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.