Friday, October 20, 2017

Around the Nock Today

A few pictures of some of the action in school today...

8th grade literature circles...students are discussing what role ethics and morals play in a dystopian society

More literature circles

CO2 Car Building in Engineering

CO2 Car Building in Engineering

Creating visual maps to illustrate popular music in art

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Camp Kieve "Home" Program

Today is day three with our Camp Kieve program. Students have been at work solving problems, practicing communication skills, and learning lessons about working in a community.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Are Smartphones affecting Students' Mental Health?

This summer author and generational researcher Jean Twenge released her new publication iGen. After twenty-five years of studying generational trends, Twenge began noticing some surprising changes. What had been gradually changing trend lines suddenly showed rapid changes.

In an Atlantic Monthly article Twenge explains "some generational changes are positive, some are negative, and some are both."

We have been reading about and discussing Twenge's work here at the Nock. Like many professionals in the field of education, we have anecdotes to support a growing sense that students are increasingly anxious and vulnerable.

Twenge's research confirms this intuition with data and begins to ask what role smartphones may be playing in this change. "There is compelling evidence that the devices we've placed in young people's hands are having profound effects on their lives--and making them seriously unhappy." (Atlantic Monthly)

Twenge paints a complex picture of a generation with many positives; but she reminds us that her trends also show a generation of young people who are "on their phone, in their room, alone and often distressed."

In addition to the Atlantic Monthly article, you can see a video segment on her work at PBS News Hour. I would encourage you to learn more about this research and have conversations with your children about their feelings on the topic.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

It's Socktober!

Our 8th grade leadership group, The Clipper Crew, just launched what has become an annual Nock tradition. Socktober is a national initiative: "Each night in the United States, an estimated 600,000 people live on the streets. This October, we want 2 million people to show that even a small act of love, such as donating a pair of socks, can make a big difference in the lives of our neighbors who are homeless." 

Last year the Nock was able to collect almost 1000 pairs of socks for the Pettingill House. 

Every homeroom has a sock collection box. We are collecting new socks of any size or color. We will be awarding prizes to homerooms that bring in the most socks (...slices of pizza from Anchor Pizza, whoopie pies from Chococoa are examples of last year's prizes)! 

We will be collecting socks until Nov 3rd

Help us generate some excitement for the project by wearing your Crazy Socks on Fridays!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Skyping Salva Dut

Our 6th grade has embarked on their annual unit based on the book A Long Walk to Water. The novel weaves the real story of Salva Dut together with a fictionalized account of a young girl still living in South Sudan.

As an 11-year old, Mr. Dut was among the many displaced people sometimes referred to as the "Lost Boys" of Sudan. He and many children were forced out of their homes by the violence of a civil war. Today he is an advocate working to bring increased water access to villages throughout South Sudan.

On Tuesday our students had the opportunity to connect with Salva via Skype. His story of perseverance and words of hope are important lessons for our students, who are the age he was when war came to his home.

The unit continues throughout the next week or two with geography, reading and writing lessons.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Grade 7 Place Based Education

Our 7th grade students have begun their journeys into the field of life science. Last week students were on bikes traveling to Maudsley Park to identify plant species (most specifically trees) using a dichotomous key. This week students are exploring invasive species along the banks of the Merrimac River from kayaks. In the weeks to come they will visit Joppa Flats and Sandy Point.

Middle school is a good time for students to learn how to be a part of a community. Through these place-based lessons (education jargon for being in the field, at a "place") our students are building connections to the environment of Newburyport as well as to each other as classmates. At the same time they are applying the vocabulary and concepts of life science to better see and understand the environment right here at our doorstep.

A lot goes into taking students out into the field. Many thanks go to our teaching teams for creating flexible schedules and managing the many details associated with the trips!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Time Travel and Adventures in Summer Reading

Last Friday our school went on a summer reading adventure. It all began with a Delorean crashing into the side of the building...

Thanks to our summer reading team Mike Pirollo, Elizabeth Carroll, Karri Madonna and Eriko Antos and our 8th grade filmmakers Keenan Jackson, Sam Walker, and Charlie Grossman, our school community enjoyed a vibrant and engaging exploration of the themes of time travel.

The day began in the auditorium where we viewed Keenan, Sam and Charlie's film--they worked over the summer on this kick-off and were even able to find a Delorean to use in the filming. It was a wonderful take on "Back to the Future" Nock-style, and set the stage for a group initiative to find the codes to send the boys back to 2017.

These community-wide events offer us the opportunity to celebrate learning, promote a positive school culture, and move our lessons outside the rows and desks. Students shared some decade dancing with our staff and discussed some "big ideas" around time travel like: "what will you think about the person you are today ten years from now?"

And hopefully we sent the message that summer reading can be fun!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Remembering September 11, 2001

Today at 8:46 AM we paused to remember the people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Our 8th grade social studies teacher Jen Groskin shared a short message with the school and facilitated a moment of silence.

Students in 8th grade social studies classes were using children's literature to explore the history of the 9/11/01 and examine the messages that were shared with children after the events. Groups read from a number of children's books and, in small groups, discussed how events like this might be processed with small children.

It was interesting to hear each student's understanding of 9/11 and listen as they discussed how historical events are memorialized over time in stories for children.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Getting Organized on Day Three!

Like every field education has its buzzwords--one particularly relevant one for us in middle school is the idea of "executive function." 

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University explains that "our ability to hold onto and work with information, focus thinking, filter distractions, and switch gears is like an airport having a highly effective air traffic control system to manage the arrivals and departures of dozens of planes on multiple runways. Scientists refer to these capacities as executive function and self-regulation—a set of skills that relies on three types of brain function: working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control. Children aren’t born with these skills—they are born with the potential to develop them."

