Author: Stephen Bennhoff

Emlen in seatHow much weight can a few pieces of cardboard hold? The answer may surprise you if you are one of the 8th grade structural engineers enrolled here at SMCDS. 8th grade science teacher Emlen Drayton challenged his students to build chairs that could support the weight of at least one student. The class problem-sovled and designed a host of different models. The winner supported the weight of five students!! Super science from our stellar students!

Question: What is one of the many great things about SMCDS? Answer: That we are within walking distance of

vibrant and fascinating tidal pools, and we visit them for class!  A part of their study of the worlds ocean’s, sixth grade students spent a glorious afternoon at Brenton Point, conducting field research of the rocky shore. They collected and identified organisms, learned about the limiting factors in the intertidal zone, and hypothesized how animals adapt to those limiting factors. They also collected water quality data. Enjoy the photos!


What do Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math have to do with First Grade? Everything! This year our first grade teachers have added a special theme to their program: S.T.E.M. Fridays, with the first challenge being how to construct the largest tower using only 30 identical paper cups 1.5 inches high each. Students were initially given the supplies and allowed time to experiment with their partners. They then shared strategies across groups, in particular exploring how changing the shape of the base of the tower impacted the overall strength and height of the tower.

The largest tower built by the students was over 18 inches high. How high can you build YOUR tower? Enjoy the attached photos!




Zigby the Zebra, inspired by the lead character in a lovely children’s story written by Scottish-born English author Brian Paterson, is the name of a cute stuffed-animal zebra who arrived at SMCDS this summer. Head of School John Zurn introduced Zibgy to a Kindergarten class on Tuesday, September 9. Zigby will reside with a section of students for one week, recording his events and adventures before moving on to another section of Early Childhood and Lower School students the following week. The result is a fun sharing from class to class, including early language arts, reading, and writing exercises, not to mention a wonderful collection of stories and adventures from across SMCDS. Welcome Zigby!!



Sheila Powell is the President of the St. Michael’s Parents Association. She is the mother of Mary in grade 4 and has been a St. Michael’s Parent since 2003. Her two older boys attended St. Michael’s before the family moved to Rochester, NY. The Powells returned to Newport two years ago and are thrilled to reconnect with the community here at St. Michael’s.

Sheila states emphatically that her favorite thing about St. Michael’s is the teachers. They have made a huge impact on the lives of her children and she deeply appreciates the ways they have made St. Michael’s feel like a second home for their children.

Early on, Sheila decided that she would do all she could to support the teachers and staff at St. Michael’s in the community. She volunteered in the younger grades and began to get engaged with larger activities in the school community. When the Parents Association asked her to serve as their president, she was honored to take on this role to serve the community.

One of her favorite school-wide activities has always been the Fall Frenzy. It is simply a wonderful time at the start of the school year to meet new families and revisit old friends on the school grounds. The event is this coming Sunday from 1:00 to 4:00. A number of school parents have helped to organize games and challenges for the children, pony rides, bounces houses, refreshments and carnival games. Says Sheila: “I know that people are busy with many activities on Sundays, but I hope that everyone can find time to come and join our community in celebrating a new school year. See you Sunday!”

Welcome Back Day and the first week of classes offered a warm return to the school year. Students and staff, families and faculty all delighted in seeing familiar friends and making new friendships. Said one mother new to SMCDS: “I’m amazed at this community already!” See who YOU can find in this gallery of SMCDS friends!


The Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE) recently put out a call inviting teachers from member schools to submit proposals to speak at the AISNE Lower School conference on October 6, 2014. Results? Only twenty were selected from a field of fifty proposals. Three of those twenty are St. Michael’s faculty; Jessica Boyle (Kindergarten), Lauren Hutchinson (Grade 2), and Kate Joubert (Grade 4).

“I’m so proud of our faculty. This opportunity to share ideas with their colleagues at a regional conference is the start of widespread recognition of our school and talented teachers that will soon, hopefully, extend to a national level,” said Lauren Abraham, our Head of Lower School. Jessica Boyle will present a workshop called Making Numbers Make Sense about the importance of developing number sense in young children that includes activities she has created. Lauren Hutchinson’s workshop Shouldn’t Every Student Have The Opportunity To Be An Einstein? will focus on the Genius Hour when students are able to explore topics and pursue projects (for 60 minutes each week) based on their individual interests and passions. Kate Joubert will present her workshop “What If?” where students study a period of history and answer a related hypothetical question. For example, a unit on the Civil War might include the query “What if President Lincoln had not been assassinated?” AISNE’s Lower School Conference “will focus on highlighting all the wonderful topics, approaches, lessons, and best practices that are underway in our lower school classrooms,” according to the association’s website. Congratulations to our accomplished faculty!

Being a 3PS-8th grade school means that our “Tweeners” are “Leaders” and nowhere is this more obvious or meaningful that when our older students mentor our youngest students. Peruse the photo gallery of our 4th grade students as they guide and assist our PK and PS students in the garden and on the playground.  Enjoy!