14 Feb

Going Green

Contributed by Grade 6 Dean Tasha Urbanowski

One of the easiest ways we can all “go green” is to compost our food waste.  If we just throw them away, food scraps clog landfills and add to greenhouse gas emissions — and we waste valuable nutrients that could be going back into the soil in which we grow new food!

Earlier this month, the MS Garden Club assembled a new compost bin to enable us to get back to saving our scraps in a temporary location during construction of the new MS building.  The temporary location is visible from the cafeteria and so helps remind students and faculty of the value and routine of composting.  It also creates the opportunity for an US graphic design class to work on an interesting project: signage that will further the educational objective of school compost bins.

Cafeteria staff save vegetable bits left over from the salad bar preparations, and students on lunch duty and the Upper School’s Environmental club dump these, coffee grounds from the faculty coffee station, and some post-tray waste (such as banana peels) into the “ComposTumbler” every day.

Garden Club notes that, while they are a bit of a nuisance to set up, the metal bins make composting — and especially turning the compost to help it decompose evenly — neat and quick.  Students can dump waste after lunch, spin the bins, and still get back to class on time.  We are proud to be making our own fertilizer for the school garden and to be helping the cafeteria maintain its green restaurant certification by managing some food waste in an earth-friendly way.

14 Feb

Community Time

Last week, our very own Director of Technology Mr. Trevor Shaw was the featured presenter at our MS Assembly. His topic? Social media and technology, of course. Mr. Shaw stressed three points when using social media: 1. Be nice, 2. Think about Privacy, and 3. Stay Focused. He had the students complete a quick survey on their iPads, and it looks like the vast majority of our youngsters are already being pretty NICE and being pretty careful about their PRIVACY. However, it seems like many students need some work staying focused.

Mr. Shaw did a quick google search and found these apps that help manage attention span. Ironically, some of them are designed like games, giving you rewards for streaks of productivity.

Have a look: https://appolicious.com/top-ios-apps-to-stop-distractions/

There is also an app called Bark that we have been looking at as a school. This works in conjunction with parents. The youngster gives the Bark app access to his/her social media accounts and it monitors them for things that look like they could be dangerous. If it detects a problem, it alerts the parents.  The nice thing about it is that parents don’t have access to the student’s entire account. They only get an alert if there is a problem. Some people might find this easier than starting an awkward conversation with Mom or Dad after a problem has gone too far.

14 Feb

Grade Level Updates

Grade 6: We really enjoyed seeing so many parents and teachers at our Food and Identity Unit Celebration this past Thursday. It was a great way to culminate the unit, and students enjoyed sharing their work with adults in our community. In addition to sharing their work, students enjoyed a fabulous feast, comprised of foods that represented our diverse community. A big thank you to everyone who made it possible! The students all have the full class “book” on their iPads, and each student will be bringing home their individual pages next week. Please ask your son or daughter to share it with you!

In social studies, students have begun to study Greek mythology. Their goal is to try to figure out what they can learn about the ancient Greeks based on their religious stories and the behavior of their gods. To help them, they are listening to “The Planets” Suite by Gustav Holst, which shows the students how enduring these stories and characters are.

In English, the majority of January was spent on a food poetry unit. Using various types of poetry as an inspiration, students wrote a collection of food poetry. They picked two pieces to edit and polish. Students wrote about their favorite foods, eating various dishes, and cooking experiences. Highlights also included a food idiom lesson and concrete poetry (shape poetry), also inspired by food. Then, last week, students started reading Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. This book takes place in 1930’s Mississippi during the Great Depression. Students are tracking two themes in this book: coming of age and power. Close annotations will guide discussions and writing.

In science, students have been finishing up their work with understanding GMO’s and organic foods. Students analyzed the pros and cons of both in their daily diets. Students also learned a basic understanding and DNA, which will be capped off with the Strawberry DNA extraction lab. Then, students will be researching an African-American scientist in recognition of their work and the month of February being Black History Month.

