K–8 News and Events
On Thursday night, and again on Friday morning, the B & B Company presented Beauty & the Beast, Jr.
The 30-member company, which began rehearsing at the start of the winter athletic season in late November, is led by collaborative coordinator, Debbie Simon who, together with musical director, Louise Mundinger, a band of Upper School student volunteers, imagined, created, and transformed Thacher into the scene of the well-known fairytale. The student directors, headed by Class I students Maddie Dupre and Sophie Charles, are all former Middle School talents who dedicated four months of after school time to work on the production. Ms. Simon has dedicated this show to Maddie and Sophie, who have given so much of themselves to Middle School theater over their four years of Upper School. A special thank you and welcome, also, to Class IV directors, Laura Bailey, Abigail Foster, Cianna O’Flaherty, and Jocelyn Sabin — your direction and choreography work have been instrumental to the success of the production.
If you haven’t yet seen Beauty & the Beast, the last production is Monday, March 7 at 10:15 a.m.
Last weekend, our Middle School Speech Team joined over 1,100 students from all over Massachusetts at the Shrewsbury High School Mardi Gras Carnivale tournament. Mardi Gras is largely a high school tournament. In fact, only 5 of the 52 teams competing that day represented middle schools. For our students, who sometimes found themselves competing against their Upper School coaches, the day was long but eye-opening. The greatest success came at the closing ceremony, when Milton Academy Middle School was awarded 10th place (and top middle school)! A huge congratulations to our speechies!
This 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.
For three of our sixth-grade students…Donuts = Dollars = Trees!
For 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.
On 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.
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.
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.
On Sunday, February 7, Milton Academy hosted the Special Olympics of Massachusetts Basketball Tournament. Over 150 special needs athletes from the Boston area, including our own home Milton/Quincy team competed on all three courts in the ACC.
Nineteen Middle School students volunteered to keep score and run the time clock for the morning of games. Two students from Grade 8, Grant and Charlie, have volunteered all three years of Middle School! For them, a highlight of the experience has been coming to know teams and specific athletes. For Piper, Grade 6 and new volunteer, the most surprising aspect of the day was the age ranges of the participants. “Some players were only 7 or 8 years old, while others were in their 40s or 50s.” Nonetheless, she loved “seeing all the athletes working together.” According to Sonya Conway, Middle School faculty member and student coordinator, “All our kids cheered them on and had a great time being a part of this wonderful event.”
All students in Grades 7 and 8 take a 360° class intended to provide them with the knowledge, skills, and strategies necessary to successfully maneuver both the social-emotional and the academic realms of adolescence. Our goal is to provide students the tools for middle and high school success. 360° meets once a week, alternating between the two realms: Middle School Counselor Nicci King teaches the social-emotional, and Grade 4-8 Learning Specialist Liz West Swiatkowski teaches the academic. Both teachers explore topics using a variety of active learning approaches including role plays, interactive PowerPoint presentations, brainstorming, discussion and games.
The Grade 7 social-emotional curriculum engages students in both structured activities and open-discussions aimed at increasing the social comfort, emotional consideration, and personal confidence of each child. Students learn to survey their “internal audio,” to give themselves and those around them the space to evolve in their identities, and to really consider what it takes to be a good friend.
The Grade 8 social-emotional curriculum, focuses on enhancing students’ emotional intelligence and giving them the tools to understand themselves and each other. Topics include: adolescent brain development, goal-setting, expressing gratitude, and choice and accountability. Understanding how the brain works, particularly how it grows and evolves during the adolescent years, underpins our inquiry. The setting of personal goals and the systematic working toward those goals provides a real-life application to the work of the class. Finally, as we prepare students for their last months in Middle School, our discussion has turned toward learning to gather information, and explore choices and consequences prior to making difficult decisions.
The Grade 7 academic curriculum begins with a discussion of individual learning styles, the importance of organization, and time management. Prior to assessment week, we discuss how to study for tests, memory remedies for rote memorization, and how to actually take a test.
