20 Oct

Kathy’s Message


It’s been a whirlwind two weeks here at school, with all students getting plenty of traction in their classes. As you may have heard, our AC was down for a few days and we were uncomfortably hot. However, in true D-E fashion, everyone’s good humor and patience kept us cool until the real AC got back on. Now, of course, we head into milder weather and the beautiful colors of fall.

Just a reminder that students do not have school on Monday, October 23 while the faculty is involved in professional development activities. And on Friday, November 2, school will not be in session as the teachers compose their thoughtful comments about your children.

Hug your child, and Go Bulldogs!

– Kathy Christoph
Middle School (MS) Principal

20 Oct

World Languages Highlights

Spanish: In the World Language classes, our sixth graders are learning how to greet each other in Spanish. They created their mini avatars using Pocoyo, and recorded mini dialogues introducing themselves. Our seventh graders are finding Spanish vocabulary that represents each letter in their name, and are giving presentations describing themselves to the class in the target language. Some of our eighth graders have been learning both the present tense and the present progressive tenses. They are utilizing two different tenses to describe various activities, such as sports or vacations. Others are learning the past tense “el pretérito” and ways to do community service in Latin America. 

Latin: Our seventh grade Latin students are building vocabulary, learning conjugation patterns and noun inflections, and practicing translation strategies.  We are also discussing life in ancient Pompeii, English derivatives, and the major Roman deities.  Coming up soon, we will be watching the animated documentary, “Roman City.” In eighth grade, our Latin Advanced students have been learning about the Roman baths which were essentially public parks where the Romans not only bathed but socialized and participated in various other activities. In order to better understand the atmosphere of the baths, we translated and acted out a small sketch in which a poor thief stole a merchant’s toga while the merchant was in the baths. We then had a brief discussion on what this told us about the baths, and students noticed many things, including: people of all classes went to the baths, the baths needed guards, there could be a lot of commotion in the baths, and more. 

French: In French, seventh graders are halfway through the review unit and are becoming reacquainted with the French calendar, time, and numbers. They are revisiting polite conversation, verb patterns, and adjective agreement.  We are also presently watching and discussing the classic French movie, The Red Balloon.

20 Oct


In Drama 7, our young actors are performing their etudes “practice scenes.” Our 8’s are putting the finishing touches on their creative Crush Projects and looking forward to composing and performing their Spoken Word poems.

Our emerging sixth grade artists are working carefully and diligently on their animal line drawings. Not only do they use their art skills to draw, but the teachers ask them to go a step further, think about why their chosen animals are important and then how to convey that in their artwork. Wow! Our 7’s are using all their artistic skills learned to date with their shoe and object drawing. Meanwhile, the 8’s are starting the Skateboard Deck Design project. Each student decides between a real wooden deck or traditional illustration board in order to bring their mixed-media designs to life. Their challenge is to capture their individual personality into their skateboard, using color choice and design.

I love popping into Swartley Art Gallery and quietly observing our students, engrossed in their sketches, observing and capturing the play between shadow and light, their intense concentration on details.  

And finally our MS singers are in the midst of learning the music and the words to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the feature for the Winter Arts Festival.

20 Oct

Health and Wellness

Ready. Set. Go! And we’re off! Our MS students are off to another great year filled with learning experiences, enjoyable lessons, and fitness-focused exercises during their Health and Wellness classes.

The sixth graders are gaining a first-hand experience in our MS curriculum acclimating themselves to their new environment and understanding the importance of physical fitness, proper nutrition, the development of spatial relationships, and the enhancement of hand-eye and foot-eye coordination. The sixth grade classes began an inaugural program of learning about nutrition in a “hands on” approach. The Health and Wellness department worked together with Ms. Urbanowski, our DIG (D-E in the Garden) Discovery Class teacher and Grade 6 Dean. Each class hiked to the garden, picked their own vegetable, learned about the six areas of nutrition, then finally discovered how to categorize their vegetable or fruit. In the days to come, each student will create their own nutritious lunch which will need to contain all six nutrients.