In Math 6, students have been hard at work on their corn PBL. They started the unit by doing research on corn farming in the USA. Students then explored real corn that was grown in the DE garden. Students estimated the length of the classroom before measuring it. They used the measurement of the classroom to inform the estimate of the hallway before they measured it. The students then estimated the length and width of Umpleby parking lot, and then they measured it in groups. The students used the measurements to get a better understanding of how big a square acre is. This was significant for their understanding of farms that have as many as 600 acres of corn fields. Students also completed computations, using calculators to figure how many kernels per ear, per bushel, per acre as well as, how many rows per acre, bushels per acre etc. Advanced Math students did all of the same work but completed more pages of cornfield math calculations. The Hyper Math class spent time estimating and measuring linear quantities like the 3rd floor Umpleby corridor, and the length and width of the Big (Sherman) Gym and Small (Silberfein) Gym. They also learned how to write algebraic expressions for lengths and widths increased by percentages and determining how those changes would affect any resulting change in area. They brought our work back to the PBL Food unit by determining how much food (corn, in particular) could be grown in one acre, and how much a farmer could earn from the corn in one acre and did research to determine the origin of the number of square feet in one acre.

Finally, to celebrate a month of hard work, the sixth graders spent Friday afternoon ice skating, bowling, and playing games at the Englewood Field Club. Everyone had a wonderful time!

Grade 7: The seventh grade started off our February visiting the United Nations.  This jumpstarts our team-wide cross-curricular UN PBL.  The main question students will be focusing on throughout the unit in each class is “Are we moving towards a better world”?  The project has started off in both social studies and science.  Students are researching issues related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals in social studies and are completing STEM challenges based on some of these issues in science.  Meanwhile, students are finishing up a mini unit on Slope in Advance Math 7.  Lastly, in English students recently met with the author An Na, the author of the novel A Step From Heaven. They have now moved on to writing an analytical essay in response to the text.

Students in Dean Aitken’s Grade 7 grade Movie Innovation Discovery Class recently completed a 3-week creative build PBL project in the Taub Center.  The project challenged students to create and build their own movie making equipment, focusing specifically on camera stabilization.  With some build models as a guide, students worked in groups of 2 to create both Steadicams and Gimbal camera stabilization devices.  Along the way they ran into several obstacles such as poor hardware, screw or bolts that did not fit, and other construction issues, and they were asked to creatively solve all of these problems.  Each day saw students hammering, sawing, gluing, tapping and wrenching all with mixed materials of metal, PVC and wood.  As the groups finished, they underwent field testing focused on evaluating the effectiveness of their devices through six test moving camera shots (4MPH +).  Adjustments were made as needed and then students wrote final reflections on their devices and on usage techniques.  Finally, the class analyzed the test shots and looked at the most effective shots discussing what made them work so well.  The next project the groups will undertake will be the creation of a live action “dialogue less” short film, with several moving camera scenes of course, utilizing their newly created camera stabilizers.

14 Feb

Kathy’s Message

Folks,

In the last two issues of MS Messages, I shared with you six tips to help you work with your young adolescent on organization skills. I hope you found this information helpful and interesting. In this issue of I’d like to remind us all about the uneven growth and the common characteristics that young adolescents are experiencing. Taken from Chip Wood and the Center for Responsive Schools, Inc. here are the common characteristics of 11-, 12-, 13-, and 14-year-olds:

“Elevens are going through huge changes in their bodies, minds, and social behavior as they begin adolescence. The easy friendliness of ten often gives way to awkward, sometimes rude behavior at eleven. With their growing capacity for higher thinking, children this age like to try work that feels grown up, such as researching and interviewing.”

“Twelves are often unpredictable and hard to read as they swing between childhood and adulthood. Their greatest need is to be with peers as they sort through their physical, social, and emotional challenges and the all-important identity questions, “Who am I?”

“Thirteen is typically an age of rapid growth in mind and body, an age of contrasts and confusion. Thirteen-year-olds are both pushing away from adults and seeking them. They’re excited about new teenage opportunities but hesitate to take risks. Adding to the confusion, physical and emotional development is happening much faster in girls than in boys.”

“First on the agenda for fourteens is distancing themselves from adults. They need to do this to allow their own adult personalities to emerge. Fourteen-year-olds often have many challenging behaviors, but they can also have great creativity, a keen interest in solving problems in the larger world, more willingness to admit errors and try again, and a striking sense of humor.”

I hope you recognized your son or daughter in these descriptions; and remember: Each age is unique. Each is a wonder.

Hug your child, and Go Bulldogs!

