24 Feb

Message from Kathy Christoph


Learning changes dramatically when students have opportunities to produce work that matters to them. We know this from our own lives—I only need think about the past few days in my life to know this is true. It’s easy for me to recall that moment this past weekend when I dragged my feet completing a task, and the other moment when I rushed through a report that was required and imposed upon me. Yet, I readily skipped my lunch and stayed up way later than usual when I was working on a project that felt especially meaningful to me.

Here in our Middle School, our aim is to create an abundance of opportunities for students to connect with content and produce work that they feel they own. Rather than submit something that’s an exercise in going through the motions, students should have opportunities to create work that allows them to investigate issues that feel meaningful to them. It’s not that project criteria should be forgotten, but rather that we should design learning that provides students with opportunities and possibilities.


Good news! Every Middle School student will be receiving his or her FitnessGram Reports this upcoming week. Students were previously evaluated utilizing five different wellness assessments to determine their different levels of fitness. They will be asked to reflect on their scores, consider their everyday lifestyle and decide how they are staying physically active. We will also discuss how they can make changes to improve their scores when we retest them later this school year.

The MS is also getting ready for the annual “Health and Wellness Week” in which healthy food, lifestyles, and fitness activities will be presented to our students. Events such as the “Tarzan Run”, the “Robin Hood Challenge”, special Teacher vs. Student competitions during recess, and Smoothie lunches, are some of the fun things that everyone will be experiencing. The Thursday Assembly during that week will have each grade level participate in activities in fitness areas of Zumba, Yoga, and Meditation!!

The LAG (Lead Advisory Group) Committee continues to meet throughout the school year to discuss the various lessons the faculty have implemented this year.  With the information gathered through teacher surveys, they reflect on the lessons created and look to see what worked well and what can be further developed. Overall, wonderful things are happening in HomeBase and students have been utilizing the lessons in all aspects of life at D-E!

Our Annual Faculty-Student Basketball game was held last week. And what a game it was! Bursts of scoring, furious play making, blocked shots, 3-pointers, and many lead changes provided lots of moments for everyone to cheer. And the final result was–faculty won by 3 points!

We continue to explore a variety of lessons in our HomeBase groups.  Students have had the opportunity to investigate Motivation and how they can be both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated in all aspects of their life.  After watching a video, they spent time discussing the activities they enjoy and why, as well as those activities that they find more challenging.  Conversations also focused on adjusting their mindsets to help tackle those challenging projects by finding aspects that are motivating and interesting. Often times, students discovered they can have both internal and external motivators surrounding the same interest or task.

Our Assembly last week was a powerful moment in the life of D-E. The Upper School members of the Black Affinity Club put together a presentation that was raw, emotional, and educational. Although some parts of it were difficult to hear in that their experiences have not always been positive, the overall tone was one of love and of hope. The students bravely shared their personal experiences in an effort to help us all better understand each other and to live the words of our Mission, “embrace diversity.”


A brief reminder about the Project Cicero Book Drive – a great community service opportunity for all ages:  Project Cicero is an annual book drive designed to create or supplement classroom libraries in under resourced New Jersey public schools. Each year Project Cicero collects approximately 35,000 books from 40 local schools. After the books are sorted, teachers come and load up their suitcases with books all for free!  This year the Project Cicero Book Drive runs now through Friday, March 3. We encourage your child to bring in new or gently used books to donate. There are marked donation boxes all throughout campus, including in the Umpleby Hall lobby. Volunteers of also ages are also needed for Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4 when the books will be sorted and distributed.  This is the first time that book sorting and distribution will take place at D-E, in Silberfein Gym!  Click here for information about Project Cicero and all volunteer sign-up information.

And lastly a bit of bragging…  I am pleased to report that Royce M. has earned a chair in the Regional Orchestra.  Auditions were held yesterday at Clifton High School.  There were 106 candidates auditioning on violin and Royce’s combined scores on scales, sight reading and solo performance placed him in the First Violin Section of the Regional Orchestra.  He may now be eligible to audition in the next level of competition, for the All-State String Orchestra.  This is one of the most competitive regions in the country.  His success here is no small feat.


The Chapter (Hudson-Bergen Counties) competition for MathCounts occurred this past Saturday. I’m pleased to share that Viren B. came in 8th overall and participated in the countdown round!

Hug your child, and Go Bulldogs!

