The Knightly News

NES PTO / February 2016

February is Full of Fun!

Greetings, Newtown Elementary Friends! We hope you'll come out for our upcoming Knights at the Newtown Bookshop (located near Pier One) on February 17 or 18. Twenty percent of proceeds will benefit NES, and some of your favorite teachers will be on hand as celebrity guest readers! Also, registration just went live for the 2016 Sweetheart Dance, which is our annual evening of dancing and fun for all NES girls and their fathers or special guests. (Don't delay! Registration is due March 1.) Finally, Muffins with Mom (a NES favorite) is popping up on the morning of Friday, February 26--mark your calendar and let's rev up the coffee pot!


In this edition, Mrs. Cook shares information on decision-making and the child brain from her recent Parent Workshop, and Mr. King gives the latest on resilience at the college level, with insights for parents of elementary-age students. FInally, read on for a peek behind the scenes at our Applebee's Flapjack Fundraiser, our Power of One anti-bullying assembly, and our classroom Valentine's Day parties. (Thank you, Homeroom Coordinators! You are awesome!) As the photos show, NES kids were feeling the love.


Fondly, The NES PTO

Upcoming Events

Flapjack Fun!

NES families and staff, you brought the FUN as we served up the Flapjacks at our first-ever Applebee's Flapjack Fundraiser on Sunday, February 7. Over 250 folks filled the booths and tables, enjoying more than 500 pancakes, sausages, OJ and coffee. Mr. King donned a bedazzled"Pancake King" apron made by PTO co-President Carolyn Lavelle, but he had competition for "best dressed" bragging rights from Mrs. Adams, who won over customers in a red apron (with a pocket-full of lollipops!). Our very brave teacher and parent volunteers literally took over the restaurant, taking orders, running plates, busing tables, mastering the kitchen traffic pattern (somewhat!), and much more. It was teamwork at its best. Our rock-star waitstaff included Ms. Dyszel, Mrs. Campbell, Mrs. Adams, Mrs. Donovan, Mrs. Heubeck, Mrs. Weinstein, Mrs. Oberdick, Ms. Hughes, Mrs. Bloom, Mrs. Popescu and Mr. King. Our generous parent, grandparent and kid volunteers included: Kathy Skalish, Beth Tietelman, Carolyn Lavelle, Amber Sciascia, Seema Verma, Kari Lazaro, Robin Duchnowski, Dave "Pocky" Rolewicz, Mary Schaffer, Lindsey and Andrew Brown, Isha and Apurna Dev, and Ryan and Robert Sciascia. Extra special thanks to Kelly Schaffer for organizing and running this fantastic event.

King of the Castle

Mr. King shares excerpts from a 2015 Psychology Today article by author and professor Peter Gray, PH.D, entitled "Declining Student Resilience: A Serious Problem for Colleges."


Peter Gray, Ph.D: A year ago I received an invitation from the head of Counseling Services at a major university to join faculty and administrators for discussions about how to deal with the decline in resilience among students. At the first meeting, we learned that emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled over the past five years. Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life...Faculty at the meetings noted that students’ emotional fragility has become a serious problem when it comes to grading. Some said they had grown afraid to give low grades for poor performance, because of the subsequent emotional crises they would have to deal with in their offices. Many students, they said, now view a C, or sometimes even a B, as failure, and they interpret such “failure” as the end of the world. [...]


Two weeks ago, that head of Counseling sent us all a follow-up email...included this sobering paragraph: 'I have done a considerable amount of reading and research in recent months on the topic of resilience in college students. Our students are no different from what is being reported across the country on the state of late adolescence/early adulthood. [...] [There has been a] decrease in the ability of many young people to manage the everyday bumps in the road of life...The lack of resilience is interfering with the academic mission of the University and is thwarting the emotional and personal development of students.' [...]


We have become, unfortunately, a “helicopter society.” If we want to prepare our kids for "college—or for anything else in life!—we have to counter these social forces. We have to give our children the freedom, which children have always enjoyed in the past, to get away from adults so they can practice being adults—that is, practice taking responsibility for themselves.


To read the full article in Psychology Today, click HERE.


For additional resources from Dr. Gray's "Freedom to Learn" blog, click HERE.

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Thanks to our HRCs!

Homeroom coordinators and parent volunteers, we are "Crazy 4 U"! Thanks so much for all of the work and planning that went into the Valentine's Day class parties and the awesome Sixth Grade Social (above). Check out some pics below from the festivities--sweet!

Assembly Update: The Power of One

On January 29, NES students assembled to see a performance of "The Power of One." In a series of skits, actors used boxes, colors and masks to talk about bullying, and how each and every child has the power to report and prevent bullying when he or she sees it, rather than being a bystander. The core message of the assembly is heard in the Bully Prevention Oath that students were encouraged to repeat:, "I will not bully others. I will not stand by while others are bullied. I will report and deal with bullying whenever I see it...because I have the Power of One." This powerful assembly was organized by Mr. King and funded by the PTO--your fundraising dollars at work! Thank you for supporting the PTO and helping to make NES a safe, supportive and nurturing school for all our children.

Mrs. Cook's Corner: Happy Brains Help Improve Learning and Problem Solving

During a recent parenting workshop, Mr. King and I explained two important parts of the brain to help parents understand why children have difficulty solving problems when they are stressed.


Prefrontal Cortex (PFC): This is the thinking part of the brain. It helps us focus and make good decisions. Here’s the catch: it only receives information when the amygdala is calm.


Amygdala: This regulates our emotional state. It is programmed to keep you safe at all costs. This is where fight or flight happens. The amygdala blocks information from going to your Prefrontal Cortex so you can react instantly. The challenge is it can’t tell a stressful situation from a true emergency and it can cause you to react without thinking.


The Stressed Brain...

When we are calm and peaceful, the amygdala (filter) is wide open and information can freely flow into the PFC. When we feel negative, angry, frustrated or stressed, we cannot make good decisions because the information gets stuck in the amygdala. It is important to help children calm down before trying to solve problems with them.


The following are suggestions for helping students calm down:

  • Squeeze hands together or use a stress ball.
  • Take really slow, deep breaths.
  • Sit down, rub head or legs and close your eyes.
  • Think of something that you really like to do and do it.
  • Color, draw or write in a journal.
  • Go to a safe, quiet place.
  • Brainstorm stress relieving ideas with your child.


When we are engaged in activities that we find interesting or enjoy, our PFC is lubricated, revved up and ready for peak performance. The PFC works best when students are engaged, actively participating and experiencing positive feelings like optimism, gratitude, hope and well-being.


Children perform better when they are engaged in the following activities:

  • Participating is acts of kindness.
  • Collaborating with peers.
  • Making choices and solving problems.
  • Physical activities such as sports, dance and play.
  • Creative efforts such as music, art, drama, reading and storytelling.



Information adapted from Happy Brains Work Better! (Adele Diamond – Mind Up Curriculum)

Thanks for reading!

The Knightly News is a publication of the NES PTO.