Austin Discovery School

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"The Hoot" :: Weekly Newsletter » Thursday, December 13, 2018

Thursday, December 13, 2018



Please contact administrators via e-mail to schedule meetings as needed.

Amity Taylor, Assistant Principal
Deborah Freeman,Registrar & Office Manager
Kelly McRee, Social Emotional Program Director
Leigh Moss, Head of School
Lydie Jessin,Business & HR Manager
Maria Martinez,Student Services Director
Taylor Young, Operations Manager

Dates to Remember

Dec 10-14  Book Fair
Dec 13-14  Holiday Bazaar
Dec 24 - Jan 7 Winter Break
Jan 8  First day of classes in 2019
Hoot Outs this week go to...
Those of you who heard our plea and gave us coffee!  We are going to make it now, because of you. - Deborah

Cotton Candy Cow parents, for snacks yesterday!  We appreciate it so much! - ADS staff

Ana Zepeda, for organizing (and even delivering) the donation of furniture! - Taylor

Nikki Riggs, for photographing our Salamander Mural event. The photos are beautiful! Thanks for sharing your skill with us.

Elizabeth Switek and all of the amazing parent volunteers and families that purchased from the book fair - it's a great way for the library to get more books!
The PTO's annual holiday bazaar is happening right NOW!  It will be open today until 6 pm. and tomorrow, Friday 12/14, 7:30 a.m - 4:30 p.m. 
From the Front Office

ADS is always looking for good substitute teachers!  Interested?  Please contact Amity Taylor (

Yearbooks are on sale and order forms will be sent home tomorrow! Before Dec 22, they are $25; after Dec 22, they will be $30. An order form is included at the bottom of this newsletter.

There have been a few cases of strep throat in the Wavy Dolphins' and La La Lizards' classes.  

From Leigh Moss, Head of School

#GivingTuesday Year-End Giving is off to a Great Start!

As we kicked off our end-of-year giving on #GivingTuesday within a 24 hour period, we were able to reach 1/5 of our total goal of $5000 by December 31, 2018.  Any funds raised will continue to help ADS offset the lower enrollment from earlier this year so we can start the year strong in 2019.  

A huge THANK YOU to the 2 dozen families and friends of ADS who gave at this time.  If you are still interested in helping to support our end-of-year giving you can do so in ANY one of these ways:

 Go to the Austin Discovery School Facebook page and click "Donate"

2. Round up your purchases with the CoinUp app So far more than a dozen families have raised over $400 through donating their spare change through round ups.  

3.  If you're not feeling high tech, you can always donate through the old school method of donating cash or a check in the amount of your choice to Austin Discovery School.  

Together we can make this happen!  

Sign up for Arts & Movement classes for the Spring semester NOW!  Do not wait!

Hello ADS community! Our 7th and 8th grade student government group, Parliament, has chosen a service project to provide Essentials Kits to Austin's homeless people this winter, and they would like your support. They are gathering toiletries, socks, winter accessories, and food items for people who are homeless. 

If your family is able to participate, please bring items to the main office no later than Friday, December 21. There is a bin under the bench by the front desk where you can leave your donation. There is no pressure to purchase anything - in addition to donations of toiletry essentials, they are also collecting caring notes, pictures, and holiday cards for the kits.

Thank you so much for your participation. If you have any questions, ideas or concerns, please contact Middle School Social Worker, Ellen Wilder, at Thank you so much and have a wonderful winter break!

From Ms. Elizabeth, your Librarian
The Scholastic Book Fair is finishing up tomorrow at 3pm.  Come in and support the library!  The library does not receive a budget from ADS, but we receive 60% of the profits from this fair (in the form of credit to be used for Scholastic product). Each teacher has also selected books they'd love to receive, so think about buying one for your child's's much appreciated!

Follow the library on Twitter @ADSlibrary and if you read a good book, include us on your tweet so we all get some good recommendations.  The long vacation is coming up so I hope you and your family read some great books!