In our seventh grade classes, students have been enjoying their “Sticks and Racquets” unit in which they learn how to play sports such as lacrosse, tennis, field hockey, badminton, and especially pickleball…a student favorite!!

 Our eighth grade students have also learned the skills, strategies, and rules of “Outdoor Team Sports” such as football, soccer, rugby, softball, and an assortment of frisbee activities.

There are many exciting things that our MS students will soon be experiencing in their Health and Wellness classes during the second marking period. Students will take part in a bi-annual assessment, called FitnessGram, in which each individual will be tested in areas such as muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility. Some classes will begin participating in Health programs in which they will learn things such as the male and female anatomy, stages of development, nutrition, along with other things.

Our race towards learning has just begun!

20 Oct

Community Time

Our HomeBase (HB) Advisories have had a busy fall.  September included ice breaker activities, getting-to-know-you activities, general overviews of school protocols and a chance to ask all of the questions that come up at the start of a school year. Students and HB Advisors enjoyed the chance to sit together during lunch for the first few weeks of school to continue to get to know one another.  Our first structured lesson of the year in HomeBase incorporated the concept of “Listening to Understand.”  Through role play, discussions, and reflections students were able to see first-hand the benefits of listening to others speak and responding with an acknowledgement of an opposing opinion. 

We continued with our year of storytelling during our recent Kindness Day Assembly.  Both students and faculty shared stories of what kindness looks like to them or how they have experienced kindness.  Following the assembly, students had an opportunity to share about the impact kindness can have on others.  MS students also took part in our “Humans of D-E” program.  Faculty and staff from throughout our community volunteered to be matched up with a HB Advisory.  As we get to further know our community members and hear their stories, we strengthen the ties we have within our community and beyond.  The opportunity to really know one another can only lead to understanding, empathy and of course, kindness.  

Let’s go, Blue! Let’s go, Gold! Let’s go, White! These chants were echoing throughout Schenck Auditorium on Thursday during our fall Middle School Pep Rally. And what a pep rally it was! Team recognition, color chants, and silly contests all combined into a raucous time cheering for D-E. Pep Rally photos are below; See above or click here for a video segment.

Our annual Halloween assembly is fast approaching! This year, our Middle School Arts Council has devised three activities sure to spark interest in many. We’ll be hosting a Scary Story Telling Contest, a Creative Make-up Contest, and a Costume Contest.

06 Oct

Kathy’s Message


It’s October already, and the month of September has flown by, filled with a wide array of activities, trips, and experiences. We are all settling into the rhythm of school. Each MS grade has its own exciting update (see below for details).

And an important safety reminder:  Do NOT DropOff your child(dren) in the middle of our campus driveway(s) and/or onto E. Palisade Ave. or N. Woodland Street. Our students’ safety remains our top priority; risky DropOff places our students at risk. Campus driveway DropOff also greatly impedes morning traffic flow. Please be attentive to and respectful of traffic flow directions given by D-E Facilites/Security team members.

Sixth grade is off to a wonderful start! The students are working diligently in all of their classes, and everyone is looking forward to some traction in October. Last week, the grade ventured off on our overnight field trip. Students enjoyed team building activities at the Sono Field Club, IMAX movies, behind-the-scenes tours, crafts at the aquarium, and an afternoon of bowling together the next day. In social studies, students have begun their study of early Hominids and have taken both their first quiz and written their first paragraph. They will continue to develop their understanding of early humans as they gear up both for the trip on Friday, October 20 to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and their Hominid Projects. (Please note, a separate Email about the AMNH field trip will be coming to parents/guardians soon, from Grade 6 Dean Tasha Urbanowski.)

