Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thanks everyone, for a wonderful year! I miss all of our 8th graders already, and couldn't fit in enough hugs today.

We wrapped up this week with some writing work, some clean up, math, ...and oh yeah, a couple of little school events like step-up day, the middle school band concert, and graduation.  Here are a few conversational tidbits to leave you with for the summer.
  • Nearly everyone contributed to the last newsletter this year, which I hope you enjoyed.  Ask your young person what they wrote, and which piece of wisdom from "Ask Atticus" that they think they benefitted from the most.
  • 7th and 8th graders each completed time capsules this week, to be opened up in the fall.   Ask what artifacts they included, and what reactions their work will illicit when unearthed.
  • Our middle school bands rocked out this week downtown at One Longfellow Square on Tuesday evening.  Ask which group played an original song.
  • Tuesday morning, Kelly joined us in welcoming the incoming 7th graders for Step-Up Day.  We acted as paleontologists, and worked in groups of four in an attempt to solve the puzzle of what animal we had "unearthed" by arranging and rearranging the bones.  Students then defended their ideas by pointing to specific parts of the fossil evidence. Ask what animal they think they had.  Ask also when the last time the word "unearthed" was used twice in one weekly ask!

  • While 8th graders rehearsed for graduation, alumni from the classes of '09, '10, '11, and '12 joined the 7th graders in preparing breakfast to welcome the class of '13 into the exclusive Breakwater alumni club.  8th grade families - Ask how your alumni plans to stay connected to the Breakwater community (sorry Atti).

  • Nat's math class watched the sequel to Flatland, a favorite movie from earlier the the year.  Flatland 2: Sphereland  was not quite as good as the original, but it gave us a good provocation for discussion about dimensionality.   Ask your young person to explain or illustrate the forth dimension. We also had our year-end edition of "math fun facts," and our grand prize winner was Ian, followed closely by Sabrina and Thalia who tied for second place.   Ask how many feet of wire go into the making of a slinky.
  • We finished up our writing work for the year with a collaborative writing project.  We watched a short animated piece by Michel Ocelot.  The dialogue from that film was in French, so we tried to reconstruct what we thought had happened.  We used a First - Next - Then - Finally format, passing our pieces on between each prompt for the next writer to add to what was on their page.  Click HERE if you'd like to check out this fun 8 minute clip.   Ask what all of our writing had in common, and where there were discrepancies.

  • Graduation!  What wonderful speeches, and what a nice event.  It was so nice to get to spend a little time together this afternoon.  (And I'll always show up for Ice Cream.)

  • 8th grade (...ahem - I mean 9th grade) families: Please keep in touch, and let me know if I can help with the transition into high school.  
  • 7th grade - now 8th grade families.  I'll be sending some work home for summer investigation soon.  Stay tuned.  For now, just make sure that your kids keep reading for fun.

Friday, June 7, 2013



  • Yearbooks are ready to order!  HERE is a direct link to order yours.  I'll send the link again under separate cover so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle.
  • GRADUATION PICNIC (Hurray to Chris, Jean, and Sabrina for organizing this event!): Help "send off" the 8th graders at a PICNIC GATHERING in Deering Oaks Park!!!


    •         Sunday June 9th   2 to 5pm  (rain date Fri 6.14.13same time)
    • Picnic style buffet with "send off"  cake &  "tea" at 4pm
    • Deering Oaks Park near the  Playground
    • Includes a semi- organized riddle- based "game" -  and  some informal "silly" contests -  participation optional 
    • Come for all or part

    This will be a mix of current 7th/8th grade Breakwater students, teachers/staff who have been working with them recently, plus former Breakwater classmates (7,8,9).  Parents/adult relatives are welcome (in fact, we would appreciata few to help); siblings are also welcome if their adult stays with them.

    Bring a chair!!!  (Also bring frisbee and/or acoustic instrument(s) if you want).

    PLEASE RSVP  to Jean at this e-mail (fjnfras@aol.comor to Chris at 839 6164 (we are too old to figure out "evite") 

    Favor to ask to reduce our stress levels:  please ask your child to stay within sight of the "base" picnic spot unless accompanied by a (known) adult.