Kathy Christoph

MS Principal

31 Jan

Community Time

The new year arrived and our students were excited to once again connect with their “Humans of D-E”!  In preparation for their upcoming meetings, students discussed the benefits of getting to know people in their community.  They prepared interview questions, practiced with their HomeBase groups and got to video their interviews.  Our Humans also came prepared to share a story about themselves. Topics were varied and fascinating as the students heard first-hand accounts about the loss of a pet, becoming mayor, moving and traveling and other impactful life’s experiences.  All of these stories, along with our storytelling from Morning Meetings, create a video collage about all of the unique people who create our D-E community.  Students and faculty will continue to share their stories at Morning Meetings throughout the remainder to year.  It has become a highlight to hear the vast experiences that community members are eager to share.

Morning Meeting time provides a Division-wide moment each Monday morning where we come together as a community. During this time, we celebrate students and events, announce upcoming activities, and provide a forum in which to share/educate each other. This month, here are some of our topics: Ms. Marro and Mr. Muller shared their stories about the meaning of athletics in their lives which led to an understanding of the privilege of representing one’s school, whether it is in athletics, arts, or other endeavors. Our student Tech Team helped to expand everyone’s knowledge about iPads with their presentation this week. And the Honor Code Committee made us all laugh with their video on “Little Known Rules”.

Assembly: Every Thursday, our Middle School has a 50-minute Assembly period when we can delve into subjects, hear from national and local experts, celebrate our school’s events, and create new experiences. All these events help to build community, emphasize our core values, and promote our School Mission. In January, we had a fantastic MLK Assembly that featured students Diana, Remy, Jason, and Sofia. We also used an assembly period that called upon our 8’s to lead a small inter-grade group of students in a conversation about transitions. Last Thursday, Dr. Nisha Aurora, D-E parent, talked to us about the need for sleep. And this week, Mr. Trevor Shaw, D-E Director of Technology, will help us all better understand the benefits and challenges of social media and technology.

31 Jan

Grade Level Updates

In the World Language classes… Our 6th graders in Spanish are learning about how to describe their family with appropriate adjectives. Students created songs using the verb “SER” and wrote their first mini-paragraph of 15 sentences describing their favorite television show. Our 7th grade students created videos of their daily student life at D-E. Some of our 8th graders have described two of their favorite clothing outfits in the target language. Others are learning about Global Warming, and how to best help our mother nature. They are using the imperative forms to talk about this important issue. In Latin, our 7th graders are learning and singing the second declension and neuter noun forms. They are also using interrogative terms and will soon begin their study of the imperfect and perfect tenses.  They continue to build vocabulary, interpret case endings, and translate and construct increasingly more complex sentences and passages. In Latin 8, they have been studying Roman politics and are using what we have learned as a chance to discuss, “Would a Roman rather have wealth or fame?” and “Would you rather have wealth or fame?” In Latin 8 Advanced, students have been discussing the morality of the Roman invasion of Britain with questions like, “Who benefited from the invasion of Britain?” and “If you were emperor, would you have invaded Britain?”. Soon they are going to begin studying adjectives as they continue to delve further into Latin Grammar. Our French 7th grade students (W) are completing their PBL on their adopted French-speaking country.  They are also studying emphatic pronouns, prepositional contractions, and the immediate future tense.  Our goal is to use French exclusively, build vocabulary, and practice writing skills.

In the arts, a new semester means a new group of Drama classes in both 7th and 8th grade. Our 7th grade students are learning stress-reduction techniques. And our 8’s are diving right into their “Crush” video projects!

Our vocal/choral ensembles are diving into preparation for our next concert in May. This semester we will be exploring New York City through the lens as a city of revolution. Studying music that tracks the city from earliest days to the modern city it has become, we will see how music was at the forefront of the major time periods in the city’s development. Along with the Visual Arts Department, students will create costumes, props and other visual elements to enhance the performance.

