Lower School News

Drs. Deepak Chopra and Rudy Tanzi Urge Students to Reshape Their Brains Through Reflection

“When you are self-aware, you become a leader of your own life. You become the director, the protagonist, the hero and the producer of your own life. For that you need to reflect, which is part of mindfulness.”

deepakSharing the “gift of self-awareness,” Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. Rudy Tanzi spoke with students, faculty, staff and parents this week. Dr. Chopra, a pioneer in meditation and alternative medicine, and Dr. Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard, offered insights on happiness, fulfillment and good health that they have gathered from researching the human brain.

Dr. Chopra and Dr. Tanzi spent time with the Lower School for a question-and-answer session, where they discussed how they met and answered questions about meditation. A student led a guided meditation, followed by a session led by Dr. Chopra. Prior to their visit with the Lower School, the doctors spoke with Middle and Upper School students in King Theatre.

Citing the Latin root of the word “education,” educere, which means “to bring out,” Dr. Chopra urged students to consider self-reflection and meditation important parts of their education and growth. Great leaders in history asked deep questions about gratitude and mission, along with their place in the world; they were also great storytellers who understood the value of emotionally connecting with other people.

“Smart people don’t necessarily achieve great success if they are just smart,” Dr. Chopra said. “Smart people who also know how to connect emotionally; who know how to offer hope, or trust, or stability, or compassion—or are not ashamed of love—they are the people who reach their full potential and have great passion for life.”

After becoming disenchanted with the Western medicine he studied and practiced, Dr. Chopra turned to transcendental and alternative medicine and ultimately, to meditation. He believes that happiness, health, and fulfillment can be found internally. Dr. Tanzi, whose research career includes discovery and isolation of the genes that lead to the Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Wilson’s diseases, met Dr. Chopra by chance six years ago. The two have since written two best-selling books, Super Brain and Super Genes and are working on their third.

The idea of Super Brain was born from breakthroughs in neuroscience. Modern brain-scan technology reveals that the brain is more powerful than ever imagined, with the power to regenerate, and to be shaped. Chopra and Tanzi contend that people can create the brains they want using conscious choice.

The doctors encouraged students to be self-aware; to use their brains to be happy; to lead healthy, balanced lives; and to choose to do good things for others—this, Dr. Tanzi shared, is a “secret to happiness—human beings want to help others.”

Welcome Coleman Daley to Grade 5!

ColemanWe are delighted to announce that Coleman Daley will be joining our Grade 5 team this fall! Coleman is the Grade 4, 5, and 6 lead teacher at Hill View Montessori Charter School in Haverhill, where he teaches all subject areas (Math, Reading, History, Geography, Grammar, Science, and Conflict Resolution). Prior to Hill View, Coleman co-led the upper elementary grades at Bridgeview Montessori in Bourne. He holds both a B.A. and an M.Ed. from Lesley University, the latter of which he completed through the Shady Hill Teacher Training Program. Prior to teaching, Coleman acted professionally, on both stage, and daytime television. There will be ample opportunity to meet Coleman before the end of the year, including at the Grade 5 Looking Ahead meeting.

Learning to be a Good Friend

Kindergarten Wood shop and Grade 2 Me You Us 070Grade 2 is exploring Me, You, Us, an affective education curriculum which helps children understand that to have good friends, you need to be a good friend. Working with Director of Multiculturalism and Community Development Robert Lightbody and Lower School Counselor Sarah Spinello, the students were given situations to perform for their peers. The topics of the skits provided a springboard for students to discuss the variety of ways they can be good friends, strengthen their community, and nurture kindness both at School and in their lives away from campus.

Learning about the making of video games

First Grade Job Week 007Grade 1 students continued to think about what they want to be when they grow up. On Friday, Eva’s parents, video game designers, stopped by to talk about how a video game was made. Grade 1 learned about all the team members that come together to make a game as well as the different steps in the game-making process. Perhaps some of our students will be inspired to become game programmers when they grow up!

Congratulations to Alison on her success in our National Geographic Geography Bee!

IMG_0484At Thursday’s National Geographic Geography Bee, it was Grade 6 student, Alison, who took top honors. In the eight years that Milton Academy has hosted this school-level event, this is the first time that the victor answered every question correctly.

Congratulations to Alison and the 19 other students from grades 4-8 who participated in the bee!

Click here for more information about the National Geographic Geography Bee.

Grade 1 visits with Officer Arthur of the Boston Police Department

Grade1PoliceGrade 1 had a very special visitor this week – Officer Arthur from the Boston Police Department! Officer Arthur spoke to students about the work and the many skills that his job entails. Students had lots of time to ask questions about what it is like to be a police officer. What a special afternoon!

