Wednesday, December 14, 2016

E-Cigarettes, Important Information for Parents

As the use and interest in e-cigarettes and vaporizers increases, it is important for parents to learn about these products and talk about their use with young people. 

Below is a letter from the Surgeon General. This is a good place to start educating yourself. In addition, I recommend the CDC Youth and Tobacco Use Fact page: /

E-cigarettes and the Surgeon General Report Dec 2016

On December 8, 2016,  U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy published a report on an emerging public health threat affecting our country. E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General is the 33rd Surgeon General’s report in 53 years to address the impact of tobacco on health. It is the first to focus on e-cigarettes.  
This report confirms that there is no acceptable level of nicotine when it comes to our kids. It notes that e-cigarettes are often a delivery system for nicotine, a highly addictive substance that can harm the developing brain. The report also confirms that the aerosol from e-cigarettes is not harmless. It can contain chemicals and particulates that are dangerous to the person using these products (“vaping”) and to anyone who may inhale that aerosol second-hand. 
The Surgeon General’s report is available at There you will also find tools for parents and a brand new Public Service Announcement from Dr. Murthy. Please help us promote this important publication by sharing it with your networks. We would also appreciate your help getting the word out on social media, using the hashtag #NoEcigs4Kids in your posts. 
Like previous reports of the Surgeon General, this one discusses the marketing techniques to glamorize e-cigarettes. The Surgeon General calls on the industry to stop advertising practices which encourage young people to try these products. Our children are not an experiment, and we know enough about the risks of e-cigarettes to take action to protect them. 
To mark the release of this report, the Office of the Surgeon General and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health will host a live press conference today at 9:30 am EST.  You can watch the livestream at 
We must never wait to prevent harm, especially when it comes to our kids. Together, we can protect America’s youth from the harms of e-cigarettes. When we know better, we must do better. 

Graham Crackers, Frosting and Plate Tectonics

Under the guidance of Ms. Alexander and Mr. Bissell, our 6th grade science students are engaged in a "Snack Tectonics" activity today. To illustrate the concept of plate tectonics, students are building models using some very tasty snacks. The fruit roll up oceanic crust moves nicely across the frosting mantle to illustrate sea floor spread and the moist graham cracker continental plates crash together to form mountains (illustrating the formation of mountains such as the Himalayas). Students are also becoming familiar with new vocabulary and using scientific terms to describe the movement of their "snacks."

See below for some visuals...

Friday, December 9, 2016

8th Grade Clipper Crew Strikes Again

Our 8th grade Clipper Crew is continuing their efforts to build community and bring kindness to our school. Before Thanksgiving they welcomed us with inspiring statements on the sidewalk and this week they have started a "happiness challenge" for the 8th grade. The challenge for yesterday was to leave a positive sticky note for someone. As you can see below the group follows their own advice...

Writing on the Walls

You can learn a lot about what is going on in a school by the posters, artwork, bulletin boards, and papers hanging on the walls. Here are just a few of the words I found hanging on the wall this week...

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Singing at the Nock--6th grade Chorus

I had the chance to visit 6th grade chorus classes today. The group below was hard at work practicing melodies, memorizing lyrics, and following along to the accompaniment of Ms. Sokoloski's guitar. In the room next door another group was with Mr. Nickerson belting out a very raucous rendition of Eye of the Tiger. Nothing beats a little music in the hallways!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Lot's Going On...

Just a few reminders:

  • It's a Wonderful Life opens on Thursday at 7:00. There will also be shows on Friday at 7:00 and Saturday at 2:00 and 7:00. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $10/student and $12/adult. If your middle school student will be attending the show with a group of friends, please help us by reminding them of the expectations for a live show audience:
    • Please do not talk during the show. 
    • Please do not leave your seat during the show. If you need to exit the theater, you will be asked to wait in the foyer until intermission.
    • Please do not eat or drink in the theater. 
    • Please turn off your cell phone during the show.
  • Profiles of Student Life Survey will be conducted with grades 6 and 8 in the next week. This survey is used by Newburyport Youth Services and the district to measure student assets and student risk behaviors. Information on the survey went home over email to all grade 6 and 8 parent/guardians.
  • Grade 8 Parent Night at Newburyport High School-Wednesday, November 28 at 6:30 - Join NHS staff and students to learn about the high school experience
  • Thursday, December 1 is an early release day - The Newburyport School District has been in conversation with the Mayor, members of the Chamber of Commerce, and the Newburyport Police Department about concerns from business owners around student behavior downtown on early release days. Our students need opportunities to feel independent and we are lucky to live in a safe and welcoming community where they can explore. But some business owners are expressing concerns around students not knowing how to act appropriately in shops and restaurants. Please take a moment to have a conversation with your child about traveling in groups and etiquette around eating at restaurants and visiting shops. 
  • Report Cards will be mailed home on December 9th

          Wednesday, November 23, 2016

          Facing History and Ourselves--Nock Professional Development Partner

          As we continue to work on enriching and developing our curricula, Nock ELA, social studies, art, and special education teachers have been working with Facing History and Ourselves.

