Middle School News

Students Bring a ‘World of Pure Imagination’ to Life in Wonka

17-02_wonkaThacher Auditorium will transform into a color-filled candy factory next weekend, as Middle School students perform Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka Jr., the beloved story of a wacky candy-man and his contest to audition potential heirs to his operation.

Student tech crews are working to create larger-than-life cupcakes, gum drops and lollipops to brighten the stage. “In terms of the set, with all the props and everything, I think this is the biggest production that we’ve done,” says Thea (Grade 8), who is doing sound tech for the show. Eighth-grader Sophia is the stage manager, and Upper School students Jocelyn Sabin (III) and Ashley Hales (IV) are assisting with the production throughout the rehearsals.

The original 1964 Dahl book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was remade into a Broadway musical and two movies. Willy Wonka Jr. is an age-appropriate retelling of the story with music from the 1971 Gene Wilder film “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”

Every performer in the cast of 27 is important to the show, says Sofi (Grade 8), who plays the mother of Charlie Bucket, the poor boy who wins the fifth “golden ticket” to visit the Wonka factory. “The best part has been getting to know everyone else and making friends,” Sofi says. “Even if you don’t have the biggest part, you have an important role, and it builds your work ethic. It’s a really fun experience. Even students who aren’t necessarily into musicals can have a good time.”

Karol (Grade 7), who plays one of the mischievous Oompa-Loompas working in the factory, said the cast’s teamwork will be on display in the production. “It’s a really magical show and I think we make a good team,” she says. “This place is going to come alive.”

Upper School students Laura Bailey (III), Jenna Peters (IV) and Izzy Dupre (IV) are also assisting with Wonka, which opens on Thursday, February 23, at 7 p.m.

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.”

Middle and Lower School Students Mix it Up in Sports

sportsWhat a fantastic day for our first ever Mix-It-Up Sports Day! The sun was shining, it was 70 degrees, and an enthusiastic group of students took to the athletic fields for a competitive and spirited day of field hockey and flag football!

Middle School Athletic Director and Lower School Physical Education teacher Sam Landau organized the fun afternoon for 60 student-athletes from grades 5-8. Our new gender-split physical education classes set the stage for students to play the sports that are available to them in Middle School. Specifically, boys played flag football and girls played field hockey. Middle School coaches facilitated games aimed at building camaraderie among the students. “This was a great opportunity for our Middle School leaders to be role models as they introduced Grade 5 students  to Middle School sports and generated excitement about opportunities they will have next year,” said Sam.

Garvin, a student in Grade 8, commented on his experience saying that “playing with the fifth graders not only connects them with the Middle School, but also connects us better with the Lower School. I know that our team had a blast teaching them the game of football. When I was a fifth grader I would have enjoyed that very much, and I was happy to be a part of that experience.” Ally, also in Grade 8, added, “our mini-scrimmage was super fun and I got to see what our next year’s team will look like, and from what I saw today, it’ll be awesome!”

The highly successful afternoon was filled with lots of smiles and connections made among all of the students. We look forward to doing something similar in the winter and spring seasons.


Middle School Students Practice Wellness with a Side of Adventure

wellness1Waiting his turn to ride a horse along the trails behind the Blazing Saddles Equestrian Center, Zachary (Grade 7) said the Middle School’s newly named Wellness Program is an exciting addition to life at school. “It’s great, because we get to go out and experience things we might not do on our own,” he said.

Middle School students are required to choose one of three activities every semester—an interscholastic sport, participation in performing arts, or the Wellness Program. Wellness began as a fitness program, but was renamed and redesigned this year to offer different activities and some more adventurous opportunities, says athletic director Sam Landau.

Students receive fitness instruction every day: On Mondays, they have a kick-boxing class; they play tennis on Tuesday; on Thursday, they do CrossFit and on Friday, they practice yoga and receive some nutrition instruction. Each class is taught by an instructor who specializes in the particular disciplines. Wednesdays are reserved for activities students wouldn’t necessarily encounter on campus or in a traditional fitness program: kayaking on the Charles River, rock-climbing, archery and horseback riding. In the winter—weather permitting—students will have the chance to learn to ski or snowboard at the Blue Hills Ski Area.

“We have several students in the program who are athletes, but they may not be interested in playing a sport in a particular season; and then we have students who aren’t interested in team sports,” Sam says. “This year, we wanted to have activities that are fun and healthy, that get the kids outside and encourage them to try new things.”