    Jean, Chris and Sabrina
  • Commencement ceremony begins at 10:30, followed by the Ice Cream Social next Thursday.  Hope to see you there to welcome our 8th graders into the exclusive Breakwater Alumni Club.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Hi everyone,  

I hope that this news finds you well.  We are definitely working hard and having fun finishing out the year.  In celebration of our completed Capstones, we made fire and ice cream!
Sari and the kids making Biochar!

Here are some more highlights from the week

  • The mighty 8th graders completed their Capstone Presentations this week!  In Cheryl's words: "Our students shared their passions, delighted and entertained us, and put their excellent scholarship on display. Many, many thanks to those of you who attended one or both of these evenings in support of our oldest students - they, and their parents, greatly appreciated your presence.

    The diversity of their Capstone studies was remarkable:
    • Elsie The Evolution of the British Manor House
    • Atticus How Tanks Have Changed Ground Warfare
    • Lizzie Heart Anatomy and Congenital Defects
    • Sabrina Glass in Architecture
    • Michael A Short History of Stop Motion Animation
    • Joel  A Brief History of Short Live Action Films and How I Made My First Film
    • Thalia Dialectology and How the Media Portrays Accents

    and their projects ranged from lessons with younger students and original short films to time-lapse models of architecture, interviews with WWII veterans and observing a heart procedure at Maine Med."

    Truly impressive work.  I was proud of every one of them!

  • This is the last week of Art and the student Portfolios have been sent home. Look through your student's portfolio with him/her. What was the favorite project of the year and why? Where does your student think s/he has grown the most (skill, attitude) in art?  Come look at the amazing Pottery Show in the front hall of the brick building. Pottery work will be sent home Tuesday, June 11.

  • We've been using the whiteboard wall in Nat's Math section to create this Appolonian Panda (still in progress).  Ask how to inscribe a circle in an uneven geometric shape.
  • We picked fresh mint from the garden today, and made home-churned ice cream.  Yum!

  • Earth Week is next week!  CLICK HERE for some details of the week.
  • Graduation on Thursday June 13!  Boxed Lunches are available for the Farewell Picnic and Ice Cream Social.  Order your lunches using this form.
  • Come rock out with our Middle School Bands at their final concert of the year on Tuesday, June 11th at one of Portland's favorite music venues, One Longfellow Square!  The doors open at 5:30, the show begins at 6:00 p.m. Admission is a donation at the door. 
  • Spring Cleaning? Bring in your books in need of a new home for the Used Book Sale that will take place on June 13. There are multiple bins in the main foyer, Jessie and Dan buildings for book deposits. If you are interested in helping with the sale, contact Tim Spalding or Lisa Carey. Thanks to everyone who has already donated books!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hi Everyone,

Please let us know if you are planning to attend Capstone presentations next week, so that we can plan for the right number of guests.  Details are below.

Here are some highlights from this week

  • The Genre-Fest of course makes the top of the list.  Ask your middle schooler about the Hogarth Blues.  
  • In 7th Grade Spanish, we cooked a delicious Mexican feast on Monday!  Ask what was your favorite food? Was it the paella, homemade tortilla chips, homemade salsa, stuffed jalapeƱos, limeade, or cinnamon sugar cookies? Which recipe would you like to have for your collection?
  • In 8th Grade Spanish on Wednesday, we saw the Wim Wenders documentary "Buena Vista Social Club."  Ask what did you most like about the film? Did you like the music? Would you like to visit Cuba?
  • Nat's Math Class has been working on how to teach a computer to recognize the color blue.  Ask about R.G.B. color division.
  • With the 7th graders off at Mt. Desert Island, the eighth graders are finishing glazing puzzle boxes and are organizing their portfolios in Art. Ask your student why the deceptively simple looking puzzle box project is actually so difficult. (Clay shrinks when it dries and is fired, so special precautions need to be made to have the box pieces fit including firing pieces together in both firings.)
  • 8th graders all got to do a dry run for the Capstone Presentations next week.  Ask how ready your young person feels to present their work.  (They all did a great job on their run through!)
  • 7th Graders are due back from MDI at any moment.  They did send this picture back from Monday.  It sounds like it was misty, but happy!


Capstone presentations next week: presentations begin at 6:00, and typically last between 20 and 30 minutes.  There will be a short break between the second and third presentation each evening, which will give us a chance to share some appetizers and desserts.  Please let me know if you would like to bring something to share.  