Science Fair Update
  • The Science Fair is on Friday 1/25/19 from 8 am - noon.  
  • There will be Science Fair workdays after school on 1/17 and 1/18.  These are open work days to finish up boards, print, etc.  Email Elizabeth at by the day before so I know to pick up your child from class.
  • Check out for all the info you need.
  • Your child will have a different board based on whether they are doing an experiment or demonstration/exhibit.  What should be on their board is on page 3 of the Science Fair Packet 1819 (on the Sci Fair web page).  We will go over all of this in library class in January but if you want to get ahead, check out the Science fair web page!

A Little Owl Told Kelly McRee

I had the pleasure this week of interviewing Kristin Allington, one of our amazing First and Second grade teachers.  Kristen teaches English Language Arts/Social Studies in the Prickly Pear treehouse with Meg Burkly. This is her second year at ADS.  She is also an ADS parent to a kindergartener and an officer for the ADS PTO!

Describe your favorite vacation. I would love to spend a month or a whole summer in Lebanon.  My grandmother hails from Zahle. Did you know that Lebanon is the only country in the Middle East without a desert region?  It’s a beautiful country, rich in culture and history. I have never been.

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you? Never shine less to avoid making other people feel uncomfortable. Shining makes others want to shine, too. We need all the light we can get!

What brings you the most joy? Definitely my family. Sometimes I feel my heart might explode I love them so much!

What is the best meal you have ever had? As strange as it might sound, the meal of my LIFE was in Sydney, Australia, at a Lebanese restaurant called Cubby’s. If you’re ever down under, you MUST try it! I had like 8 courses of heavenly eats including hummus, hot olives, pita, baba ganoush, tabouli, kibbeh, kabobs, baklava, and cinnamon tea. Thinking about it makes me cry a little.

What do you do to take care of yourself? Back in July I tried hot stone therapy for the first time. I almost died of pleasure.

Tell us about your favorite pet or animal. I got to hang out with four koalas at the koala rescue sanctuary in Australia last spring.  Koalas are cuter than I ever, ever thought. And I thought they were cute before!

What are you reading now?  The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I try to go through the 12 week process about every 5 years.

What is your secret talent that no one knows about? I love to draw. Not really a secret.  But I’m kinda loud about my talents, so, there you are.

What is your favorite family tradition or ritual? Every Christmas we watch Scrooge the musical, make gingerbread houses, and sing carols.

What podcast are you currently listening to right now? I like listening to HIDDEN BRAIN and THE MINIMALISTS.

Social/Emotional Program Mindfulness, by Kelly McRee

Dear Beloved Families,

As we get ready to embark on our glorious two week holiday break, I wanted to leave you with some (hopefully) new ideas or maybe just a reconnection to the idea of a family game night and a great way to connect with your kids during this holiday season. Here’s to a slower pace, and happy connecting! Wishing you and your family all the beauty of the season with as little stress as possible.


Forget the screens, parents. Try one of these old-school games to connect with your kids.

By Carol Kaufmann

It is a familiar drill. Exhausted after a harried day, we all — parent, tot, tween and teen alike — melt in cozy, but lonely heaps, often in front of electronic screens. Parents carry some collective guilt about allowing this to happen.

“Without some intentional assertiveness, the pattern is likely to erode into grazing eating, isolated social media, or binge-watching moderately interesting shows while double-screening and having no meaningful interaction,” Chris Gonzalez, the director of marriage and family therapy at Lipscomb University in Nashville, writes in an email.

But Gonzalez offers an alternative: “Family game night can help to break up the monotony.”

“Playing games with the family is a true bonding and memory building experience,” Richard Peterson, vice president of education at Kiddie Academy, writes in an email. Think Checkers, Chess, UNO, Scrabble, Memory, Pictionary and of course, a deck of cards. (You all have those, yes?)

Games, too, often tap into little-used skill sets of both parents and children. “The left brain is the master of expressing itself logically, verbally and in written words. The right side expresses itself randomly, through rhythms, patterns and pictures,” Susan Smith Kuczmarski, author of Becoming a Happy Family," writes in an email. “Parenting, at least within our Western society, has ignored this ‘right-brained’ way of thinking. But parenting is a whole-brain activity. Play that uses your whole brain draws your family together.”

I spoke with several family psychologists and kid experts and consulted the Internet and several friends to find games that come in a box, can be played with stuff you have at home, or that require little but your imagination. Here are their suggestions.