The Grade 8 academic curriculum begins with a discussion of Dweck’s theory of growth mindset, which allows us to view mistakes as opportunities to grow as learners. We explore Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory and students create “Learning Styles Portraits” that express both their learning styles and their multiple intelligences. Prior to assessment week, we discuss study strategies a second time and create study schedules.
Ten students in grades 6 to 8 participated in the Mathcounts competition on Saturday, January 30. The contest, held at Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School, included 288 mathletes from 38 schools in the Massachusetts metro region. Mathcounts is a nationwide middle school mathematics competition held in various sites in the United States. Its founding sponsors include the CNA Foundation, the National Society of Professional Engineers, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. If you wish to view more information, please visit Mathcounts.
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.
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.
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.
At 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.
This week in advisory, students wrapped the gifts they purchased for the children in the ABCD Early Head Start program in Dorchester. On Thursday, Grade 6 students and teachers delivered the gifts to the children and spent time with them in their classrooms.
Parents, thank you for your kindness and generosity.
On 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)
This week, Second Grade students began their Family Study unit in which they will explore different types of families, define what makes a family and learn about different family traditions around the world. To begin this unit, Avaneesh’s mother joined the Second Grade class to talk about Diwali. Students learned about the myths behind the holiday and got to try Diwali sweets!
Second graders took advantage of the beautiful weather this week! They joined Mrs. McGuinness in the garden to plant allium and tulip bulbs. While the students worked, they learned about the different parts of a bulb as well as the importance of when to properly plant bulbs. We can’t wait to see the bulbs emerge in the spring!
The author of over thirty books geared toward young readers, with messages about teamwork, friendship, perseverance, and winning, Mike Lupica is widely read among fifth and sixth grade children. When he visited campus earlier this week, the students were thrilled to have the chance to meet him, and mesmerized by his many stories, including how he became a writer of children’s books.
Speech at Milton is popular—60 Middle School students and 51 Upper School students compete on two distinct teams. Many of these “speechies” achieve great success at both the regional and national level. Middle School speech team coach Debbie Simon says a key to this success is the coaching program, in which 42 Upper School students—current and former team members—pair up with Middle School students weekly as mentors. Middle School faculty members, parents, and Upper School speech team faculty also play important roles as Middle School speech coaches.
“Coaching a speech team takes more than a village,” says Ms. Simon. “We are a collaborative group who work together to cultivate a team of young people passionate about speech. Our coaches inspire the young speakers and help them learn to stand up in front of an audience and find their voice.”
Earlier this month, the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) asked Ms. Simon if she—with students and coaches—would participate in a webinar, sharing with other NSDA members around the country the success of this unique coaching program. Ms. Simon gathered the group, and they filmed the webinar from her English classroom in Ware Hall.
Mack Makishima (I), captain of the Upper School team and a national speech finalist, participated with one of his mentees—Michael George (IV), now on the Upper School team and coaching his own Middle School student.
“Mack was such an amazing coach for me; he really helped me in every way,” says Michael in the webinar. “He helped my Duo Interpretation partner and I with eye contact and how to portray certain characters. He also helped my partner and I with bonding, which is an important feature for a Duo event.”
“I had a really great Upper School coach when I was on the Middle School team,” says Mack. “He was so important in my speech career, because he taught me the artistry of speech, and he helped me develop and practice these skills.”
Marshal Sloane (II), a national junior champion, former Middle School team member, and current Upper School team member coached Adrian Hackney (IV) last year.
“When Adrian started in Impromptu last year, he was brand new to it, but it gave me an opportunity to teach someone how it works and how to formulate a speech. That naturally… helped me develop my own talents in my category of Extemporary. It was really a two-way relationship. It was a rewarding experience and I wouldn’t give that up for anything.”
Adrian, now in the Upper School, is coaching his own Middle School student. “Being an Upper School coach is very valuable—it allows me to continue my own growth but also share the gifts that Marshall gave me with someone from the Middle School and help them to grow,” says Adrian.