Kathy Christoph, MS Principal

24 Feb

Grade Level Updates

In the World Language classes, some of our 6th graders learned some idiomatic expressions with the verbs “tener” and others finished their Project Based Learning (PBL) Weather Unit. Additionally, directed by the question of “How does community express itself abroad?” students had to plan a trip, figure out the logistics such as cost, dates, lodging, and weather using authentic resources.  Further, they had to research community life in their new destination. Students presented their trip plans all in Spanish to their classmates!

Our 7th graders are learning some idiomatic expressions with the verb “tener que” and “venir a”. Some of our 8th graders are learning the appropriate use of positive and negative words.  Others began to work on their PBL, which addresses these questions: “What do food and language have in common? Why corn, chocolate, and potatoes are so important in our diet today?”  Our 7th Latin students are also working on their PBL Unit: Endangered Languates. Here they will apply the imperfect tense, regular conjugations and ESSE. They also will study vocabulary and culture.

In the Grade 7 “Conservation Conversation” photos above you will enjoy some images of our Grade 7 students from when they presented their Science PBL encompassing their research on and solutions for threatened animals.


Over in Swartley Hall, our young artists are actively engaged in a variety of projects. Studio Art 6 students are busy sculpting their likeness in clay.  The next steps are the firing, glazing, and re-firing of these pieces. Studio Art 7 students are finishing up the Shoe Drawing project.  They will be starting a SeeSaw account in the App in the coming weeks in which they will reflect on their own and other’s work. Students in the Art Explorations class are finishing their “paper Dancers.” The next steps will see the artists carefully planning out the templates to cut and assemble the parts for their 3D Dancer.

Our singers in Chorus are learning new material for our upcoming spring show, while perfecting character designs for student’s tee shirts.

Drama 7 students are learning and using theatre terminology and working on practice scenes, and our Drama 8 students have begun the Spoken Word PBL unit.

24 Feb

Spring Sports and Spring Activity Clubs


Yesterday we gathered together during the last period of the day to learn about Spring Sports and Spring Activity Clubs. In an effort to help students better navigate the club choices, we distributed the list of clubs along with a short description and any special sign-up procedure. Spring is also the time when we offer lots of sports: Co-ed Track, Boys’ Baseball, Girls’ Softball, Boys’ Lacrosse, Girls’ Lacrosse, and Boys’ Tennis.

Parents: This is a good opportunity for a conversation about exploring one’s interests, taking risks, trying new experiences, and making new friends.

24 Feb

Avoiding Distraction with Guided Access


Contributed by Bill Campbell, Academic Technology Director

While digital technology provides access to an abundance of tools and resources that are helpful and are becoming a part of daily life, it also requires us to work at avoiding distractions. Last month I suggested scheduling Do Not Disturb mode on an iPad or iPhone as a way to avoid interrupted sleep by muting notifications. You can also enable it manually while working on any iOS device by swiping up from the bottom of the screen to open the Control Center and tapping on the moon icon. However, another method to avoid distraction when you need to work in only one app is the Guided Access feature.

Guided Access allows you to lock your iOS device into one app until you disable it by entering a password you choose. For example, enabling Guided Access while reading an eBook is a good reminder to stay focused. Directions from Apple on how to setup and use Guide Access are available at https://goo.gl/Di4PNV I recommend this to help a willing student or adult to self-regulate and manage distractions as opposed to being a restriction imposed by someone else. (Some also find it useful when giving an iPhone or an iPad to a young child to use for a few minutes or when sharing a device to show photos.) Attempting to impose this on a middle-school student may not work because it is easy to defeat the restriction by simply doing a forced restart of the iOS device as Guided Access will be off when the device restarts. Managing digital distractions has become a life skill in the 21st century, and choosing to use Guided Access may help.

03 Feb

Message from Kathy Christoph, MS Principal


That hum you hear in the air is our Middle School community, with students and adults alike engaged in learning, growing, and excelling! It has been another note-worthy week—our 8’s are discovering their passions and learning ways to be socially active with their “MaD” projects, the 7’s are researching the impact of animal conservation, and our 6’s are deep in the midst of their newly re-worked Identity unit. What great stuff! To learn a bit more detail about each grade, read the Grade Level Updates below.

A quick note about Honor Roll: Every year during our first semester, Dwight-Englewood Upper School (and 8th Grade) recognizes those students on the Honor Roll with a certificate.  Students on the Honor Roll have maintained an average of 85 and above in their classes over the period of a semester.  If your child is on the Honor Roll for Semester 1, certificates will be mailed out next week.