At the beginning and end of each season, students are evaluated. “Seeing how much progress they make in a relatively short time is really wonderful,” says Sonya Conway, the Grade 6 dean.

“I love the Wellness Program, because it combines a bunch of different activities together, and the groups are small,” said eighth-grader Blessie. “The skills we’re learning are helpful for other parts of life, as well—things like endurance and mind over matter.”

Middle School ‘Speechies’ and Coach Debbie Simon Earn National Recognition

middleschoolteamSpeaking, storytelling and bringing to life poetry and prose paid off for the Middle School’s Speech team, as it was recognized as one of the top five Teams of Excellence at the National Speech and Debate Association Tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah. The students used their skills in public address, limited preparation and interpretation to succeed in a variety of events over the course of the tournament.

Six students placed as finalists during the tournament, meaning they were among the top six in the nation in their events, while several others earned recognition in the semi- and quarter-finals during the competition.

Honors for the Milton team did not end there, however. Coach Debbie Simon was also named Middle School Coach of the Year by the National Speech and Debate Association. “The parent body is extremely appreciative of Debbie’s tireless efforts and unflagging support of this program,” says parent George Alex. “Debbie’s ‘speechies’ learn so many life lessons and develop critical skills that will serve them well throughout life.”

Students placing in the National Speech and Debate Tournament from Milton were:

Finalists (Top 6 in the nation)

  • Maya B., second place, declamation
  • Isabel A. and Ben S., sixth place, duo interpretation
  • Izzy D. and Ginny B., fifth place, duo interpretation
  • Cody W., sixth place, humorous interpretation

Semi-finalists (Top 12)

  • Carli G., prose
  • Caroline W., prose
  • Jana A., impromptu
  • Cori D., dramatic interpretation
  • Izzi D., dramatic interpretation

Quarter-finalists (Top 24)

  • Miranda P., poetry
  • Kayla M., poetry
  • Brian B., declamation
  • Isabel A., storytelling
  • Ben S., storytelling
  • Walker H., storytelling
  • Carli G., dramatic interpretation
  • Maya B., impromptu
  • Jana A., original oratory
  • Ginny B., prose

Celebrating our Milton Spirit!

spiritOn Wednesday afternoon, students and faculty gathered to celebrate our spring athletes and to rally spirit for the last games of the spring season! Traditionally called Milton-Nobles Day, the majority of Middle School teams, with the exception of Softball, Track and Baseball Blue, do, indeed play Noble and Greenough School. Our spirit rally featured our Mustang mascot, videos of professional as well as our own Middle School athletes (and reporters), a plethora of of orange & blue, and lots of cheering!

Click here to view the short video that Athletic Director Sam Landau (together with our own Middle School students) made about this season’s teams.

Next Friday, we will re-cap the spring season in each sport.

Congratulations to Evita

Evita and Israel Arbeiter

Evita and Israel Arbeiter

I will raise my voice until the day I see all human beings love each other.
I will raise my voice until the day I am certain the Holocaust will never happen again.

–  Evita, Grade 8, Milton Academy


Evita has a special commitment to bringing to light, the horrors of the Holocaust and to finding hope for future generations. She shared her commitment to human rights in an essay that she recently submitted to the Israel Arbeiter Essay Contest. Her talent as a writer, and her dedication to ensuring that the memory of those who died in the Holocaust is not forgotten earned her 2nd place in the competition which included students from 6th to 12th grade, from across the Boston area. Evita received her award at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston commemoration of Yom HaShoah on Sunday, May 1 at Faneuil Hall in Boston.

In Grade 8 Social Studies classes, students have been talking about leadership. Specifically, students are asking themselves: What makes a good leader? What does it mean to lead? What lasting impact do leaders, as changemakers, have? Evita’s participation in the contest stemmed from the work that students are doing in the areas of leadership and change.

Congratulations to Evita for her good work! We are all so proud of you!

Grade 6 Shares Sustainability Ideas

IMG_3191This afternoon, Grade 6 students shared their Sustainability Projects with parents, the rest of the Middle School, and even some Lower School classes who were able to attend the Sustainability Gala. Click here to see the many projects that students created.




What do Dollars, Donuts, and Trees have in common?

For three of our sixth-grade students…Donuts = Dollars = Trees!

