School News

By: John Zurn, Headmaster

I am frequently asked what it takes for children to be successful in school and in life.  The answers that come quickly to mind are good grades or intelligence, or perhaps even the good luck of being born at the right place in the right time with the implication that successful people are somehow born, not made.

While intelligence, birthright, and performance all play a role in a child’s development, research shows that strength of character provides the most solid foundation for success.  Ralph Waldo Emerson defined character as “the quiet, reserved, value-creating force of the person, untouched by circumstances or external pressures”. When aligned with action, character adds energy, value, service, and contribution to all it touches; character elevates human endeavor.

At St. Michael’s, it is this focus on character that distinguishes the quality of our program and community.  Each month, we highlight a Trait for Success.  I speak about it in school-wide Assemblies, our teachers talk about it in the classrooms, and our parents talk about it at home.  The premise is fairly simple: if I say it, if our teachers say it, and if our parents say it, then our children will believe that it is true.

September’s Trait for Success is Organization, and I encourage you to speak with your children about it.  Ask about their lockers and desks and bookbags.  Speak about the ways you have organized things to make your job, or your home, or your responsibilities easier to manage and how organization has helped you to become a better parent, friend, colleague, employee, employer.  September is a great time for parents to go over room cleaning, clothing culling, and morning “start the day” routines.

Take advantage of our focus on organization in school.  Use our names liberally in explaining to your children that your assignment as a parent is to help teachers teach and children learn the importance of Organization in determining future success.  If you do these things now, you will be surprised to discover the kinds of conversation that evolve when we focus on the Success Traits of Courage or Generosity or Persistence or Responsibility.

Learn more about the other Success Traits!

By Mollie Williams, Middle School Head

Time. Time. Time. There is never enough of it! Schools need to constantly look at how they are using their time and how they prioritize all that they want to accomplish. Last year, our faculty and staff defined our school philosophy by first identifying what a graduate of St. Michael’s should look like as he/she moves on to the next part of their academic journey. We want our graduates to:

  • Have a strong sense of self and the world in which they live
  • Find joy in work, play, and discovery through curiosity and imagination
  • Embrace diversity of background, culture, and thought
  • Value learning and serving others in the broader community
  • Embody values such as respect, compassion, responsibility, and honor
  • Think independently and critically
  • Be effective communicators and thoughtful collaborators

By knowing where we need to take them, it allows us to backtrack and plan our program around that long-term goal. “Curiosity” is a word that comes up frequently in discussions about education. Children have an innate sense of curiosity, and it is our responsibility to foster it. Curiosity lies at the heart of all accomplishments, both big and small. It is curiosity that drives us to try new things and always strive to be better. In an effort to foster creativity in our students, we have added more time for exploration, collaboration, communication, risk-taking, and play.

In the past few years, we have offered S.T.E.A.M-related “Electives.” In place of this, every middle school student will have two hours a week of “Technology & Innovation class.”  We also took the best elective classes and are integrating them into the innovation/technology class.  The classes will be required for all students, rather than offered as an elective option.  Below you will find our reasoning behind this as well as a description of what this curriculum will look like.

Vision for Technology & Innovation in the Middle School

St. Michael’s has been using design thinking, project-based learning, and experiential education for quite some time now, and it has enhanced learning and fostered curiosity in our students. While our curriculum and teaching methods are strong, we recognize the importance of being growth-minded and always striving to be better in order to ensure that our students will be productive and well-prepared members of society.

When our classrooms are student-driven and passion-oriented, our students become intrinsically motivated and, as a result, more engaged. Innovative tools and methods can enhance the learning process when implemented in a thoughtful manner, but we must always be mindful of whether or not they are bringing true value to the curriculum. Our Technology & Innovation Program is designed to give our students the basic technology tools and skills, educate them about digital citizenship, as well as expose them to innovative tools and techniques that can enhance their learning and propel them to the next level of creativity and innovation.

Our students will learn to identify and solve real-world problems, work collaboratively with classmates, communicate effectively, and learn to embrace failure as an opportunity to get stronger and be better. In an effort to authentically integrate innovation into core subject areas, our new schedule will allow for additional time, resources and support from a technology teacher. Each grade level in the Middle School will have two hours of Technology and Innovation each week.