Families, friends, and mentors are encouraged to come for both evenings to see the impressive work from our 8th graders.  Please RSVP with the number of attendees in your group so that we can plan these events.

Tuesday May 28
  • Elsie The Evolution of the British Manor House
  • Atticus How Tanks Have Changed Ground Warfare
  • Lizzie Heart Anatomy and Congenital Defects
Wednesday May 29
  • Sabrina Glass in Architecture
  • Michael A Short History of Stop Motion Animation
  • Joel  A Brief History of Short Live Action Films and How I Made My First Film
  • Thalia Dialectology and How the Media Portrays Accents

Spanish- English dictionaries! Please search your homes, cars, lockers, and backpacks for these dictionaries and return them to the Middle School. We would really like to have them back...
¡Muchissimas gracias!

Have a wonderful long weekend.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Hi all,

NWEAs don't make for an event filled week, but we did manage to fit in a few interesting moments:
  • In Artstudents are glazing their clay puzzle boxes. Ask your student how many coats of glaze go on a surface to make it look like the test tile. There are some surfaces of the box we had to be careful not to glaze. Ask your student about these surfaces and why they need to be free of glaze.
  • In Spanish 7What kinds of Mexican foods are you making for the cooking experience and fiesta on May 20th
  • Spanish 8: What do you think of the vignettes you have read thus far in "The House On Mango Street"? Would you like to read this in English?

  • Our field work at Camp Agawam was a great success.  When they thanked us for coming to help them clean up the camp, our students thanked them for the opportunity to volunteer.  So nice to witness the grace and joy in this group.

  • Nat's Math group has completed our four 4's project - we managed to create every integer between 1 and 100 using exactly four 4's and all sorts of mathematical operations.  Ask what was the wildest math we used.  
  • In Science we examined the three most common non-rewable energy sources, They presented to each other and decided which was the best source in their opinion.  Ask which of the three natural resources that he kids discussed did they decide had the smallest environmental impact.  Ask also how this process of extracting this resource can be modified to make it even better.
  • Tinkering update from Bridge: this week, the seventh and eighth graders continued to work on their culminating projects. The large group building a playhouse for the toddlers/preschool continued to hammer the 1”x2” studs for their walls. A sickness to one of the group's leaders made all the members of the group have to step-up this week. The group building the dollhouse encountered some of the challenges of building with plywood – namely, the need for a small wooden skeleton to attached the plywood walls onto. The group wanting to make wooden dolls suddenly became aware that shaping wood is harder than it sounds, especially if there are not any great wood carving tools. The individual working on the probe got a retired globe, which he spray painted silver and mounted on the flexible legs of a former lamp. Now he is confronted with figuring out how to attach the pvc pipes to his statue. And the individual who is creating a painting, she finally had acrylic paints to mix and match for her work. Ask your tinkerer what they hope will be the impact of their culminating project.
  • A PE message from from Mr. J: This week we have been enjoying the warm sunshine by playing one of the most popular sports on the planet, soccer.  We have been practicing our big power kicks when we want to get the ball way down the playing field, and have been practicing our accuracy by taking shots on goal without a goalkeeper.  We have been talking about the three distinct ways to kick a soccer ball:  toe kick, lace kick, and side kick.
Next week we will continue with the soccer, and will also be developing our familiarity and skills with a variety of lawn sports that might be available at various family outings this summer, particularly croquet and bocce.  

Ask what word do other countries use to describe the game we know as soccer.  Ask which kick your young athlete usually chooses for a big power kick way down the field.  Ask which kick your young athlete usually chooses for accuracy when taking a shot on goal.  Ask what type of sporting gear your young athlete thinks would be used most by your family, a soccer ball or a frisbee.  Ask your young athlete if they would like to find a mutually agreeable time to go outside and play an active game.

Thanks, and remember: be a sport!
Get Out and Play!

Your friendly PE teacher, 
Alex (a.k.a., Mr. J.)


  • Spring Conferences begin Monday
  • Genre-Fest this Tuesday, May 21
  • MDI Trip, next Wednesday-Friday, May 22-24
  • Capstone presentations May 28 and 29

Friday, May 10, 2013


This week, our focus was on Milestone and Capstone work, and the completion of our Afghanistan Journals.  

