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The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America

The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America

by Heather Won Tesoriero

The ClassHeather Won Tesoriero spent a year in Andy Bramante’s science research classroom. Andy, a former analytic chemist, left the corporate world to become a teacher, to make a difference. He and his students are award-winning, and The Class gives an in-depth look, not at what he does in his classroom as a model for cookie cutter programs across the nation, but at the teacher Andy and how he cares about his students and helps them be independent, creative thinkers in science and in their personal lives.

Andy’s students have to apply to be in his class which is centered around independent research and participation in multiple science fairs. Success in  the science fairs can result in prize monies and affect college admissions. Along the way, the students learn advanced science (often in multiple fields), self-discipline, how to use professional scientific instrumentation, research methodology, and presentation skills.

The students in The Class live in tony and highly competitive Greenwich, Connecticut. Most would be considered nerds and most, but certainly not all, are from upper-class families. Many are children of immigrants and those parents are highly motivated to see their children succeed. Many of these very intelligent teenagers are also talented in other areas such as athletics and music. They will all go to good colleges.

The Class is formatted according to the school year with chapters about various students and Andy as they move through the seasons. We read of the students’ personal struggles as teenagers as well as their attempts to find a topic for research and bring their project to fruition. It doesn’t take long to become engaged in their struggles and begin to root for a good outcome.

This book has widespread appeal partly because the author seems to be invested in the subjects of her writing and makes them come to life. I learned a lot about the current world of college admissions. I must admit that the science involved in many of the projects was beyond the scope of my science background, but was explained well. I recommend The Class and wish Andy and his students well in their future endeavors.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Ballantine) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Nonfiction (Adult), Science

Notes: 1. Some casual swearing throughout the book by both teacher and students.

2. The author made several snide slurs about the current presidency. Those remarks seem unnecessary and politically motivated. They are supposed to reflect conversations she heard, but they certainly seemed couched in her language, especially a disparaging comment about the First Lady. A writer selects what to share from the many words and events that pass before her. I think in this case she should have asked herself two questions as she put pen to paper: Is it necessary to tell my story? Is it kind?

Publication:   September 4, 2018—Random House (Ballantine)

Memorable Lines:

Andy would have it no other way. To him, the whole reason he got into the teaching business was to work side by side with kids, to develop the relationships and let the science unfurl in all of its glorious unpredictability.

“All day, we’re telling the kids, do this, read this, use this—and if you don’t, you fail. They need a space where it’s okay to fail.” —Nancy Shwartz, Cos Cob school librarian and creator of Maker Space, a place at her school where creativity is prized

“We’ve moved from education, teaching people how to think, to training, teaching people how to bark on time. And highly structured curriculum and even scripted curriculum in some places—the teacher reads the lesson. Those are not places where someone is being educated. It can’t be… Which is more valuable to the person and to the society? I can memorize something and give it back to you in an orderly fashion, even in a comprehensively well-expressed fashion. Or I can think. To me, it’s not even a call.” —Thomas Forget, Ph.D., professor and Andy’s mentor

Rooted in Deceit–the value of a painting

Rooted in Deceit

by Wendy Tyson

Rooted in DeceitWendy Tyson’s Rooted in Deceit is another stellar cozy mystery in The Greenhouse Mystery Series. Megan is the owner of Washington Acre Farms, a farm that supplies organic produce for her own café and organic store in Winsome as well as several restaurants in Philadelphia. 

Tyson dumps the reader into the story immediately with four major plot pieces. Megan’s mini-enterprise is almost ready to expand as her crew puts the finishing touches on the long awaited pizza farm restaurant. Her father Eddie and his wife of two years, Sylvia, arrive from Milan on business, swirling up lots of emotions and relationship issues. They will be staying in nearby Dartville at Peaceful Summit Yoga Retreat Center and Spa which may be competition for Megan’s café. Thrown into this mix is an artist and middle school friend of Megan’s, Thana Moore, whose work will be on display at the center.

Before you know it, Megan is up to her eyeballs in a murder investigation, without the help of boyfriend, veterinarian Denver, who is called to Scotland when his sister is in a serious accident. Megan has to come to grips with her feelings about her own family past as well as middle school shenanigans that come back to bite her and her former friends.

You’ll enjoy watching the plot unfold as Megan follows various leads. Some go to dead ends and others branch off into new possibilities. There’s never a dull moment in Rooted in Deceit.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #4 in The Greenhouse Mystery Series, but works as a standalone

Publication:  September 4, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

The day was hot and humid, a soupy late August afternoon that teased a cooling rain but delivered little more than sweat and sunburn.

“You and I both know people do inconceivable things for rational reasons, and conceivable things for irrational reasons. Crime rarely makes sense.”

…the right choice wasn’t always obvious at the time you were forced to make it. Life got complicated.

Kindred Spirits–stolen art with deadly consequences

Kindred Spirits

by Jo Bannister

Kindred SpiritsGabriel Ash, formerly a security analyst with the British government, has recently been released from mental health care. He has opened a second hand book shop, Rambles with Books. He has also been reunited with his two sons after a four year separation as a result of his wife’s illegally taking the boys.  All should be relatively smooth sailing in the Ash household, but that is not the case. Ash’s good friend, Constable Hazel Best, drives to school to pick up the boys, and she sees them and their nanny being accosted in what appears to be a kidnapping attempt.