The Middle School Technology and Innovation Program will include the following components:

Basic Technology Skills

All middle school students will learn basic technology skills like how to effectively use email, Google Docs, PowerPoint, Excel.

Digital Citizenship

In today’s complex world, schools must partner with parents to educate children about what it means to be a digital citizen. Social media, digital footprints, and cell phone use are topics that will be covered as well.

Project-Based Learning

These are examples of what project-based instruction might look like at any given grade level.

Curriculum Integration
In an effort to make learning as meaningful as possible, teachers will work together across subject areas and emphasize natural connections and relevant, real world topics.

Innovation can occur when a person identifies a problem and uses creative thinking to solve it. It can also stem from the identification of an opportunity to create a product that makes something easier or better. Students will be given opportunities to create solutions for existing problems or create something unique from their own imagination.

Community Service
Students will use the design thinking process to identify a need in the local community and attempt to solve it. They will interview people who are most affected by the need or problem, interview experts who could help create a solution, and design prototypes that will be presented at the end of the project. Through this process of connecting with other human beings in the community, our students will experience empathy and therefore be intrinsically motivated to make a difference.

Tinker Time
Our Innovation Lab is a creativity laboratory where students can explore, build and tinker with adults acting as guides and facilitators rather than instructors. Students learn to study how things work, they learn to take things apart and create new things, they learn to identify problems and find solutions. They are empowered to explore and test, and this empowerment leads them to confidence that they can indeed make a difference.

Students will be exposed to basic concepts related to engineering principles and they will work with a team to tackle engineering challenges.

Navy Band Northeast (NBNE) will hold its third annual Alumni Concert at St. Michael’s Country Day School in Newport on August 17 at 6pm. Led by its Director, Lieutenant Joel Borrelli-Boudreau, the alumni-augmented NBNE Pops Ensemble will perform traditional works for concert band and feature vocalists who perform patriotic classics, operatic arias, and Broadway showstoppers. This special performance will also feature an Alumni Big Band led by Chief Warrant Officer (Retired) Terry Chesson and Lieutenant Commander (Retired) Carl Gerhard, performing jazz and swing favorites. The ensembles comprise all active duty members of Navy Band Northeast as well as past band members who come especially to play for this must-hear event. St. Michael’s Country Day School is located at 180 Rhode Island Avenue, Newport RI. The concert is free and open to the public.

Navy Band Northeast Director Lieutenant Joel Borrelli-Boudreau is from Methuen, Massachusetts. He holds a Master of Arts in conducting from George Mason University, a Doctor of Musical Arts in Orchestral Conducting from The Catholic University of America, and a Graduate Performance Diploma from the Peabody Conservatory. Borrelli-Boudreau enlisted into the U.S. Naval Academy Band, performing with the Concert Band, Next Wave Big Band, Brass Quintet, Trombone Quartet, and marching/ceremonial units. In September of 2010, he was promoted to the rank of Chief Petty Officer, and subsequently received his commission in October 2012. He has served officer tours as Director, Navy Band Fleet Support Unit and Training Support Officer, Naval School of Music. In November of 2014, he was assigned as Assistant Director, U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band, and in June of 2017, was promoted to Director, Navy Band Northeast in Newport, RI. LT Borrelli-Boudreau’s personal military decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (3 awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (2 awards), Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, as well as numerous other unit and personal awards.

Established in 1974, Navy Band Northeast is based on board Naval Station Newport and is one of 11 official U.S. Navy bands worldwide, providing musical support for military ceremonies, recruiting, morale and retention programs, and community relations. This group of 30 professional Navy musicians supports more than 300 engagements annually throughout an 11-state area of responsibility, performing regularly for high-ranking military and civilian dignitaries, Navy Recruiting, public outreach and awareness efforts, and partnership in education programs throughout the Northeast United States. The primary components of Navy Band Northeast are: Pops Ensemble, Marching and Ceremonial Bands, Popular Music Group, Brass Quintet, Woodwind Quintet, and Woodwind Trio. All ensembles perform a wide range of music from patriotic, classical, contemporary, big band swing, country, and the latest top-40 hits.

