15 Dec

Community Time

In November, when students first received comments and then grades, HomeBase groups spent time reading and reflecting on both their accomplishments and areas where they needed to improve.  After spending time writing about their growth and setting goals for the second semester, every student had the opportunity to meet with their HomeBase Advisor.  Meaningful discussions were had as students both looked back at their progress thus far and looked forward to their continued growth.  Time was spent reviewing both their academics and their Student as Learner traits.

As we continue to hear stories from both Faculty and students during our Morning Meetings, our students are exposed to the importance of getting to know the members of our community.  Many of our HomeBase groups have had the opportunity to meet again with their Humans of DE. Some invited their Human to join them during HomeBase, some visited their Human on campus and others invited their Human to join them for a HomeBase lunch.  All middle school students will take part in Humans of DE lessons in early January and will have the opportunity to hone their interview skills and videotape the interviews themselves. We look forward to sharing these stories with you!


15 Dec

In the Garden

DIG students problem-solved how to deconstruct our Umpleby garden beds using “simple tools” — such as a lever — and teamwork The master plan for our campus includes new construction on the current site of Umpleby Hall.  Although that construction is several years away, the DIG students are already planning for the eventual relocation of the Umpleby beds to the Nettie-Louise Coit Garden up the hill.  The problem includes taking apart the old beds and saving the soil inside the beds — created through years of composting lunch scraps and carefully maintaining the microscopic life and fertility within the soil — but also reconsidering the layout of garden beds in the new location and the future uses of those beds.  We expect to be doing a lot of measuring, debating and head-scratching in the months to come as we continue to work on this project.

15 Dec

Health and Wellness Highlights

The Middle School Health and Wellness Department has been busy this past month, involving students in a variety of fun and healthy activities and assessments. The students just finished the physical assessment program, the FitnessGram, in which individuals were tested for their core strength, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, and muscular endurance. The results of these measurements will be shared with each student and their parents in the near future. Students have also been involved with some other class activity courses such as Cooperative Games. Cooperative games are a way to practice the skills of relationships—skills such as communication, trust, problem solving, empathy, and cooperation—in a way that is fun, engaging, and real.  Another experience has been our fitness. Fitness classes explore various ways of exercising.  Students spend some time learning about circuit training, interval training and experimenting with different types of cardiovascular exercises, including the fitness battle ropes. While learning about muscular anatomy, the students participated in some light weight training using dumbbells and kettle bells.  The unit ended with yoga lessons, where the students practiced “sun salutations” learned meditation, breathing techniques, and partner yoga poses with their classmates.

15 Dec

Grade Level Happenings

Special Note to Grade 6 Parents: Sixth Grade is going on a Trip Jan 3rd!  We are excited to be going to MoMath during the school day on Wednesday after the break.  Please see Mrs. Segar’s letter for details.  Note that we are coming back to campus before the end of the day, and students will attend TAG and their last period classes.  For this reason, we do NOT recommend parents pick up in the city after this trip.  However, if you want to make any special arrangements, please e-mail Tasha Urbanowski no later than noon on January 2nd. Thank you!

From our Studio Art Classes:

The 6th graders completed a personalized puzzle piece as part of a collaborative project with the Chorus classes for the Winter Arts Festival concert.  In class, students have studied the component of an effective still-life, and practiced watercolor painting techniques to create their own pieces.  We are finishing up this month with an introduction to portrait drawing, which will be the focus of the last project of the semester.

In 7th grade, students are creating their online digital portfolios in the Seesaw app.  Students will be able to see the work done in the other sections of studio art, as well as comment on one another’s work.  This week we are very excited to have begun the Coloring Page Project, our PBL for studio art.  There will be a coloring book printed and distributed to local hospital patients and members of the D-E Community.  Look for more information about this wonderful endeavor after the winter break.

Last month the 8th grade students were visited by the art teachers to guide students on their set designs for the Living Wax Museum.  By using the “flipped classroom” model, students were able to view a “helpful tips and examples” slideshow before the visit in order to help with the discussions during the visit.  Receiving and giving feedback to one another according to their preliminary sketches proved to be a useful tool for the design component of this multi-faceted work.