          Facing History is a nonprofit educational organization whose mission is to "engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry."

          Our partnership with Facing History will support us in continuing to create opportunities for conversations about how our identity shapes our understanding of each other, our school community and the world. Teachers can borrow resources from Facing History's extensive library, take workshops, and continue with individualized coaching from our school consultants. 

          Facing History resources and teaching strategies are being used in units of study throughout the school including a Holocaust study unit in grade 7, a Civil Rights unit in grade 8, and a unit based on the novel To Kill a Mockingbird in grade 8. Other new and re-imagined units are also in process.

          You can learn more about Facing History and Ourselves and their extensive experience working with schools at

          A Sidewalk Chalk Welcome!

          Yesterday we were surprised with a sidewalk full of positive messages thanks to a team of 8th grade leaders! We are all thankful for our students and the positive energy they bring to our building.

          Tuesday, November 15, 2016

          Mr. Reynold's Phragmites Boats

          Image result for phragmites definition

          Last Friday, I found seventh grade science teacher John Reynolds and a group of industrious students on the border of a marsh cutting, weaving, and tying phragmites reeds.

          Students in Mr. Reynold's class spent much of the fall out and about around Newburyport exploring and learning about our city's diverse ecosystems. As students learned about plant types they discovered the impact of invasive species on Newburyport's ecosystem. One particularly invasive species in our local marshes is phragmites-you have probably noticed the large swaths of tall reeds throughout the region.

          Based on lessons from ancient civilizations and cultures in coastal areas in today's world (e.g. Peru), Mr. Reynolds challenged students to create something useful from this seemingly useless plant. And so a boat is emerging! Below are some pictures of the boat in action-stay tuned for updates on the final product and launch.


          Thursday, November 10, 2016

          The Nock Story Project

          Under the leadership of 8th grade language arts teacher Eriko Antos, the Nock will be embarking on an initiative to explore the power of people's stories. Below is a note from Ms. Antos about the project:

          The most extraordinary lives are often the ones lived most quietly, most remarkably, by one’s neighbors and loved ones, if we just pay attention.  If you just listen, everyone has a song. Lara Dotson-Renta

          This year, the Nock Middle School is planning a school-wide project to give all students the opportunity to listen to some of these songs.

          You may be familiar with StoryCorps, a project founded by Dave Isay whose mission is “to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”  In 2003, Dave Isay started with a recording booth in New York’s Grand Central Station to give people the chance to interview each other and to share their stories.  Thirteen years later, the result is a weekly broadcast on public radio and thousands of interviews archived in the Library of Congress.

          We have decided to give students their own opportunity to listen to the stories of a family member this holiday season.  In the next two weeks, students will be introduced to the project and will receive a packet of possible interview questions.  Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, we ask that they conduct their interviews and record them by audio, video, or take notes on paper.  Alternately, you or your child may choose to download the StoryCorps app on your phone.  If you choose, you may opt to upload the interview to the StoryCorps website for archiving in the Library of Congress, but that is optional.  Later in the year, we will be sharing some of the recordings, with permission, in a school assembly.

          Our hope is that the interview process will be just as valuable to both interviewers and interviewees as the final product.  If you have the time, please take a few minutes to visit to download the app or listen/watch a few of the stories.  You’ll quickly see that everyone does, indeed, have a song.

          Please feel free to contact me at or your child’s LA teacher with any questions or concerns.  Thank you for support.

          The Eleventh Hour of the the Eleventh Day in the Eleventh Month

          Today we recognized and celebrated our nation's Veterans. Our morning assembly was written and delivered by a team of students under the guidance of our remarkable social studies teachers. The students shared some historical context and reminded us that it was on the eleventh hour of November 11, 1918 when an agreement was signed to end the fighting in WWI.

          We were honored to hear two stories from veterans. First Robert Shouinard shared his experience of being enlisted in the US Army during WWII. Mr. Shouinard spoke beautifully of growing up in Newburyport and the impact his service had on his life and sense of self.