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • In Nat's Math class, we derived the formula for the surface area of a sphere through a rigorous process know as... the splitting of the tangerine.  Ask how to find the surface area of a sphere.
  • Mr. Sullivan Was our Guest Teacher for Nat's Math Section on Tuesday.  He and the students worked on the four fours: Creating every integer by using four fours and any combinations of mathematical operations.  We continued this project, and have found almost all of the integers from 1-100.  Ask which numbers were especially tricky.
  • In Science, we continued working on the sources of our electricity.  Ask what the most and least common sources of power are for the State of Maine (Natural Gas, Coal, Hydroelectric, Wind Power, Petroleum, Biomass, Nuclear).
  • In Spanish 7, we are creating comic strips. Ask your student "What is your comic about?"  Then show it to your family and friends and see if they can translate it!
  • In Spanish 8Pablo Neruda wrote hundreds of Odes. Ask, "Of those you have read, which is your favorite?"  Students are in the process of writing an Ode based on Neruda's style.  Right now, the Ode is in English.  Ask "how do you think it will change after you translate it into Spanish?"

  • In Art, students went to the PMA and toured the Paley Collection. Ask your student if they recognized any of this master work. Ask your student if there was a piece s/he really liked and why.
  • In Music, students are practicing their song for Genre Fest - and we got to listen to some Howlin Wolf.  Ask what the difference is between Chicago Blues and Delta Blues.  Ask also how they feel about their part in the class song.
  • In PE, we hiked to Jewell Falls with Mr. J., Fitz, and Trebor.  We found a snapping turtle and a snake (both of which Mr. J. picked up.)   Ask what other animal life we spotted.  Ask also how the snake liked being picked up.  
  • Our Afghanistan reading wrapped up with an open ended question about the future.  Ask why Afghani people might want Americans to stay or leave Afghanistan, and ask what it would take to bring true democracy to Afghanistan. 
  • NWEA Testing will be Monday and Friday of next week.
  • Afganistan Project Work will continue through the next two weeks, and will include letters to Afghan teenagers, and video work to summarize and synthesize our learning.
  • Next Wednesday, May 15, we'll be doing our service learning trip to Agawam.  (This trip will be contained during school hours.)
  • Spring conferences begin May 20.  I'll be sending a sign up sheet under separate cover.
  • Capstone Presentations are coming right up - May 28 and 29!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Hi all,

Here are a few highlights from this week:
  • In Art, students have finished building their clay puzzle boxes. Ask your student if the edges of his/her box are perpendicular.
  • In Music, Samual has returned from his European Tour, and continued his work teaching kids about the blues and helping them with their original composition.  Ask about the difference between The Band and Aretha Franklin.
  • We have begin work on this year's yearbook.  We will be using "working lunchtimes" to keep this project on schedule.
  • 7th graders have begun their third Milestone.  For this one, they'll be conducting an interview, summarizing and reflecting on this process, and presenting their findings to the group.  Ask who your young person will be interviewing, and what they hope to learn.