We can all intentionally teach these executive functioning skills--at home, in school, on the playing field students learn to organize their work, focus their attention, switch gears from one topic to another, manage long-term projects, etc. 

At the Nock we have a number of "universal supports" (also education jargon, meaning strategies that you will find in every classroom to benefit every student) to help students create habits and practice strategies to stay organized:

  • Are You Ready? Boards...large white boards can be found in every hallway. Each team has a board where the daily schedule, materials needed for each class, homework and announcements are posted:

  • Classroom Information Boards...
    Students will find the daily agenda, class objectives, and homework assignments posted. Every team has a system that is shared across all classrooms. For example, 6 Crimson rooms all have a system for finding the handouts from a class or homework assignment

  • Binder Systems...throughout middle school students will learn a number of systems for organizing papers and keeping their materials in order. Each department (math, ELA, science, social studies) uses a similar system. Many classes I was in today were working on getting their binders set up.
  • Middle UnMuddle...students also learn to use a calendar book to record homework and map out long-term assignments. We call this calendar book the Middle UnMuddle (MUD). In 6th grade students will be required to write all assignments down during class. As students progress through 8th grade and develop their own systems, the requirement for using the MUD will be less stringent. 
  • Get to Know you Activities...additionally, teachers will spend time on activities designed to help students feel comfortable in our environment, with our systems and with each other. A predictable and transparent work environment is helps all of us function better!
Executive function skills are taught throughout the middle school years. The goal is for students to experience a number of different strategies so that they can eventually make decisions about how to "function" on their own. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

First Day of School!

Welcome back Nock families! Arrival ran smoothly with just a few bus issues to address. We began our day in the auditorium with a welcome and introduction to our educator staff. Students have their schedules and Mr. Mahan will continue to make any necessary adjustments through this week and next.

I caught up with Ms. Sanborn's 6th grade class visiting Skipper our therapy dog...he was getting some reassuring hugs to calm his first day jitters!

And the 7 Crimson Team in the courtyard finishing a team building activity...

Thanks to all the Nock students and staff for their positive energy today!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Nock Celebrates Flag Day with Veteran's Town Hall

Under the leadership of 8th grade teacher Jen Groskin, the 8th grade celebrated Flag Day today with a Veteran's Town Hall. Eleven local veterans visited with the students in small groups to share their experiences and answer questions. We are thankful to Ms. Groskin and all the veterans for sharing their time with us.

Friday, June 9, 2017

NHS Graduate...10 Things I wish I Knew in 8th Grade

2014 NHS Graduate Drew Bourdeau was here this week  speaking with our 8th grade. Drew is a rising senior at St. Anselm's college majoring in math and secondary education. He is also a member of the Hawk's lacrosse team.

Drew shared his reflections on "What I Wish I Knew in 8th Grade" with Mr. Murphy's 8th grade Wellness classes.

His 10 points included tips on "going all out," supporting your friends at all-school events, staying drug and alcohol free, and remembering that teachers are people, too.

Students enjoyed hearing from a fellow Clipper!

8th Grade I am We Seminars

Hon. José Sánchez discussed juvenile justice with students 
The culminating project for our 8th grade social studies course is called "I am We." Students spend the year studying American government and finish by exploring who they are in the "We" of "We the People."

As a part of this project, students select an issue to study. They examine the issue from the legislative, executive and judicial angles. Additionally, they think about how the issue is impacting citizens. Based on their research, students take a stand on their issue.

Chief Fowler shared his expertise on a variety of topics 

To promote civic engagement and teach students about the different roles of our government, students are required to meet and interview professionals. 

On Wednesday, two groups of students were able to spend an hour learning from Massachusetts Juvenile Court Justice Honorable José Sánchez and Salisbury Chief of Police, Thomas Fowler.

We are thankful to both Judge Sánchez and Chief Fowler for generously giving their time to help our students explore the complexities of the American justice system. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

7 Crimson Students Discuss Bullying

As a part of their ELA and SS classes, a team of five students on 7 Crimson facilitated a text-based conversation on the essential question: How do you think bullying has or can become the new normal?

The students developed the essential question and designed the one-hour lesson. Using an article and several video's, the students guided their peers through a lesson that included an interactive survey, a large group discussion, and reflective journaling.

It was powerful to watch as the students ran their class for close to 90 minutes. The conversation was rich and included comments such as:

  • "I don't think normal is the right word to use. If something is normal then we aren't trying to stop it."
  • "The article talked about the profile of bullies. But I think anyone can be a bully, especially over social media."
  • " Maybe if you have more friends to back you, if you are more popular, it is easier to be intimidating."
  • "Sometimes people bully because of their back story. But does that really matter?"
  • "People think burns are funny, but they really hurt. The person getting burned or roasted may be acting like it's fine but they are actually crying inside."
  • "It's about speaking up. Let the bully know right away you don't like it. We need to stop saying 'it's a joke'."
  • "Sometimes I feel like there are a million different reasons why someone might bully: your friend group, your parents and how they solve problems and treat people, your social status."

The group ended their lesson with a video from UpTV Who Will Stop the Bullying

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Cellist Matthew Sharp Conducts Master Class

Matthew Sharp is professional cellist from London who performs all over the world with orchestras and operas. Thanks to the generous support of the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival and the coordination of orchestra teacher Jamie Sokolowski, Mr. Sharp came to the Nock Middle School today. 

He facilitated a workshop with our 7th-grade orchestra--providing students with tips, coaching and inspiration. He closed the class with an engaging and spirited performance. Students were excited to have the opportunity to meet and learn from a professional musician. 

Mr. Sharp will be performing this Saturday, May 13th at  6:30 in St. Anna's Chapel, Newburyport. For show information, visit Newburyport Chamber Music Festival