K–8 News and Events
The Middle School’s speech team recently traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the National Speech and Debate Association’s National Tournament, where Milton speechies took home 16 awards.
For the second year in a row, the team, led by faculty members Yoshi Makishima and Debbie Simon, received a School of Excellence Award by the NSDA, marking Milton as one of the highest point-earning teams in the tournament.
Three students made it to the final rounds, where Karol Querido (Grade 8) received fourth place in prose reading; Nika Farokhzad (Grade 7) finished in fourth place for declamation, an event in which the student prepares and delivers an excerpt of a speech previously performed in public; and Neha Modak (Grade 8) received a third-place honor for impromptu speaking, in which students select three prompts at random from an envelope and deliver a speech in reaction to one of them within seven minutes.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.
These words, from William Shakespeare’s As you Like it, remind us so vividly of the path of a teacher’s life.
“For a good teacher,” political speaker Brad Henry observes, “can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.”
For a teacher, the classroom is filled with possibilities. read more…
Today marks a few “lasts” for us here in the Middle School: the last full week of school; the last athletic games and practices; and if you’re in my class, the last, but not least, dreaded geography test! And among these lasts, we ushered in a remarkable “first” today, the very first Student Diversity Committee-run workshop for our students.
This year in the Middle School, we formed the first-ever Multicultural and Community Development Committee, comprised of faculty and staff, as well as a Student Diversity Committee. Together, these groups have made incredible progress in shaping the vision, values and climate in our Middle School. Both committees have been working together all year, meeting with the read more…
Presenting their work on topics ranging from Puerto Rican statehood to bullying, to elephant poaching to the benefits of STEM education, Grade 7 students concluded their semester-long Choosing to Participate (CTP) in a gallery open to their peers, teachers and parents.
CTP is an interdisciplinary research project overseen by Grade 7 social studies faculty member Steven Bertozzi. The theme of the project is “global citizenship.” Students chose topics about which they are passionate and curious, and spent the spring semester researching the issues, seeking expert input and identifying action steps to solve problems.
Marshall chose to research police brutality in the United States, and presented statistics about excessive-force cases, including the racial identity of victims and low rates of convictions among police officers charged in brutality cases. “If we require police to wear body cameras, I believe they will be more accountable for their actions,” Marshall said. “They should also undergo diversity training and get to know the communities they are policing.”
Sophia, inspired by her aunt’s battle with aggressive cervical cancer, decided to research the cancer’s warning signs and the importance of early detection. Working with the American Cancer Society, Sophia held a mini Relay for Life on Milton’s campus and raised more than $20,000 to donate to the ACS.“Cervical cancer impacts a lot of women every year,” she said. “My goal is to raise awareness.”
Amelia studied the impact of a baby’s stay in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) on families. The costs for parents of having a child in the NICU are staggering, and more often impact families of color because of unequal access to prenatal care. Amelia was born premature and spent nearly a month in the NICU—the hospital stay cost her family about $1,000 in parking fees alone.
Amelia said she urges people to volunteer in NICUs or knit hats and blankets for the babies. She also called her representatives in Congress to urge their support of long-term health insurance coverage. “If the coverage isn’t there, it can leave families drowning in debt.”
More than just a Friendly Face
The year was 1987. We were in seventh grade.
And my best friend and I were tired of hearing this all the time: “Maybe you girls need to branch out and make different friends. You can’t rely on each other forever!” Was that true? I didn’t know, and I didn’t really want to think about it, either. A boy in our class—Chris, let’s call him—was pretty awful to one of us. Thirty years later, neither of us remembers which one. His torments took the form of typical ‘80s-style bullying: name-calling, poking, flicking, spitballs, mean (paper) notes, you get the idea.
Dear Middle School Families,
I am grateful to have this opportunity to share with you how honored I am to be the incoming Middle School principal. The past five years I’ve spent at Milton have been among the most fulfilling of my 20-year career as an educator—and that is because of the Milton faculty who are the most dedicated and dynamic group of educators I’ve ever known. It’s because of Milton families who push us to examine our craft and answer tough but important questions about our work. And it’s because of our Milton students who teach me every day what it means to be brave, even in the face of fear. read more…
Specialization in Sports
Are kids specializing in sports too early?
Are we setting our kids up for injury and burnout in the sport they are passionate about?
How young is too young?
Over the past several decades, youth sports and opportunities have dramatically shifted, with more and more kids specializing in sports starting at a very young age. According to a 2008 study by the National Council of Youth Sports, over 60 million children age 6-18 are involved in organized sports in the United States (from 20 million in 1995). Twenty-seven percent of these kids are specializing in one sport, and 70 percent are dropping out of sports by the age of 13.
How can we account for such a rapid increase in specialization, as well as a high dropout rate? read more…
I have spent most of my life not knowing quite where I fit in. As a kid, I was outspoken and not always interested in the things it seemed other kids were into. I was friendly with most people, but never part of the “in” crowd. I wore that as a badge of honor, though I’ve never been quite sure if I did so because I was proud or was just pretending to be. I dressed differently from the other girls in my class, and considered myself a bit of a rebel. While students talked about their families and how similar they all looked or acted, I reveled in the fact that I was different because I was adopted. I loved theater and art, and was often the one taking on the opposing viewpoint in a class discussion. To know me as an adult, you might not be surprised to hear these things. I still consider myself someone who walks the line between being an insider and an outsider, who says pretty much whatever she is thinking to anyone who will listen, and who is drawn to those who are different. read more…
As we looked out the window, watching huge snowflakes fall on the second day of April, it was easy to think we were still stuck in winter. However, we are in the middle of a season of change. When I look at our students, I can’t help but notice and reflect on the transformations they have undergone, and the ones that await them before the end of this year.
I walked into the room, confident and excited. I knew what to expect. I was familiar with the potential twists and turns that lay ahead, because this was not my first time in this situation. The adult in the room greeted me and the others with a warm smile. When we were all settled in, he presented the rules of engagement for this hour-long challenge. We could not use any resources other than our creativity, wit and existing knowledge.
We started by searching for all information that we might find helpful. This led to vigorous and sometimes frenetic brainstorming sessions. Divergent thinking was the theme of the moment. As we became increasingly confident that we had read more…
“Oh wow. I could never work with kids that age.”
“Yikes. Middle school was the worst for me. I can’t imagine ever setting foot in a middle school again.”