Isabel Alex is a Middle School team member, competing in Demonstration Speaking and Duo Interpretation.
“I’ve had two amazing Upper School coaches,” says Isabel. “They’ve pushed me forward and helped me prepare for nationals. They take time out of their busy schedules to meet with you and show you what to do. They help you progress from the beginning of the year to the very end, and it’s such a dramatic change. They dedicate their time to us so we can have our best shot.”
From a student’s earliest days, teachers structure their classrooms and develop activities that support social emotional growth. Engaging students in the act of developing classroom rules, guiding self-discovery, providing academic choice, practicing mindfulness, and encouraging collaborative problem-solving are important ties between the academic and social emotional realms of children’s worlds at Milton.
Recently, Grade 4 students ventured to the White Mountains for a three-day trip to the Appalachian Mountain Club. The focus of the trip was to integrate students new to the class, to build a strong and supportive community, and to begin to develop the students as leaders. Leaving campus, nervous energy filled the bus as students bid farewell to their parents. For some, this was a first trip away from home. As they crossed the border into New Hampshire, the colorful Fall leaves and the crests of the mountains captured their attention and the mood of the bus shifted. Once in the White Mountains, the students partook in a variety of outdoor activities. Art teacher Sandy Butler particularly “loved to see the kids try new things, both on and off the trail….They learned about the flora and fauna in the White Mountains, and more about each other through group games, activities and ice-breakers. I appreciated how much they cared about and took care of one another. It was a very enriching experience for all.”
Among the most challenging activities was a day-long hike, that required the students to care for one another in ways that they’d never done. “I was amazed at how students encouraged one another and never complained! Each of the students took turns being a leader…being responsible for making sure we were walking at the pace of everyone in the group, and deciding when the group needed a break or snack” shared Grade 4–8 Learning Specialist, Liz West. Trips like the one to AMC, push students to try things that they may not have ever done before. For Lower School Counselor Sarah Spinello it was “inspiring to see so many of the students step outside of their comfort zones to try something new. They encouraged each other to feel safe and supported…and when the terrain got tough, they held each other up and smiled while munching on their trail mix and challenging each other with riddles and guessing games.” On the ride home, students reflected on the fears that they conquered and giggled about newfound friendships and experiences that they had together. Asked what they thought of their adventure, students replied that the best thing about the AMC trip…”climbing to the top of Mount Avalon! The view was beautiful!” The worst thing…”that we only stayed for three days!”
Who doesn’t love an estimation jar?!
Second grade led the Lower School in an exciting (and seasonal!) math activity: two jars were displayed, one in Greenleaf and one in the Junior Building, and students guessed how many Smarties were in each jar. Using the math skills they have been practicing, the second graders tallied the results and shared them with the school. In Greenleaf, we extend congratulations to Sara K. In the Junior Building, there was a tie between Henry M. and Adair Johnson.
Each spring, Milton Academy’s Lower School Teachers, together with Lower School Librarian Joan Eisenberg, select a book that every child in each of our six grades will read over the summer. The summer reading book, a tradition since the early 1970s, provides students with a common reading experience as they enter School in the fall. For teachers, the summer reading book provides a fresh curricular unit with which to start the year. Planning the fall’s curriculum is always a “summer highlight” as we think about “how to make each book come alive by weaving in every element of learning, from math, to art, to music, to writing, to physical education, and even to Spanish!” explains Grade 1 teacher Jerrie Moffett.
This year, Grade 1 read Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier. “Through Beatrice’s Goat, we’ve been able to introduce the culture and geography of Uganda, and to extend that learning to the creation of thumb-pianos in woodworking and African paper beads in Art” shares Nancy McCuen. For children like Beatrice, goats provide food and drink as well as help families earn money to sent their children to school. Our children learned about raising goats and even got to try goat’s milk and goat cheese. To bring the idea full-circle, Grade 1 students had a special visit with some goats, one of which they were even able to milk – just like Beatrice!
