Where is our center?

We are psyched up about the new census data!

Enjoy this little self-guided tour of the history of the 'Center of the US Population'.

Super. Awesome.


Where are we?

Facebook.  Go there.  Like it.  We're posting.

We'll still be doing some blogging and link back here from fb.


Construction Update: March 2. Let there be walls!

A couple notes on the occasion of our 100th post:

1. We now have an album of photos online. Click below to see them all.
2. The high school has it's own Facebook page. Go there now.
3. Have a great weekend!


Construction Update: Science Counter and Muddy Lots!

Lots going on again this week.  There's no doubt we're in high gear!  Both inside and out, great progress continues.  On Monday, we gave a brief planning update at the neighborhood association quarterly meeting.  On Tuesday, while in the Museum District, we twice heard, "We are so excited about your school opening!"

1. Interior at 1102.  Electrical rough in completed in ceiling; concrete pour tomorrow will fill that (now shallow) trench; temporary electrical service is in place; this week, the sprinkler system will be installed.

 2. Interior at 1102. That's a science lab counter!  The steel frame was fabricated on site and will be installed after the concrete pour.  Some 3/4" bolts and epoxy will ensure it stays put if (when!) a student sits on it.

 3. Lot at 1108. A big muddy mess being graded into a perfectly pitched plot.

4. Tree line between 1102 and 1108.  Slightly less dense this week as the already-collapsing brick wall has been removed along with some of the nuisance trees and shrubs (a couple more to go).

5. 4614 corner lot.  Muddy here, too.  Clear and open.  Next up, grading.


Construction Update: Feb 17. Demolition Redux.

This week The Komatsu Claw reared it's head again in The Claw II.  As demolition wrapped up this week at 1108 Autrey, the site of the Post Oak High School inched closer to it's final form.  There's still the matter of grading and grass, but with the space open, we can see the light!

1. Interior of 1102.  Facing North.  Plumbing trench being backfilled, ceiling insulation complete, and HVAC duct work almost complete.  Not shown: electrical rough-in has started!

2. Corner lot.  Now barren and featuring a little swimmin' hole.  Next week will bring site work including grading.  (Goodbye swimmin' hole!)

3. 1108 Autrey looking NE.  This is the 'during' photo from Valentine's Day.  Don't you just *love* big work!

4. 1108 Autrey looking NW.


Middle School Design Teams

A few days back, we did a short informational presentation for the Middle School students.  We then invited them to work on some of the interior design components for the new high school building.  Ah, engagement.  Of course there were some fairly wild ideas (floor-to-ceiling-aquarium in reception area), but those were couched in a fantastic crop of thoughtful design concepts.

With blank floor plans in hand, the creative juices were flowing!


Construction Update: Feb 15 (from Feb 8)

I had some good photos from last week.  Sorry about the delay getting these up.  I'll have some more before the week is out.

1. Inside the main building.  Nothing gets the job done inside like a mini-excavator.  Clearing out trenches for new plumbing!

2. Inside the main building.  Insulation and new ductwork going in!  It's getting cozy!

3. Choosing finishes.  Construction isn't all dirty work!

 4. On the corner at 4614.  Clean up from the demolition continued late last week.  This week, the small house to the west of the school gets some attention from the track-hoe.

5. On the corner at 4614, the big-wigs in the hard-hats survey the progress.

As you can see, there's a lot going on.  More to come!


Adios 'Lecture'!

Eric Mazur has been telling his story for years now.  How as a lauded professor of physics at Harvard, he one day found out, by his own hand, that his students weren't really learning.  It began a new chapter in his career in which he better served student learning (imagine that) and shared his discoveries.  He also has some grave concerns about how we assess students:
“Our approach to testing only rewards perfection—but the road to innovation is littered with mistakes.”
Read on here from Harvard Magazine.

Mazur's presentation was part of the inauguration event for the Harvard Institute on Learning and Teaching (HILT).  Did you notice how 'learning' got billing above 'teaching' there?  No accident.  Symposium highlights here.  A teaser:
Former Tufts University president Lawrence Bacow, now a member of the Harvard Corporation, cited a faculty proverb: “We all teach for free but we get paid to grade.” He speculated that innovation in learning will eventually mean that “we will be released from the tedium that comes with grading.”