I have also been asked to share the following with you:

Mr. Waltman’s home base is having a used sports equipment drive this week at the Middle School. Students are collecting used equipment to give to organizations that have children who cannot afford their own equipment.  If you have anything around the house that you are eager to get rid of:  basketballs, sneakers, ice skates, baseball/softball gloves, etc.,  please bring it to the Umpleby Hall Lobby.  The students would love to collect it and find a good home. You will also have a nice, clean garage.

ValentinesConcertPosterArts lovers, anglophiles and all in the D-E community are invited to enjoy an evening of free music on Tuesday, February 14 (Valentine’s Day) in Manhattan, featuring D-E student musicians! Our Upper School music ensembles will join with visiting music students from St. Dominic’s College in London, UK. The concert is at Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York, NY on Broadway at 7:30 PM, and is free admission. Click here for more details.

Middle School families are reminded of the D-E 360° FREE Hip Hop Enrichment Workshop tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 4 with instructors from NJ PAC. The Workshop is for Grades 4-9, from 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM. Space is still available. Register here or go to: de360.d-e.org to learn more.

Hug your child, and Go Bulldogs!

Kathy Christoph
MS Principal

03 Feb

Dean’s Message

Why Isn’t There an Elected Student Government in Middle School?

Research and experience have shown us that middle school student elections are often popularity contests and usually give just a few students most of the leadership opportunities. In the D-E middle school we want as many students as possible to have an opportunity to lead. We know that our students will be leaders in the world, so we want to help them feel empowered to take action and to help them develop their leadership skills. We look to build the confidence and skills in all the students, not just a select few. To this end we want students to play an active role in shaping their community, to take responsibility for their environment, and to cultivate leadership skills and the habit of stepping up. We want to help them discover things they care about and act for positive change without waiting for someone to elect them to it. We guide them in understanding the logistics of taking action and supporting a cause.

As students move through the middle school, the overall program challenges students to clarify their understanding of ideas and information, and it presents them with experiences that cultivate their ability to articulate their ideas — often a first step in taking a leadership role. Projects such as 8th grade “MaD” (Making a Difference), in which students research a current issue they care about and prepare a persuasive proposal of a solution to a problem, is a good example. In another forum, regular HomeBase activities, such as the recent “Intent vs Impact” discussions, help students reflect on how their daily actions and words impact their community and invite them to act in specific ways out of that new understanding. Other leadership-skills cultivation opportunities are optional, such as the invitation we extend to all students to design and launch a new club during activities period. This last example offers students the experience of working through a protocol in order to realize their idea.


There are formal, more active types of leadership, and there are less formal, more everyday types of leadership. At D-E, both types are emphasized and taught through our advisory program, grade meetings and discussions, assembly program and in many other ways as well. While specific formal opportunities vary by grade, they generally increase as students become older, culminating with a rich variety of committee, club, event, curriculum and general planning leadership opportunities in 8th grade. Some of the more formal leadership committees students can act on in middle school include the Arts Council, the Pep Rally Committee, and the Honor Code Committee, to name a few. Students also take a leadership role as Admissions Buddies, Open House Guides, sports team captains, and in the service learning projects coordinated at each grade level.

Student choice and voice is very important to us, and it shows. To be a middle schooler at D-E is to have an active role in shaping your own experience and the experiences of your classmates. Cultivating leadership and nurturing skills and habits of leadership is a thread that runs through everything we do. Opportunities to practice leadership at every level of skill and commitment are available to all because this is a community of future leaders whom we expect to “meet the challenge of a changing world and make it better.”

03 Feb

Grade Level Updates

Grade 6: For the last month, the sixth grade has been immersed in our Food and Identity Unit. The students are looking forward to sharing their work at our celebration on February 9th from 9:00 – 10:30 in Hajjar Auditorium. We hope many of you will be able to join us!

Each class examined the role of food and culture in their discipline. In math, students investigated how large a square acre is and compared it to the size of Leggett Field. Students measured Leggett Field in groups and then worked on solving problems about how many bushels of corn a farm of a certain size would yield. Students are working towards solving a math problem relating to the amount of corn the population of her/his town would consume in a day and a year. In the Hyper math class, the students also investigated which set of stairs on campus had the biggest slope, and then they presented their work on the Stairs Project to the Middle School at Morning Meeting this past Monday. They are beginning a new project to be presented after spring break.

