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  • The Right Message at the Right Time: How to Help High School Graduates Build Upon Their Success

    by Connections Academy

    A high school graduate hugging her mom

    The young men and women who will march across stages nationwide to receive their high school diplomas this spring are often described as adventurous, self-motivated achievers who are ready to change the world.     



    And, while high school recognizes their achievements and opens doors to independence and possibilities, graduation also can kindle thoughts of life’s challenges beyond the familiar and comfortable structure of home and school.  



    Roberta Katz, the senior research scholar at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, describes graduates as a self-driven, deeply caring, highly collaborative social group. They grew up online and in a global culture that celebrates diversity and inclusion. They value relevance and authenticity. 



    It is impossible to know what the future holds for this year’s graduates, but here are some topics along with inspirational quotes to write in their graduation cards that will help you inspire any grad to change the world.  



    Be an Advocate for Others



    Recognize that over the course of their high school careers, grads have attained a worldview that advocates for human rights, creating and connecting effective networks for change, and making the world a better place. 



    Treat Everyone Equally



    “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,’” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader 



    No name is more synonymous with equal rights than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As Dr. King challenged the nation to rise up in support of equal rights, high school taught grads to see themselves and others within the context of the world and inspired them to continue the legacy of Dr. King’s vision. 



    Help Build Diverse Communities



    “We will all profit from a more diverse, inclusive society, understanding, accommodating, even celebrating our differences, while pulling together for the common good.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States



    As members of the most diverse and inclusive generation in American history, graduates believe in Justice Ginsburg’s vision. A word of encouragement can put them on the path toward the just world she helped pioneer. 



    Follow Your Passion



    This year’s graduates are the country’s first digital natives. They came of age in a world where the Internet has made all things possible. Many started small online businesses. Stepping into the world, most see themselves in careers that are rooted in the things they love to do. 



    Pursue Your Dreams with Confidence



    “Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.” – Nelson Mandela, civil rights leader



    Before graduates take on the future, help them reflect on all that they have accomplished. Encourage them to take what they’ve learned and go forward with confidence. 



    Persevere with Optimism



    “I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with.”  – Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States



    The future is uncertain. But this year’s graduates are naturally optimistic. They learned how to persist in high school. Now, challenge them to rely on those qualities to realize their dreams. 



    Meet Challenges Head On



    "It may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”Maya Angelou, poet



    Life beyond high school will have its challenges, but Maya Angelou’s inspirational wisdom can help graduates overcome those challenges so that they can discover their true selves.   



    Encourage Reflection So That Graduates Can Build Upon Their Achievements



    Now is the time for graduates to celebrate their accomplishments. High school was full of challenges, but they persisted and rose above them. Their diplomas prove that. They learned new things about the world and about themselves. They deepened their commitment to inclusion, to the importance of authenticity, and to the possibilities of making the world a better place. 



    Now is also the time to encourage them to take what they have learned as they move forward. Whatever plans your graduate has for their future—whether it be college, work, or a gap year—an authentic, relevant message at this important time can inspire them to build upon the success of their high school experience. 


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  • How to Write a Thank You Note to a Teacher

    by Alyssa Austin

    Parent helping their child with schoolwork.

    Because Connections Academy® has been an online school for over 20 years, making the most of teacher-student and parent-student interactions has always been a priority.  

    In that vein, teaching kids how to write a thank you note, and helping them remember to do so, will serve them throughout their lives. The challenge is showing them how. But by using a thank you note template for kids or following a sample, children of all ages can not only get started, but can also begin building a very important habit of expressing gratitude before adulthood. 

    Especially with Teacher Appreciation Week coming up, this presents the perfect opportunity to teach and encourage your child to write a thank you note or two for their favorite teachers. Consider this article a helpful “how to write a thank you letter” lesson plan! 

    Get started by downloading this thank you letter template for kids. 


    Download our Sample Thank You Card Here


    Benefits of Expressing Gratitude for Children

    Teaching children of all ages about gratitude is a valuable lesson. Even recent studies have touted the benefits in children’s schoolwork, social, and emotional well-being, as well as in their communities. 



    A happy girl full of gratitude.


    Why Teach Kids to Write a Thank You Note Using a Template

    Using a thank you card template or a gratitude letter template for students is a great way to start building this very important habit, especially for younger kids. Here are some reasons why: 

    • They have a guide throughout the writing process. 
    • They are shown what the card should sound like and how it should look. 
    • With a basic structure given to them, children can feel free to add their unique voice, which will make the thank you card more genuine. 
    • A template also gives kids ideas of what to say in a thank you card, which helps inspire their own ideas, and helps to make them more personal. 

    Thank you notes are a great way to help children start expressing gratitude, and using a sample thank you letter for kids is a great way to get them started. And, perhaps even more importantly, when children learn to express gratitude, they tend to feel it, too. 



    A parent and child learning how to write a thank you note to a teacher.




    How Kids Can Write a Personalized Thank You Note  

    Does your child want to write a thank you note from scratch? Encourage them to craft creative thank you notes from kids with these five easy steps: 


    Step 1. Brainstorm Why You Want to Thank Them

    On a piece of paper, jot down whatever comes to mind when you think of the person you are writing a thank you letter for. This could be a parent, teacher, or friend. Try making a list of characteristics that make them great, such as kindness, patience, motivation, creativity, and compassion. 


    Step 2. Remember the Specifics

    Recall memories you have had with this person. Did your parent work extra hard with you to help you with your homework? Did a friend go out of the way to cheer you up on a bad day? Did a teacher find unique ways to make math fun? Write down specific instances that you appreciate. 