How Great Teachers Think...(like Bill Belichick?)

I'm sure there are many who put off all sorts of things because of yesterday's football game.  The Monday after the Super Bowl is perhaps the second least-productive work day of the year after Cyber-Monday.
[In 2010], 1.5 million Americans didn't show up for work the next day at all, and an estimated 4.4 million showed up late. Then there are all the people who do show up on time who are fuzzy, drowsy and blurry-eyed. (AOL Jobs)
Remember that question left dangling last week about the Talent Code and how teachers can help students find and develop their passions?

Author Daniel Coyle commented on just that and the Myth of Big Ideas in his January 24th post, "How Great Coaches Think."  Coyle comments on New England Patriots' coach Bill Belichick's acumen as displayed on his Belichick Breakdowns.

There are three questions to ask about an outcome (of a play):
1. Is it replicable?
2. Is it controllable?
3. Is it connective?
What does all that mean?  Read on...

We gave equal time to Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants. ;-)


Construction Update: Now the dumpsters...

It's hard to tell from the photos, but every single tree was protected on the lot.  Even the one that was growing less than a foot from the building's foundation is still there and intact.  Demolition is surgical destruction.  Well done.

And on the inside, creation:

Harvard Business Review: Montessori Leaders

Thoughts on how to develop future leaders from Ambiga Dhiraj at Mu Sigma, blogging for the Harvard Business Review.
In 2010 we began to model our development after Montessori schools, whose principals include "an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child's natural psychological development, as well as technological advancements in society."
The results?
We've already seen the results in terms of lower turnover among the entry-level employees who have been through the program. Our retention rates were noticeably higher in 2011 than they were in 2009-2010, and are trending steadily upward.


Construction Update: Demolition Video

As promised!  Activity continues today.

Hand-in-hand they come

As the high school opens, my mind is occupied with images of students.  Not just high school students.  I see silhouettes of students taller and shorter walking hand-in-hand; the older ones guiding the younger along, showing them the ways of Post Oak School.  

There is another, more subtle way to see that image.  Post Oak parent Mario Kapusta tells his story:
At home, we discuss the Post Oak School almost daily. The children are fully informed about the building, the curriculum, my involvement, the MFA and HMNS relationships,  the Ambassadors group, etc.
On her own initiative, [our daughter] wanted to contribute to the recruitment effort.
She runs a compensated “pet sitting” service in our neighborhood and knows several families. She thought that those families would be good targets of her Campaign.
[She] picked up the High School fliers, wrote her speech, and with adult supervision, she visited five families.  She distributed the fliers, and explained her understanding of a Montessori education, the ability to work independently and in groups, the location of the HS, the partnerships, etc.
Needless to say, the families were very impressed by our little ambassadorette! She plans to continue the Campaign next week end.
Her attitude, independence, ability to formulate an innovative plan, and behave like a small adult, speak the language she learns at Post Oak.
We feel that our school is the school for the XXI century.
(Emphasis in original!)

Mario's daughter reinterprets that image (with the sharp eye of Maria Montessori!) as the younger students leading the older ones into the school!


Construction Update: Demolition

It's a good time for a drive by on Montrose. The demolition has started and clear-off will continue through next week.  The Middle School students got a close up look Wednesday during a site visit and tour.  We'll have some video coming up!

Brains grow talent

If you read the 2010 book Bounce by Matthew Syed, you know this story.  Why are some people so good at doing certain things, e.g., Michael Jordan playing basketball?  As it turns out it's not in their genes.

This book is The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle (2009).

What are you good at?  What have you done to grow and develop that talent?

The three ingredients (according to Coyle):

1. Practice, practice, practice (build some myelin around your neurons)
2. Great coaching ("mild, laid back, intensely watchful")
3. Total concentration (it's called 'Flow', you'll want to know how to find it)

"You need to have that frustration, finding, and fixing."

How can we help students capitalize on this so they can maximize their potential through efficient, purposeful work?


Partnerships Expanding in Museum Park!

While the most visible example of our Museum District partnerships this week might have been the open house Wednesday night at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, it wasn't the only one.