I usually respond with a quick laugh and try to think of some cleverly snarky response. Every time I find myself in one of these conversations, however, I’m always left feeling somewhat defeated. There’s never enough time to convey why I do what I do, so this forum seems like the perfect opportunity to share what I’d really like to say:
Milton eighth-grader Katheryn Prather (assisted by her dad, Darcy), teaches students at a math and science summer enrichment program in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, where her one-week robotics course has sparked a connection halfway across the world with Indian science teacher and author, Lakshya Kaura.
Each summer, the Bethel Math and Science Scholars Summer Program (BMSSSP), includes topics such as science, engineering, mathematics and technology. Last summer, the Prather family, whose children both began at Milton in Kindergarten, suggested that one of the weeks have a robotics theme. Their recommendation was based on their daughters’ enjoyment of Milton’s fifth-grade curriculum, and their belief that robotics is a hands-on way of engaging students in science, math, problem-solving and engineering.
Katheryn took the lead, reaching out to science teacher Gary Shrager to borrow robots. Mr. Shrager not only offered robots, but he also provided ideas and materials for extended challenges. Professor Radhika Nagpal of Harvard also opened her robotics laboratory to the BMSSP students. Charlene Greene, BMSSSP academic program director, was thrilled to see students “incorporating information they learned earlier in the week in order to create their own challenges.” Gary adds, “That next step in learning is what we all strive for.”
The Saturday Course at Milton Academy, a flagship program for Milton Academy’s commitment to authentic engagement between public and independent schools, has committed to extending its work to connect the students at BMSSSP with Lakshya Kaura. Last fall, the Saturday Course partnered with Mr. Kaura in India to bring his book, Learning of Science Begins with Why? to life and into the classroom. Born in 1999, Mr. Kaura is a science teacher in Ballabgarh, Haryana, India. He was recognized as one of the top-10 innovators across Australia and Asia by Google Science Fair in 2013, holds two patents granted by the Australian Patent Office and has been honored as a National Innovator by two presidents of India. Through Milton Academy, Mr. Kaura is providing 50 copies of his book, Learning of Science Begins with Why? to the students of BMSSP.
“I am blessed to have had education in my life, and feel even more so when I get an opportunity to share it with others,” Mr. Kaura says. “I enjoy facilitating access to learning and hope to continue doing it, globally.”
The book includes science experiments that work well because of their accessibility and inclusion of inexpensive, everyday objects. The goal is to bring a fun approach to hands-on science learning, while also developing skills. This year, Saturday Course students have experimented, analyzed, and shared the results with their peers from Mr. Kaura’s school. With thousands of miles between the classrooms, the experiments are the same—but will the conclusions be as well? This summer, students in the Bethel Math and Science Summer Scholars Program will have the same opportunities to experiment and share.
My father loves to tell the story of my first journal. I was in second grade, and every day the teacher asked the class to spend some time responding to various prompts. Regardless of what I was meant to be writing, my entries never veered far from the following:
Monday: “Today, I am getting a dog”
Tuesday: “My parents promised me we are finally going to pick up a dog”
Wednesday: “Here is a sketch of the dog I am getting today [insert four-legged stick figure]”
Thursday: “Last night, I spent two hours making a list of my favorite dog breeds”
Friday: “Today’s the day!”
And so on, week after week…for too long.
Only after my appropriately concerned teacher showed these numerous entries to my parents, did they finally understand and appreciate the depths of my canine obsession.
Twenty-three years later, of course many aspects of my life look different (yes, as I remind my students daily, I have a dog!), but one thing that I hadn’t expected to remain constant was the satisfaction I find in keeping a journal. The consistency, layout and format of these journals has evolved over time. In middle school, I covered the fronts and backs with messy collages of magazine cutouts demonstrating different elements of my identity. I wrote poems, sketched, and, more often than not, complained about my big sister.
What an amazing Lower School Concert we enjoyed last night! Thank you to maestro Pierre Young and to all the faculty, staff and parents who provided support in the days and weeks leading up to the performance. Finally, a big thank you to our students who shared of themselves, their talents and hard work. It was a joy to see them singing and dancing and enjoying their moments in the spotlight! Click here to watch the video of the concert.
Celebrating culture, tradition, personal stories and love, Grade 2 students presented their Family Museum, sharing their months of exploration into their own families and history.
The students interviewed family members and collected artifacts from their history—a 200-year-old family bible, a military medal, a Milton diploma, a Korean hanbok, a fraternity leadership gavel, and a traditional shofar were among the exhibits. They also designed their own family crests, recorded videos, shared unique family traditions, told parts of their family stories in Spanish and wrote persuasive essays to their parents.
“The students take away an appreciation for who they are,” says second-grade teacher Sue Munson. “A lot of them have not had these kinds of conversations with their family members. They’re learning so much about where they’re from and the special people in their lives. Each piece of history, whether it’s about their parent’s childhood or an event, has a big story behind it.”
Students shared things their families like to do together—taking trips, celebrating cultural and religious holidays, singing songs before dinner—and, in their essays, some asked to continue building on family traditions, such as parents regularly sharing childhood stories.
Research shows that developing a strong family narrative and passing on traditions help to make children more resilient and give them a great sense of belonging, explain Sue and Grade 2 teacher Sachiyo Unger. Understanding the ups and downs in a family’s history can help children feel more grounded, confident and able to withstand periods of stress—knowing their family and ancestors have stuck together and survived through challenges and triumphs.
This is the second year that students have done a family museum, and it was on display for parents to visit and explore. The students explored family structures and how each family is different, whether through the blending of culture and race, remarriage, single parenthood, LGBT parenthood, fostering, adoption or other factors—and that our assumptions about them based on appearances may be incorrect.
“We look at the different configurations of families to show the kids how all families are different, but love is what binds them together,” Sachiyo says.
I remember when I first encountered my piano, though it was years before I could call it my own. It lived in my cousins’ house in the toy room past the kitchen, sitting across from a tall bookcase of encyclopedias (back when people still bought encyclopedias). I recall sneaking down there during holidays and birthday parties, lifting up the fallboard, and placing my small fingers on the landscape of black and white keys. At the time, I did not know what to call them or how to read the figures on the pages in front of me. I knew, though, that those keys could sing something beautiful, and I immediately began to love them. I did not need an audience; I was content inventing little tunes for the toys in the room, for E.T. and Scooby Doo who watched from the corner, and of course, for the encyclopedias. read more…
I am the wilderness
When I became a mom, a primal instinct to provide shelter to my children, from all of the hurt, vulnerability, and uncertainty that life presents, was born as well. Recently, I’ve been trying to reconcile my deeply held value of living fully with this immeasurable desire to shield my kids from the growing harshness of life.