IMG_0747For the last few weeks, Grade 6 students have been studying sustainability — the creation and maintenance of conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony — making sure that we have and will continue to have the water, materials, and resources we need while protecting our environment.

With some brainstorming and creativity, they arrived at a plan: On Tuesday during recess, the trio (who selected the acronym SAD – Students Against Deforestation) will be selling Donuts for Dollars with the hope of raising the funds to purchase some new trees for the Milton Academy campus, thereby preserving the lovely landscape that students appreciate and giving back to the environment for years to come.

Donut-day-addOn Tuesday, send your Middle School with a dollar to purchase a donut for this great cause. Additional donations welcome too! Then, join Nathan, Sophie and Jack on Earth Day to plant their acquisitions.

Thanks to Mr. Steve Zannino, Director of Facilities, for his work with this group, and to Ms. Jacqui Pennini for brainstorming and facilitating their project.

Join Grade 6 students and families on Friday afternoon in Thacher to hear the plethora of creative ways students have supported and celebrated sustainability.

Math Teachers attend Connected Math 3 Conference

Message from Dr. Nancy Anderson

Greetings from East Lansing, Michigan! I am writing from the campus of Michigan State University where I am attending the Connected Math 3 (CMP3) Annual Users’ Conference. I am joined by my colleagues Carrie Ferrin and Jin Lee … and hundreds of other mathematics educators from around the country. Each year, the authors of CMP3 host this conference at their university (MSU) and invite teachers to gather for thoughtful discussions about mathematics teaching, learning, and assessment. Workshop sessions focus on describing mathematical models, identifying effective practices, and sharing research findings on the efficacy of the program.

Our attendance at this conference is an example how carefully Milton math teachers attend to the relationship between curriculum and instruction. We adopted CMP3 as the vehicle for delivering our renewed scope and sequence because it rests on decades of research on the teaching and learning of middle grades mathematics. But we recognize that while curriculum materials provide the “ingredients” for our lessons, it is our teaching that has the greatest effect on our students’ learning. As such, we are committed to ongoing professional development work. By attending events like this one, presenting at local and regional conferences, and conducting our own professional study groups here at Milton, we bring the most effective models, questions, and assessment strategies into our classrooms.

In upcoming newsletter entries, I will share more examples of our professional development work. I look forward to providing more information about our math program at our upcoming workshop on Thursday, February 25. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to me with your questions and comments.


Students Pitch in to Help the Residents of Flint, Michigan

Two eighth-grade students are taking action to help the residents of Flint, Michigan, whose water contamination crisis is getting nationwide attention. They invite other Middle School students and families to join them in donating and gathering goods to send to Michigan.

Consider donating by grade:

Grade 6 –  Light non-perishables (pasta, mac & cheese) which can be easily and inexpensively shipped

Grade 7 – water filters (ie: Britta) and/or water testing kits (which can be found at Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon.com and other retailers)

Grade 8 – Small monetary donations for the purchase of goods and to help pay for shipping.

A Peek into our Classrooms!

Grade 6

Spanish: Grade 6 Spanish is wrapping up a unit on noun/adjective agreement and definite and indefinite articles. Students have been practicing ways to describe physical attributes, personality traits, and likes and dislikes of themselves and others. We have been working on oral fluency and increasingly, on written fluency. We will begin a new chapter on telling time, describing school schedules and activities, and expressing obligations very shortly.

French: We are reviewing verbs like AVOIR and ETRE (to have and to be) and adjectives of description. To do this, students made Google presentations describing each other with adjectives. We continue to review greetings, months, days of the week, numbers, and nationalities. We will play “Guess Who” to reinforce the use of adjectives of description and learned a song on body parts.

Latin: In Latin, students are becoming more familiar with the past tenses (perfect and imperfect) and have added the third person plural. Practice continues daily on noticing subjects, objects and prepositional phrases. The cultural unit deals with First Century beliefs about the afterlife — we’ve read stories featuring a werewolf and an aggressive ghost.

English: This month in English, students are working on tracing themes, characters, and symbols of their choice through Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. We have also begun a unit on comma usage, which incorporates grammar concepts both new and old. Students are continuing their independent reading of nonfiction books and should be planning to finish up around January twentieth. They are processing their reading through short analytical writing assignments.