Monday night, the Museum Park Super Neighborhood organization heard the story of Post Oak High School and the plans to partner with community organizations.  In addition, the MPSN group is a perfect example of a civic organization with which the high school students can connect.  Participation with the MPSN is a great way to see and join in adult service and citizenship in action.

Following the meeting, many organizations reached out to the high school to begin conversations.  These include: Miller Outdoor Theatre and the Hermann Park Conservancy.

We'll keep you updated on our growing list of partners!

Construction Update

Billboard finale:

A huge crane lowers the joined flat vertical surfaces of the billboard to the ground.  Then a crew dismantles it piece by piece with torches.  The tubular steel post is taken down in sections.

End of an era.  The billboard is completely down.  Enjoy the sky!


Teachers weigh in on 'friending' students

More on the Teacher-Facebook Friend-Student debate this week.

Here's the prompt from the moderator:

Most of today’s students spend a considerable amount of time using social-networking sites to clown around with friends, catch up with relatives who live far away, and even collaborate on homework and school projects. 
Social-networking tools like Facebook have also quickly become part of the fabric of many educators’ lives, and they have used the tools to connect with colleagues, parents, and students. But is it OK for educators and students to connect on social-networking sites like Facebook or Twitter? What does your district’s current policy say about such communication?

Teachers weigh in at EducationWeek.


Will Handwriting Survive? Do you care?

Monday, January 23 was National Handwriting Day!  Why?

It's John Hancock's birthday of course!

Do your children see you handwrite things?  What?  Do you still make a grocery list with pen and paper (or reused envelope) or have you found an app for that?

Taking notes?  Writing letters?  What are those pens still around for?  Is handwriting still relevant in the ever expanding digital age?

What will happen in 25 years if children never learn cursive writing?  Are there brain benefits for handwriting?

EducationWeek weighs in with this piece from Monday.


Tempe, AZ Contemplates Montessori High School

Keeping up with the thinking over in Tempe at their Montessori high school's website for exploratory information..

An article from last week's East Valley Tribune covering the status of the project gave this as their one paragraph description of Montessori:
Montessori classrooms provide a popular, hands-on approach to education. Students are often grouped in multi-age clusters. They are taught using the Socratic method - with long discussions about topics and teachers acting as facilitators. Students don't use textbooks, but rather read and research using literature and other sources. Being outdoors is another "key component" to the Montessori method, one reason the school-community group that started looking at this option visited a private Montessori school in the Midwest that operates a farm.
Yes, you read that right:
Montessori classrooms provide a popular, hands-on approach to education. 


It's coming down...

Say "adios" to the billboard along Highway 59 that is anchored on the corner lot at Autrey and Montrose.  Today began the dismantling.  In a couple days, it will be no more.

Open House this Wednesday!

Come on down!

Wednesday 25 January at 7 p.m.
Houston Museum of Natural Science

Bring a friend!

(The next open house is Tuesday 27 March.)


Partnerships Growing in Museum District

This past week included visits with the Asia Society and the Health Museum.  Continued warm welcomes and a flurry of creative thinking about how museums and cultural organizations can collaborate with schools to break new ground for teenagers.  In the end (and all throughout) it's about the student experience.

We also continued our work with HMNS, specifically in Anthropology and what I can only describe as an encounter over bagels with 'the venomous snake lady of Brazil'.  Clearly, more to come on that front!

Need more?  Come to our next open house on Wednesday, January 25th at HMNS!

Montessori: Find your Passion (Talk at TED)

Get to know Montessori alum, Majka Burhardt.  She's a climber, explorer, writer, and humanitarian.

Listen to the first three minutes of this interview:

In case you missed that first Q&A after her original "We Are The World" song:
"Where did this idealism come from at such a young age?" 
"I went to this great Montessori school where you did whatever inspired you.  Find that passion and then build the academics around it.  That kind of curiosity was encouraged and was fostered in my life."

You can catch up with her on Facebook.

Oh, the TED talk?  Here you go:



How do libraries evolve and stay relevant to teens?
On a recent afternoon, youth mentors circulated through the airy room, teaching teenagers how to make films and work with multimedia. A group of girls was shooting a talk show, using a laptop camera and external microphone. Others played guitar and keyboards, or shared poetry and songs. 
Matthew Bryd, a 16-year-old junior at Jones College Prep, a public high school in Chicago, was about to record a video-game podcast with a group of friends, as he says he does most days after school. “We sit down and talk about a bunch of topics related to video games,” he said. “It’s kind of like a radio show with commercials. We publish it on iTunes and on our website.”