When I think of the most meaningful moments of my life, I do not recall the easy, predictable ones. I remember those times when I was so lost in the intensity of the experience that time dissolved. Standing on a cliff in the Swiss Alps, with my heart racing, terror shaking my knees, and yelling “Yes, I’m ready!” as I run off the edge, my legs treading air as I’m launched into my first paragliding experience; or sitting with my 87-year-old grandmother as her breath rattles, and talking with her about death and dying and what, if anything, comes next; or the spontaneous decision to move to Vermont, where I didn’t know a single soul, to take a job I never expected to get.
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. This is called the Scout Law, it is the “code” or list of everything a Boy Scout should emulate. Boy Scouts was organized to gather young men together, and teach them the values inherent in a lifetime of service and good citizenship. One of the greatest lessons that Boy Scouts has taught me is that every day when you get out of bed, you have a choice: the choice to contribute positively to society, or to do nothing and just follow the crowd. read more…
On my first trip to Guatemala, my family and I installed water filters and stoves in many houses. Many families in Guatemala can’t afford a stove, so they have to cook indoors on an open flame, causing pollution in the home, with smoke and high levels of carbon monoxide and posing a burn danger to small children. Open-flame cooking has caused an increase in the rate of respiratory diseases in Guatemala, especially in children. The stoves that we installed are called ONIL stoves. It only takes about 30 minutes to install one in a house, and they reduce harmful emissions while keeping the flame contained.
I was introduced to Guatemala by my dad, who has been going there every year since 2000 to do surgeries to repair cleft lips and cleft palates on children. Without visiting surgical teams, the indigenous Mayan population has absolutely no way to afford these operations. My dad’s team performs 50-60 of these surgeries each trip.
Milton placed a close second in the Intermediate Math League of Eastern Massachusetts meet, in what K–8 math coordinator Nancy Anderson called the math team’s “best performance to date.”
In addition to the team’s success, Milton team member Hailey was recognized as the highest-scoring sixth grader in the entire competition. The British International School of Boston won the team competition.
This was Milton’s first time hosting an IMLEM tournament, and the second year the School participated in league meets. Milton competed within its cluster of schools in the league, Pierce Middle School (Milton), British International School of Boston, Young Achievers (Boston), Edwards Middle School (Charlestown) and Boston Green Academy.
The math team’s 10 team members and three alternates competed individually in five 10-minute rounds—number theory, arithmetic, geometry, algebra and a surprise category—before a final, 15-minute round in which the teams collaborated to solve complex problems. The questions are difficult, Nancy said, and students should feel proud if they correctly answer one out of the three questions in the individual rounds.
“We have a rigorous math program here at Milton, but some students want more. They love math,” Nancy said of the math team. “They’re begging for even more challenging problems because they want to push themselves.”
There are five IMLEM meets overall during the school year. At the end of the year, the teams and individual student with the highest scores are recognized for their achievements.
As teachers, we relive the ebbs and flows of the adolescent experience. When an 8th grader struggles with the fallout of switching friend groups, I’m seeing not only his experience but the collective experience of that annual tradition. In that context, I’m able to recall my own misreading of my experiences as I attempt to help guide students through those journeys themselves.
I trained for many years to master my content. As an experienced teacher, I am well prepared to respond to any academic need that might come my way. But no formal experience alone has prepared me for the delight and devastation that comes with watching the emotional maturation (and temporary decline) of middle schoolers. Of course, I wish I could simply alleviate the anxiety of a student by saying to her, “Hey, I know what that feels like! That will pass.” Very little in learning or life works that way.
I was at Ashray, an HIV orphanage in Mumbai for preschool to middle school-age children. Every child there either had HIV or a parent with HIV who was incapable of taking care of their children. I had visited India many times before, and I was well aware that being poor means something very different there than it does here, but visiting Ashray gave me an entirely different perspective. I spent time with the smaller children, drawing pictures and talking to them. They wanted me to draw cake, chocolate and houses. With smiles plastered to their faces, they asked me what ice cream looks like. Watching the joy they found in playing games and folding paper made it tangible. I no longer had a jumble of facts and statistics at the periphery of my brain, but instead a deeper awareness of the situation. Places like Ashray provide a haven, but the question of what happens to children who have no haven left me troubled.
The different aspects of a person’s identity are critically important to how they see themselves and how the world sees them. And while identifiers like race, gender and religion are affirming in many circumstances, they can also result in negative stereotypes, prejudice and oppression, educator Rodney Glasgow told students this week.
Mr. Glasgow, who is a speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and equality, spent time with the Middle School Tuesday morning leading a discussion about the cycle of oppression and the role of identity in individual lives and society. Mr. Glasgow’s visit was part of an ongoing partnership with the entire School to explore issues of race and identity.
Students broke into their advisory groups for an activity to help them define the different stages in the cycle of oppression: fear of difference, stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, institutional oppression and internalized oppression.
“Our identities help us understand who we are, and they are often positive, but issues surrounding identity can also cause a lot of heartache,” Mr. Glasgow told students, explaining that institutional and internalized oppression can negatively impact individual lives and entire communities.
People are biologically inclined to put themselves into groups that share their identities, Mr. Glasgow said—such instincts kept people alive at the beginning of human history. Problems arise from stereotypes that are based in fear of differences, which are used by people in power to oppress others.
When oppression becomes internalized, it can make a person doubt their abilities and sense of belonging, Mr. Glasgow said.
“It can make you not seek opportunities because you’re ‘not supposed’ to do that, and ask yourself, ‘Am I worthy? Do I belong here?’” Mr. Glasgow said. He challenged students to interrupt the cycle of oppression by rejecting prejudice and discrimination.
Chair and Founder of the National Diversity Practitioners Institute, Mr. Glasgow has a long and distinguished career in this work. He serves today as chief diversity officer and head of middle school at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Maryland. Mr. Glasgow earned degrees in Afro-American studies and psychology at Harvard University and holds a master of arts in organization and leadership from Columbia. He is an independent school alum, having graduated from Gilman School. He is also president of The Glasgow Group, a consortium of dynamic and innovative consultants.
Our kids do so many cool assignments at Milton, that I encourage you, when your child brings home an assignment that resonates with you, to try it out for yourself. Not only does this validate the work that we do at School, it also shows your child that you are willing to take a risk and do some similar work. I am attaching the poem and assignment here, so read it first and then try it out for yourself!
Where I’m From
I am from the sweet sounds of country music to
Mountains that touch the sky with snow-capped peaks.
I am from the smell of home and decorations at every holiday.
I am from dad’s blue chair where he spent long naps snoring softly,
Sounds of Penn State football in the background.
I am from following in Matt’s footsteps with fierce determination in the pool
and a Division I scholarship.
