28 Feb



The recent school shooting incident in Florida has left many of us reeling from yet one more mass shooting spree involving students.  The reverberations are being felt across our country and your children may be feeling anxious, frightened, or uneasy about feeling safe, whether it is at home or at school. When I stood before your children last week, I was torn between wanting to promise safety and needing to acknowledge the very real-ness of our world. I hope I was able to find the right balance. It is quite natural that our children, and each of us, may have strong emotions and tough questions about the safety and security of D-E, their homes, and on a grander scale, their world. I did not enjoy having to address our young adolescents, just as I imagine, as parents, you do not either. Yet, we must.  So, here are a few questions, talking points, and resources that I share, with the deepest hope that, sometime in the future, these will be unnecessary.

What is D-E doing to protect our children and staff?

The Administrative Team takes seriously its charge of safety. We spend much time developing plans, evaluating protocols and updating policies. We have an armed police officer on campus during school days who walks our grounds. The police vehicle is parked in a conspicuous place for travelers to notice. We have a communication notification system that allows us to reach you using multiple modalities—text, email, website, phone.  There are several cameras placed around campus, and these are monitored by three different groups. We have fenced in our campus and have established a staffed guard house.  We train, practice, and hone our plans for various emergencies. At D-E, the adult and the student relationships are very strong. Our young adolescents often tell an adult when they are concerned about a classmate. We encourage them to live by the “see something, say something” motto.  We have a social-emotional curriculum, HomeBase advisors, small class sizes, and a Student Support Team which have all been proactive in identifying the social-emotional needs of young adolescents. Most importantly, we continue to learn and we continue to update.

How do I talk with my child about the school shooting in Florida?

According to the American Psychological Association, “Psychologists who work in the area of trauma and recovery advise parents to use the troubling news of school shootings as an opportunity to talk and listen to their children. It is important, say these psychologists, to be honest. Parents should acknowledge to children that bad things do happen, but also reassure them with the information that many people are working to keep them safe, including their parents, teachers and local police.”

A few more suggestions and resources/links:

Encourage your child to ask questions, and answer those questions directly. Your child/teen may have some difficult questions about the incident. For example, she may ask if it is possible that it could happen at your workplace; she is probably really asking whether it is “likely.” The concern about recurrence will be an issue for caregivers and children/teens alike. While it is important to discuss the likelihood of this risk, she is also asking if she is safe. This may be a time to review plans your family has for keeping safe in the event of any crisis situation. Do give any information you have on the help and support the victims and their families are receiving. Like adults, children/teens are better able to cope with a difficult situation when they have the facts about it. Having question-and-answer talks gives your child ongoing support as he or she begins to cope with the range of emotions stirred up by this tragedy.

Be a positive role model. Consider sharing your feelings about the events with your child/teen, but at a level they can understand. You may express sadness and empathy for the victims and their families. You may share some worry, but it is important to also share ideas for coping with difficult situations like this tragedy. When you speak of the quick response by law enforcement and medical personnel to help the victims (and the heroic or generous efforts of ordinary citizens), you help your child/teen see that there can be good, even in the midst of such a horrific event.

Some other tips for parents (for any time of crisis or trauma) include:

  • maintain routines
  • model a clam reaction (can still show sadness too)
  • actively listen and allow children opportunities to share how they feel
  • correct distortions and inaccuracies regarding events
  • review safety protocols, remind children that these events are rare, and observe for children the many safety features already in place
  • (for families, consider: if a parent isn’t home and you need help, who can you call? who are adults in the community, how can you contact them, where can you go)
  • limit exposure to media, especially video recordings of events
  • encourage engagement in pleasurable activities and spending time with loved ones
  • look for the helpers – actively recognize people who help on a daily basis

Resources Links: 

And a few brief reminders:

Homework Survey: Every so often, we like to check in on some practices as a division to ensure that we are achieving what we think we are.  One subject that is certainly always important to us is Homework – both in terms of quality and quantity.  It is our belief that whenever possible, homework should be meaningful and further student’s learning.  It is also our belief that there should be a clear limit to the amount of homework we assign. With this in mind, our handbook states that “for middle school students, homework should take an average of 1&1/2 to 2 hours each evening.”

So, the time has come again to check in on this to ensure that we are hitting the mark.  We will do this through brief surveys to students, parents and faculty.  Students will be asked to log how much time they spend each night on homework for a week and then two more times at the end of the two subsequent weeks.  Parents and teachers will be surveyed one time.  The teachers and administrators will look carefully at the data and make any adjustments as are necessary.  Please recognize the value of this survey.  We urge you to participate as it helps keep us all moving in the right direction.

