Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Support Claims with Text Evidence in 7th Grade

7th grade scholars hard at work
Throughout middle school students are learning to use evidence to support their claims. In science class this might take the form of a laboratory report with a hypothesis, in math class supporting an answer with an equation, and in wellness class making a personal decision based on research.

In all classes students are learning that a strong argument or wise decision needs supporting evidence and details.

Students in Aishling Falzone's ELA class are working on literary claims and using quotations from a text to support these claims. In this case students are reading the short story "A Crush" by Cynthia Rylant. Flowers play an important role in the story, so students are creating claims and finding quotations that address the question of how flowers affect characters in the story.


Debating the Impact of Deforestation

One of the "rubber tapper" teams at work
Students in Elizabeth Carroll's Geography class are studying the impact of deforestation on the Amazon Rainforest. Small groups are researching the issue from various points of view including ranchers, rubber tappers, environmentalists.

They will culminate their research in an informal debate about how the rainforest should be used and protected.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Dramatic Production of Lord of the Flies This Weekend

Under the direction of Mike Pirollo a small group of 7-8th grade students have been hard at work delving into the themes and characters of the classic novel by William Golding Lord of the Flies.

The novel explores the themes of civil societies, law and order, social structures, and individual accountability...many of the same ideas students in 7th and 8th grade explore in their study of the Ancient World (grade 7) and American Civics (grade 8).

The students were excited by their opening night and, as you can see in the photos below, are very proud of the set they have built.

Please join us for the dramatic production on Friday, November 17 at 7:00 or Saturday, November 18 at 2:00PM and 7:00PM. General Admission is $12. Doors are open 30 minutes before the start of the show. Please note that the themes addressed in this play include bullying and examine consequences of violent human behavior.






Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Health Curriculum Addresses Adolescent Substance Use Prevention

This year Wellness teacher Jay Murphy is using an updated version of a curriculum called All Stars. All Stars is a nationally-recognized, evidence-based prevention program that focuses on two goals:  
      
  • Prevent risky behaviors among adolescents
  • Help adolescents build positive and bright futures
As the All Stars Program explains, “The prevalence of substance use increases as adolescents grow older. Research shows the later the age someone begins to use substances, the less likely they will have problems later in life. The goal of All Stars is to prevent use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription drugs and inhalant use for as long as possible during the most at-risk years for adolescents.”

Students in Mr. Murphy’s 6-8 classes will participate in All Stars units specifically designed to promote student assets and strengths and address the specific developmental needs of the age group. Visit the All Stars Website or reach out to Mr. Murphy form more information on the curriculum.


Our Wellness course is just one piece of what needs to be a multi-pronged prevention effort that includes families, the community and the schools. It is important for us to remember that students need to hear messages about healthy choices from many different voices. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Honoring Veteran's Day

We began our day Thursday with a short assembly planned and facilitated by our 8th Grade Clipper Crew (under the direction of social studies teachers John Webber and Jen Groskin).

The assembly was followed by a Veteran's Town Hall with the 8th Grade. Eight local veterans came to share their stories of service. The program was developed and run by Jen Groskin with support of local veteran Dr. Ralph Orlando. Over the course of the year students have been viewing history through a tool called an "identity wheel." This tool allows students to reflect on how their identity affects their interpretation of history and builds their skills in understanding the impact of identity on how history unfolds and is reported. The veterans at our Town Hall were asked to share their own identity wheel with the students as a part of their presentations.











Today our 7th grade students walked to City Hall to participate in the City's Veteran's Day program. It was a cool and windy walk but their presence was much appreciated by the veteran's in the audience.

On behalf of the entire RAN student and staff community, we send our thanks to the men and women who have given and continue to give service to our country. And a special thank you goes to the veterans who shared their stories with us this week.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Joppa Salt Marsh comes to the Nock

Because of the rainy weather this week a few bike trips were cancelled. But that didn't stop our 7th students from participating in the data collection taking place at the Joppa Flats Audubon Center.

Audubon scientist Liz Duff and her team of biologists brought the salt marsh to us--complete with the smell and the fish.

Students working at Joppa Flats assist in the on-going collection of data to measure salinity, fish species and plant life at the salt marsh. This data has been collected for many years and it is interesting for students to learn what data is collected, to be a part of the real-life collection and to learn about and predict the trends. Using the data they can begin to see the impact of human interaction and natural forces on the environment.



Monday, October 23, 2017

Newburyport Rec Center--Surfing, Film making, Teen Crossfit and More

Newburyport Youth Services offers a wide range of programs to support the positive growth and development of our middle school students. Housed in the old Brown School, the center has a gym, four classrooms and a dedicated teen room. Check out the full  list of offerings: Rec Center Catalog

There are many options for middle school students including a drop-in center, open gym, and half-day trips. There is a free bus from the Nock to the center daily.

Drop by with your child and check out the facility and meet the staff. It is a fun place for kids to hang out, try new activities, and connect with friends.

Coming this month for middle school students are a Halloween Party on October 27 from 6:30-8:30 and a 7th-8th Grade Fall Dance on November 3 from 6:30-8:30.

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.