“Making cultural connections has been a big part of this unit,” explains Mrs. McCuen. “We do that in a very hands on way in First Grade. We’re currently building a Ugandan village that will give students an idea of what life is like for Beatrice.” In woodworking class, along with their teacher Jenny Sorblom, the children created a “mud hut” complete with straw roof. “The hut allows children to play out everyday life in a Ugandan village.
As one of their projects, students made books explaining how they are both similar to and different from goats. Wondering what first-graders came up with?
|How are some first graders similar to goats?
|How are some first graders different from goats?
Nearly each day in the fall, Grade 3 teacher Jane McGuinness and a group of interested students spend recess tending Milton’s Lower School garden. Students water plants, harvest crops and explore a garden bursting with pumpkins, watermelons, zucchini, peppers and lettuces. Today’s visit is launched by a book they’ve been reading in class: Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner. The goal is to “catch” the living critters they find and consider why these creatures choose to live there. After Mrs. McGuinness offers instructions for the activity, students grab containers and spread out. The first sighting is a cabbage moth, and Mrs. McGuinness explains what plantings attract the moth. Students discuss bees and their role in the pollination process. The children peer under leaves looking for caterpillars and eggs. They peel ears of corn seeking evidence of worms. A large watermelon is a wonderful surprise, found covered in one overgrown section of the garden. Using a pitchfork, students upend earth, scouring for worms and other crawling insects. Mrs. McGuinness loves watching students make connections in this natural setting—exploring, discovering, asking questions, getting their hands dirty. When recess ends, students gather containers filled with grass, dirt and small creatures and discuss their findings. The children will observe and share their treasures back in the classroom, but now it is time for lunch, featuring salad made from yesterday’s harvest.
The Middle School’s new student council is already busy at work, meeting with faculty advisors and discussing plans for the upcoming year. First on the agenda: feedback boxes for each grade, to encourage students to submit ideas and opinions on how to enhance life in the Middle School.
“At this age, students have great ideas, and they are ready to be leaders,” says Jacqui Pennini, Middle School dean of students and one of the council’s faculty advisors. “We began the student council this year because we wanted to foster that independence. In the Upper School, so much programming is student-run. We felt this would be a good way to prepare Middle School students for what they will encounter in the Upper School.” Sharon Mathieu, Grade 8 social studies teacher, is the council’s other faculty advisor.
After a round of excellent speeches, eight students were elected by their peers. Grade 8 holds four leadership positions, and two students each from Grade 6 and Grade 7 represent their class.
President: Malia C.
Vice President: Zach A.
Secretary: Cori D.
School Spirit and Activities Coordinator: Jenna P.
Grade 7: Nikhil P. & Kayla M.
Grade 6: Jack B. & Abby B.
Ms. Pennini says a major goal that emerged in the council’s planning is getting students involved in community service on a more regular basis. Other goals include encouraging integrity, raising diversity awareness, and fostering school spirit.
On a gorgeous Wednesday in September, the entire Middle School—students and faculty—spent the day at Hale Reservation, a 1,100–acre nonprofit educational organization in Westwood, Massachusetts. The daylong retreat is an annual kick-off to the school year, during which students partake in problem-solving activities in mixed-grade groups.
“The eighth graders naturally take on leadership roles because they’ve been here before,” says Nicci King, Middle School counselor. “This day is a great chance for the sixth graders to get to know the older students.”
Some of the most popular activities of the day are the low and high rope elements. Every group completes at least one high rope element, which is challenging. Students are harnessed and can choose which elements to try.
“Every year, I watch a someone push farther than they think they can,” says Ms. King. “The student’s classmates provide authentic support, and a real camaraderie develops. I watch all the students take risks in calculated and thoughtful ways. When one student is belaying for another, he or she is learning how to be the safety net for a classmate. The activity is about recognizing that someone is trusting you, and feeling the responsibility that comes with that.”
Click here to view photos from the day!