In science, Grade 6 students reviewed the scientific method and were introduced to theories and ideas of Evolution. Students will be doing research for their Evolution Revolution iMovie and completing a lab at AMNH, which ties in with what they are learning in social studies. In English, students have read two short stories — “Raymond’s Run” and “Through the Tunnel” — and they are working through the writing process for their first analytical paragraph about “Raymond’s Run.” Students practiced brainstorming, outlining, drafting, revising, and peer editing this piece. Math 6 started the year with a review of estimation with decimals using all 4 operations. Students then solved actual problems without estimation. They have since started a unit on ratio and proportion. Advanced Math 6 started the year with a review of pre-algebra concepts. The students have already started presenting problems to the class, having discussions, and sharing alternate ways to solve. Advanced Math 6 is presently working on changing ratio concepts. Lastly, Hyper Math 6 is working on solving equations and solving problems related to sequences. They are also getting to know their calculators, so they can use them intelligently. We hope your son or daughter continues to share about all of the exciting things happening at school!

 Grade 7 has had a great start to the year.  At the end of September, students and teachers traveled out to Shelter Island for their overnight trip.  On Shelter Island, students engaged in various experiences such as participating in team building and low ropes activities, visiting the Cornell Institute, encountering birds of prey up close, and kayaking.  Back at school, classes also started to dive into their curriculums.  In English classes, students had the opportunity to place a character on trial, from the S.E. Hinton novel the Outsiders.  They have also been further developing their grammar skills and using the writing process to compose their first essay of the year.  In social studies, students are completing their geography game design projects.  In this project students were tasked with creating a game that would help teach students basic geography in a fun and engaging way.   They will also begin their first current events assignment this week, as they begin to explore the happenings in the world around them.  CP Math is finishing a unit on ordering fractions and decimals and next they will move onto adding and subtracting them.  Science completed their measurement unit and is moving on to their water quality unit.  In this unit, students are preparing to visit local water sources to test various indicators such as the pH, nitrate, phosphate, and salinity levels.  With this information, students will perform an analysis on the water quality issues affecting our local water sources and move on to coming up with some creative solutions.

The eighth grade has already had an eventful fall. In addition to going on the SEEK trips last week which focused on leadership skills, students have been busy in the classrooms. In history class, students learned about the impact of the Guttenberg printing press and explored the importance of the written word. Students discovered that the Information Revolution propelled the Renaissance, Reformation, and the Scientific Revolution. This knowledge has prepared them for their upcoming PBL which will task the grade with creating a History of Science textbook. Working in tandem with the history teachers, the science teachers have created an Astronomy unit which discusses the accomplishments of Aristotle, Newton, and Galileo. Using StarLab, an inflatable planetarium, students will experience how the great thinkers of the Scientific Revolution used observation to understand how motion is governed in our world and in our universe. The theme of careful observation has also been stressed in Math class. Students have been discovering patterns and constant rate of change by collecting data on how shadows are affected by the height of objects as well as how volume is affected by pouring water into different shaped vases and cups.  Finally, English students are recovering from the devastating ending to Of Mice and Men. Throughout the reading of this novel, students took a closer look at disenfranchised characters which helped them prepare for a literary essay on characters’ traits, choices, motivations, and changes.

06 Oct

Community Time

In the Middle School we use various gatherings to build community and fulfill our mission.

Morning Meeting

 Morning Meeting occurs first thing every Monday morning. The entire Middle School comes together for this community meeting. We use the time to celebrate birthdays and good news, announce special events and other pertinent information and to illuminate/educate/start discussions on current events, whether it be right here at D-E, local, state, national, or international. Currently, we all are learning about Freedom of Speech, under the leadership of teachers Ben Fleisher, Matt Schade, Gautham Akula, Mimi Garcia and Bryan Kessler.  The guiding questions are: What are rights? What is Freedom of Speech? How can we honor Freedom of Speech in the classroom? The discussions have been interesting and have flowed into the students’ social studies/history classes.

We also come together as a Division every Thursday, when we gather for Assembly.

Here, we have a longer span of time in which to delve into a theme or concept. Already this year we have enjoyed the All School Assembly, the Community of Readers Assembly and our Honor Code Signing Assembly. This week we welcome poet/actor Carlos Gomez in celebration and recognition of Latino/a/Hispanic Heritage Month. What a powerful presentation about diversity in its many forms and about the power of words.  Next week, we will focus on Kindness with an array of activities including a continuation of our Humans of DE series.