In science class, students analyzed a meal and created a “plate” of food sharing how much of the food they eat is made up of GMO foods, conventional farming foods, organic foods, and unknown foods. Then, students will finish their Genetics unit with a DNA extraction lab and Punnett square activity. Also, in recognition of Black History Month students will be researching an African American scientist and his/her contributions to the science community.

In English and social studies, students explored their food culture through a collaborative piece of writing. In English, the students wrote about their own personal food culture, such as a food memory. Then, they connected this piece of writing to their work in social studies, where they were asked to research the food culture of a country from which their family comes. They were introduced to research databases and practiced using multiple sources to piece together information. To pull it all together, the students wrote a comparison of their own personal food culture compared to the one they researched.

Rothmc_coverFollowing the conclusion of the Identity unit, the students have begun the study of ancient Greece in social studies. They are starting with Greek Mythology and then moving into the factual history of Greece, which will culminate in a collaborative project in which students construct a timeline of Greek history. In English, the students began reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor this week, a wonderful historical fiction novel that takes place in Mississippi in 1933. There is a lot of interesting learning happening in our hall these days; ask your child to tell you a little bit about it!


Several Grade 7 students wrote and then presented original plays together with their classmates, as part of their Social Studies research on “Sumarai Rising” and related projects on conflict and “Why We Fight.” Here is one class reading a script in Mr. Schade’s class. 

Grade 7: The 7th graders are hard at work wrapping up their Conservation Conversation projects in science.  Each student is working towards convincing the audience that we should care about wildlife, and be mindful of our impact as humans on the natural world.  In English, students are finishing their reading of Lord of the Flies by William Golding. As the novel ends, they are paying particular attention to the theme of civilization v. savagery: In order to survive, is it more important “to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?” (142).

Next week, on Monday February 6th, the 7th grade will be going to the United Nations as part of their work in Social Studies class. We will depart school by 8:30 AM, have tours of the UN, and then return to D-E for an activity related to the trip. This trip will take place during the regular school day.

  • Parents/Guardians Please Note: Due to the security measures in place at the UN, we are unable to take bagged lunches/any food or water/liquid with us. Each student will need to purchase food from the UN Cafeteria. Around $15.00 should be enough. Sorry for this late notice. Please contact Ms. Traub if this is a problem at traube@d-e.org or call 201-227-3236.

Grade 8: On February 1st and 2nd, 8th graders presented their “Making a Difference” (MaD) projects to both peers and professional panelists. At the heart of the presentation was the Dream Speech. Learning from the oratorical devices that Dr. King used in his “I Have a Dream” speech, students wrote impassioned speeches with the goal of inspiring their audience to be ‘upstanders’.  Concurrently, students have continued to read the classic To Kill a Mockingbird in English class. The lessons of empathy and courage found in the novel helped students navigate the muddy waters of the social justice issues at the core of their MaD presentations.  In Science class, students are learning to classify and identify rocks and minerals and are gearing up for a field trip to the Natural History Museum in New York City.  This field trip will test their scientific knowledge and push them to use their algebraic thinking, which they have been honing in Math class.

03 Feb

Community Time

On Wednesday, February 8th, we will host our annual “Pack the Gym” MS Basketball event in the Large Gym of Modell’s Sports Complex here at D-E.  Our entire division will cheer on our Girls’ MS Basketball team as they take on Elisabeth Morrow School at 3:00 PM followed by our Boys’ (white team), who will play against the Collegiate School at 4:15 PM.  Students, faculty, and parents will not only enjoy an afternoon of basketball but will enjoy the free pizza served in between games.  The players are pumped, the students are excited and we’re ready to…  PACK- the- GYM!!!

Yesterday’s Assembly was really relevant to our student body. Mr. Shaw, Director of Technology, gave a great presentation on social media citizenship. At various points during the assembly, we responded anonymously, using iPads to questions about usage. Within seconds, he posted the results for all to see and then used the data to fine-tune his remarks.

Next week’s assembly will feature the work of our 8th grade Drama students and their CRUSH projects. And the week following is our celebration of Black History Month, with an assembly presented by our Upper School students.

After 9 hours of coursework and riding yesterday, we now have 3 certified indoor cycling instructors on campus! There was even a D-E parent of a 6th grader there!