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.