Tuesday, April 29, 2014

RBCS 8th graders Dazzle with their Genetic Disease research projects!!!

I'm continually impressed at how students will rise to challenges that are presented to them. Recently I assigned my 8th grade students a task that was very similar to a project that I was required to do for one of my masters courses.  I had no doubt that most of the students would be able to do the project, but was awed by the level of achievement that many of them reached.  It was clear that the students put time and effort into the projects, and followed the rubric to make sure they received the highest possible grade.  The project was to create a website or video about a genetic disease that they were studying.  
The link to their assignment is here:  http://zunal.com/webquest.php?w=236093  They were given no further information on the assignment, and I only had to answer a few basic questions.  Please click on the links below to see some of the projects that I received:

Monday, April 28, 2014

Spotlight on Central America Part III

This is the third of three installments about my adventures in Central America.  This series is in response to my student's requests for more information about my travels, and my favorite places.

Costa Rica - I have been to Costa Rica four times now, and look forward to my next trip there in December.  Costa Rica is a very rich and diverse country.  Since my first visit there about 15 years ago it has changed a lot, becoming a lot more modern and built up in many areas.  It has also become much more expensive than my first trip.  The landscape and wildlife there is still beautiful and enticing which is a major reason that it's such a popular destination.  One of my highlights include a zip line trip in the cloud forest that ended with repelling into an area with many natural hot springs of varying temperatures followed by massage in a hut in the middle of the rainforest.  Arenal volcano is also a great place to visit, and if you have the means a stay at Tabacon Resort is worth indulging yourself.  Of course the surfing is good along much of the coast.  I spent some time surfing in Tamarindo, and also had the rare opportunity to watch a leatherback turtle lay her eggs under the moonlight while there.  I really enjoy the area around Manuel Antonio National Park.  They have great beaches there, and the fishing is incredible.

Fishing near Manuel Antonio
Arenal Volcano 

Nicaragua - My first trip to Nicaragua was only for a few days, and we visited an volcanic island called Omatepe (the island is dominated by two volcanos puffing steam out their cones).  It was a cool place, with good hiking and was very inexpensive.  It is rumored to be the only fresh water lake in the world with man eating sharks.  So of course we had to go for a few swims to see if they were interested in American meat, but we had no bites.  :)  We also visited Granada which has many old Spanish Colonial buildings and a great market.  The second time around we rented a house in San Juan Del Sur for a month which is a very laid back surfing and party town.  They have a great Yoga studio there, called Zen Yoga with really cool instructors and a very friendly clientele.  We did a lot of surfing and exploring in the area, and went to yoga every day followed by a fruit smoothie at one of the many beach side restaurants.  It was a great month!  We returned to school very relaxed that year.

Playa Maderas
Zen Yoga

Sunset Catamaran trip out of SJDS

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Red Bank Charter School Team Takes First Place in Stock Market Game!

A team of three seventh grade students from Red Bank Charter School has beaten out 265 other teams from the NJ Middle School Southern Division to take home the first place prize in this springs' STOCK MARKET GAME.  The contest included teams from 12 different middle schools in our region.  The Money Makers, which included Aislinn, Trinity, and Aidan led the contest from the very first week, and never relinquished their hold on the top spot.  They made some savvy trades with companies such as Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, and Tesla Motors to name a few.

They finished the game with $111,116.74, after starting with just $100,000, for an 11.12% increase in their account.  They beat the S&P 500 by 7.5% during that same time period!  The 2nd place team in our region finished with $103,694.04, and the closest team in our school finished with 99,987.27.  As you can see they were way ahead of their competition.

Because of their stock picking wizardry they have been invited to speak at the Stock Market Game Awards Ceremony on June 4th at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  In their speech they will share some of their trading strategies, and information they have learned about the importance of understanding finance, and investing and saving for their futures.  The students will also receive prizes from the sponsor of the Stock Market Game, which is the SIMFA Foundation, at the awards ceremony.

I am very proud of all our teams, and hope the students have learned some things about the stock market, and making smart investments that will help them in their futures.  Mr. Ford

List of schools in our region: Avon Elementary, Bay Head Elementary, Maple Place, St. Peter School, Ranney School, Ocean Township Intermediate, St. Dominic School, Mother Teresa Regional School, Riverton, Frances Demasi Middle School, Raymond W. Kershaw.


Friday, April 11, 2014

CNN Student News

We often watch CNN Student News when we have a few minutes to spare.  This is a great resource for our students to keep them up to date on local, national, and international news.

You can click on this link to get to the cnn student news webpage.