In the studio, the 8th grade artists designed a skateboard deck that reflected his/her personality.  By using an online tool for collaborative discussion called “Scatterspoke”, students were able to reflect on their own work and on the project design.

From Drama Classes/Theater:  The 8th grade will be participating in their first semester Coffee House on Thursday. The 7th grade finished their Mindfulness Unit, and Lion King Jr., our Spring Musical, has been cast!

From Chorus classes: We just finished our production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat for the Winter Arts Festival 2017.

In the World Language classes, our 6th grade students are learning how to write simple sentences with the verb SER and will create a song with the verb conjugation as well as write a short paragraph in Spanish talking about their favorite cartoon show. Our 7th graders are learning how to write sentences with AR verbs and will be creating a video describing their daily school life. Some of our 8th graders are creating conversations at a store between a store clerk and a customer, using a variety of difficult grammar such as indirect and direct object pronouns, the two “know” verbs and demonstrative adjectives. Others are learning about the importance of technology as a way of faster communication in Latin America.

Our 7th Latin students completed their mini PBL …based on the video, Roman City. They worked collaboratively to learn material about Roman urban planning, values, and Empire building.  They produced an assessment and designed an artistic component. Students also studied the first declension, cases, sentence analysis, and the life style of the upper classes and Roman cuisine. In Latin 8th Advanced, we recently learned about Roman politics – discussing whether the Romans (and the students) prized fame or wealth more highly and using Caesar’s famous quote “I would rather be first here [i.e. in Gaul] than second in Rome” to talk about ambition. We also wrote political speeches in the Roman style attacking Mark Antony to better understand ancient political invective.

In French, our 7th graders studied and used the “Big 4”….the most important verbs…irregular and essential. They also learned vocabulary (often through songs) about homes, cities, classroom materials, and directions.  Students are using French more assertively to communicate in oral and written expression.

15 Dec

Kathy’s Message

Happy Holidays! As we head into our Winter Break, I want to wish you all a wonderful holiday season, whatever your beliefs or traditions are. I hope you are able to spend some quality time with your loved ones, engage in your favorite past-times, and renew your sense of joy and wonder. Your children, and their teachers, have worked very hard right up to the last minute and the time off will help us all rejuvenate. January 2 rolls around fast enough, and I know we’ll hit the ground running for the remainder of the year. Peace and Joy to All.

Hug your child and Go Bulldogs!

Kathy Christoph
MS Principal

04 Dec

Message from the Deans

Managing Planned Absences

Parents planning holiday travel should be aware that the last day before winter break, December 15th, and the first day back, on January 2nd, are filled with important classes and activities for students in all three middle-school grades. We ask parents to make every effort to have their children in school for the entire day on both days.

If your holiday plans have already been made and require that students miss class time before or after the holidays, please contact your child’s dean as soon as possible.  These absences will be “absences without extensions” except in rare circumstances and so require special planning with which your child’s dean can help you. We also ask parents to understand that it is not possible for teachers to recreate classroom experiences, prepare special packets of work, or re-teach lessons missed due to planned absences around the holidays.

We at school recognize that sometimes planned absences must happen — special family gatherings, important sporting competitions, and so on sometimes take precedence in a student’s life — and parents need to make those decisions. However, we ask that you let us know a week in advance of a planned absence by reaching out to your class dean. The process of planning, managing, and catching up after unavoidable absences is more smoothly accomplished when we all work together effectively. An e-mail or phone call from a parent — not the student himself in middle school — will start things off in the right direction.  

When you let us know of your plans, the dean will pass along to the student a “Planned Absence Form” that s/he can use to help note assignments and classwork that need to be completed and will alert the appropriate HomeBase teacher.  The HomeBase teacher will be available to coach the student on how to connect with his or her teachers and create a schedule for making up work — getting as much done before the absence as possible and making specific arrangements for work to be submitted electronically or upon the student’s return. If extensions are permitted, the HomeBase teacher can coach a student in how to ask for these. Now that the students are growing older, they are expected to take responsibility, with support from you and the HomeBase teacher, for finding out what they will be missing, asking any questions of the appropriate teachers and managing the completion and timely delivery of assignments and classwork.