  • Nat's math class has been working furiously on both Euclidean and Fractal geometry.  Early in the week, we modeled fish populations using recursive functions, and found out about Strange Attractors.  Later, we introduced the complex plane and worked with geoboards to find patterns of squares and triangles.  Ask about the square root of negative one, about the Mandelbrot Set, and about how they reacted to finding squares on the geoboards.
  • We continued work on our Afghanistan unit as well, by looking at the stories of boys' and girls' experience in schools.  Ask about the differences in educational opportunities for boys and girls, and ask whether Dina was right in enrolling the boys in school even though it was against the wishes of the elders.
  • We practiced our visual and verbal Literacy this week by interpreting pictures and then re-interpreting text from pictures through a fun game, and then an analysis of some Afghanistan images.  Ask about how information can be (mis)interpreted through text and images.
  • In Tinkering this week, the seventh and eighth graders were major contributors to the improvement of the Funnelator Challenge. When asked to find the optimal launching method and site for the funnelator, which is a gigantic slingshot made from rubber exercise tubing and a plastic funnel that the 5th/6th graders made in Tinkering, the students took about ten minutes to find that the optimal launching site was on the posts of the Big Toy. The students then got into working groups and, using tupperware, plastic bags, and supplies around the Tinkering Studio, created an indestructible egg container into which an egg in a zip-lock snack bag was nestled. When the groups were all ready, their indestructible egg containers were launched in the Funnelator that the 5th/6th graders made in Tinkering. Tests done with a beanbag ball before launching showed that the funnelator was capable of hurling the ball nearly to the ice skating area of the field! Each group's container was loaded and launched, then the group checked to see if their egg survived. Ask your young tinkerer if their egg survive. What design and building strategies did the group use in the construction of their indestructible egg container? Did those work?
  • Cheryl joined us to introduce the 8th grade Graduation Speeches.  Each 8th grader will be paired with a mentor to craft a speech for graduation.  Can you believe it's just around the corner?  Ask what ideas your 8th grader has for their speech.
  • Our students' proposal to remediate the damage to Nason's Brook by building a berm at the back of the Kia parking lot was accepted today!  Sari took a small group over to meet with the owners, who asked them some tough questions about the project, but were convinced by the substance of the project, and the charm and intellect of our group.  They came back beaming from ear to ear: "WE GOT IT!"  We'll be working on this project as part of our Earth Week activities.  Major Kudos to Sari and to the kids for making this happen.  Ask how it felt to make a proposal to this authentic audience.
    • Spring NWEA Testing is scheduled for Monday 5/13 and Friday 5/17
    • Trip to the PMA with Kelly next Thursday, 5/9 10:30-12:30.  
    • MDI Trip is coming right up, May 22-24.  Stay tuned for the itinerary and packing list
    • Student Led Spring Conferences will take place between 5/20 and 6/5.  A sign up sheet will be sent out soon.
    • We will be going back to Camp Agawam during the school day on 5/15 to do some service work in return for their generosity in letting us use their space in September. I've heard a rumor that there may be ice cream on this trip.

    Saturday, April 27, 2013

    This week culminated in our Grade 7/8 Math and Art Festival, and the collaborative middle school dance at Friends School of Portland.  The dance was of course a really fun event.  We are lucky to have such a gracious and talented group of young people!

    A few specifics to ask your young person about
    • We continued work with our Afghanistan studies.  Ask about making a music video in Kabul, and about the clash between tradition and change in modern culture.
    • Thursday afternoon was our annual Breakwater Variety Show to benefit the backpack project.  Sabrina and Simon were top-notch MC's for the event, Sydney and Carl along with some help from Owen (one of our pals from first grade) sold out of snacks before the show even started, and Izzie and Elsie were aces from behind the scenes.  Our 7-8 performances included singing from Thalia and Alicia.  
      The money we raise at this event goes toward the Backpacks for Refugees project, which helps young refugees settle into academic life.  The School holds a Giving Ceremony where we donate many backpacks filled with school supplies. The backpacks are donated to the Catholic Charities Refugee & Immigration Services, which provides refugees in Maine with the opportunity to improve their stability, independence, and overall quality of life.
      Throughout the year, bottles & cans are collected from the local community (that big bin you see as you walk through the main entrance) to raise money for the project, though the biggest source of fundraising comes from the Variety Show!

    • Our Math and Art festival included the Playing Card Platonic Solids featured earlier, along with three huge cardboard dodecahedron made during the event.  There were also tessellations, Notan designs exploring balance and negative space, Mandalas exploring radial symmetry, Photography with explanatory notes exploring the math of pictures, cuisenaire rod fraction work, "Math Faces" made by graphing, and fraction and percentage work around geometric designs.  Students examined each other's projects, and left a question for each of the other groups.  Check out the work, which will be up in the front hall for the next weeks.  
    • In Art, students are continuing a project based on Art&Math connections. They are creating clay puzzle boxes that involve precision in measuring in both two and three-dimensions. Ask your student to tell you the dimension of his/her box.
    • In Tinkering this week, the 7th/8th graders were given a challenge of thinking about what their culminating project should be for Tinkering. After some discussions and ideas, groups began the design stage by drawing out plans and making shopping lists. One group began to plan the building of a playhouse for the toddlers and preschoolers, another group began to design wooden dolls that could be dressed in different outfits for preschool/kindergarten, another group started designing stools to make for the Tinkering studio, while some individuals looked to do more independent projects for their culminating idea. Ask your child which idea for a culminating project they chose. Why did they choose that?
    • In Science, we are working on preparing a proposal about our year-long Nason's Brook project to the property owners on the edge of the brook. None other than the vice president of Bill Dodge Auto Group will hear the  proposal next Friday. In June we will build the Biochar berm and plant to eliminate run-off from their vast parking lot within 12 feet of the brook.  The kids will each state an important benefit to them, the brook and to Bill Dodge Auto Group. Stay tuned for our story of the event next week.
    • Work on our Grade 7/8 Yearbook will begin this week.  We'll have regular lunchtime meetings for the next few weeks to keep this moving.  
    • Flatbread Pizza's Fundraiser for Breakwater Tuesday, 4/30.  Click HERE to see details for this event and more at Breakwater's Calendar