The plot of Kindred Spirits rapidly becomes complicated as the older boy, Gilbert, insists that only the nanny was being forced into the van. This fast-moving police procedural by Jo Bannister puts on display not only how the police investigate crimes, but also the behind-the-scenes politics. Neither Hazel nor Detective Inspector Dave Gorman are armchair detectives. The same can be said about Ash when those he cares about are personally threatened. All three are motivated by doing what is right. When an old case clashes with the events of a new case, they refuse to turn a blind eye. The results are dangerous, and you won’t want to stop reading until the mystery is resolved.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Police Procedural

Notes: #5 in the Hazel Best and Gabriel Ash Mystery Series. This was the first book in the series for me to read, and I had no problem catching up with the background.

Publication:   September 1, 2018—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Perhaps he was the last man in England—the last man in the civilized world—to enjoy the sensation, both sensual and intellectual, of paper pages curling away under his fingers. Of words, and the ideas they encoded, waiting for him to find them—and staying close at hand after he’d read them, in case he needed to flick back a page or two to check something.

She had less and less patience with hard feelings and petty jealousies. She did her job, and did it well; being liked was an optional extra. It wasn’t something that she’d ever struggled with before, but if it came to a choice between being popular and doing what she believed to be right, she had broad shoulders.

Gorman knew that Jerome Harbinger was sixty-eight. If he hadn’t known, he’d have thought he was ten years older than that. His craggy face was savaged by deep lines that had nothing to do with laughter and everything to do with bitter unhappiness.

Meet Me at the Farmers Market–fun event for kids

Meet Me at the Farmers Market

written by Lisa Pelto

illustrated by Paula S. Wallace

Meet Me at the Farmers MarketSophia is seven years old and one of her favorite things to do is to go to the local Farmers Market every weekend with her mom—regardless of the weather and even if they are on vacation. Meet Me at the Farmers Market has appealing, colorful line art created by Paula S. Wallace. Author Lisa Pelto has tapped into the current revived interest in buying local and organic and entertainingly walks children through what it is like to go to a farmers’ market. Sophia meets her friends there, and it is a community event complete with pets and musicians. There are fun things for kids like face painting, balloon animals, and delicious food snacks. Sophia and her mom buy fresh seasonal vegetables, eggs and meat.

This is a fast and easy read that children can enjoy as a read aloud and later read by themselves. It offers many possibilities for discussion about families, friends, community and eating clean and local.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Reading is Key Publishing  (Concierge Marketing) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction, Food

Notes: 

1. Age Range: 3-7 years

    Grades: K-3

2. I wonder if it is typical for animals (besides service animals) to be allowed at a Farmers Market.

Publication:   June 8, 2018—Reading is Key Publishing  (Concierge Marketing)

Memorable Lines:

Mom always tells Farmer Dan, “Your eggs are the freshest, and that’s no yolk!”  Farmer Dan says, “You crack me up! See you next week.”

Ireland the Best–you know you want to go!

Ireland the Best

by John and Sally McKenna

Ireland the BestIreland the Best, a travel guide, is written in the same format as Scotland the Best, albeit by a different author. I looked at the Amazon listing for that book briefly, mainly to see if the sample book contained pictures. This series of travel books is composed of well-organized lists and does not show off each locale with pictures but does include links so you can easily see the attraction, restaurant, etc. for yourself online.

Given the style of this book, understanding the organizational format is of prime importance, and so the authors begin their guide book with…a guide to the book. They want to transmit to you the best that Ireland has to offer based on their 30 years of exploring the island. To help you search in the book you can use the index, categories in the Table of Contents such as “The Best Places to Eat and Stay in Ireland’s South West,” or the map to view items in a particular locale.

Codes are of great importance in this book and seem a little daunting at first, but as you use the references they quickly become familiar. They include things like “atmos” for atmosphere and “df” for dog friendly.

Tick or check marks (✓) are awarded for outstanding listings. There are indications of price ranges and difficulty levels of walks. Attractions are coded with map references also.

The meat of the guide begins with sections on the most famous attractions in Ireland, means of transportation, annual events, contributions of the Irish, and famous film locations. Next are sections focusing on Ireland’s four largest cities. They examine the lodging accommodations, style of cooking, restaurants, pubs, attractions, shops, walks, and views for each city. Next the guide expands to regional hotels and restaurants and sections that let the reader explore more specific topics like tea rooms (e.g. Miss Marple’s Tea Rooms), graveyards (e.g. Yeats’ Grave at Drumcliff Parish Church, Co Sligo), and Irish crystal and glass (e.g. House of Waterford). The last major section explores the many islands. Each attraction or feature in the book has a nice, short paragraph describing it.

I have not been to Ireland, but this guide book certainly inspires me to visit. I think this book would be an essential tool for me in planning a trip to the Old Country of my husband’s roots and then enjoying its features while there.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Collins Reference for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Reference, Travel

Publication:   September 1, 2018—Collins Reference

Memorable Lines:

Ireland has a fascinating past, sculpted by the great characters—knights, saints, writers, architects, freedom fighters, clerics, politicians, artists—who have shaped the nation, whether for good or for ill. We have loved discovering the castles and keeps, the graveyards and follies, the beaches and gardens that illuminate a picture of Irish culture going right back to pre-history.

Try a leisurely holiday with an Irish Cob horse, who will pull your home through the Wicklow landscape. Or go for a 7-day walk with a friendly donkey, who will walk beside you and carry your load. 

The Shannon estuary is teaming with life, and Geoff and Susanne Magee run an informative tour of the river mouth running a Dolphin and Nature Boat Trip, on which you might see the bottle dolphins as well as grey seals and pelagic sea birds.

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