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. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Here are a few highlights from the week
  • In preparation for next Friday's Academic Adventure Trip (see below), we finished the week with "garbology," an analysis of what we throw out and where it goes.  Students divided up items from the trash into "luxuries" and "necessities."  We had a very lively discussion around this.  Ask whether a cell phone is a necessity or a luxury!  We followed this discussion with a viewing of Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff.  I've included a link to this in case you'd like to check it out.  It's about 20 minutes, and very worthwhile.  We'll be analyzing both the information she discusses, and her masterful use of persuasive techniques to convince viewers of her point of view.  
  • In Spanish, we learned how to cook fried plantains, and made Latin smoothies called Batidos.  The fruits we used included mango, parchita, banana, frambuesa, fresa, piƱa y jugo de naranja. (Mango, passion fruit, banana, raspberry, strawberry, pineapple and orange juice)  Ask about which fruits they liked the best, and ask if they've memorized the catchy tune " Yo Quiero Taco Bell" yet.  Why do they think we are asking them to memorize this song?  And did they share their own catchy Spanish tunes with their famIlies?  Also, ask if they can name their favorite radio station in Spanish - and don't switch the station until they do it!
  • Return of the travelers: ¡Bienvenidos a Los Estados Unidos!  We heard some wonderful stories from the trip, and shared what we have been working on from home today.  Below is a link to a note from Sari detailing some of the highlights of this incredible trip.
  • The 7th Graders have captured highlights from the week in Graphic Novel Form.  Ask about the death of Balloony.  
  • 7th graders worked on their original blues stanzas in music.
  • Senbazuru: Students completed research and presented their work on four aspects of the 1000 cranes: the history, cultural significance, folding and hanging techniques, and the story of Sadako Sasaki (We also read Eleanor Coerr's book based on this story).  We plan to donate these sometime in the coming weeks.
  • Art: With the 8's away, sevens went out into the community to view some art and sketch. We visited the graffiti wall, Portland Public Library's gallery, and the ICA at MECA. At the ICA, the exhibit was an installation of three whale skeletons. Ask your student how the display was different than one might view bones in a Natural History Museum. How did the lighting and the sound enhance or take away from the visual aspects of the show?  
  • Spring Gala tomorrow night!
  • Next week's All School Meeting: The 3rd and 4th graders will be leading the school in a "Lion and Dragon" dance as part of their study of ancient China.  The whole school will meet in the Dan at 1:35 on Wednesday.  After the dance, we'll all move to the Jessie auditorium to see a slide show of highlights from Costa Rica.  We'll then split into our Learning Buddy Groups to hear some tales from the trip from the 8th graders.  Please join us if you can for this festive event!
  • Next Friday, 3/29: Academic Adventure Field Work.  Our next big unit in Science and Social Studies is all about sustainability, and we're using this day to kick this off.  Bridge is planning some exciting curriculum, including a visit to Eco-Maine.  The facility is unheated, so please make sure that students are wearing long pants and closed toed shoes.  Stay tuned for a letter from Bridge detailing our agenda for the day.
Thanks for reading this far.  Enjoy the weekend.  I hope to see some of you tomorrow night.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hello everyone,

The week has become a little quieter here at home, and some voices here have become a little more prominent.  The 7th graders are very sentimental about the 8th grade - they are adamant about not erasing one of Lizzie's drawings from the whiteboard, calling it "Sacred Lizzie Drawing," and they keep looking at the itinerary, noting, "...what the 8th graders are doing right now," and talking of "...what the 8th graders would say if they were here."  It has been very sweet to see.

Here are some items from this week in and out of our classroom
  • SENBAZURU!!!  Ask your kids what that means (1000 cranes).  7th graders really wanted to fit in some community service, so in collaboration with Kelly in art class, we're in the process of a 1000 cranes project.   We researched the history, cultural significance, and technical aspects of this project, and we plan to donate these in strings of 25 to a local hospital.  From Kelly: Ask your seventh grader to show you how to fold a paper crane.
  • 8th grade sendoff: In case you weren't there, the whole school community showed up to wish them a great trip.  The Rainforest Bus was on the blacktop, and they were sent off with pancakes and a Breakwater cheer. 
  • 7th grade hike to Jewel Falls: It was a little slippery (...and there was a little mud), but it was beautiful!  Ask your young person what they learned from our walk (...we had some academic discussion on the way, and debriefed about some of the ways that we need to support each other, both socially and academically.)
  • Milestone work: we honed our ideas for the upcoming State of the Classroom addresses.  Ask what your young person appreciates about the classroom, and what they have chosen as a place for improvement.
  • Outdoor Classroom: We made some plans to renovate our side yard to make it into a usable academic space.  Ask which ideas they liked the best.
  • Nat's math class spent time questioning whether the makers of Orbeez were accurate in their claim that Orbeez grow to 100 times their volume when they're soaked in water.  We also studied radius, diameter, surface area, and volume of spheres through graphing data from balloons inflated with 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 breaths.  Ask if their predictions matched the data!
  • SPANISH: How was your experience at Tu Casa? What was the most interesting thing about the the lunch? Would you like to go back there someday and order in Spanish again?
  • TINKERING: In Tinkering this week, the seventh and eighth graders continued to work on finishing two projects - their toothpick bridges and their shelves from the Scott Nash visit. The toothpick bridge project is nearly finished. The students have designed and built a bridge out of toothpicks and glue that had to be tall enough for a toy boat to pass under and a toy car to drive over. They have been recording the costs of the materials needed to build, and we may test a few to see how much weight they can hold when we're done. The groups that are finishing their shelving units are continuing to practice with a screw gun to countersink their screws effectively. Also, both groups are learning how to make their shelves more stable. Ask your child about the bridge building project. What has been the most challenging aspect of it? I would guess waiting for the glue to dry! Ask them if they'd drive over their own bridge? Ask them about their shelves/egg displays - what was the most challenging part to that project?
  • 7th graders will be working more on our senbazuru work next week, and we hope to solidify our plans of where they'll end.  If we can set it up, I hope to meet in person with a volunteer coordinator on Monday. 
  • Next Wednesday 3/20 is a half day
  • Costa Rican Adventurers return late Wednesday night.  They should plan to take off Thursday, and be back at school on Friday.
  • Spring Gala on 3/23.  Click on this link for more info.
  • Academic Adventure on 3/29.  Stay tuned for devious and educational plans in Collaboration with Bridge and Mr. J.
Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Hi everyone,

