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Happy New year

December 19, 2017

This is the message we shared with our Woodbrook community. 

“Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the future.”  Paulo Freire

As one year comes to a close and another begins, it is imperative that we, as educators, reflect upon the year that was.  There are accomplishments to celebrate from 2017 and also many things to look forward to in 2018. Even so, with all the positive changes happening at Woodbrook, we are also keenly aware of the challenges that we have faced over the last year and will continue to face moving into 2018.  But it is in each of these challenges that we look more deeply at our current practices to help us make well informed decisions that will ensure a high quality learning environment for every student.

As a staff, we are collectively working together to better understand our strengths and identify those areas that continue to require us to learn and grow so that we can better serve the Woodbrook students and school community.  Currently, each member of the Woodbrook staff is evaluating their personal values and beliefs as educators.  This process of self-reflection will eventually lead us on a journey to developing a new Woodbrook vision and mission statement.  This is an exciting way to welcome a new year and a new Woodbrook.  

As winter break begins, we hope that you have an amazing holiday celebrating with family and friends.  Woodbrook is an incredible school filled with many different cultures and traditions.  It is those different cultures and traditions that make each and every student at Woodbrook unique.  As a staff, we value the differences amongst the students and understand that the more we appreciate and comprehend those differences, the better educators we will become.  We also value the important relationship that must be built between our Woodbrook families and our staff.  Consistent communication and collaboration between the two sides is vitally important, and we will continue to improve our school to home communication procedures.  

Our students were first taught by their families and that education carries on.  Now, it is our job to work together to help every student move forward in their academics and character education.  Each week, we have new words of the week to help foster a community of learners who value each other.  The last word before the new year is generosity.  Generosity doesn’t have to solely relate to money or wealth.  It can also represent time, effort, love, kindness, and understanding.  These are all attributes that we want every student at Woodbrook have before moving on to middle school.  

The coming year will bring many exciting changes to Woodbrook.  Some of those changes will take hold before the 2017-2018 school year comes to a close.  For example, it is likely that the new gymnasium and open-space classroom in the back will be ready in the spring.  This will enable our staff to utilize those spaces as a training ground for the upcoming school year.  Over the past 6 months, many Woodbrook teachers have traveled to see similar classrooms across the country.  Recently, we took a team of 10 Woodbrook teachers and travelled to the Northeast to see multiage schools and to learn from educators who are teaching in multi-age classrooms.  Those trips will continue in 2018 so that more staff has an opportunity to see these spaces at work.  In addition, Michael Thornton will be leading professional development sessions on co-teaching and multiage education.  We know that many of our families want to learn more about the multi-age and open space instructional approach. We hope that once everyone returns from break, you will consider dropping in to visit our classrooms so that you can see first hand what teaching and learning looks like in this kind of environment. If this sounds like something that you are interested in doing, please feel to reach out to the administrative team to arrange for a visit. We know we have a long way to go but we believe in this work and will continue learn and grow in order to make our school a success.  John Dewey said, “Education, therefore, is the process of living and not a preparation for future living.”  We are looking into the future to prepare for what will be but we are also looking in the mirror to see what is.  Happy Holidays to all and we will see in you 2018.  Happy New Year!!
Principal                Assistant Principal

Lisa Molinaro         Michael Thornton


Connecting with the Community

November 1, 2017

A school is an integral part of the community.  Being so, it is imperative that the community is connecting to the school and the school is connecting to the community.  Both parties should reach out to help the other. The more information being shared between the two sides will enhance the learning potential for the students.

Schools should be consistently communicating with the community letting them know the direction of the school.  This week, the Woodbrook Bear Den focuses on the connections being made between our school and the Woodbrook community.

The Woodbrook Bear Den

The Woodbrook Bear Den: Lifelong Learning

October 20, 2017


The Woodbrook Bear Den: September, 22

September 22, 2017

Here is our latest blog post.  This week the focus is on Responsive Classroom, the C.A.R.E.S. traits, multiage instruction, construction, community outreach, and highlighting a new teacher.

Enjoy. The Woodbrook Bear Den


New Woodbrook Blog

September 5, 2017

With my new position at Woodbrook Elementary School, @lisaUNCWmom and I started an administration blog.  The blog is linked below.  When we write a new post, I will also add it here.  In addition, I will be adding more thoughts to this blog as a continue to learn.