Our first objective in creating attendance records and procedures is to ensure students’ safety by keeping track of your children when they are on campus. Our second objective is to try to reduce the burden that playing catch-up after planned absences places on both students and teachers. In middle school, we also want to help students learn how to take increasingly independent responsibility for effectively managing their learning and catch-up workload in the case of absence.  Planning the timing of vacations and absences with the school calendar in mind, reaching out to your class dean a week ahead of a planned absence, and supporting your child in using the “Planned Absence Form” and other strategies for time and task management are ways families can support us in that final objective — and help your youngster use any necessary absences as learning opportunities rather than obstacles to learning.

04 Dec

Our Community of Learners

“Humans of D-E” Project:  

Earlier in the year, every HomeBase group was paired up with an employee of D-E and, through a series of activities, got to know their particular person better. Now, many of the HomeBase groups are planning a lunch meeting with their “Human” to be held before winter break begins. This “Humans of D-E” bonding experience gives our youngsters another opportunity to listen to understand, to show kindness, and to better understand the wonderful diversity that we have here at school. 

Of Special Interest/Social Media:

Social media presents major challenges to the parents of middle schoolers. Many parents feel as though their child’s smartphone creates a barrier between them and their child’s social life that makes good parenting difficult. Social media has created a place where students are connected to peers nearly all the time, and the darker sides of early adolescent social interaction can go unchecked in this online world.

Parents often ask me if there is an app or a technical solution to these challenges. My first response is always to not look for a technical solution to what is essentially a human problem. Frequent and honest communication about the dangers of social media is critically important. Setting appropriate limits on cell phone and iPad access is also important for many students.

For parents who want an additional layer of security, I can now recommend a service called Bark (https://www.bark.us/). Bark connects to your child’s social media accounts and monitors them for potentially dangerous issues such as online bullying, sexting, etc.  Because you only get alerts when Bark detects a serious problem, your child can feel like they have a basic level of privacy in their social relationships. This makes an open conversation about problems easier in many cases.

Bark is not perfect, but it can provide an additional layer of protection as parents navigate the increasingly complex world of their child’s online socializing. If parents have regular and honest conversations about their concerns, set reasonable limits on social media and device access, Bark can be an effective piece of the overall solution to raising smart kids in the age of social media.

04 Dec

Grade Level Updates from our Core Teams

Team 6: It has been another busy month in the sixth grade. In English, the students wrapped up the Moment PBL unit. They each wrote about a significant moment in their life, and then they shared them with their English classes. Finally, the students shared their pieces on a blog. Then, last week they started reading Lois Lowry’s The Giver. During this first full class novel, students will be following the theme of individuality and writing about it in analytical paragraphs. They are focusing on the guiding question: What makes someone a unique individual, and why is that individuality important? The grade will watch the movie adaptation of the book before winter break.

In social studies, students continued their study of Egypt, and they have finished researching their roles for Egypt Day. They have started to rehearse and develop each room collaboratively. We look forward to having the 5th grade and the parents join us for our Egypt Day performances on December 14th.

In science, students began an introduction to human anatomy. Students also created an iMovie for their “Get to know YOU” presentations. Students selected a general topic and picked specific items they found interesting to present to the class. Students will be concentrating on learning specific bones of the skeletal system and also tying human anatomy in with Egyptian mummification and doing the Apple Mummy Lab. Finally, students will compare/contrast the anatomy of frogs to that of humans.

In Math 6, students finished a unit on solids and their nets. They learned to identify nets of cubes, cuboids, prisms, and pyramids; identify the solid represented by a net; determine whether a figure can be a net of a given solid; and determine whether a solid can be formed from a given net. They have just started a percentage unit where students learned how to express part of a whole as a fraction or as a percentage, express one quantity as a percentage of another, find the whole or a percentage part when given the value of a percentage part, and solve word problems which involve percentage.