    Friday, April 12, 2013

    Here is the latest, up to the minute news from our classroom, and a taste of what's still to come.  

    Highlights from the week

    • As the culmination of their second Milestone, most 7th graders delivered their State of the Classroom addresses.  They each identified an area of strength, and a place for improvement, and attempted to persuade their peers to implement their suggestions through their persuasive speaking.  Ask what they celebrate most about our community, and where they might change things for the better.
    • 7th Graders delivered our paper cranes to the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center.  Ask how it felt to be part of this process.
      Lauren adds to the sculpture
    • In Artstudents are putting the final touches on a group installation sculpture for the Middle School art/math show. Ask your student where we have decided to install the piece and why.
    • In Science, we had our unit test this past Tuesday. Most everyone showed a good grasp of knowledge about chemical and physical changes and the states of matter. It was hard for some to visualize the bose Einstein condensate as we can only imagine a state of matter where the atoms nearly cease to vibrate because they are so cold. On the other hand, it is easy to imagine the activity inside a florescent light and its excited gas particles being plasma, but these two states of matter are at opposite ends of the temperature rage that includes the more familiar solid, liquid and gas states. A few students are opting to retake the test to get a higher grade, but everyone had fun exploring chemistry these past few months and identifying six unknown compounds through a variety of tests.  Following the test taking the students began their search for unique energy sources to report on when we continue our study of alternative energy when we get back from April Vacation.
    • In Tinkering this week, the seventh and eighth graders participated in one of the more difficult challenges of the year - making their initials out of wood. The students worked very hard with drawing and designing the best way to accomplish their task and then used various methods, materials, and tools to make their letters. The fact that they had to do all the sawing and work themselves added to the challenge. Ask your young tinkerer why they think this challenge was harder than other ones that they've undertaken this year. Why did those people with certain letters have an easier time of it than others? What would they have done differently with their design and strategies?

    • Nat's Math class practiced with linear equations, tables and graphing through study of expanding patterns, and an epic Barbie Bungee jump from the balcony in the Jessie.  Ask whether your young person's Barbie had a conservative or thrilling jump.  We also examined patterns in Sierpinski's Triangle, and the Koch Snowflake.  Ask about the paradox of an object with infinite perimeter, but finite area!?!?
    • Sra. Kristin stepped in as a full day guest teacher while Nat was at a math conference with Dan Meyer (a current hot shot in the math Twitter/Blogosphere).  In addition to her regular Spanish classes, Kristin led an experiential activity and subsequent discussion about life in contemporary Afghanistan as part of our Integrated Studies work.  Ask what the major obstacles to rebuilding Afghan society are? How do poverty, war, and illiteracy connect to the instability of a country? Nat continued this work with more reading, video study, and discussion about how charities provide assistance and aid.  Ask about examples of short-term aid that support immediate needs but are not sustainable (food distribution, medicine distribution) and in what ways this aid might become more sustainable (prevention programs like helping people grow their own food, get jobs, start businesses, education, vaccinations against disease...) 