I am from writing to Santa and opening stockings before breakfast,
And a single swing on a tall tree, swinging free and quiet.
I am from potato chips with french onion dip,
And Trouble stories next to Grandpa’s crutches.
I am from fish and hamsters but never a dog.
Eating cookie dough with mom and Christina while dad isn’t looking.
I am from frustration because school is hard but only for me
and four schools before high school.
I am from “Hey y’all” and The Sound of Music.
I am from thatched chairs at the kitchen table
And singing to scare away the monsters in the basement.
I am from turkey with everyone and laughing till we cry,
And church on Christmas and Easter but praying everyday.
I am from a family who loves reading but I read too slowly.
I am from “Toujours en Francais” and flashlight tag with neighbors in the summer.
I am from lemony sugar crepes after skiing the Alps with dad and Matt
And “Home is wherever I’m with you.”
As a teacher of literature, it concerns me when what is presented as news contains as much fiction as the novels I teach. To be fair, I’m under no assumptions that the world can be split into binaries as simple as “truth” and “lie.” Some of the most compelling works of literature intentionally blend the two (Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried). Similarly, many cable “news” programs, be they progressively-leaning (Upfront with Samantha Bee) or conservatively-slanted (Tucker Carlson Tonight), market themselves as more entertainment than reporting.
Amidst the deepening river of half-truths, alternative facts, truthiness, and arguments condensed to tweets, students need to be well-equipped to evaluate sources and analyze non-fiction.
A year of research by Grade 7 students culminated in the second-annual Creative Scholars Project museum and showcase on May 17, as students presented their work on social justice issues. Topics ranged from worldwide issues such as fair trade, child labor and religious bias to more national or local issues like the gender pay gap in professional hockey and illegal immigration.
The students chose topics they feel passionate about, says Grade 7 Dean Jin Lee. “They did research, and developed a question they wanted to explore,” Jin says. “They then produced an art piece to convey their message. They also came up with an action step to work toward solving the problem or problems they found.”
Alison wanted to explore a topic that she’s had some experience with. “As a girl in seventh grade, I haven’t experienced things like a gender wage gap, but I have lived with dress codes. I wanted to research ways that different dress codes impact girls versus boys,” she says. While Milton’s dress code is fairly lenient, Alison still created a proposal she feels will make it more gender-blind. She also found schools where girls have been shamed for popular styles that administrators claimed distracted boys, or where students have been unfairly prohibited from certain ethnic or cultural styles.
“It’s not to say that there shouldn’t be dress codes that keep people from wearing very inappropriate things, but there are dress codes that are sexist, racist and homophobic, and they shouldn’t be in schools,” Alison says.
Zander found inspiration for his project from an uncle who’s a public defender. He studied the cases of people who have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, and learned that inadequate counsel, mandatory sentencing rules and racial bias have all contributed to the problem. Zander found that wrongful convictions are a complicated issue to solve, but developed some action steps.
“I’m asking people to educate others about the issue of wrongful imprisonment and to support the national and state lawmakers who support increasing the number of public defenders, so their caseloads will be lighter and they can give cases better attention,” he says. “People can also support lawmakers who are trying to end mandatory sentences for crimes.”
Being a theater nerd, I often find myself breaking into song. If you listen closely some days, you can hear Glinda’s song echoing through the corridors of what has become my home—the Ware Hall home I share with the students, teachers, and staff of the Middle School.
Glinda, of course, is a character in the Broadway musical Wicked. One of my favorite moments in that musical is when Glinda sings:
“Like a seed dropped by a sky bird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
Because I knew you
I know I have been changed for good.”
“For Good” from Wicked is just one of the songs that I carry in my heart.
My memories are not so much about the lives I may have changed, but, more important, the lives that changed mine. I often reflect on what they did for me. read more…
When I started college and began to piece together my career trajectory, teaching was never one of the options.
I started college with a focus in microbiology. After spending a semester studying obscure tropical diseases and finding myself rather squeamish, it quickly became apparent to me that being on the front lines of an Ebola outbreak wasn’t for me. Some soul-searching led me to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner. Shortly after finishing my undergraduate degree, I was sitting in an interview for a graduate nursing program, describing to the admissions team why I wanted to be a nurse. I remember feeling in my heart that I just wasn’t passionate about this career option—that I just couldn’t seem myself as an NP for years to come. I wasn’t excited about this prospect either. Cue the existential panic. read more…
“It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you,” says Chris Waddell, a 13-time Paralympic medalist and monoskiing world champion. “We create images and labels for ourselves because we’re so afraid of breaking away from the crowd, afraid of looking stupid. But if we’re so afraid of looking stupid, or of being different, we run the risk of never figuring out what’s great about us.”
Invited to Milton by the Albright family and Middle School Principal Will Crissman, Mr. Waddell spent time with Upper and Middle School students, asking them to shift their perspectives of people with disabilities and to push beyond the limits of the labels placed on them.
Mr. Waddell broke two vertebrae in a ski accident on a winter break from Middlebury College, losing the use of his legs. After two months of recovery in a hospital, he decided to return to Middlebury’s snowy, hilly campus, where he found that his relationships with his friends were unchanged; they were part of the same team. His college ski coach brought him on his first trip on a monoski, and he repeatedly fell, not making a turn all day.
“Not being able to walk was the worst thing that I could imagine happening, but it was also the most powerful thing that ever happened to me, because I had to get better,” Mr. Waddell said. “I always had to find some sort of solution to every problem.”
People with disabilities are often overlooked or considered incapable—partly because of the stigma surrounding disability, but also because people are told “not to stare” at those who are different. Recounting a conversation with a little girl who pitied him, Mr. Waddell said he wished he’d continued talking to her.
“If I had never had my accident, I would never have had the opportunity to be the best in the world at something. I was the best monoskier in the world,” he said. “What a gift to be able to do that.”
Like all elite athletes, success for Mr. Waddell came with practice and the willingness to come back after failing. “The Michael Jordans of the world struggled like anyone else, they just struggled harder and longer. When other people gave up, they kept struggling.”
Mr. Waddell retired from competitive sports with some trepidation, worrying that he didn’t know what he would be if he wasn’t a professional athlete. So he set a goal, and he became the first paraplegic person to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa. He made his climb unaided except for 100 feet of terrain where he was carried. He wants his climb, along with his One Revolution Foundation to improve visibility and opportunities for people with disabilities.
“I thought if I could get to the top of one of the tallest mountains in the world, then people would have to see me,” he said. “I want them to see the hundreds of millions of people living with disabilities.”
