27 Apr

Community Time

On Thursday, our Upper School GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) were the leaders for a Day of Acceptance assembly for our Middle School. This informative assembly has been a MS tradition for the past 10 years and aims to help educate our student body in regard to the topic of LGBTQ+, using middle school language and concepts.

Last Thursday, our assembly, Holocaust Remembrance Day (or Yom HaShoah), was planned and presented by some of very own Middle School youngsters.  In an age-appropriate manner, the participating students gave an explanation of the event itself as well as sharing their family’s stories of survival It was quite a moving moment to hear the personal stories of some of our D-E family members.  As Mr. Kessler said, “I wanted to let the students share all that they could, because these stories are too important to be lost to history.” Over in Imperatore Library, our librarians (Thanks, Mrs. Shaurette!) assembled a corresponding display with age appropriate books (both historical fiction and nonfiction). And in HomeBase, each advisor had access to follow-up discussion questions to use if needed.

This week 6th graders took the next step in their yearlong service learning project focusing on hunger in our local communities. At the Englewood Center for Food Action, we built raised beds to create a vegetable garden where the CFA will grow food for its clients this summer.  We also planted seeds and potatoes in the beds and transplanted seedlings started earlier in our campus greenhouse.

Students in the 7th grade DIG class are working on a project that potentially will add chickens to our garden ecosystem. In their current PBL, they are raising chicks that can help to control insect pests in the vegetable garden in an earth-friendly way and which will produce manure we can compost into valuable organic fertilizer.  In the process of their research, students also have discovered there are a variety of food-system and humane issues at play in conventional egg-production systems.  They are learning about the increasingly popular backyard and small-scale chicken-keeping movements that aim to address some of those issues. Students plan to share some of what they have learned with the Middle School student body in a series of “chicken minute” presentations at Monday Morning Meeting.  They are also preparing a pop-up art show to post in an outdoor installation of the chickens for a week at the end of May in the Umpleby Vegetable Garden. Interested in chickens?  The DIG students are also looking for volunteer families in the D-E community to help look after the chickens on weekends and during school vacations this summer and next fall.  If you would be interested in helping, please contact Ms. Urbanowski!

Lastly you may enjoy watching two video presentations in the genre of timely and insightful TEDTalks, presented by Simran and Sunjin, as part of the 7th grade UN Sustainable Goals PBL.

16 Apr

Community Happenings

Along with our many leadership opportunities available to our youngsters as outlined in the Dean’s Page this issue, we’ve experienced a wonderful increase of specialty groups for middle school students to join. Affinity groups, safe space groups, and specialty groups have mushroomed this year, all to the benefit of our young adolescents.

Affinity groups, or safe space groups, were formed this year because our middle school community recognized the need, and interest, for people to connect around their experiences as members of social identity groups, particularly those from historically marginalized or minority groups with respect to race, ethnicity and culture, religion, gender or sexual orientation.  Affinity/safe space groups can be a vital part of empowering members of minority or marginalized groups in diverse communities. They provide support for emotional well-being and camaraderie around common experiences.

The middle school supports periodic, lunchtime identity-based gatherings with adult support of these groups. This year, we started out with two groups: A Kids of Color (KoC) affinity group and a Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) safe space group. The Kids of Color group is for students who have racial minority experiences— students of African descent, Latino/a studies, students of Asian heritage, biracial and multiracial students, etc. The GSA is a space for those who support diversity around gender identity and sexual orientation among middle school students. We have also started two specialty-interest groups: Club Etare and WISE (Women in STEM Education). Club Etare was actually initiated by an 8th grade girl and is based on the goal of older girls mentoring younger girls about life in general.

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

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.

31 Jan

Community Time

The new year arrived and our students were excited to once again connect with their “Humans of D-E”!  In preparation for their upcoming meetings, students discussed the benefits of getting to know people in their community.  They prepared interview questions, practiced with their HomeBase groups and got to video their interviews.  Our Humans also came prepared to share a story about themselves. Topics were varied and fascinating as the students heard first-hand accounts about the loss of a pet, becoming mayor, moving and traveling and other impactful life’s experiences.  All of these stories, along with our storytelling from Morning Meetings, create a video collage about all of the unique people who create our D-E community.  Students and faculty will continue to share their stories at Morning Meetings throughout the remainder to year.  It has become a highlight to hear the vast experiences that community members are eager to share.