The Woodbrook Bear Den


Thankful for the “small stuff”

November 7, 2016

I am fully aware of the common saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff!”.  I totally agree with this.  In fact, I think as educators we shouldn’t get lost in the trivial things that happen in the classroom.  Trying to micromanage the class and the behaviors will inevitably lead to less trust by the students.  It will be detrimental to your learning path as a teacher and/or administrator. 

On the other hand, I think we should be grateful for all the little things and “small stuff” that happen in the learning space.  It is these little happenings that make a space beautiful and full of love.  I stop and acknowledge the person who holds the door for the class or helps clean up a space without being asked.  I smile at the student who takes their time working through a challenging problem without backing down or complaining about it.  I thrive off of a collaborative classroom where students freely help each other.  That help might come with a pat on the back, a hug or helping with an assignment.  

These are all little acts that I thankfully see everyday by my amazing #MultiageAHES students.  They can be easily missed but these moments help build a community of learners. So, I don’t sweat the small stuff but I am happy the small stuff happens. 

Space to Work

March 16, 2016

The more I work, the more I learn.  Teaching is such an unique profession.  As soon as you think you have something figured out, something changes.  The variables involved in education are huge.  Each learner is so unique and special that the job is never the same.  It also means that learning should be happening all the time.  If eyes are open and ears are listening, learning will take place.

Recently, the idea of space has been a focus of mine.  Space is an important element in the learning process.  When I discuss space, I am talking about academic space and physical space.  In my eyes, academic space is giving students the freedom to make instructional decisions.  For me, this is of utmost importance in the classroom.  The more decisions students make, the more investment they will have in their learning.  Even if we give students physical comfort with space, that doesn’t mean they are going to invest in the process of learning.  I think they have to have a say in their work as well.  Don’t get me wrong, comfort is undoubtedly important.  I value it immensely.  Anyone that has ever been in one of my learning spaces would attest to that.  But in my opinion, it needs to walk side-by-side with academic choice or space.

Below are some pictures from the last 2 weeks.  In the captions, I will explain how space enabled the activity to happen.  This is a brief glimpse into our multiage classroom. You can follow our learning experiences at @mthornton78, @MrCraftMultiage or #MultiageAHES .

This student could easily measure the width without the ladder.  Even so, he wants to climb the ladder to measure.  Why should I step in?  The challenge was to measure the perimeter of the white boards.  It was really interesting to see how the different ways the students performed this task.


We are currently studying Virginia’s part in the Civil War.  We discussed the Battle of Bull Run on Friday.  Today, a few of the girls got together and made this really neat poster to show their understanding of the battle.   They came to me and told me what they wanted to do.  I stepped out of the way.  It worked!  It worked well.


This students wanted to build an Appomattox Courthouse.  It is still a work in progress. I love what she is doing.  I originally challenged her to build something similar in Minecraft but she wanted to use her hands instead.  Again, I stepped out of the way.


After studying electricity for about a week and a half, we took out our electricity kits.  Then we just let them play, learn, explore, and teach.  In this case, the students figured out how to hook up a motor.  Next, they explored and figured out how to make the motor color.  Very cool.


And yet another way to represent the Battle of Bull Run.  This is his device that he brought out for this activity.  His comfort level was higher when he was using his own device.


This message speaks for itself.  I have learned and continue to learn that giving them freedom and space will lead to amazing learning moments.


Can you make a banana and an orange conduct electricity?  They explored.  I watched.  I listened.  I learned.  As they worked, they called upon classmates to help with the challenge.


We are exploring money.  Of late, they are going onto popular websites and “buying” items that they really want.  They are given an allotment and they have to spend within their limits.  #RealLife


This student is taking a school-wide assessment.  She is comfortable.  She is taking notes using the floor.  This is a great example of both physical and academic space.



He is editing a group story via Google Docs.  It this moment, he is using the class’ active panel to do so.  In addition, he wanted to be comfortable so he hooked up the wireless keyboard and mouse. 

Within the last few weeks, we completed a writing/making project.  The students made something out of cardboard.  Then they created stories based on their creations.  Finally, they created comprehension questions for their story.  This was one of the final projects.  Check it out.  Box Stories 2016

These students are working on a Civil War wall and decided to make a poster of the Merrimack and Monitor.  They are using the state curriculum and perusing what is expected of them to build their wall.