Teachers and Americorps Teaching Fellows in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and Texas are working hard to inspire our students to dream for the stars, and to give them the tools necessary to reach them. We wouldn’t be able to do this without the generosity of thousands of volunteers and donors that make it all possible.

That’s why I’m asking, and hoping!, that you will consider making a donation to support our work. Fourteen dollars will pay for the materials for our scrap models. Twenty-six will guarantee the materials for a final product for one apprentice. Eighty dollars covers Citizen Schools’ expenses to run one of our apprenticeships. Coming to our WOW! and cheering the kids on—that’s free.

Thank you so much for supporting our work and the work of our students! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions about Citizen Schools in general or the apprenticeship program in particular. And finally, check out if you're interested in volunteering yourself.



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