In Advanced Math, students finished a unit on percentage. They learned how to express part of a whole as a fraction or as a percentage, express one quantity as a percentage of another, find the whole or a percentage part when given the value of a percentage part, and solve word problems which involve percentage. They recently started our work on speed. Students will interpret speed as distance traveled per unit of time, read and write units of speed, find average speed, and solve word problems that involve speed, distance, and time.

In Hyper Math, students will spend several classes working on a relationship called Direct Variation. The students have seen this before in the guise of “solving proportions,” but they will learn to graph linear equations from their work on this and will incorporate the concept of slope from their “Stairs Project.” It should be challenging and possibly fun!

We look forward to seeing many parents and families at Parent-Teacher conferences and Egypt Day!

Team 7: The seventh grade recently visited the Bronx Zoo to kick off their science unit on conservation.  At the beginning of the unit, students will focus on biomes, trophic levels, and food chains.  Eventually, students will focus on and research an endangered or threatened species of their choice.  In English, students are finishing up their dystopian short stories. They will be reading them aloud to their peers this Friday. They will also publish their stories on writeabout.com for all of their classmates to read.  In social studies, students are beginning their unit on oppression and resistance. Students will begin reading the novel When My Name Was Keoko, while examining the various faces of oppression and how oppressed people seek to resist this.  Lastly, math classes are continuing to use problem strategies to attack each challenge.   More specifically, Math 7 classes are adding and subtracting integers in their current unit.  The Hyper Math class is working with their calculators to program matrixes.  Lastly, the advanced group has just completed Unit 1 with a Stretch Your Mind Assessment.

Team 8: On Monday, November 27, the eighth grade headed to Philadelphia to visit not only the Constitution Center, but also the Franklin Institute. At the Franklin Institute students participated in a live action science demonstration about combustion, and at the Constitution Center students explored the different freedoms which our Constitution protects. This field trip was a cumulative experience for the chemistry unit in science class as well as an entry event for history’s class Constitution unit. Meanwhile in English class, students are reading the classic dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451, and learning how Ray Bradbury effectively used symbolism to convey his fears for society. Finally, math class is preparing for an interdisciplinary unit with science on density. The final project for this unit will be to construct a miniature boat from recycled material that can hold mass. The boat which can hold the most mass will receive a special accolade from the math and science teachers. 

04 Dec

Kathy’s Message


I always enjoy our Winter Arts Festival, and I hope you had the opportunity to attend last Thursday’s night performance and display of artwork. From the look of pride on their faces, your youngsters enjoy making a beautiful piece of artwork to hang on the wall, acting and singing on stage, or playing a musical instrument in concert with other members of the group. Besides the sheer joy of it all, the arts also help youngsters develop some of our Student as Learner (SaL) traits. For example, while it may seem like a no-brainer, the arts allow students to express themselves in creative ways. During the course of the year, your child may recite a monologue in 4 or 5 different ways, create a piece of artwork that represents a favorite memory, or compose a new rhythm or piece of music; I need only recall the African Drumming performance to know this to be true.  Additionally, there is something special about getting up on stage and singing or playing an instrument.  Our Grades 7 and 8 African Drumming Ensembles provided the opportunity for the audience, too, to “get up on stage” – click here to enjoy a video clip of their performance.

Stepping out of one’s comfort zone like this gives our students valuable experiences in risk-taking and self-confidence. And of course, perseverance, a favorite trait of mine, comes into play with the hours of practice that go into that beautiful drawing, song or musical piece. Well done, all around! 

As a reminder, we are heading into the busy month of December. It is wise to remember that many teachers often like to bring closure to their classwork prior to the upcoming Winter Break. Your children may be putting the finishing touches on final projects and assignments and studying for unit-tests. Here at school, the Deans and I monitor the number and frequency of major assignments and tests in our on-going efforts to maintain healthy home-school balance. However, given the busy time here at school and often at home as well, you may want to engage your child in a conversation about time management and stress-management. It can’t hurt!

And please remember: Parent-Teacher Conferences are this upcoming Thursday (Dec. 7) and Friday (Dec. 8)!

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