What is CNN Student News?
CNN Student News is a ten-minute, commercial-free, daily news program designed for middle and high school classes. It is produced by the journalists and educators at CNN. This award-winning show and its companion website are available free of charge throughout the school year.   
There are other resources on this website including a podcast that the students can subscribe to which will upload daily to their smart phone, ipod, etc. so they can always be up to date!  This is a great way to stay informed.  Mr. Ford

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spotlight on Central America Part II

This is the second of three installments about my adventures in Central America.  This series is in response to my student's requests for more information about my travels, and my favorite places.

Guatemala - I have only visited Guatemala once, for about 10 hours.  We went on this excursion with a tour company from neighboring Belize to visit the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal.  It was amazing!  The sheer size of the park, and number of ancient building was overwhelming.  I had a similar tingly feeling at Tikal as when I visited Machu Picchu and the Great Pyramids of Giza.  Thinking of all the history, and trying to envision what this place must have been like in it's heyday.

That's my friend Chris and I up top with our hands in the air.

Honduras - The main reason for going to Honduras was to visit the Mayan ruins at Copan.  However, we found that their was a lot more to offer than just the ruins.  We stayed in a small coastal town called La Ceiba where we caught a futbol match, and went river rafting and a zipline excursion at a very cool hostel called the Jungle River Lodge.  We got a free night stay for booking an excursion so we wound up turning a day trip to an overnighter complete with bonfire and a great family style dinner with our new friends.  From La Ceiba we took the ferry out to Roatan where we enjoyed excellent, and very inexpensive scuba diving.  Here are a few photos from Honduras.

The "ball field" at Copan

Futbol in La Ceiba
Zip line tour at Jungle River Lodge

El Salvador - We visited the Costa del Sol in El Salvador during their holiday called Semana Sante.  We hit the beach on our first day, and forgot the sunscreen...big mistake.  The beaches were packed and the people were very friendly and festive.  We had the best papusa's at a papusaria near the airport. We also spent one forgettable night in the capital city of San Salvador where we almost lost our lives at the hands of our crazy taxi driver.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spotlight on Central America Part I

My students are always asking me about my travels, and their most common question is "what is your favorite place that you have been to?"  I explain to them that this is a really hard question because the countries and places I visit are so different.  I like many different places for lots of different reasons, and it would be impossible for me to pick one favorite.  With that said I would like to point out some of the highlights of places I have visited around the world.  I decided to start with Central America since I have visited every country in this region.

Mexico - I have been to Cabo San Lucas and Cancun in Mexico.  Cabo is known for great fishing and surfing, and when I went back in 1999 it was just starting to become developed.  When I was in Cancun the first time I went Scuba Diving and spent much of the time lounging by the pool.  My second trip was a quick weekend trip for a wedding that took place on the beach.  I enjoyed Mexico, but I wish I would have made time to visit the Mayan Ruins at Chichen Itza.  If I ever make it back to that area of Mexico I will definitely visit the ruins.

Belize - Belize is known for their islands off the mainland.  When I visited in 2011 I had a great time on the island of Ambergris Caye where we went scuba diving at a site called shark ray alley where I was able to interact and even touch the rays and nurse sharks who hung out there.

On the mainland we went on an excursion to ATM cave.   It was amazing!  We also happened to meet some locals who owned some private land, and they took us to a cave that has been visited by less than 50 people in the last 200 years.  We had to repel into a 60 foot hole, and army crawl through a narrow passage which opened up into an enormous cavern the size of Madison Square Garden.  I was the first in, and filled with excitement.  My friend and I ran around the cave for 45 minutes until our guides decided to make their way in.  All was great until we ran into a scorpion spider the size of a baseball, but he didn't bite so all was still good.  Not sure being the first one in was the best idea after the spider ordeal though.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about my travels: vernford@aol.com

Next up will be Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

NITROTYPE....a free, fun, and safe online typing game

With all of the snow this year we had to spend many of our recesses indoors.  The students were asking me if they could play an online typing game together in the classroom.  They explained that they could link up and play against each other while improving their typing skills.  This sounded interesting to me so I thought I would check it out.  My primary concern was the children's safety as they were interacting with their classmates and others online.  As I perused the website, I found it to be very safe and kid friendly.  Not only that it's a lot of fun for the students, and adults as well.  I began playing some games with the students, and before long I was saving my earnings money so I could go to the dealership to get that Porsche I always wanted, complete with custom paint job.
This is what my garage looks like....some of the cars I won with different achievements, and other I bought with my racing earnings.  The best part is that this site is completely free.  You can pay for a premium membership, but it's really not necessary.
The site tracks all of your races so you can see how you have improved over time.  During the races the game tracks your words per minute and your accuracy percentage.  You get rewards and "money" for winning races and achieving different levels while you are playing.  As you race more new levels are unlocked for you to buy different cars, etc.
In your "garage" there is an area that shows your racing statistics as seen above.
I think this website is a great way for students to improve their typing skills, but just be warned it can be addicting.  Click on the link below to check it out for yourself.  Have fun!  Mr. Ford