Science: In the weeks since we returned from winter break, students have completed their study of climate change by engaging with several key topics. They analyzed the atmospheric data available for the last 800,000 years that shows what the composition of the atmosphere was like before and after industrialization. Students spent time brainstorming and learning about the consequences of a changed climate, and posed solutions to disruptions in global agricultural production, spread of infectious disease and rising sea level. Together we read a scientific paper by a leading climate scientist who suggests a target CO2 concentration for humanity to shoot for, and we considered actions individuals and groups of people could take to reduce their carbon footprint. In the coming days we will shift gears and learn how climate change connects to the concept of sustainability.

Math: In Grade 6 Math, we finished the Accentuate the Negative unit, and students took a test on the unit on January 19. Accentuate the Negative focused on exploring addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of positive and negative rational numbers. Our next unit will be Stretching & Shrinking that entails understanding similarity with a focus on scale factor and ratio.

Social Studies: In Social Studies, students are examining how different Native American tribes emerged from the original people who populated North and South America. For their upcoming research project, they will be selecting and studying an aspect of the culture of an indigenous people. When the semester changes in early February, Research will replace Technology in their schedules. The research they begin in Social Studies will be done in conjunction with their research course.

Visual Arts: In Visual Art students are doing observational self-portraits. Students are learning not only the skill of how to draw an eye or nose, but how to look closely at their own features and to see what makes them unique. Through their self-portraits, Students are using observation as a way to look critically at themselves not in a captious sense, but in how forms and shapes actually relate, line up, and create what they look like.

Drama: The students in Grade 6 Drama are using their newly-acquired public speaking skills to practice Impromptu Speaking. In this type of “limited preparation” speaking, students pull three prompts at random, select one, and have only a few minutes in which to prepare and present a short, well-organized talk inspired by the chosen “jump start.” Students are learning to organize their speeches to include an attention getting device (AGD), preview, first body section, transition, second body section, conclusion, and “whammo.” In this lesson, practice is key.


Grade 7

Math: During the first week of January, students explored the nature of inverse variation in different contexts, such as the fixed area of a rectangle. We also compared inverse variation and linear relationships. This week, we are using the new CMP 3 book called Growing, Growing, Growing that explores exponential functions. Students investigate the growth in the number of ballots created by repeatedly cutting a piece of paper in half. By examining the table, they see that, as the number of cuts increases by one, the number of ballots doubles or increases by a factor of 2.

360 King: Through a “Stand Up/Sit Down” activity, students are beginning to evaluate their unique and common identities. Students then explore the quest for identity and the importance of symbolism by reading and discussing, The Poncho Bearer. Students are encouraged to reflect on how to allow fluidity in the creation of their identities and to offer “space to grow” in their fellow classmates as well.

360 Swiatkowski (aka, West): Students considered their experience during assessment week by writing reflections, which have been passed on to their advisors. Currently we are exploring how we organize both our time and our spaces. Students have been challenged to create an “ideal” study space in their home(s).

Science: We finished up our DNA and Mutations unit last week with students making presentations about genetic disorders. This week, the students took their unit assessments. Beyond that, we are looking forward to beginning our genetics unit, starting with several discussions about Gregor Mendel and Punnett squares. On February 4, the first day of the new semester, Mr. Duryea will be leaving Grade 7 and moving to Grade 8, to cover Mr. Troy’s sabbatical. Ms. Austin will return to Milton and to Grade 7 Science on that day.

Spanish: Students in Grade 7 are working with los comparativos comparisons, and stem changing verbs. Students have been learning how to make comparisons between people and things, and have been looking at the new vocabulary, verbs and material in the context of the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in Spanish.

Latin: After completing the assessment in December, students reviewed their work, identified areas of confusion, and reflected on their methods of preparation. Since returning, students have learned how to use the genitive (possessive) case. We are now considering three different, important uses for the ablative. We are also learning about Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of the city, Rome.

French:  First students were asked to identify the region “Le Midi de la France” (history, geography, economy, art, culinary and the fine arts links). Students are continuing to use the past tense and they are learning places in the city (with the correct preposition) and transportation plus the verb VOIR (to see). They made a Google presentation of their own city/town labeling the places and adding new ones. That done, students are now learning how to ask and give directions in their cities.

Social Studies: Students are concluding WWI and beginning to examine the impact the Treaty of Versailles had on WWII. Following this, we will examine the rise of Hitler and think about how we define terrorism and who does the labeling. This will lead into the graphic novel, Maus, which will introduce students to the Holocaust.