Competing as a monoskier in the Winter Paralympics, and as a track athlete in the Summer Paralympics, Mr. Waddell earned 13 medals; as a World Championship skier, he won 9 total medals. He was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and the Paralympics Hall of Fame. The Dalai Lama honored him as an “Unsung Hero of Compassion.” People Magazine named him one of the “Fifty Most Beautiful People in the World.” Skiing Magazine placed him amongst the “25 Greatest Skiers in North America”. Middlebury College presented him with a Doctorate in Humane Letters. National Public Radio (NPR) named his 2011 commencement address to Middlebury as one of “The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever.”
I can predict the cycles of the moon based on how my sixth graders are behaving. Usually, right on cue, two days in advance of a full moon, their energy becomes palpable, their questions urgent, their need to move and squirm amplified. For a long time, I planned my classes based on the time of day and the day of the week (Friday before lunch demanding a much more high energy class than Monday mornings, for example). Now, I pull out a lunar calendar as well.
Sixth graders are lovely. Behind the raging hormones, endless questions, and relative innocence, there is a real desire to learn and a willingness to engage wholeheartedly in whatever task is put before them. They are light, free, able to transition easily. Rarely embarrassed, they enjoy singing, dancing, and spontaneous conga lines around the classroom. They love to share their work, especially if it’s written about themselves, and they are kind enough to work with whatever group or partner assigned to them. Curious, open-minded, and sometimes just plain silly, sixth graders are a nearly perfect combination in my opinion.
Teaching in the Pritzker Science Center allows me to be outside a number of times each day. As I travel back and forth to Ware Hall for assemblies, advisory, and other Middle School events, I generally follow the same path. Sometimes, as we fall into a routine, our movements become automatic and we don’t pay attention to the small details around us. Aware of this tendency, I try to take time to notice my surroundings. Towering over a grassy area outside of Cox Library is a magnificent white pine. I don’t know what it is about this beauty, but I often stop to gaze at it. Perhaps it is the height of the tree or way its limbs and needles form an impressive sculpture. Maybe it is the birds that make their homes on its branches. I think it is the realization that there is so much to a tree that is unnoticed and unseen. The same can be said for how we interact with one another. If we take the time to notice and get to know one another, we may realize there is so much more than meets the eye. read more…
In a matter of minutes on Milton’s campus, it is possible to witness the passage of time as marked by the development of children. From a distance, we have seen the youngest members of our community strolling neatly in line behind their teachers. We have also seen our middle school boys and girls frolicking joyously through snow, mud, and puddles to and from Ware Hall, as well as the oldest students congregating in small groups wearing heavily weighted backpacks and purposeful expressions.
Over my first several years of teaching and coaching I was fortunate enough to work closely with young people from 5 to 18 years old. Without question, each age group has its own qualities that are widely appreciated, from the raw exuberance of young children to the measured swagger of older adolescents. I realized early in my career that 11-14 year olds are my resonant demographic. Although I cannot quite isolate why this is, I suppose it has something to do with my respect for the challenges middle schoolers face and their enjoyable temperaments.
Thacher 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.
“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.”
Sharing 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.”
What 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.
Waiting 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 is a time of great exploration. Research tells us that identity plays a key role in shaping students’ perspectives and interactions with the world and that school and classroom structures, including time and space for discourse, can influence students’ identity development. At Milton, we strive to acknowledge the multiple worlds we all inhabit and to help students navigate the often complex social and cultural challenges.
This year, we have re-structured our Wednesday schedule to provide more opportunities for students to gather in cultural and affinity groups. “Our goal is to foster understanding, provide time and space for meaningful conversations, and allow students to share their lived experiences,” explains Will Crissman. Affinity groups allow students to gather socially as well as to share ideas outside the classroom. In addition to our Students of Color group, we have established a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), Reflecting on Anti-Racism (ROAR), a Faith-Based group, Cultural Awareness for Everyone (CAFE), and BOLD, a new media-focused group for girls. read more…
Speaking, 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
Much has happened this school year. For many of us, it has been a year of immense transition: a time of difficulty, growth, and ultimately, breakthroughs.
As many of you could probably guess, the biggest transition for me was the birth of my daughter, Iris. Upon meeting her, never before had I been both inspired and completely terrified. I also, unfortunately, can’t ignore the fact that I haven’t had the best track record for the care of living things. Under my watch, classroom plants have come and gone and even an advisory pet fish couldn’t escape my negligence; rest in peace, dear Billy Bubbles.
So, for those of you not in the know, raising a child is hard. Much of the life I once knew has shifted or transformed since Iris’ arrival. There have been sleepless nights, confusion, the full spectrum of emotions, and poop. So much poop delivered in a seemingly gravity-defying myriad of ways. Yet I somehow managed to survive as I now stand before you with most of my hair intact albeit most likely grayer since February. Still through it all, as a good reflective English teacher, my mind would sometimes wonder during those sleepless nights and endless diaper changes towards big, existential questions like “Has she become my life’s meaning?” If so, “Who am I now?” and “When can I start teaching her volleyball?” Big important questions. Recently, these ponderings have lead to reflections of my own childhood, how my own father came to raise me, and even how his father came to raise him. read more…
The Creative Scholars Project Museum Gallery this Wednesday showed how passionate and empowered our students can be. They shared and discussed their individual social injustices with clear knowledge, commitment, and resolve. Because of the independent nature of the project, when they look back on their middle school experience, our hope is that many of them see this experience as a time where they truly made their learning their own. Thank you, parents, for all your commitment and willingness to let your children explore and grow.
This week, the Middle School community came together to celebrate arts, athletics and citizenship.
On Tuesday afternoon, students, faculty, staff and parents gathered to hear performances by our string, wind, and small ensemble vocal groups. On Thursday, we heard short segments of a variety of speeches by members of the Middle School Speech Team. Congratulations to the following students and student groups!
Tech Award – Daisy and Avery
Jana and Brian
- Zaki – Baseball
- Cody – Boys Tennis
- Charlie – Boys Lacrosse
- Annie – Girls Track
- Nate – Boys Track
- Izzy – Girls Tennis
- Avery – Softball
- Kathryn – Girls Lacrosse
Grade 6, Citizenship Awards: Abby & James
- Richard E. Sherbrooke Memorial Award – Garvin
- Edward R. Foley Award – Kayla
Grade 8, Walter A. Beyer Memorial Awards: Ginny & Charlie
To view photos of the Awards Ceremony, click here.
The baseball team enjoyed a successful season filled with much individual and team improvement. At the Athletic Recognition Ceremony, they were recognized as being the most improved team of the Spring Season. With 17 boys all ranging in grade, ability and experience, they proudly came together and made significant strides by the end of the season.