Get board

Apples to Apples: Players match their red “noun” cards to the green “adjective” cards chosen by the judge, who then determines who has the best match. For four to 10 players. Option: Play with each player making a case for why their card is the best match.

Beat the Parents: Appropriate trivia for two or more kids and adults, often revealing how little parents know about their children’s world.

Blank Slate: Write the word you think best completes the blank in a phrase — and try to get the same word as just one other player. For three to eight players (or as many people as you want if you scrounge up extra paper).

Catan: Establish a settlement on an island with this game that is simple to learn but requires lots of strategic thinking. Created in Germany in 1995, Catan now has other editions, spin offs and expansions to involve more than three to four players.

[Separation anxiety: Apparently it's not just for toddlers]

CatchPhrase: There are whiffs here of $100,000 Pyramid; two teams of two or more players vie to guess a word described by one of their own players, who cannot use any gestures or parts of the word as hints.

Life: Two to six players travel around a colorful “road” that simulates life’s major events: marriage, jobs, kids, retirement. Featured in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Life has been around since 1860, so if you have an older version, prepare to answer questions about why one has to choose between business and college, or to explain what the Poor Farm is.

Qwirkle: The tile-based game for two to four players requires a quick mind and strategic thinking to build columns of shapes and colors.

Wits and Wagers: Four or more players place bets on answers to questions no one knows (what is the average number of pizza slices Americans eat each year?) on a Vegas-style felt mat.

If you want to combine words and carKds, try Pit. So many different sources suggested this frenzied, fast-paced card game. Three to eight people play at once, vying for commodities and mimicking trading floor chaos. Or Utter Nonsense, a game for the slightly older crowd (18 and above) in which four to 20 players say ridiculous things in silly accents, and invent new phrases in the process. And a deck of cards works, too. You could spend the entire holiday break playing different games: Gin RummyHand and FootHeartsPhase 10, andSpades just to name a handful.

On the same side

If your family is the competitive sort, turn the tables and harness all those type-A-tendencies in a joint project. “Playing . . . together, rather than against each other, can remove the stress of winning or losing,” Gonzalez says. "Think puzzles, Legos or Lincoln Logs.”

(Our family loves Forbidden Island as a great cooperative game)

Kuczmarski suggests getting a large blank canvas at a local art supply store or a large sheet of paper and having each member of the family illustrate or paint on a portion of the canvas. “Hang the work of art in a visible location, such as near the kitchen table. Do this every new year.” Oh, and be sure to date it, too.

Erin Croyle, mother of three in Ithaca, New York, has had great success with Outfoxed, where two to four players ages 5 and up work together gathering clues around a board to find a suspect before the fox gets it. “You all win or lose together,” Croyle says. “And no one cries about losing to a sibling.”

Perhaps no game breeds teamwork like the escape-the-room challenges — and the game now comes in a box. Participants have an hour to work together to solve a mystery surrounding a locked room. And the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons is still going strong.

No equipment required

And it is possible to create family fun without any boards, material, or pieces.

“Spontaneous trivia is so underrated,” says Hillel Hoffmann, a dad in Philadelphia who has played it with his now 17-year-old son for years. “It’s also been a subversive way to get a non-cranky window on what he’s doing at school as he smugly stumps us with what he’s learning.”

It is easy to tailor many games to your players. Think Charades for small people, or play Find the Alphabet using book titles in your house. I Spy can also get extremely detailed — the purple button on Aunt Harriet’s cuff in the portrait above the fireplace — if adults are playing. And Would You Rather can yield even more family information than trivia contests.

My family of four made up something we call The Straw Game, though I am sure many variations exist on the idea. One player names a category (desserts with chocolate, countries, songs on the radio, dog breeds, state capitals, etc). Each player has five seconds to provide an example. Failure to answer, or a bad answer, earns a straw. (We first played at a restaurant; you can use anything. Even fingers.) The fun really starts when you personalize the categories: our relatives, things we like to do in winter, favorite holiday traditions, places we have gone on vacation, nicknames. The winner is the person with the fewest straws.

Carol Kaufmann is a writer and editor who lives in Alexandria, Va. Find her on Twitter@KaufmannCarol