Officer Arthur’s visit is part of the “What do I want to be when I grow up?” unit. In this unit, the children learn about some of the many jobs that exist in the world. Reading and note-taking skills are put to work in their research, and interviewing skills are developed as they are given opportunities to ask parent and friend visitors questions about their vocations and avocations. The children then create tools of the trade and instruction manuals to go with the occupations they have chosen. A culminating job fair allows each child to take the role of perspective employer and “interview” candidates, a task that requires thinking about the qualities and skills needed in a given profession.


A View into our Greenleaf Classrooms

grade 3Grade 3

Students in Grade 3 continue along the trail of Lewis and Clark with new awareness of the rigorous landscape as the expedition nears the Rockies. Thankfully, the Shoshone Indians offered horses while realizing their long lost tribe member Sacagawea, was accompanying the Corps of Discovery on the mission to the Pacific Ocean. The class traveled together to the Harvard Museum of Natural History by bus rather than canoe, to see many different species exhibited in the halls of this fascinating museum. After a presentation on Jaws and Claws, the students sketched their favorite animal in their nature journals. The gem and mineral room was the site of many expressions of delight and wonder as was the Native American display. Individual and small group projects continue in class this week as students work to develop models of the winter forts, journal replicas, cradle boards, plant and animal books, posters, and maps. The final chapters of Lewis and Clark and Me bring a true appreciation of the hardship and experience of the faithful Newfoundland dog who accompanied the Corps. In math, the class continues to add three-digit numbers and recognize the value of one thousand. Please stop by and view our bulletin board of new recruits, the beautiful butterflies (which are now displayed in the Greenleaf Lobby) and fall still life sketches.


Grade 4Grade 4

In Social Studies, students have been learning about Ancient Mesopotamia, the “Cradle of Civilization.” We read a historical fiction novel set in that time, as well as children’s versions of the Gilgamesh legend. We recently had the opportunity to Skype with Ludmila Zeman, author and illustrator of the Gilgamesh books. And now, we’re using technology to make stop-motion animated mini-movies based on Mesopotamian stories. We look forward to sharing those soon. In Math, we wrapped up a unit on fractions and decimals, and are starting to explore 3D Geometry. The crowning glory of our week was our presentation in this morning’s assembly of our Living Arts curriculum.

Click here to watch one of our groups share their knowledge.


grade 5Grade 5

In literature class, our reading of The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis has provided a springboard for our study of the important history, themes, and conflicts of the Civil Rights Era. In connection, students will also begin writing their own songs of social change in Music, and create a poster in Art. In writing, we shared our personal narratives in Wednesday morning’s Writing Celebration – the narratives ranged from gripping, to humorous, and to very moving. Over the next few days, we will begin our unit on Greek mythology, which will continue into January. In Math, we started a new unit that will extend our understanding of rational numbers. Next up is our exploration of ratios as a comparison of two quantities and our learning to use rate tables to study equivalent ratios.

Cultural Competency…Looking Beyond the Classroom

Grade 2 students Skype with a Lower School art class at El Pilar in Madrid.

Grade 2 students Skype with a Lower School art class at El Pilar in Madrid.

This fall, our Lower School is building upon Milton’s established partnership with El Pilar—a private, bilingual, K–12 school in Madrid, Spain. In partnering with El Pilar, our aim is two-fold:

  • Establish a language and cultural exchange program with a peer institution in a Spanish-speaking country.
  • Learn from their experiences as we launch a purposeful, service-learning program in our Lower School.

As a first step in this partnership, four Lower School teachers will visit El Pilar next week, spending time in their lower school classrooms, and experiencing El Pilar’s teaching and learning, and—during the visit—connecting with our own second and fourth grade students via Skype.

A day trip to Almeria, with one of El Pilar’s second grade teachers, will give our faculty a first-hand look at the school’s year-long service learning project. Each year, El Pilar chooses a school-wide community service project—a central tenet of the school’s program. “We want our students to see themselves as citizens of the world,” says Lucia. “Contigo + somos familia. (You make me a better person and I make you a better person.) El Pilar uses this motto as part of their service learning, showing students that helping others helps us all.”

A visit to the Alahambra in Granada—a site of the historical intermingling of three major faiths (Judaism, Islam and Christianity)—will provide Randy invaluable context for the Grade 4 Three Faiths Unit. “Granada is a great example of the three faiths interacting in significant ways,” says Randy. “There lies a fascinating intermingling of cultures and influences, and the ongoing restoration continues to reveal the artistic style of the site.”