    Step 3. Use Nice Stationery

    Think about the last time you received a card. In the age of technology, it probably felt like a welcome surprise. A nice card or stationery really goes the extra mile. It’s a simple gesture, but it can make all the difference! 


    Step 4. Include a Greeting

    It’s no secret that emails and texts have changed the way we communicate. It’s common for everyday language to be direct and casual. However, when writing a thank you note, maintain a respectful tone. Be formal with your greeting by beginning with, “Dear ______.” If your child calls his or her teacher Mr. Bradford, use the same name in your greeting. This provides a great intro for ideal thank you letter format for elementary students, especially.  


    Step 5. Start Writing

    You’re ready to put all the elements of a thank you note together! Here’s an example of how to how to write a thank you note to a teacher: 


    Dear Mom/Dad/Mr. Bradford,

    Thank you for all you’ve done this year/a fun start to the school year. At first, I was nervous to begin third grade, but thanks to you, it’s now my favorite year!

    You were amazing this year when we both had to learn fractions and decimals together. I know you’ve been busy, and I just wanted to say thank you for being my mom/dad/teacher!

    I’m excited to see where the rest of the year/school year takes us. Thank you for everything you have done/taught me!

    Sincerely, Emma Smith


    Helpful Tips for How to Write a Thank You Note to a Teacher

    Does your child need some help getting started? Check out these testimonials from some other students and their families about their favorite teachers: 

    “I am so very grateful for the helpfulness of my son's teachers and their willingness to meet with him … as a need arises. He has learned skills this year that will forever change his attitude toward learning and his confidence in his ability to learn new things.”

    - Pearson Online Academy Parent 


    “I've had nothing but positive experiences with the teachers and staff at Person Online Academy. Everyone there listens carefully and provides whatever support has been requested. Remote school isn't for every student, but for those that thrive remotely, I can't think of a better place!”

    - Pearson Online Academy Parent 


    “The whole learning program is set up to help the student to excel. I like that the teachers seem invested and interested in their students doing well in the courses. The follow-up is a really great motivation to the students, at least they know that the teacher is available when needed.”

    -Pearson Online Academy Parent 


    When it comes to kids’ thank you notes, no matter how big or small, a handwritten note or a thoughtful gift can go a long way in showing appreciation for a parent, teacher, or friend. And Teacher Appreciation Week is the perfect time to give these thank you note ideas for kids a try! 

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  • Climbing Water Experiments for Kids: Defy Gravity with Water and Paper

    by Alyssa Austin

    Child watering plants

    Your child knows that plants need water to grow. That’s a fact. But if you want to stump your child, ask him or her this question: How can water defy gravity by traveling up from the ground and into a plant?

    Once your student is intrigued by gravity-defying water, work together to set up this fun activity, which is a great option as far as science experiments for online school go, since it doesn’t require any fancy equipment. (You’ll need water, but you won’t need any plants—just some strips of paper.)

    Check out the details of how to conduct one of our favorite science experiments with water below.

    “Does Water Defy Gravity?” Discover the Answer with One of Our Favorite Easy Water Experiments for Kids

    Here’s what you need to conduct this experiment:

    • 2 small cups or glasses
    • Paper towels
    • Scissors
    • Food coloring – any color
    • Water
    • 3 books (something to give one of the water cups
      a height advantage)

    Directions for the Climbing Water Experiment

    1. Cut a strip of paper towel at least 6 inches long, and approximately 1 inch wide.
    2. Fill both cups or glasses about halfway with water.
    3. Add 2–3 drops of food coloring to ONE of the cups of water and mix it up fully.
    4. Place the cup with the food coloring on top of the stack of books.
    5. Place the second cup on a flat surface next to the stack of books.
    6. Insert one end of the paper towel strip in the colored water, then drape it down into the second glass of water.
    7. Watch as water from the colored glass slowly creeps up the paper towel strip into the second glass! Take notes to log the progress.

    Why Does This Experiment Work?

    This experiment is a great way to experience and observe capillary action—the process that plants use to take in water from the ground. The water travels upward through the paper towel and into the second cup the same way that water travels upward through plants’ xylem tissues to give them nourishment.

    Download the Climbing Water Experiment

    Once you finish this experiment, give some of these
    activities a try to keep exploring science experiments with water.

    Test Different Types of Paper

    Try this activity with these different types of paper from
    around the house:

    • Toilet paper
    • Napkins
    • Tissues

    How does each type of paper look and feel as it absorbs the
    water? Does it transfer the water faster or slower than the paper towels? Pit
    two different types of paper from the list above against each other and have a

    Mix Colors

    Place 2–3 drops of food coloring into the cup with water and
    2–3 drops of another color in the middle of your paper strip. Watch to see what
    happens as the water hits the colors on the paper. What does the water look
    like when it reaches the second cup? Try these color pairings:

    • Red and blue
    • Red and yellow
    • Blue and yellow
    • Red and green

    Test How Plants Absorb Water

    If your child wants to experiment with real plants, put a stalk of celery in a glass with water and add a few drops of food coloring. What happens over the course of time? You can also try this with other plants, such as carnations.

    Grow a Plant with Paper

    In this activity, you can grow a bean plant using paper towels. Line a glass jar with paper towels and slip a bean seed between the paper and the glass. Add about an inch of water to the bottom of the jar and watch the bean grow over the next couple of weeks.

    So, as you can see, the answer to the question, “Does water
    defy gravity?” isn’t always so simple! We hope you and your child enjoyed one of our favorite fun water experiments for kids.

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