Boys and Girls English: Boys and Girls English are both beginning To Kill a Mockingbird this week. To help support work with the CSP, students will be guided through a jocial justice reading of the novel. This shared lens will also help support Socratic discussions in combined and separated classes. Additionally, Grade 7 Girls’ English is finishing their reading of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by writing a classification essay. The key to writing a classification essay is to find a way to sort out one’s ideas in a logical way. The thesis statement usually includes the topic and how that topic is classified. For their essay on Francie Nolan, the girls are choosing two of the protagonist’s struggles from 1918 and two modern dilemmas that reflect the same issues. The girls have had two weeks to craft their essay at home and to use class time for sharing and peer editing.


Grade 8

Math: Grade 8 math classes are wrapping up their study of linear inequalities and systems of inequalities. Key goals of the unit include using symbolic methods to solve inequalities, connecting solutions to their underlying graphs, and comparing and contrasting different types of inequalities (e.g.: How is 3x + 4 < 12 similar to and different from 3x + 4y < 12?)  Soon we will begin our next unit on function notation, transformations of functions, and quadratic functions in vertex form.

English: We have begun our reading of Richard Wright’s memoir Black Boy, which will carry us to March break. Students are focusing on seeing patterns in writing and connecting the issues raised in the text to issues our society still faces.

Science: In Grade 8 Science, students are learning and practicing different methods of separating pure substances from mixtures. They just finished a four-day experiment on fractional distillation. Next, we will look into paper chromatography, filtration, and fractional crystallization. This unit will culminate with the sludge lab in early February. On February 4, the first day of the spring semester, Mr. Troy will leave for his sabbatical. Mr. Duryea will be taking over the class for the remainder of the academic year.

360 – King:  We are discussing personal choices and the importance of using both a conscious and informed decision-making process in assessing possible consequences and personal accountability.

360 – Swiatkowski (a.k.a. West): We are beginning our semester-long study of the brain. The objective of our study is to understand the structure and function of different brain areas so that we can learn about how we learn.

Performing Arts:  In our culminating project for the semester, students are rehearsing ensemble performance pieces adapted from children’s literature. They are focusing on character development, narration, and stage movement as they continue to strengthen performance and rehearsal skills.

Social Studies: Students are exploring the development of the slave trade from the point of view of economic power, distribution of goods throughout the world, and the effect that enslavement of a group of people has had on today’s society. Students will be asked to explore what life was like for a slave plantation owner, a captain of a slave ship, slave owner’s family, slave on a plantation, and free men in the U.S. and Africa.

Visual Arts: Students in Visual Arts are doing an observational self-portrait using micrography. Micrography is the use of letters and words instead of lines and shapes to form their drawing. Through this process, students draw not only themselves in a physical sense, but the words they have chosen to use describe their interests, identities, likes and dislikes and anything else they chose to share about themselves.

Spanish: Students continue working with mandatos informales; positivos y negativos (informal positive and negative commands) and have also added los mandatos formales – usted y ustedes (formal positive and negative commands when speaking to one person formally and when speaking to a group). This week, they completed and are presenting their projects on the mandatos in which they came up with slogans in Spanish utilizing commands, and designed paper t-shirts displaying their slogans.

Latin: Students in Latin C just wrapped up their translation on the Roman hero Mucius Scaevola and completed their study of personal pronouns. We are now learning about imperatives and will soon be preparing for next Wednesday’s test.

French: In French C we are working on the vocabulary and grammar of food. Students just started working in pairs to prepare a graded oral presentation that puts together all the grammar and vocabulary we have learned. The scenario is about a patient that visits a nutritionist to talk about his/her diet. Presentations/skits are due next week.


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.

Congratulations to our Fall-Season Coach Award Recipients

Fall Coach AwardsOn Wednesday, eight students were recognized for their good sportsmanship and spirit of teamwork during the fall season. The students, hailed as positive examples for those around them, were selected for “[applying] the Middle School values of respect and responsibility to the realm of athletics in ways both large and small.” Coaches’ Awards are given to one student from each team, each season.

Cross Country –Tommy
Boys Soccer Blue-Kiran
Girls Soccer Blue–Cori
Boys Soccer Orange–Nikhil
Girls Soccer Orange-Sarah
Field Hockey–Eliza (not pictured)
Football- Kalel