Here are a few highlights from this week, and some questions to ask your young people
  • We shared the last of our 7th grade Infographic-Milestone presentations.  Ask about the history of archery, the evolution of crayon colors, or the effects of caffeine vs. sugar on kids.
  • We attended the Kindergarten Operas.  Ask what a mermaid's favorite food is (everyone knows they are suckers for peaches)!
  • Continuation of our chemistry studies in science.
  • We focused on slope-intercept form in Nat's math class.  Ask what the letters mean in y=mx+b
  • In Spanish, of the presentations about Costa Rica given by the eighth graders this week, which did you find most interesting and why.  (The presentations were about Costa Rican Food, the people of Costa Rica, rain forests, history from 500 years ago to 1851, topography, and leaf cutter ants!)
  • In Tinkering, students continues to finish their egg displays/ shelves from the Scott Nash project.  Ask them what has been the most challenging aspect of building them.
  • In 7/8 Art, students are finishing their personal mandalas. They have learned that the mandala has ritual significance and that it is the symbol of life and death, and the cosmic procession of all beings. Ask your student what they may know about the way people have used the mandala through out time and culture. (ex. Druids of ancient England & Stonehenge, the Aztec sunstone, Architecture of Tibetan temples, the color wheel, Native American sand paintings)
  • We spent a big part of today working on our Salem Witch Trials film.  Ask about the best part of filmmaking.
  • 8th graders leave for Costa Rica on Wednesday morning.  We're "exploding" their backpacks on Tuesday, so remember to send them in with their bags fully packed so we can make sure that they are ready.  Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any last minute questions.
  • In sympathy with the 8th graders, 7th graders will be lunching at Tu Casa on Washington Ave. on Wednesday with Sra. Kristin and myself.  They will get to practice ordering in Spanish, and thinking about next year's trip.  We are finalizing some more plans to make the week special for the 7th grade while the older kids are away.
  • 13th hour fundraising challenge honoring El Costa, March 13  Click here to go directly to the Breakwater calendar.
  • Spring Gala, Oscar themed, Red Carpet!  March 23.
Have a great weekend.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hello everyone,

We had a nice re-entry this week, beginning on Tuesday with Science, Tinkering, and PE.

Here are a few highlights from the rest of our short week
  • Carl Durra has joined our seventh grade class.  He is outspoken and wonderful.  Please welcome he and his parents, Imad and Rana. 
  • The next 7th grade Milestone was introduced this week.  This one gives students a chance to practice persuasive writing and public speaking.  Just wait until you hear some of the ideas for the State of the Classroom Address.  
  • Art: Ask your student, "What is radial symmetry?" "What is the significance of the circle?" "What is a mandala?"
  • Music: Students worked with Samuel James while Stephanie is out on maternity leave.
  • Students worked on their scripts and props for our Salem Witch Trials film, to be produced next week
  • Writer's workshop this week focused on YOLOfiction (You Only Live Once).  Students completed their first drafts, and we worked on peer editing today.
  • Girls Coalition Group starts on Tuesday - 11:45-12:30 in the Jessie auditorium.  Please send your forms back if you haven't yet done so.  Let Cheryl know if you have any questions.
  • Kindergarten opera performance this Tuesday at 2:00 in the Jessie auditorium.
  • Continued work on short fiction writing, and the culmination of our Colonial studies work
  • Next Wednesday (3/6) is a half day
  • Costa Rica is coming right up!  (March 13-21)
  • The 13th Hour Fundraising Challenge Honoring El Costa.  Click here to go directly to Breakwater's Calendar.
  • Spring Gala is coming up! Save the date: March 23.  Click on this link for more info.
Have a wonderful weekend.  See you on Monday!