The team finished with 8 wins and 5 losses. Four eighth-grade students were instrumental in helping the younger players learn some big diamond skills. Best game of the year was our 6 -1 win against Dexter. Congratulations on a great season!
Girls lacrosse took to the field this spring with 22 players and great team spirit. We had an 11 game schedule, of which 7 games were on the road and only 4 were at home. Every attack player scored during the season, adding up to a cumulative total of almost 100 goals, and leading to wins in 4 games. Defensive players, many of whom were sixth-grade students just learning the game, made huge progress this spring, successfully shutting down the other team’s offense on several occasions.
The team was enthusiastically led by 8th grade captains, Katie and Dillon. Katie was the unrivaled high-scorer with an impressive 32 goals this season. The team was recognized as the most spirited team of the Spring season.
I asked the girls this year to send me their favorite moments of the season. I imagined that some of them might mention our winning season or our victory over our archrival Nobles. Instead every reply was about the pleasure of being with the team, making new friends, or holding lemonade in their mouth for an entire practice. Their favorite moments were playing with their partners for three years, talking with their coaches after a tough match, helping their teammates in practice, and making up a new team drill with Coach Molly. The bus trips together were a highlight; it seems we could have driven to the away matches, and then turned around and gone home without playing, just being with the team was enough.
Our eighth graders were a special group, both in matches and in team practice. We are sad to see them go. We will miss our team captains, Izzy and Ginny: one of the best doubles teams in our history both for their tennis and their grunting. We will miss very talented Pari with her laid back, relaxed personality, which was the exact opposite of her game – powerful, driven, truly amazing. Chloe, our ’thinker,’ came in with strategy, knowing what she wanted, what she needed to do to get it, a real fighter from first point of the match to last. We will miss Melissa, our backboard, who often stayed in challenge matches ending in losing or winning by points showing her determination. Off to high school tennis you all go and I hope to see you on the courts!!!
The boys lacrosse team made tremendous progress from where they were at the beginning of the season, right up to their last game against arch-rival Nobles. Although many of the teams they played were combined Grade 7 & 8 teams(and some more dominant in number with their 8th graders), our boys made great strides in their cohesion and commitment. The team had big improvements all around, from boys who have never played the game, to the boys who have been playing it for several years. As the boys grew to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, they came together as a team and improved their performance.
Team highlights include battling Roxbury Latin, having great match-ups in both singles and doubles, battling Fessenden where Jae and Wilder won their matches, and an having inter-squad scrimmage with the girls’ team.
Throughout the season, the players improved their conditioning and fitness, their offense-defense games, and their challenge matches. As coaches, we enjoyed the constant movement within the ladder, as the boys strove to work their way up. All players showed great improvement and competitiveness in practice and in games. We want to thank our eighth-grade players Cody, Leo, Brian, Ben, Seamus, Brendan, Kavi, Zac, and Zack.
We had a great season! We’ll miss the eighth graders and wish them the best of luck in the future.
Our season started with 12 players who ranged in skill from those who have played for many years to those who were throwing a softball for the very first time. As coaches, it was exciting to see them work toward becoming a cohesive unit to which everyone contributed, making our time together both fun and productive.
We managed to pull off an undefeated season. While we could emphasize a fantastic record, outstanding plays, and moments of tremendous growth — I would like to highlight the most which is how we came together as a team. Everyone was excited for one another, offered words of praise and encouragements and weren’t afraid to laugh and have fun with it.
I’d like to personally thank Sue Austin who was a tremendous help to the team and mentor to me. We would like to take a moment to thank our eighth-grade players for their leadership, and the whole team, for a great season.
National Speech and Debate Association’s Middle School Coach of the Year
At this June’s national tournament in Salt Lake City, Ms. Simon will be honored for her outstanding leadership and commitment to speech and debate activities. A member of both the Massachusetts and the National Speech Halls of fame, Ms. Simon’s long-time commitment to speech is legendary. Over her 34 years coaching speech at Milton Academy, Debbie has coached scores of national champions at both the high school and middle school levels. For Debbie, however, it is her work with students that is that is of paramount importance.” It’s not about winning. It’s about what we can accomplish together as a team,” Debbie reminds the 20 students who will be accompanying her to Salt Lake City to compete in the tournament…and to celebrate with Debbie as she receives this well-deserved award.
Thank you, Ms. Simon for all you do for our Middle School team!
On 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.
This week, over three-quarters of our Middle School population joined the TextLess Live More Campaign. Begun at Milton Academy three years ago in honor and memory of Milton Academy graduate Merritt Levitan, TextLess Live More is a student-led, national campaign that endeavors to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. Ultimately, through legislation, the TextLess campaign aims to end the deadly combination of getting behind the wheel and texting and/or streaming. At the same time, the campaign emphasizes and encourages people, particularly young people, to use technology in a mindful manner.
Grade 8 students, led by Corey and Malia, have brought this important effort to our Middle School.
Our Middle School Spring Focus Day provided students time to think about who they are, and who they want to be. Through large and small group discussions, students and teachers, explored the impact of social media, and peer and societal pressures.
The day kicked off with a performance by American Idol contestant Casey McQuillen, who shared her personal experiences and the lessons she learned as a teen and young adult. Part of Casey’s “You Matter” tour, her performance had students laughing, gasping, but also stepping into the shoes of others. In the Media Matters portion of the day, students deconstructed advertisements and considered the inferred pressures of what they saw in print and on the screen.
In this age of on-the-go, the entire Middle School community appreciated the time stop and be both mindful and accountable for their actions.
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!
The Milton Academy Middle School Speech Team is more than a group of dedicated, enthusiastic, supportive students. The Speech Team is an opportunity to step out of a known comfort zone and into a world filled with fantastic, extravagant and moving pieces, characters, and performers. Beyond the year’s prose, declamations, and poetry, popping in and out of characters, choosing between hilarious and deeply moving pieces, the Milton Academy Middle School Speech Team provides students with the confidence and the basic speaking skills needed to become excellent, professional speakers.
If you are curious about what the Middle School Speech does? Come watch a speech round right here on our campus, this Sunday, May 1, when our Middle School team will host its Foley Fiesta. This largest of the regular season middle school tournaments began in 1985, and is named for former Middle School principal, Edward Foley, under whose tenure the tournament began.
Speech competition will begin around 9:30 a.m. and will end late in the afternoon. So, if you’re near campus, stop by to see what makes Speech Team such a fun and challenging activity.