    • Mr. J. has contributed some recent news from PE, which has been all about the "flying disk."  Students completed a series of challenges, to build technical accuracy, distance skills, and team-building with partners and the whole group.  We have been working towards playing Ultimate Frisbee, which is a team game involving moving the disc down the field with your team in order to score a goal in the end zone.  Ask your young athlete how many times in a row did they make a catch with their partner during warm-up at the beginning?  Ask if they prefer to develop their accuracy or their distance? (this could be considered a trick question...) and ask what was the most fun part and the most challenging part of PE class
    • Monday 4/22 is a professional day (no school)
    • Thursday 4/25: Breakwater School Variety Show (formerly known as the Talent Show) 3:30 pm in the Jessie Auditorium (Admission .50 students, 2.00 adults with proceeds to benefit the Breakwater Refugee Resettlement Backpack Project)
    • Friday 4/26: We are collaborating with the Friends School to put on a spring middle school dance for grades 6-8.  Our students will be helping to organize, decorate and plan the event.  The dance will take place from 6-8:30.  Admission will be $5 and will raise money for the Friends school 8th grade trip to Washington DC.  

    Friday, April 5, 2013

    In addition to our renewed focus on Capstone and Milestone work, we have now kicked off both of the two final integrated studies units for the year, focusing on Sustainability and Afghanistan.

    Breakwater Las Meninas  on view in the Brick Building

    Eighth grade families: We've scheduled the Capstone presentations for Tuesday and Wednesday May 28 and 29.  Please let me know right away if you have a conflict with either of these days, or if you prefer for your young person to present on one or the other. Thanks!

    Here are some details of how we spent the week
    • Sustainability: Some of the rich learning that happened on our academic adventure last Friday was put to use in our discussions and our writing this week.  Mr. Sullivan joined us to explore how money, economics, and sustainability are related.  Ask your young person whether a diamond or a shotgun shell is more valuable.  Ask also if a dusty Cadillac is worth the same as a human life!  To help bring this home, we also made some time to work on our outdoor classroom.  
    • Our 7th and 8th graders are representing Maine as part of our Afghanistan studies, using a curriculum adapted from the Children's Culture Connection.  One school from each of at least 30 states will be participating in these studies, which will include cultural studies, multimedia resources, reading and writing and a collaborative online forum.  I was sold by these prominent words: "It’s not enough to just want to save the world – we teach kids to actually do it."  To build some background knowledge, we watched video of everyday life in Afghanistan, studied some interviews with Afghani kids between the ages of 8 and 16, and looked at a broad history of the country.  Ask what similarities and differences there are between life in the United States and in Afghanistan, and ask if they found out anything surprising about life in Afghanistan.  Here is a link to some of the web-based materials we will be studying (Use: Name: ccc Password JingleBellRocks).  Students have read Journal Entry number one, and are expected to read Journal Entry number two for Monday.
    • Science: The students spent our science time this week preparing for the unit test that is scheduled for next Tuesday. Please remind your child to study the two page review that they filled out  to prepare for the multiple choice test.  The assignment on opposing views on wind power has been postponed so that they can put all of their homework time into Chemistry review.
    • Tinkering: This week, the 7th/8th graders had a guest teacher, Frank Donovan, and they undertook the Marshmallow Challenge []. Every grade from 1 to 8 has now completed this group challenge at Breakwater. Each building group was given 20 pieces of dry spaghetti, one foot of string, a roll of tape, and one marshmallow and then given the task of using a 20 minute time block to build a free standing tower that can support the one marshmallow. During the building time, the different groups employed different techniques and strategies to build their towers. We had several groups, who after several attempts of building more grandiose structures, opted to build shorter towers, but free standing towers. A couple of groups struggled with teamwork, communication, and perseverance in the face of adversity, but everyone completed the challenge. We interviewed the groups to find out how the process went for each of them and what were the keys to success or struggle, and then the groups filled out the written reflection sheets about the activity. We all talked about the importance of a PROTOTYPE in the design process. Ask your child about why a prototype is important. Also, ask how their group did in the challenge. Was there anything
      they'd do differently?
    • PE was all about frisbee challenges this week.  Ask where the name Frisbee comes from anyway.  (Hint - it's sort of like kleenex!)
    • Art/Spanish: Have you taken your family and friends to the main lobby to see the display of the Breakwater Las Meninas?  Ask your student to view the Las Meninas exhibit with you and discuss the project. (front bulletin board of the brick building)
    • Nat's Math class has been busy with geometric constructions, using paper and pencil, as well as GeoGebra.  Ask how to define the center of a triangle (they should know at least four ways), and ask if the center can ever be outside of the triangle! We also took advantage of the beautiful weather to do some "human graphing" outside.  Students took on the role of the x-coordinate, and acted out linear and non-linear functions.  Ask how they knew when someone was not acting out the solution to a function (they were the only one not in line with everyone else.)
    • Yolofiction: Leah joined us for the sharing of our finished short fiction pieces.  Students sat in the "author's chair" to present their work.  It was wonderful to witness both their creativity and their wonderful support for one another.  Ask whether it was difficult or easy to write a whole story in less than 400 words.  Ask as well about our class Twitter account, which I'll be setting up to tweet out some of our stories.