          We also heard from 8th grade student Kate Lucy. In a video created by our student team, Kate described how her father's enlistment affected her and her family. Kate's father, Michael Lucy, spoke about his experience in both active and reserve duty. Our thanks go to the Lucy family for sharing their story.

          As you enjoy your day off tomorrow, I hope you will take a moment to remember our nation's veterans: our neighbors, family, and friends who have made great sacrifices for our country.

          Our 8th grade assembly team with Mr. Robert Shouinard

          Friday, November 4, 2016

          Preparations are underway for our visit with Salva Dut

          Under the leadership of Ellen Menesale and Elizabeth Carroll, our entire 6th grade team has been hard at work preparing for a day-long "Water Changes Everything" celebration on November 16.

          The culmination of the day will be a school-wide assembly with Salva Dut. All of our students, grade 6-8, have read the book A Long Walk to Water which is a fictionalized account of Mr. Dut's story. In addition, Nock students have been part of a multi-year civic engagement project to support worldwide water initiatives. We are proud that Mr. Dut has chosen to visit the Nock and will be able to meet the staff and students who have been so committed to his story and cause.

          Below is a link to an article on Salva Dut and the program that is in today's Newburyport Current. 

          Salva Dut (

          Tuesday, November 1, 2016

          Book Title Poetry

          Our 7th grade ELA students were in the library recently practicing their poetry skills. They were presented with a stack of books and challenged to write a poem using the book titles. Students were also encouraged to explore the library and find their own titles. It was a fun exercise, allowing students to apply lessons from the poetry unit while also increasing their familiarity with the many interesting books we have in the library.

          Below are two examples of book stacks-do you see any poems?

          Our Amazing Nurses and their "Day After Halloween Potion"

          Nock Nurse, Christen Page, and Molin Nurse, Michelle Rybicki, were ready for the post-Halloween tummy and head aches today...

          Protein for energy and to balance all last night's sugars, seltzer water with fresh orange slices to hydrate and settle a grumpy stomach. Not pictured: two friendly nurses ready to help you get back to class!

          We hope you all had a fun night!

          Thursday, October 27, 2016

          Maps vs Globes--Sixth Grade Adventures in Geography

          Students in 6th grade are examining the advantages and disadvantages of maps versus globes and tightening up their map skills. When I visited Mrs. Carroll's room she was introducing the culminating project. She shared some exemplars from previous years that I thought you all would enjoy...our students are pretty clever!

          The Assignment
          Love Letter to a Map
          Movie Poster

          Wednesday, October 26, 2016

          Literary Analysis in Grade 8

          Our 8th grade students have just finished a literature circle around the theme of dysotopian societies. Literature circles are a teaching method where teachers select a particular question or theme (or topic, or genre, etc) to explore. Teachers identify a set of novels that can be used to explore the theme, and students read the novel of their choice. Students work in groups with other students who have selected the same novel.

          For this literature circle unit, students chose from a collection of thirteen high-interest dystopian novels and spent several weeks reading, discussing, and analyzing the texts. The culminating activity is a literary analysis paper that students are working on right now. Below are the literary analysis questions. In today's classes, students were peer editing draft essays. In addition to applying grammar lessons on commas and sentence structure, students were analyzing each other's thesis sentences, signal phrases, claims, and supporting quotations.

          Red Ribbon Week--Celebrate Student Assets

          This week the Newburyport Public Schools, in partnership with the Newburyport Youth Services and the Beacon Coalition, celebrates Red Ribbon Week. The Red Ribbon Campaign promotes community-wide programming to support the development of healthy young people. As a part of his wellness curriculum Jay Murphy helps students identify their own "assets" and uses activities and lessons to build strengths across all forty identified assets. If you would like to learn more about the initiative or see how you can be a part of promoting this important project, visit the NYS web site:

          Wednesday, October 19, 2016

          Socktober and Crazy Sock Friday

          For the second year, our 8th grade students are holding a new sock drive. Last year's drive was very successful with thousands of socks being donated to local shelters--did you know that new socks are the most requested and least donated item for shelters?

          Encourage your child to sport his or her crazy socks on Friday. And if you are able, send in a new pair of socks and support our students' civic engagement.

          Tuesday, October 18, 2016

          Camp Nock--Day Two Morning Circles

          Students had a great first day at Camp Nock on Monday. The Kieve staff are working hard to bring adventure to our hallways--the rest of us are working hard to pick up the all mud and dirt that always seems to follow any good fun! 

          Most students began the morning with activities where they were reflecting on goal setting, teamwork and leadership. The experiential learning cycle provides opportunities for students to act, reflect, then act again. By asking "what?", "so what?" and "now what?" during reflection time, children learn to connect these experiences to their own.