Teachers have planned and implemented curricula with El Pilar counterparts, and excitement is building. Grade 2 students have conversed over Skype, and both grades are looking forward to a “pen pal” writing program. Our teachers have embarked on their own Spanish language learning, as well. “This real-time, cross-cultural connection will give our students an understanding and appreciation of a world broader than what they experience every day,” says Tasha.

Milton prioritizes developing in students a respect and caring for one another, cultural competency, and an ability to live courageously, creatively and authentically. This partnership with El Pilar will help equip our Lower School teachers to do this important work. When teachers deepen their own cultural knowledge and broaden their perspectives, they are in a better position to teach those skills. Sandy, Milton’s current holder of the Betty Buck Chair, is leading this project. “We are part of a global and rapidly changing world,” she says. “Our children must be flexible, resilient, and open to difference. This partnership is designed to teach some of those essential skills to our young students.” In establishing this partnership, and leveraging the long-time partnership of our Upper School with El Pilar, Sandy envisions that “some of our students will go to Spain when they are older, and they may stay with families they initially interacted with in the Lower School.”

We believe that this meaningful partnership will enrich the teaching of our faculty and will forge authentic cultural connections for our students.

This trip will be funded by Milton’s Betty Buck Chair, which supports Lower School faculty in seeking innovative ways to build a stronger, more vibrant community of learners.

Grade 2 Plants some bulbs for Spring

Second Grade Bulb Planting November 4 2015 011Second graders took advantage of the beautiful weather this week! They joined Mrs. McGuinness in the garden to plant allium and tulip bulbs. While the students worked, they learned about the different parts of a bulb as well as the importance of when to properly plant bulbs. We can’t wait to see the bulbs emerge in the spring!

Getting to know Mike Lupica


The author of over thirty books geared toward young readers, with messages about teamwork, friendship, perseverance, and winning, Mike Lupica is widely read among fifth and sixth grade children. When he visited campus earlier this week, the students were thrilled to have the chance to meet him, and mesmerized by his many stories, including how he became a writer of children’s books.

What do goats and First Graders have in common?

Each spring, Milton Academy’s Lower School Teachers, together with Lower School Librarian Joan Eisenberg, select a book that every child in each of our six grades will read over the summer. The summer reading book, a tradition since the early 1970s, provides students with a common reading experience as they enter School in the fall. For teachers, the summer reading book provides a fresh curricular unit with which to start the year. Planning the fall’s curriculum is always a “summer highlight” as we think about “how to make each book come alive by weaving in every element of learning, from math, to art, to music, to writing, to physical education, and even to Spanish!” explains Grade 1 teacher Jerrie Moffett.

goatThis year, Grade 1 read Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier. “Through Beatrice’s Goat, we’ve been able to introduce the culture and geography of Uganda, and to extend that learning to the creation of thumb-pianos in woodworking and African paper beads in Art” shares Nancy McCuen. For children like Beatrice, goats provide food and drink as well as help families earn money to sent their children to school. Our children learned about raising goats and even got to try goat’s milk and goat cheese. To bring the idea full-circle, Grade 1 students had a special visit with some goats, one of which they were even able to milk – just like Beatrice!

Grade1Hut“Making cultural connections has been a big part of this unit,” explains Mrs. McCuen. “We do that in a very hands on way in First Grade. We’re currently building a Ugandan village that will give students an idea of what life is like for Beatrice.” In woodworking class, along with their teacher Jenny Sorblom, the children created a “mud hut” complete with straw roof. “The hut allows children to play out everyday life in a Ugandan village.

As one of their projects, students made books explaining how they are both similar to and different from goats.  Wondering what first-graders came up with?

How are some first graders similar to goats?

  • I get scared easily and goats do too.
  • Goats like vegetables and I do too.
  • I have knees and goats do too.
  • I like to nibble Cheez-Its.
  • I am curious.
  •  I run a lot.
  • I have to clip my fingernails and goats have to trim their hooves.
  • I have legs.
  • I like to nibble.


How are some first graders different from goats?

  • I don’t eat hay!
  • Goats stand on their hind legs.
  • I am serious.
  • I don’t play by biting each other.
  • I don’t like to nibble.
  • I don’t like oats.
  • I don’t like to climb.
  • I don’t have hay in my hair.
  • I don’t have an odor.
  • I am not pent in.
  • I don’t have udders that produce milk.
  • Goats don’t play sports and I do.