Studio Art 6 will be kicking off the three-dimensional art-making semester with our new “Protect Our Planet: Earthships to the Rescue” PBL unit. For the project students will be reflecting on the concept of sustainability and how their everyday use of natural resources has a direct impact on the planet. At the start of the project we will have a guest speaker join our classes to discuss successful environmental sustainability projects that she has been involved with. The physical artwork for the unit will challenge students to design and construct their own Earthships, which are self-sustaining houses. After carefully drawing and elevation and floor plan for their Earthship, each student will make a 3-D model using a combination of recyclables, art materials, and other unique supplies. To learn more about Earthships go to https://www.earthshipglobal.com/

Studio Art 7 students are beginning their semester of studio art with drawings about themselves to share out. Then, in the first unit, we will engage in the three main ways of drawing: contour, blind contour, and gesture drawing. Through practice with these techniques, students will be able to improve their drawing skills.  In the upcoming weeks, students will choose a shoe to bring in and draw it realistically using what they have learned for the first project

Studio Art 8 students this semester will focus on three-dimensional art-making.  Students have been assigned to two groups, each with a Project Manager and Assistant Project Manager. The young designers are being asked to focus on the question “How can we as artists create headdresses that are durable, wearable, exciting and in-the round to be worn during Lion King Jr.?”

31 Jan

Health and Wellness Happenings

The cold winter winds are blowing, snowflakes are dancing in the air, and icicles dangle from the roofs of buildings, but the warm sounds of laughter and joy of our students fills the gymnasiums of the Modell’s Sports Complex as they attend their Health and Wellness classes. As we embark into the third marking period and begin to sail towards the warmer months, the children will be participating in classes such as the Introduction to the Fitness Centers, Cooperative Games, Team Sports Skills, Creative Games, Indoor Team Sports.

The D-E Health and Wellness team recently completed their FitnessGram Review and Reflections with our Middle School students. Each student received a personal report in which each one of the five test areas of the FitnessGram was displayed. Students had the ability to view their scores from last Spring in addition to their results from this past Fall. Results of this evaluative test fell into three categories: 1) Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ), 2) Needs Improvement (NI), or 3) Needs Improvement – Health Risk (NI-HR).

The FitnessGram is a helpful assessment that assists each youngster in helping him/her to discover a personal fitness level in the areas such as core, leg, and back flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, core and upper body strength. The test also explains the importance of maintaining each one of these areas to a healthy fitness level and ways to improve scores that may not be acceptable to the student.

Some of our students have been learning and discovering new material in their Health classes such as hygiene, puberty, the male and female reproductive anatomy, pregnancy, child birth, and nutrition. Our Health education program builds students’ knowledge, skills and positive attitudes about their own health, the health of others, and healthy—or unhealthy—practices in our world. Armed with knowledge and coupled with our emphasis on decision-making, our Health program helps our youngsters improve their health, prevent disease, and reduce risky behaviors.

31 Jan

Kathy’s Message

Folks,

In my last issue of MS Messages, I shared with you three tips to help you work with your young adolescent on organization skills. Getting organized can make life easier for middle school kids, especially as they learn to cope with more school and home demands. As we start our second semester of school, these tips (based on the work by Lexi Walters Wright) may prove to be timely!

Tip 1: Establish a weekly ‘Clean out your Backpack and Levenger’ time! Middle schoolers can accumulate an unbelievable amount of clutter. Some children have a hard time figuring out what’s important, so they keep everything. Other youngsters don’t follow a regular organization system for papers and handouts. If your child sounds like one of these, you can help by setting a regular time each week and helping your child learn a system that will work for him.

Tip 2: Create an organized study space. Where does your middle school child do her work? It helps set the right tone if there is a dedicated space at home where your child can work without interruption. It might work best if this is somewhere near you for times when she needs your assistance. Keep school supplies and technology such as calculators or iPads handy and fully charged.

Tip 3: Help your child think ahead. Before bedtime, review plans for the next day with your child. This can make your middle school youngster feel more secure and in control. Together you can plan how to handle things if a change comes up in the schedule.

I have included in this issue some photos from a recent visit by the wonderful author An Na, when she met recently with both Ms. Winters’ and Mr. Akula’s Grade 7 English classes. Ms. Na’s book A Step From Heaven won the annual Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association recognizing the year’s “best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit”.  A Step From Heaven was also a finalist for the National Book Award, Young People’s Literature.

Hug your child, and Go Bulldogs!

Kathy Christoph

MS Principal

 

17 Jan

Deans’ Message: Affinity/Safe Space Groups in MS

As a community that values diversity, we continually strive to find ways to embrace our differences, learn from each other, recognize our commonalities and celebrate our unique identities.  For middle school students, growing strong into their own identities and feeling at home in our community are important in a special way, as students become more metacognitive and aware of themselves and the wider world around them. This year we are excited to introduce affinity groups and safe spaces, long a positive staple of our US student community, into MS with the guidance of Dr. Mirangela Buggs, our new Director of Equity and Diversity Engagement.