English: Students just finished their four-paragraph thesis papers on Where the Mountain Meets the Moon last week. This week, they are working on their ENYFA assessment projects, which involve a slide show with a creative video component in which each student impersonates his or her chosen author in an evaluative interview. I’m excited to see where this project takes them! They’ll be editing and sharing next week as they finish up. Concurrently, we are reading Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park in class. Students are working on related, in-class prompts in their writing journals as well as continuing their study of vocabulary through Membean and their independent reading books.
Math: We finished the Stretching & Shrinking (Understanding Similarity) unit and had a test on it on Monday, April 4. We are now in full swing with our new unit, Comparing & Scaling (Ratios, Rates, Percents, and Proportions). The students started off the unit using ratios, rates, fractions, differences, and percents to write statements comparing two quantities in a real world situation. Most recently, we are learning to distinguish between and to use both part-to-part and part-to-whole ratios in comparisons. Please refer to the Family Letter given out on Wednesday, April 13 for more specific detail regarding the Comparing & Scaling unit.
Science: Students are completing their study of the age of the Earth and geologic time. They have worked through an introduction to chemistry and learned the principles of radiometric dating. They have learned how to tell the relative ages of geologic events using principles such as the law of superposition and the law of cross-cutting relationships. After completing this unit they will embark on an independent project where they will have an opportunity to study something they are interested in and demonstrate competence with a variety of scientific skills.
Social Studies: Through examining First Encounters in North America, part of a Facing History and Ourselves unit, sixth graders created a set of five guidelines for any person to follow in order to have a successful first encounter. Additionally, they wrapped up a unit centered around the documentary: Guns, Germs and Steel, through which we examined the claim made by American scientist and author, Jared Diamond, that geography determines power. Students continue to work on their QAR skills, research and notetaking both in social studies and their research class.
French: Students are continuing to review irregular verbs and learning how to say the time and making their own agenda. Also they are learning verbs endings in -RE.
Latin: Students in Latin have added another set of case endings – the dative – and are learning to recognize indirect objects. We have encountered a few first and second person verbs; these will be introduced formally in the next week. The focus of the chapter’s readings is on education and the influence of Greek art and literature on Roman culture.
Spanish: We are continuing to work on reinforcing the verb estar in the context of classroom and school vocabulary and describing where things are in relation to one another, as well as the use of estar when describing feelings and emotions. We have also recently begun to explore the irregular verb ir and its different uses, such as expressing actions in the future.
Drama: “Storytelling”, according to Leland B. Jacobs, in “Creative Writing and Storytelling in Today’s Schools”, “ is a bond, an invisible agreement, a transaction of great worth between a weaver with words and one who treasures the weaver.” Students are learning how to use a single published, printed story, anecdote, tale, myth, or legend that they must retell without notes. The tellers are using their words to convey the story’s plot. The retelling must be faithful to the original content. Movement is allowed, and one chair or the storyteller may choose to stand. In May, students will be sharing their story with real audiences.
Chorus: Students are in the midst of an a cappella project. Seven separate groups are devising musical settings of popular songs with the help of five Upper School music students.
General Music: Students are learning how to play the keyboard to help reinforce music reading and how to write down and re-create melodies.
Art: Students are sculpting self portraits out of clay. Inspired by class discussions of identity and how we want to be seen, students are building caricatures of themselves influenced by the French political cartoonist and sculptor Daumier.
Strings: Students are working on three pieces towards a May performance: Strings Cut Loose– Brian Balmages, The Gordian Knot Untied– Henry Purcell, and Palladio– Karl Jenkins.
Winds: Students are working on four pieces: Courage– Henry Fillmore (will play with the Upper School group on April 29), Ancient Flower– Japanese Folk Song, Two Variants on Dives and Lazares– Irish Folk Song, and The Siege of Arundel– John McCabe.
Boys English: Students have begun work on our Independent Novel Unit during which students select, read, and annotate one of eight teacher-selected novels ranging from Sherman Alexie’s Absolute True Diary of a Part Time Indian to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Students will set up their own reading schedule and will be responsible to discuss their novel in groups and pairs, write analytical paragraphs individually, and even film a scene from a novel before the year is through.
Girls English: For our final writing unit, seventh-grade girls are learning about the genre of the memoir by reading I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and in turn, crafting their personal chapter memoir. Soon, the girls will be able to celebrate their authentic writing by sharing their stories.
French 1-B: Students continue to work on the past tense (passé composé and imperfect) with an introduction to the reflexive verbs. They are writing a paragraph about their vacation or something else in the past. Finally, students are reviewing the 20 irregular verbs (present, past, imperative and future). Last Friday, they also prepared an interview with the French students from The Lycée Duby in France (French exchange). They will soon do a written report of that.
Math: Students are exploring a visual representation of the distributive property. They have discovered that they can represent the expression for a quadratic relationship as the product of two linear expressions, called factored form, or as the sum of one or more terms, called expanded form. Recently, students have begun work on how to roughly sketch a certain parabola by using factored and expanded forms. Next week, students will have a gateway quiz on factoring and expanding.
Science: After an in-depth unit of plants, the students have transitioned to a study of the human body. In this unit, students will continue to develop lab skills while exploring various body systems, paying close attention to interconnections between systems and real world applications. Students will design their own experiments as they investigate bone density and joint structure. In addition, they will explore the components of blood with a forensic challenge activity and simulate chemical reactions using various foodstuffs. Emphasis will continue to be on mastery of skills while exploring the content of different body systems.
Social Studies: Students are engaging in a simulation of Japan during the late 1920s. This simulation will allow students to utilize their knowledge of the Great Depression, League of Nations, Fascism and Mussolini, and Hitler to attempt to make the best decision for Japan in the midst of a famine and growing population. Following the simulation, students will compare their choices with the historical decisions made by Japan.
Visual Arts: Students have just completed pastel drawings in which they began to think about composition, including subject, foreground, middleground and background, as well as, how to use color by blending and layering to create vibrancy and depth. Now they are carrying these skills into landscape painting where they will start with a black and white Ansel Adams photograph and reimagine it in color. For inspiration, they’ve looked at paintings by David Hockney, Albert Bierstadt, Vincent Van Gogh, and Vermont landscape artist Peter Brooke.
West 360: We have been exploring executive functioning skills such as attention, reading for understanding, note taking, working memory, and cognitive flexibility.
King 360: We’ve been exploring social conformity and personal autonomy.
Chorus and General Music: Chorus students are in the midst of an a capella project. Seven separate groups are devising musical settings of popular songs with the help of five Upper School music students. The General Music class is learning how to play the keyboard to help reinforce music reading and how to write down and re-create melodies.
