22 Jan

Special Message for Grade 6 Families

Dear Sixth Grade Parent or Guardian:

I am happy to announce our next New York City field trip occurring Friday, March 4th. To complement the 6th Grade social studies unit underway at that time, as well as content they will be studying in art classes, students will visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Greek galleries.  There they will engage in several observation and sketching activities to enhance their understanding of how art reflects culture and how artifacts and sculptures in the museum’s collection help to reveal developments in the society of Ancient Greece.

Students will attend their usual morning classes on the 4th and go to lunch in our cafeteria at the usual time.  Busses will leave just before recess time and return to school in time for regular dismissal.  We will not be visiting gift shops or snack bars while on the trip, so there is no need to send money or snacks along with your child that day.

We hope to celebrate the occasion and our pleasure in being able to visit a world-class exhibit by dressing in a way that shows our respect for this great institution.  We request that students dress tidily and a bit more formally than usual, avoiding athletic wear and tops with slogans, though they should be sure to wear comfortable shoes.

If you have any questions about the trip, or if you live in NYC and hope to pick your child up there before we board busses, please contact either Ms Urbanowski or myself before the week of the trip to discuss arrangements.


Ben Fleisher

22 Jan

Happenings in our Middle School

We started out the New Year with Wellness Week, designed and coordinated by our Health and Wellness Department.  Throughout the week, students and faculty engaged in a variety of experiences that highlighted the different components of Wellness: physical, emotional, environmental, intellectual, and spiritual. It seemed like the entire school got involved, including Morning Meeting, Assembly, HomeBase, recess, Imperatore Library, Dining Hall, drama classes and health and wellness classes! Here are a few highlights:

Each day during recess, a fitness challenge was held between all students who wished to participate and faculty members. We held push up contests, plank contests, iron cross contests, wall sit contests, and sack races. Interestingly, students won a few and the faculty won a few. (And many of us decided to get fitter!)

Coach Muller as the “Wellness Guru” during Let’s Make a Wellness Deal.

Coach Muller as the “Wellness Guru” during Let’s Make a Wellness Deal.

Faculty was encouraged to pop over to the Modell Center and get in a workout during their free period.

Mr. Alan Lokos, the founder and guiding teacher of the Community Meditation Center

Mr. Alan Lokos, the founder and guiding teacher of the Community Meditation Center

The theme for our Thursday Assembly fit right in with the Wellness concept. Mr. Alan Lokos, our featured presenter, is the founder and guiding teacher of the Community Meditation Center located on New York City’s upper west side. He is the author of Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living, Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living, and Through the Flames: Overcoming Disaster Through Compassion, Patience, and Determination.
On Christmas day, 2012, Mr. Lokos and his wife Susanna Weiss were in a horrific plane crash in Burma. Doctors in four countries said that he could not possibly survive his injuries. Yet he did and has gone on to thrive in his teaching and writing. Mr. Lokos captured the interest of the entire Middle School with his story and by sharing some simple mindfulness exercises we each can engage in.  (And as an interesting side note, Mr. Lokos is the grandparent of a D-E Lower School student, and the building neighbor of one of our NY MS students!)

It’s important to activate, energize, and stimulate our brains, especially after sitting for a period of time. So, during Wellness Week, teachers and students tried out several 10- to 30-second brain breaks. Research indicates that brain breaks improve students’ concentration and relieve stress and are a quick and effective way of changing or focusing our physical and mental state.

Watch our Middle School students participate in “The Wall”, one of the special Wellness Week recess activities.

The Middle School Honor Code is taking a leadership role in creating a Blog wall. Although they are still working out the details, they envision the Blog wall will be accessible to the whole Middle School to share successes, happenings, and current events (with adult supervision, of course!)

Our Assembly honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was simply fabulous. Over the past few years, we have worked with Mr. Clinton Carbon, Director of Multi-Cultural Affairs, to develop presentations that highlight not only the important work of Dr. King, but also the work of Up-standers who helped contribute and lead. It’s important to me that our students view themselves as leaders and realize that they can make a difference, and learning about others is one way to help further that vision. This year, the focus was on the power of students and their critical role in the civil rights movement. The film we watched, Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot and put out by the Southern Poverty Law Center, was one of the best films for young adolescents that I have ever seen.  I encourage you to watch it. Debriefing occurred in HomeBases, and these are some of the questions used to start the conversations:

Why do you think that students played the biggest role in organizing protests in Selma?

What role did Dr. King play in the Selma march and protests?

Can you see yourself reflected in the passions of the youth in the movie?

In a new student leadership experience in Drama class, the 8th grade students designed short lesson plans about Mindfulness practices. They then had the opportunity to actually teach their plans, but not to each other. This time, they had a different audience—Lower School students!

Our Chess Club hosted a special guest last week. A FIDE Chess Master, which means his international rank is higher than 2300, spent time with the students, playing and teaching.  He even played without looking at the board! Turns out that the Chess Master, Mr. Volkov, is the parent of one of our 6th grade students.  Thanks for sharing your expertise with us.