    • Upcoming Science: Coming up after vacation: Wind and solar energy studies. Please ask your child to search the internet for the most unusual energy source currently being explored. The most outlandish renewable sources are encouraged. Hydro power and other common renewables will be explored so are not to be included in their individual research. All they need to do is bring in the information on the energy source they have found and be ready to share what they know about it with the group
    • Next week is Spring Break, and don't forget that Monday, 4/22 is a professional day - NO SCHOOL!
    • Thursday 4/25: Breakwater School Variety Show (formerly known as the Talent Show) 3:30 pm in the Jessie Auditorium (Admission .50 students, 2.00 adults with proceeds to benefit the Breakwater Refugee Resettlement Backpack Project)
    • Great for the little ones.... Alice In Wonderland: One more chance, this Sunday April 7 at 2:00pm in the Jessie Auditorium.  FREE; Running time: 45 min.
    • In collaboration with STAGES, Inc.. Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance: Tuesday April 9 at 7:00pm and Thursday April 11 at 4:00pm and 7:00pm in the Jessie Auditorium.  FREE

    Friday, March 29, 2013

    All the news that's fit to (virtually) print from this week!  

    On the heels of our Costa Rica and 7th grade solo weeks, we've ramped up our Capstone and Milestone work, and have begun to dig into our sustainability studies.  

    Here are some highlights
    • Spanish 7: We are memorizing the first stanza of a Spanish children's rhyme about oranges. Ask if your young person can recite it?  Also, ask what are some differences they have noticed between the conjugations of regular versus irregular verbs?
    • Spanish 8: Now that they are back from Costa Rica and have written reflections, what more can they share about the trip?  And now that we are back studying grammar, particularly numbers, how do you write 1,167 in Spanish? How do you write "two plus two is four?"
    • Art: 7/8s are starting a group installation piece based on the work of Tara Donovan, an artist who transforms every day manufactured objects into astounding works of art, forcing us to look closer at the materials that surround us. The project was introduced with a macro/micro slideshow where students tried to discern what massive quantities of single media were put together to create large scale installations. Ask your student about this work and what materials went into making it.
    • Nat's Math Section: We have moved into geometric studies, and geometric constructions.  Ask what a platonic solid is, and how many there are.  Ask about making some of these out of playing cards! (See below for where this project is headed) ...And ask how to bisect an angle, or construct a perpendicular bisector with a compass and ruler.
    • Academic Adventure Field Work: Students went into the field and interviewed experts about the waste stream, fair trade, solar energy, and sustainable island living.  Ask what they learned that surprised them the most on this trip.
    • Tinkering in Bridge's words:   We had a lot of people absent from tinkering this week, but the students who were there continued to work on finishing a couple of projects in tinkering. One group is working to finish their wooden copy of a metal cabinet. This week, they attached the door with a couple of hinges, which proved to be harder than it looked. In the end, the group realized that another hinge in the middle of the door will be needed in the future and a bottom needed to be attached to the shelving unit to give the door clearance to swing open and close without scraping the floor. Another group decided to paint the backing of their shelving unit white to create a startling visual impact. Other students continued to work on finishing their toothpick bridges that we started back in November. Ask your middle schooler what kind of lessons they are learning about finishing projects. Do they think that there is a time limit to how long a project is interesting?

    • Next Wednesday April 3 is a half day
    • Great for the little ones.... Alice In Wonderland
    Friday April 5 at 4:30pm and Sunday April 7 at 2:00pm
    Jessie Auditorium
    Running time: 45 mins
    • In collaboration with STAGES, Inc.. Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance
    Tuesday April 9 at 7:00pm and Thursday April 11 at 4:00pm and 7:00pm
    Jessie Auditorium
    • Stay tuned for details of our art and math show to be displayed after April break. All middle school math students have begun or will begin exploring ways in which math and art relate to each other.