Parents Association & Parents Council
The Durham Academy Parents Association supports the school's academic, social, fine arts and athletic objectives. Parents Association encourages volunteerism, raises and disperses funds, promotes communication and cooperation, and provides input to the school on issues of concern and interest to parents. All Durham Academy parents are members of the Parents Association.
The Durham Academy Parents Council is the governing board of the Parents Association. This group comprises members of an executive committee; division representatives; members of schoolwide committees on matters such as diversity, wellness and athletics; and parents who organize both community-building and fundraising events. See a list of the parents who serve on Parents Council.
Parents Bulletin Board
Durham Academy Lower School houses more than 37,000 books, according to an educated estimate by second-grade teacher Caroline Petrow’s students. And when DA Lower Schoolers go home each day, the majority have access to hundreds of books there, too.
But this spring, Petrow’s students learned not every child is as fortunate to have access to a variety of books to read — so they decided to do something about it. They wrote their own books, self-published them online and are donating the sales proceeds to help local nonprofit Book Harvest purchase books for underserved children in central North Carolina.
“I think of this like an opportunity to have kids helping kids or grown-ups who don’t have a chance to read,” second-grader Landon Moore said.
“Because reading is really important,” explained classmate Chloe Cepada.
“Reading is a big part of your life by having fun and by learning,” Landon added.
The kids-helping-kids effort started in late February when Petrow explained the concept of book deserts, or places where books aren’t readily available.
Petrow is part of the first cohort of Triangle Heads Leadership Academy, a group of local educators who gather to explore teacher-leadership in independent schools. As part of that work, she was working on an action research project that explored ways of utilizing the classroom community as a catalyst for curriculum and instruction. She decided to employ Phenomenon-Based Learning — a Finnish learning approach in which students start with a real-world problem and then ask questions and arrive at a solution — in an examination of book deserts.
For two weeks, the Petrow and her students, the Penguins, threw their usual routine — Reader’s Workshop and traditional math and social studies lessons — out the window in favor of exploring “this big topic.” They started by quantifying the books in their own lives and assessing those books’ value to them.
Different groups were tasked with exploring different facets of the phenomenon of book deserts. When they all reported back, the big takeaway was that no one in the class lives in a book desert — but that many children in the local community and around the world do.
“I think the really powerful piece was it wasn't just me telling them that or us just hearing it or talking about it, but rather, they really explored what that meant and what that looked like,” Petrow said. “I think just working with those numbers and realizing that there are thousands of books in our lives, helped them to kind of really understand that, OK, this is our reality, but there are kids in our community whose reality is very different.”
With the first question answered — yes, book deserts do exist — students went on to ask more questions. Why did book deserts start? How many books does a book desert have? How can we stop book deserts?
To address that last question, the Penguins set about brainstorming.
“We came back as a class and shared some of the ideas that we thought we could tangibly do,” Petrow recalled. “And in that conversation, one of the students said — and I don't think I'll ever forget this in my memory of teaching — he said, 'You know, when we're older, we could make a company, because sometimes companies make money and then they use part of that money to donate to other things.'
“And another student replied, 'Well, why don't we make a class company?' And the other students were all like, 'Yeah, let's make a class company!' ”
And with that, their class company, Penguins Helping Book Deserts, was born. With a bit more brainstorming, the students decided that they should write their own books and sell them online to help Book Harvest in its efforts to combat book deserts. They spent about a week working with partners on their literary masterpieces — dreaming up characters, selecting settings, storyboarding plots, creating illustrations and writing.
“Some days, the kids wrote and worked on them for two-and-a-half hours straight, which was pretty incredible,” Petrow said. “To see their stamina and their investment and the quality of their work, it was incredible.”
She helped with scanning and uploading the books to self-publishing platform lulu.com, and the students put on their marketing hats, creating a logo and flyers to get the word out.
“You’re working, working, working,” second-grader Anika Singh said. “And it pays off. You get lots of money, and you give it to a good cause.”
The books are for sale for $10 each. The cost to print each copy is about $6.50, and lulu.com sends the remainder directly to Book Harvest. Through the DA Parents Association faculty wish list, funding was made available for each child to take home a copy of their own book.
“There was really a sense of accomplishment that made their work and what they were doing really tangible to actually be helping Book Harvest and actually helping to raise money,” Petrow said of the moment when the Penguins put their hands on their finished products.
“When I first shared with them how much we’d raised — I think we had raised about $70 at that point, and we’ve now raised about $270 — that was priceless, too, because they saw it as so much money, so much, that they'd already raised 70 bucks,” she continued “... And so, that value, I think really solidified the idea that they did something to help other people.”