22 Jan

Grade-Level Happenings

In 6th grade, students are learning about themselves through many different lenses during the Identity unit. In Science, they are learning about their genetics and the traits that make them who they are. In English, students are creating a “Where I’m From?” poem using iMovie. In Social Studies, the students are reporting about a current event concerning the region of the world from which their family comes. They will use the app Explain Everything to make a video reporting on this story. The culminating event is the Identity Assembly next Thursday, February 4, when the grade showcases their learning and some of their projects to the other Middle School students. To have a look at those projects, and others that might not have fit into the assembly time, ask your child about accessing the class wiki where they are posting “Where I Am From” poems, country current events projects, and other artifacts created over the course of the unit. Parents who are available are welcome to attend the assembly at 8:10.  Parking along Woodland Avenue will be permitted on the morning of the 4th.

After the assembly, 6th graders will gather in the cafeteria for our celebratory “International Food Festival” at about 9:15- 10:20. Many thanks to our PA representatives for arranging this culminating event and to all the parents for making it happen through your generous contribution of samples of foods important to your family or cultural heritage.  All are invited to the food festival to mingle with students in an air of celebration as they sample the multi-cultural buffet.  Again, parking is available along Woodland Avenue. Please contact Rabia Ozden at rgozden@yahoo.com with any logistical questions about the feast or dropping off contributions.

On the 4th of February for part of the afternoon, we are also revisiting our service learning theme of helping address hunger in NJ.  In a presentation on campus by staff from the non-profit “America’s Grow a Row” and in a series of workshops, students will learn more about factors that contribute to hunger in some NJ communities and understand better why some communities and families struggle to eat healthfully and include fresh produce in their meals. And of course, we will talk about how we can help.  We plan a spring trip back to the farm to plant crops that can be harvested by other volunteers next summer.

Please visit the AGAR website http://www.americasgrowarow.org/ for more information about this organization and to check out opportunities for volunteering during the summer.  If you sign up on the AGAR website, they will send you announcements about harvest days on which your family might enjoy helping out by picking corn, cabbage or apples.  It’s a fun and rewarding way to extend the volunteerism that 6th graders begin this year.

Since returning from winter break, the 7th graders have been hard at work preparing for the end of the first semester.  In History and Math, the students completed their articles on China, including graphs that were created in math class.  The connection between the two areas of study peaked the interest of many of our students.  Graphs and articles were focused on an issue affecting China today. These articles are being collected and published to a private magazine on the Flipboard app. Our upcoming trip to Chinatown will be a culminating event for the study of China and the Chinese culture.  In English, the students began their study of poetry with a visit from the poet Joshua Bennett.  Listening to his insightful spoken word poetry was an inspiring jumping off point for the poetry writing unit.  The students will use iMovie to record their own spoken word poems in the upcoming weeks.  Science has been looking into cells over the past few weeks.  Earlier in the month, the students used microscopes to see plant cells.  Each group of students prepared a glass slide using onion tissue and iodine.  The iodine was used to help make several organelles visible to the eye under a microscope.  The classes enjoyed seeing rigid cell walls and the darker nucleus.

Our 8th grade students completed the first semester by putting the finishing touches on several projects in several classes.  As they inch closer to Upper School, we are mindful about transition points and have designed some experiences that will provide low-risk exposure and practice. One such experience is that of exams. The students just took a comprehensive exam in History that emphasized the synthesizing of first-semester information. While it may have seemed a bit stressful to the students, we provided support and ‘safety nets’ to help them be successful. In English, the students are engaged in learning an approach to poetry, choosing their own poem and studying it in depth. The driving question for this unit is: How do you communicate the meaning of a poem simply by reading it aloud? Science and math classes have been working on volume through hands-on experiences involving water and 3-D shapes.

This issue of MS Messages also includes just a few photos from the Grade 8 students’ class trip to Washington, D.C. this past week.

22 Jan

Message from MS Principal Kathy Christoph

The first semester is over, and the second semester is about to begin. Semester grades will be released next week, and each student will engage in a reflection process in HomeBase about work habits and students skills. This is a powerful moment for home and school to work together; please take time to have a thoughtful conversation with your child. Together, take a look at the grade report and consider questions such as: Which work habits are strong? Which ones might need to be strengthened? Which student skills are strong? Which ones might need some shoring up? How can you, as the adult, help support growth in these areas?

One of the beauties of second semester is the feeling of a fresh start. It is a time when goals can be set and new strategies put into place. As you and your child plan on how best to approach the second semester, help your child set realistic goals.

Here are some general tips on goal setting:

Tips on Goal Setting

  1. Be Specific – General goals are harder to achieve; it is better to narrow the scope and create specific goals. For example:  I want to lose 10lbs, versus I want to get healthy.
  2. Achievable – Make sure as you choose a goal, that it’s something you can achieve.  That doesn’t mean it has to be easy, but you don’t want to set yourself up for failure either.
  3. Make a Plan – Ask yourself, ” How am I going to achieve my goal?” It can be helpful to write down your goal and the steps you are going to take to achieve it.
  4. Give Yourself a Deadline – Nothing like a due date to keep you on track.
  5. Reward Yourself – There is nothing like self-satisfaction, but you should also remember to reward yourself for your hard work. Treat yourself to something special, whatever that may be.