Spanish: We have recently finished the textbook Avancemos 1A, and are beginning in the new book Avancemos 1B. Students are continuing to focus on defining words in Spanish, and learning and using direct object pronouns with the present progressive tense which we have recently begun to explore. They are learning through theatrics, stories, and activities.
Latin B: Students have reviewed the imperfect tense, learned the present and imperfect tenses of 5 irregular verbs, and been introduced to neuter nouns. We continue to work on noun-adjective agreement and developing effective study habits. Last week we completed the text, Ecce Romani IA and, on Monday, students took the cumulative test. English readings have been based on the legendary history of Rome (the seven kings, the expulsion of Sextus Tarquinius and the Horatii brothers.) We are about to start learning third declension adjectives and the perfect tense.
Now that faculty and students are living in the CSP (and not thinking hypothetically), we are gaining a much clearer sense of what does and does not work. As we are all aware, this is a work in progress; nevertheless, it is now an appropriate time for some necessary communication, particularly since the project has recently gone through some changes. Most noteworthy is that the presentation component has been incorporated into the museum exhibit itself. Students will be responsible for having to answer questions (some of which will be prepared) to people visiting their museum exhibit station. Students no longer individually have to present their project to the entire grade.
So in planning for the rest of the year, think of April as the month for students to work heavily on their research paper. May should be focused on working on their Museum Exhibit. From now until the end of the year, the only two things left to complete is the RESEARCH PAPER and the MUSEUM EXHIBIT (Including a poster board).
To help plan, here are some important dates to help students complete their research paper and Museum Exhibit:
April 19 and 21 – Students will work in English Class on their Research Paper and should receive a good sense of what their final research paper should look like. A handout for how to structure their entire research paper is currently on the CSP Schoology Page.
May 6 – Museum Exhibit Check In – Student will determine where he/she should be at this point in their process. Advisor Check in to make sure they’re keeping up. Students should also submit receipts of CSP purchases to advisor.
MAY 16 – CSP RESEARCH PAPER DUE – Submit or Share with Advisor teacher. Feedback will be provided via a teacher evaluation and student self-evaluation, they will focus primarily on successes and challenges throughout the process.
May 20 – Museum Exhibit Check In – Student will determine where he/she should be at this point in their process. Advisor Check in to make sure they’re keeping up.
JUNE 1 – CSP MUSEUM EXHIBIT – The museum exhibit and poster board should completed by this day (since they will be shown in the museum exhibit!). Milton will provide poster boards. Feedback will be provided via a teacher evaluation and student self-evaluation, they will focus primarily on successes and challenges throughout the process. The feedback will be included in their Research Paper feedback.
Much has changed since the start of the year, but the project’s goal remains the same. The purpose of this year’s CSP is to provide students an opportunity to thoroughly independently explore and share a passion through a social justice lens. This can still be achieved! Thank you, parents, as always, for your support.
Spanish: We continue to explore and work with the different tenses used in Spanish to express actions and events in the past; the imperfect and preterit tenses. In addition to our work with this grammar, we have also begun our new unit on ferias y parques de diversión (fairs and amusement parks). Students are exploring the new vocabulary and grammar by speaking about their past and present experiences, activities and preferences.
Social Studies: The students have just completed Civil War Unit. Before spring break students prepared for a senate simulation at the Edward Kennedy Institute in Boston where they were sworn in as senators for the day. Their task was to come up with a bill on The U.S. Patriot Act (Security vs. Privacy). The next unit that the students will engage in is the Reconstruction of the U.S. and the Jim Crow Era after the Civil War. A research paper on leaders and leadership will be introduced this month. They are busy preparing for the final debate on the Cuban Embargo (Maintain the embargo – Pro or lift it – Con). They are in the research phase of gathering information and formulating arguments for the formal debate on Grandfriends’ Day.
West 360: We are wrapping up our unit on neuroscience by exploring the structure and function of a neuron. In the last two sessions of the year, we will explore drugs of abuse and their effects on the brain.
King 360: We are wrapping up our unit on communication skills; it demonstrates the importance of active listening and using thoughtful inquiry to build greater connections. Our next unit will focus on navigating social pressures.
English: Students are examining a range poetic styles as a way to investigate how to infer meaning. The foundations of this unit transfer to the following unit using and creating short stories. Additionally, the tasks and individual feedback for this unit are modelled after what they will encounter in the Upper School. April is National Poetry Month. Please consider sharing a favorite poem of yours with your child.
Chorus: Students are in the midst of an a cappella project. Seven separate groups are devising musical settings of popular songs with the help of five Upper School music students.
Performing Arts: Students recently crafted and performed original group scenes inspired by a variety of found objects. Each student had the opportunity to serve as a group facilitator in the development of these scenes. In the process, students continued to focus on making thoughtful and spontaneous choices as actors and performing with clarity and expressivity.
Visual Arts: In visual arts eighth grade is just finishing a painting unit in which students personified their families as desserts. Students considered family dynamic and personal characteristics in their composition and through their use of color, texture and value, students depicted realistic desserts. In our next project we will continue our exploration of identity in a sculpture until where students will build masks out of cardboard.
Math: This week, we completed our unit test on quadratic functions and function notation. The students are beginning their investigative work on their statistics projects and in the next weeks we will study statistical methods and tools. There will be ongoing review of algebraic material through the last months of the year, too.
Latin: We have been focused on verb tenses and we just finished our unit on Pompeii. Students translated Pliny the Younger’s account of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and we watched and discussed portions of an accompanying documentary. Currently, we are focusing on the pluperfect tense and fourth declension nouns, as well as working through a passage on the emperor Nero.
Greetings from San Francisco, CA! I am writing from the annual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). I am joined by my colleagues Sandra Correia (Gr. 5), Jin Lee (Gr. 7), Nancy McCuen (Gr. 1), and Sachiyo Unger (Gr. 2) and thousands other mathematics educators from around the country and world. This week, we attended presentations from leading mathematics educators who shared current research findings on the teaching and learning of mathematics. We also gave a presentation of our own. Our talk, Productive Math Talk in K-2 Classrooms? Absolutely! focused on discourse-intensive mathematics instruction — a hot topic in mathematics education today.
Earlier in the week, Jin Lee and I attended the annual meeting of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM). We also spoke at this conference. Our talk, Coaching Teachers on the Use of Mathematical Talk, provided guidance to school leaders looking to implement the content-based instructional coaching that is a central component of Milton’s K-8 math renewal.
Our attendance at NCTM is a key example of our ongoing commitment to deliver a K-8 mathematics program that is informed by research. We are eager to share what we learned at NCTM with all of our colleagues. And we are grateful to work in a community that supports our professional growth.