Author: Stephen Bennhoff

Students in the eighth grade at SMCDS brought some destruction to their instruction this week. As part of a unit of study about physics, forces, and structural design, the students were tasked to build bridges out of popsicle sticks.

Each bridge employed the same amount of sticks, and had to be the same length, but students were free to experiment with design and support ideas in the effort to hold the most weight. Some designs were more artistic, and others more stable, but the winning bridges combined a bit of each.

The final test of the bridges was to place weights onto each of them and see how much they could hold before breaking. The audience, comprised of middle school students from grades five, six, and seven, clamored for a great view of the excitement.

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Our 3rd grade class at SMCDS is trying to get the American Burying Beetle to become the state insect of Rhode Island. We studied the 50 states and we noticed that Rhode Island doesn’t have a state insect. The American Burying Beetle is endangered, and Block Island is supporting the last of them. Please help us spread the good news about the American Burying Beetle.

For example, did you know that?

The American Burying Beetle can smell a dead bird from two miles away.

The American Burying Beetle lays its eggs on a dead animal.

The American Burying Beetle is changing its habits.

The American Burying Beetle is the largest carrion beetle in North America.

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Even though February is the shortest month of the calendar year, its proving to be full of amazing news at SMCDS. On February 11, SMCDS began hosting its first after-school workshops focussed on 3-D printing. Director of Technology Jeff Day designed the course in partnership with Fab Newport, a local non-profit bringing cutting edge technology to students in and around Newport.

The workshop focuses on 3D printing design and implementation. Students are learning how to use the 3D design software, and then watching their designs come to life when they print them out on our 3D printer. It is an exciting process! Even though each class could hold up to ten students, the first class filled up within an hour, and a second was added, and it too filled up within an hour, so a THIRD class was added.

Keep your eyes peeled for some of the wonderful projects coming out of the 3-D printer workshop!

Each year artists from around the Newport area convene on Ballard Park. The annual art exhibition features illuminated artwork from artists young and old around the community.

This year’s SMDCS submission was titled “Earth, Sea, and Sky Window.” It is a 8′ by 8′ stained glass: actually acrylic paint on lucite panels. Each student in our middle school studio-arts class, spent weeks designing, painting, and hanging the lucite panels. The corresponding themes of earth, sea, and sky are featured with sky on top, sea in the middle, and earth on the bottom.

Studio-art teachers Leslie Keohane and Rob Kaladjain led the middle school studio-art students and orchestrated the overall installation of the SMCDS stained glass project. Congrats to all of our accomplished artists for their wonderfully colorful and inspiring work!image

Mother Nature provided us with more than enough raw material for joyful snow sculpting during lower school morning recess. Students in preschool – grade 4 collaborated and built snow castles, birthday cakes, a snow chair, mountains, race cars, a cat, a ladybug, a sleigh pulled by a turtle, and snow angels. In the process of having fun they learned about….teamwork…collaboration….planning…..problem solving…. and persistence (as the snow was a bit fluff and therefore didn’t hold together very well)!

When the children were done building in the snow, Mr. Bennhoff led them in song while they enjoyed some hot chocolate with their buddies.
How long will our creations last? Only Mother Nature has the answer to that question, but we do know our memories of this “big snow” will last a lifetime! Enjoy the pictures!

On Thursday, January 15, SMCDS hosted its annual Geo-Bee, sponsored by National Geographic. The contestants, who were culled from the middle school advisories and the fourth grade, competed to answer questions that ranged in geography from Africa to Europe, and from Texas to the Yukon.

Our Geo-Bee winner, fifth grader Patrick, who was runner up last year, and the runner up, fourth grader Charlie, represented the lower school with confidence, proud of his presence in the championship round.

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the 2015 Geo-Bee!

“Its a great day for a great cause,” said Head of School John Zurn, as he watched more than 50 girls and boys ranging from grades 5-8 shoot hoops and practice drills with the athletes and coaching staff of the Bryant University men’s basketball team.  Bryant head coach Tim O’Shea brought his coaches and his entire team to St. Michael’s Country Day School to host a skills clinic for middle school students. The added twist? Each athlete was asked to bring non-perishable food items in support of the food pantry at the Martin Luther King Community Center, here in Newport, RI. The athletes managed to collect over 50 pounds of food for needy families, helping to chip away at the increased demand for food across the Newport neighborhoods.

Each student went home not only with a Bryant basketball and a Bryant t-shirt, but the feeling of having made a difference in our community. Thank you to the Bryant Bulldogs and the students from across the greater Newport area who demonstrated their leadership!

Ryan Andrade, an SMCDS alum and son of current 1st grade teacher Karen Andrade, met with the Lower School students on Friday, January 9. His presence as part of the “Follow Your Passion” speaker series, focussed on his love of flying. Since he was a little boy, when his favorite book was The Little Red Plane, Ryan was fascinated with airplanes and flight. He harnessed his passion, and this past fall, Ryan earned his pilot’s license.

Ryan told the Lower School students to “pursue your dreams” and to “stay psyched about those things that you are really into.” With advice like this from an SMCDS alum, the Lower School students left the presentation fired up to pursue their own passions!

John, one of our SMCDS fifth graders, was the second speaker in the Follow Your Passion Speaker Series for our lower school students. While in third grade John was inspired to learn more about the presidents by a U.S. presidents puzzle that his father bought him on a trip to Washington D.C. Over his holiday break, John researched and then drew detailed portraits of each of the forty-four U.S. presidents. If you look closely you will notice that each portrait contains a clue about something that was unique to each gentleman’s term in office. For example, Rutherford B.Hayes is depicted speaking on a telephone given to him by Thomas A. Edison because he was the first president to ever use a telephone.

On Friday, December 12, John presented the fruit of his research and artwork to a packed audience of students in grades 1-4. “It feels good when you do something that other people get excited about and learn from,” John shared with his young audience. A sampling of John’s presidential portraits will be on display in the Founders Library between December 15 and December 19. We are happy to showcase this great example of a student’s passion and dedication to learning, and hope it will inspire other students to do the same! Way to go John!

St. Michael’s Expands STEM Programming…

St. Michael's Country Day School, Newport, RIWe are pleased to share with you the news that we have hired Bonnie Epstein to serve as our part-time STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program developer in our Lower School. Dr. Epstein is the Founder and President of the Board for the Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art (RIMOSA) and is a part time faculty member at the Rhode Island School of Design. She is a graduate of Brown University where she majored in Geology/Biology. She also earned her Ph.D. in Oceanography from University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography. She is the mother of Hope (Grade 4) and Noah (grade 6) Silverman.

Dr. Epstein has a longtime commitment to regional science education initiatives in the state and we are excited to have her energy and wisdom in our community. She will be working with St. Michael’s Lower School teachers developing new and existing STEM initiatives in the Lower School. You will be hearing more from Dr. Epstein about STEM programs in upcoming issues of the St. Michael’s Weekly newsletter.