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” A Musical by Rupert Holmes,  is performing this weekend by D-E Upper School students in D-E’s Schenck Auditorium. This interactive mystery musical is a ‘play within a play whodunit’ . Showtimes are Friday, March 2 (7:00 PM) and Saturday, March 3 (2:00 PM and 7:30 PM). Tickets are on sale in the School Store or at the door, 30 minutes prior to curtain. For details visit www.d-e.org/arts.

Medical and Dental Appointments: In order to adhere to the rules and regulations set out in our Middle School Handbook, medical or dental appointments scheduled during the school day will require a note from the doctor or dentist. Notes may be emailed, faxed or brought to the attendance office by the student when he or she returns to school. Absences may remain unexcused until a note has been received. We thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Hug your child extra tight,


28 Feb


In the World Language classes, our Grade 6 Spanish students continue to describe their family with appropriate adjectives. Now, they are adding a few more verbs such as “ir a” “venir” and expressions with the verb “tener.” Grade 7 is learning possessive adjectives, comparative and superlative. Grade 8 Continuing students are learning about their daily routine by using reflexive verbs. They are practicing about how to shop in a supermarket and in a clothing store. Others in the advanced level are learning the future tense. They are creating or inventing something original that can help the environment and presenting to their classmates.

Our Grade 7 French students are continuing are in the last stages of their PBL to publicize a French speaking country.  We are also studying command forms, possessive adjectives, and conjugation patterns.  Students aim to use French exclusively. Our Grade 7 students are watching a video about the rise of the Roman Empire as they continue to add Latin and English vocabulary and study the third declension.

Grade 8 Latin students are beginning to explore infinitives and a few irregular verbs commonly used with infinitives. They are making connections between the irregular patterns of these new verbs and the patterns of verbs we have previously learned. The Grade 8 Latin Advance students are learning how to break down and translate multi-clause sentences, specifically sentences that make use of relative (adjective) clauses. They recently spent a little time translating and discussing an authentic Latin love poem from Catullus.

28 Feb


Good news! Every Middle School Student will be receiving their 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 Middle School 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!! Below, Health & Wellness faculty member Jaclyn Wood demonstrates healthy cooking habits, a sneak preview of what to expect. Get ready for a fun and educational “Health and Wellness Week” @ D-E!

28 Feb


In Studio Art 6 our Earthship PBL is well underway. Students have drawn out the floor plans for their Earthship houses and transferred them onto foam core bases. They are now building up the interior and exterior walls with cardboard and plastic recyclables. Students are also beginning to experiment with materials such as white, colored, and metallic duct-tape and contact paper that looks like wood, to give the appearance of the materials they imagine their Earthship being made of.

In Studio Art 7 students have completed the contour drawings of their shoes in pencil and transferred them to final paper. They are now in the process of shading in their shoes in pencil using a range of values, different types of pencils and erasers, and different techniques to make their subjects look volumetric and textured.  With this project students are learning how to first build up more general shapes and tones in their drawings before adding in the details. This is a helpful approach for drawing all different subjects in art.

Mrs. Brusky and Mrs. Scrivanich shared a slideshow that allowed the sixth grade Silent Reading classes to use the “flipped classroom model” for their interdisciplinary Avatar/Puppet Project.  After viewing the samples and artwork for homework, students spent a TAG period with the art teachers to sketch out their ideas and receive feedback on their progress in order to best illustrate their reading habits.  It was an effective use of time during which every student was able to touch base with one of the art teachers.

Our 7th grade theatre arts classes recently wrapped up their Mindfulness unit and are embarking upon introductory Scene Study. Meanwhile, 8th grade Theatre arts just began the Spoken Word Performance Poetry unit after a successful experience with the CRUSH projects!

28 Feb


Our Lead Advisory Group, along with Dr. Mirangela Buggs, recently facilitated a professional development day with the Middle School faculty focusing on engaging in difficult conversations. In break out small groups, HomeBase advisors had the opportunity to discuss, reflect and share how we can continue to support our students, and each other, when navigating conversations around identity, power and other issues that arise in our social-emotional learning.  Our role is to help students think critically, respect differences and differences of opinion, while embracing diversity in our lifelong learning process.  As we get ready to watch the documentary Angst *, which focuses on teenage anxiety, and delve into HomeBase lessons surrounding Social Media and Peer Pressure, the work we have done as a faculty will allow us to have meaningful, thoughtful and productive conversations with our students.

*Continue the conversation: MS parents/guardians are reminded that they are welcome and encouraged to enjoy a film screening of Angst as part of a Parents’ Association evening education event on Wednesday, February 28, 7:00 PM in Hajjar Auditorium.  Following the screening, a discussion will be led by D-E parents Trish Brown and Joey Levine.  Click here for details.

To learn more about Angst click here.

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


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