Morning Meeting time provides a Division-wide moment each Monday morning where we come together as a community. During this time, we celebrate students and events, announce upcoming activities, and provide a forum in which to share/educate each other. This month, here are some of our topics: Ms. Marro and Mr. Muller shared their stories about the meaning of athletics in their lives which led to an understanding of the privilege of representing one’s school, whether it is in athletics, arts, or other endeavors. Our student Tech Team helped to expand everyone’s knowledge about iPads with their presentation this week. And the Honor Code Committee made us all laugh with their video on “Little Known Rules”.

Assembly: Every Thursday, our Middle School has a 50-minute Assembly period when we can delve into subjects, hear from national and local experts, celebrate our school’s events, and create new experiences. All these events help to build community, emphasize our core values, and promote our School Mission. In January, we had a fantastic MLK Assembly that featured students Diana, Remy, Jason, and Sofia. We also used an assembly period that called upon our 8’s to lead a small inter-grade group of students in a conversation about transitions. Last Thursday, Dr. Nisha Aurora, D-E parent, talked to us about the need for sleep. And this week, Mr. Trevor Shaw, D-E Director of Technology, will help us all better understand the benefits and challenges of social media and technology.

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!


06 Nov

Our D-E Community

In the Garden: It’s seed-saving time!  7th grade DIG students practiced wet and dry
seed saving techniques and begin their study of seed types and the anatomy of a seed. Parent volunteers enjoy fried green tomatoes prepared by the students.

MS Student-Leaders: It is that time of year again . . .  the D-E Lower, Middle and Upper Schools are running a food drive to help local families have food for the Thanksgiving holiday. In the Middle School, the drive is being organized by students who are interested and want an opportunity to take a leadership role. This year, we have a committee of seven young adolescents who will organize, publicize and lead this worthwhile event. Look forward to more details about the School’s annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, in the near future.

Upcoming Events:

In addition to the Parent Forums for the Middle School take place starting Tuesday, November 7 (for Grade 6)  in Hulst House at 8:30 AM, other upcoming events include special events for D-E parents/ guardians only as well as the entire family.  For details on these and other D-E School upcoming events visit www.d-e.org/calendar or go to http://pa.d-e.org/category/ms/

Enjoy! On Tuesday, November 7, all D-E parents/guardians are invited to the Parents’ Association (PA) and Affinity Groups evening event, “Food, Music, Community” at 7:00 pm in Hajjar Auditorium.  Enjoy global flavors and live music performances. For details and to RSVP please click here.

Friday, November 10 – Saturday, November 11 Upper School Performing Arts Department presents Shakespeare’s  Romeo & Juliet in Hajjar STEM Center. Go to www.d-e.org/arts for details. Tickets are $15 each (general admission) and are now on sale in the School Store.

Save the Date:

On Thursday, November 30, please join us for our annual MS Winter Arts Festival at 7:00 pm. Our students ensembles have been working hard in their instrumental and other musical ensembles to prepare for this event. Show Choir is planning to present their interpretation of the Broadway hit musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which tells an ancient story with a timely message about a country in crisis and the power of forgiveness.


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.

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.

09 May

Building Community…and Building Muscles!

Looking to bring a bit of new excitement to the last several weeks of school, our Health and Wellness teachers are challenging students to compete in fun, friendly, low-key competitions during some of the Recess periods.  The “Recess Activity Challenge” begins this week with the Jump Rope Challenge. It’s nice to know that while the children are jumping hard, laughing and enjoying themselves, they are also improving their cardiovascular fitness and engaging in a lifetime fitness activity! I love to see students taking risks.

The Imperatore Library was very busy in April (National Poetry Month), with events ranging from original student and faculty poetry at Write Night to a journalist’s take on the fake news phenomenon. Check out the Library’s blog, the BLIMP for a brief recap and some photos. Write Night in particular (see photos above) is a wonderful event that encourages our budding MS poets to take a risk and share their growing command of the power of words.

Pack the Theater 2017. In a word: WOW! What a tremendous turnout for our student-written and performed play, “Likes”! I am continually amazed by the work of Ms. Moriarty and her assistant, Mrs. Quirk; they take the meaning of ‘student-centered learning’ to heart. Dr. De Jarnett often talks about the value of intrinsic motivation and how difficult it can be to obtain in school settings. He cites three essential factors — autonomy, relevance, and relationship — that all need to be present in order for students to pursue learning for learning’s sake. If you were in the audience last Friday and/or Saturday night, you, like me, witnessed a large group of students who were committed to communicating their message about social media because they wrote the script about their lives and brought it to life. For a few photos of scenes from “Likes” please see above.