It’s Great to Be a Bulldog!

The sixth grade Public Service Learning Project began this week with a trip to America’s Grow-a-Row (AGAR) in Pittsfield, NJ.  The whole grade works together on one project — becoming aware of the problem of hunger in New Jersey and working to make a difference for families who need some help putting nutritious food (particularly fresh produce) on the table.

Our project involves several experiences that both educate the students involved and make a real contribution to others.  We have been working for several years with the non-profit, volunteer-supported AGAR, which plants and harvests produce for food pantries and free farmer’s markets in the neediest counties of New Jersey.   On this first trip, the folks at AGAR consistently do a nice job of presenting to our students an issue about which they may not have been aware — just moments before we all pitch in to do something about it.  This week, our students harvested a crop of vegetables that will later be delivered to local food pantries. Click below to enjoy a video clip of our Grade 6 weed-pullers!

After this week’s trip, our service learning project will continue with a sixth grade day of workshops led by folks from AGAR during which our students will learn more about hunger in New Jersey and why fresh produce is particularly important.  In the spring, we will work even closer to home to plant a vegetable garden for the Englewood Center for Food Action so that they may provide fresh produce to their clients during the summer.

06 Oct

A Message from the MS Deans

Supporting Students with Homework Completion and the “Missing Homework” E-mail

By this point in the year, many parents may have received a short e-mail from their child saying something like, “Dear Mom and Dad, I did not complete my reading assignment because I thought it was due next week…”  While some students in middle school already have excellent work habits and are masterful time managers, even more are still learning how to manage the demands of multiple assignments from different teachers, various kinds of assignments, and the increased complexity of after-school activities and more independence.

In Middle School, teachers employ many strategies to support students in learning this important skill.  One example is the direct instruction in recording assignments that teachers give every day, in each class, as they ask students to write down their assignments, and when they require that students save work begun in class in specific google folders or other precise locations.  Another example is the time management that teachers model for students when they give interim deadlines for long-term projects – showing students how to break down an assignment and to predict how long certain tasks will take.  The “missing homework” e-mail that all students are asked to write when they do not turn in an assignment on time is another such strategy.

When a student does not turn in an assignment on time, he or she writes a note to his/her parent, teacher, HomeBase advisor and dean.  The purpose of this is not to scold the student but to help him to reflect on what lead to the lapse so that he or she can problem–solve and learn more about his or her own process.  Most students can recognize a glitch in their own systems if they take a moment to write it down, and one or two missing assignments are generally not a cause for concern.  However, if a student seems to be having repeated trouble keeping track of assignments or finishing work, s/he may need help figuring out how to solve a problem.

At school, HomeBase advisors and class deans look at missing homework e-mails to see if it is time to step in and offer assistance to a specific student.  Parents are included on the e-mail so that you may do the same and so that you may reach out to your child’s teachers or dean if you have any concerns.  In this way, we all stay “in the know” and can work together in a timely way to help students move toward skillful task management.  No one wants to wait until report-card time to discover a time- management problem that wasn’t apparent in just one class but that can been seen when you compare the student’s homework record across the subjects – and that can be solved with some timely aid.

If your child has been concerned about writing homework e-mails, please help him or her to understand that this is a tool for self-knowledge and a way for all the caring adults around him or her to have the information we need to help when help is needed.  And then help him or her to problem-solve about how to avoid missing assignments!  Your child’s HomeBase advisor or class dean would be happy to hear from you if you are having this conversation with your child – and you can expect a call from us if we are stepping in to help coach your child on his assignment management.Over the course of their middle school experience, and with

Over the course of their middle school experience, and with teacher and parental guidance, students learn what systems work well for them – pack up the backpack at night or in the morning? Start homework right after school or take a break? etc. – and gain the sort of self-knowledge about their own habits and energy levels that allow them to make smart choices about where, when and how to complete and keep track of all their assignments.  We look forward to each student being entirely independent in managing his or her homework time by the end of middle school – and then no more homework e-mails!