School libraries have been at this for years of course.  Walk into one and see what teens are doing.  It's rarely checking out books.  So the library is being used, but in a different way.

Are books still relevant?  Yes:
The library won that battle, and now the books have their place. “Book circulation [of the teen collection] has gone up about 500 percent since the space opened,” Eshleman said. “You see teenagers browsing the stacks and often pulling books from a cart, or quietly reading on a big bean chair.”
The full article at Education Week is here.


High Tech High

UPDATE:  Thanks to Milwaukee County Zoo Director Charles Wikenhauser for sending me the link for this video.  (Remember, the zoo with iPads for Orangutans!?)

Just when you think he's said it all, there's another morsel that resonates.  We should all be looking for such inspirational words and teachers to work with teenagers.  An example that seems to demonstrate that it's not about working harder, it's truly about re-inventing school.

A great school and a great documentary piece.

From the Buck Institute for Education.


Happy Friday the 13th! (One of three this year.)

How will you be celebrating?

Try this list of facts from over at HuffPost.  A sample:
-- While both Friday (because Judas was thought to have been the 13th guest at the Last Supper) and 13 (because it is an uneven number following the even number 12 widely considered beneficial) had independently been considered unlucky for centuries, the dark nature of Friday The 13th appears to have only originated in the West in the 19th century, possibly with Henry Sutherland Edwards' 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini wherein the date is termed unlucky!
-- Every calendar year has at least one Friday The 13th. The most Fridays The 13th that can occur in any given calendar year is three, such as in 2012 (January, April and July)!
-- The longest period that can occur without a Friday The 13th is 14 months, either from July through September of the following normal year, or from August through October of the following leap year!
Read them all...here.

If you love hockey masks, the Houston Aeros are playing tonight at Peoria against the Rivermen.  Tickets available.  Next home game is next Friday, January 20th against the San Antonio Rampage.

See you in April for the next Friday the 13th!  And be safe tomorrow, too!


Teachers and Students together online?

The debate continues (NYT) as to whether teachers and students connecting via social media sites like Twitter and Facebook is a revolution in education or the work of the devil.

As with all tools, "We shape our tools. And then our tools shape us." (Marshall McLuhan)


Parent Ambassadors Unite!

Could this high school literature be
in your office waiting room?  YES!
Are you a Post Oak parent excited about the High School?  Join the High School Ambassadors!

This group is dedicated to supporting the expansion by engaging in outreach activities like talking about the new division and putting up posters around town.

Do you have more ideas how you can help spread the word and share the inside scoop on all things high school?  Join us!

Contact Christina Kopanidis-Cantu for more information. 713.661.6688


Museum Educators Open House

Teachers should head on down to the HMD for the Educators' Open House on January 28th from 9-1:30.

From HMD:

• Home school educators
• School district administrators
• Student teachers

WHY ATTEND?• Free general admission to host museums before 1:00 p.m. and all participating museums after 1:00 p.m.
• Attend presentations and booths from 31 museums and cultural organizations.
• Learn about educational resources, trainings, programs, tools, and field trips.

Register here.

This event is separate from our High School Open House on January 25th.


OPEN HOUSE January 25th!

Join us for a High School Open House on Wednesday, January 25th at 7:00 p.m. in the Paleontology Hall at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

This is an informational event for all prospective students, their families, and the general public.  Come to learn about the school, meet faculty, and mingle with the dinosaurs!


The Elements

A little science for your Saturday!

Everyone loves Tom Leher, right?!


Grants to schools to do real science

"They will construct a model linear particle accelerator and investigate particle collisions similar to those under way at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Switzerland."
Enough said.  I'm glad we're not the only ones who recognize that high school students crave reality.

Read the full article from BBC News.  

If you love smashing things into each other at 99.999999% of the speed of light, read on here.

Construction Update

So we're well underway now!

You can see a lot happening just driving by Montrose at Autrey Street.

More to come!