Affinity groups, or safe-space groups, are formed when a community recognizes the need for people to connect around their experiences as members of social identity groups, particularly those from historically marginalized or minority groups with respect to race, ethnicity and culture, religion, gender or sexual orientation.  Affinity/safe space groups can be a vital part of empowering members of minority or marginalized groups in diverse communities. They provide support for emotional well-being and camaraderie around common experiences by giving periodic opportunities for students who have some core common experiences to be together for a short period of time to process and share with each other. People who attend affinity/safe space groups interact with the school community at large almost all of the time; their affinity conversations and connections are relatively infrequent yet offer space for renewal and perspective-taking.

In the winter of 2018, the Middle School will launch two safe-space discussion groups: a Kids of Color affinity group and a Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) safe-space group. The Kids of Color group is for students who have racial minority experiences— students of African descent, Latino/a studies, students of Asian heritage, biracial and multiracial students, etc. The GSA is a space for those who support diversity around gender identity and sexual orientation among middle school students. The discussion groups will meet once a month during lunch and will be facilitated by adults. This winter, Dr. Buggs will lead the Kids of Color group, and Ms. Stott will lead the GSA group with support from Mr. Carrager who also heads up the US GSA and the 7th grade SAGE program.

Student sign-up for affinity groups started the week of January 8th, and we expect to start monthly meetings in February.

17 Jan

Grade Level Updates

Grade 6: In sixth grade, the first highlight of 2018 was a fabulous trip to MoMath last Wednesday, January 3. Students participated in a workshop about probability, and then they had an opportunity to explore the museum. In math 6 classes, students are analyzing data with pie charts, and in advanced math 6, students are adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing integers. In hyper Math, students are finishing up their Stairs Project with a foray into right triangle trigonometry. They will use what they learn to determine the angle that a set of stairs makes as it rises. In science, students are preparing for a frog dissection on Wednesday, January 10. This experience is part of a unit on genetics. In social studies, students are studying the geography of Greece. In English, students are working on a final project about The Giver, and they will present their work to each other on Thursday. At the same time, students will be conferencing with Mrs. Macone about their analytical paragraphs. Earlier this week the sixth grade also kicked-off their Food and Identity Unit. Information about this unit can be found in the letter that was sent home earlier this week (or viewable by clicking here).

Grade 7: The seventh grade team returned back to school after winter break ready to take on the new year.  In Advanced Math 7, students continue their work with equation solving.  This week they are focusing on literal equations.  In Science, classes are off to a great start with the Conservation Conversation unit.  Each class is finishing up watching Racing Extinction. This documentary brings awareness to our impact as humans on the impending loss of nearly half of Earth’s species.  In Social Studies, students are beginning to write their Oppression and Resistance essays. Students will choose an essay topic surrounding the unit question of “how do people resist oppression?”. Students read When My Name Was Keoko and saw relevant scenes from the Academy Award-winning film Gandhi as the sources for this undertaking. Through this assignment, students will further develop the essay writing skills they have been working on in both English and social studies throughout the year.  Lastly, seventh grade English students have begun to read the novel A Step from Heaven and are developing their analytical reading and writing skills.  They are also in the process of creating an immigration sound recording based on an interview with an immigrant. The unit will culminate with a visit from the author of A Step from Heaven, An Na, and students writing their second literary essay of the year. Ms. Na will spend the day with our 7’s on January 29; ; She will talk about her experience as an author and do a writing workshop with our students.

Grade 8: The 8th grade is celebrating the new year with the launch of several new projects. In history class, students have finished their study of the Constitution equipped with the understanding of their civic powers. Capitalizing on this momentum, they have begun the Making a Difference Project or MaD project. Students will research a social injustice for which they feel passionate. Ultimately, they will create a website and speech that will inform the public of their cause as well as detail a plan that will help further their cause. In math and science class, students are finishing the integrated density unit. Before the break students were tasked with making a cardboard boat that could hold as much mass as possible. Once the boats were constructed, students competed against each other to see who had the strongest boat. Congratulations to Sasha, Julia, and Josh who were the clear champions! Finally, in English class, students have begun to read the Harper Lee classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel’s focus on compassion and empathy sets a hopeful and vibrant tone to 2018.