Theatre at St. Michael’s is proud to present the final performance of the summer, “As You Like It” on Friday, August 11th and Saturday, August 12th at 7:00.  This performance will feature actors ages 9 – 15, who have spent the past two weeks studying and bringing to life William Shakespeare’s lively comedy, supported behind the scenes by tech campers who have built the set and will run technical aspects of the show.  Imagine a world with disguises and capers galore… add true love, banishment, and a bunch of wild and crazy outcasts living in the forest, and you have William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” In this production’s interpretation, the Forest of Arden is reimagined as a casino in Las Vegas where anything can happen – love at first sight, fortunes won and lost, old friends reuniting, and of course, Elvis!  Christina Johnston is directing the show, assisted by Jessica Reeg, choreography is by Nicole Chagnon, and technical direction is by Patrick Grimes.

The performance is in Hill House Arts and Athletic Center at St. Michael’s School, and is free and open to the public, with donations welcome at the door.  For more information, please contact Christina Johnston at (401) 849-5970 x411 or email 

Theatre at St. Michael’s is proud to present an original musical entitled “Showdown!“ on Friday, July 28th and Saturday, July 29th at 7:00.  This performance will feature actors ages 9 – 15, who have spent the past three weeks writing and rehearsing a show of their own creation, supported behind the scenes by tech campers who have built the set and will run technical aspects of the show.  The group worked with writing coach Andrew Katzman to conceive a musical about two rival theatre companies who ultimately decide that collaboration is better than competition.  The characters and scenes are filled with whimsical theatre references, making the show-versus-show-within-a-show concept thoroughly entertaining.  Campers are largely responsible for writing the original songs, and also helping to design and build the dual design set.  Chelsea Boergesson is directing the show, Kristine Langello is musical director, choreography is by Nicole Chagnon, and technical direction is by Patrick Grimes.

The performance is in Hill House Arts and Athletic Center at St. Michael’s School, and is free and open to the public, with donations welcome at the door.  For more information, please contact Christina Johnston at (401) 849-5970 x 41 or email at

Additional performances this summer will include Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” on August 11th and 12th.  For more information about Theatre at St. Michael’s camps and shows, please visit our website at

Theatre at St. Michael’s is proud to present William Shakespeare’s intense and tragic classic, “King Lear” on Friday, July 14th and Saturday, July 15th at 7:00. This performance will feature actors ages 13 – 18, who have been intensively studying the play in a two-week program under the direction of Christina Johnston. Assistant direction is by Chelsea Boergesson, and design is by Patrick Grimes.

Actors include Manny Maldonado as the noble and fraught Lear, Madison Palmieri and Angelina Leavitt as his two scheming and vengeful daughters, and Nastia Goddard as the loyal Cordelia.  Cece Brower is the tragic Gloucester, with Olivia Gravier as the true daughter Emilia and Kamran Bina as the devious son Edmund. The cast is rounded out by Aurore LeYoudec, Bridget Vanderveer, Sam Brower, Makenzie Lyons, Vika Huth, and Genevieve Masson. Christina LoPresti and Arthur Lindh are working with the camp staff to design and build the show.

The performance is free and open to the public, but deals with themes that may unsuitable for young children. Parental discretion advised. Donations are welcome at the door. For more information, please contact TASM camp director Christina Johnston at (401) 849-5970 x411.

Additional TASM performances this summer will include an original musical to be performed on July 28th and 29th, as well as Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” on August 11th and 12th.

IMG_6758-e1496679538861Congratulations to our Early Childhood graduates! Kindergarten students each shared something they loved about this past year and will surely take these memories on to 1st grade, where they will join the other lower school students in the Mason House. Prekindergarten students sang songs and stood before their families and friends, who were so excited to see them take the next step towards kindergarten. Congratulations to our students and a special THANK YOU to our teachers, who make it all possible.


DSC_0060-1080x675During the month of May, the first grade students learned about six animal groups: birds, reptiles, fish, insects, amphibians and mammals. After learning about each group’s unique characteristics, predators and habitats, the information they learned gave the children background knowledge on how to look for facts about their mammal. The children went through a beginning research process.

First they chose a mammal, then found the book in the library. They used the table of contents and index to locate information including: appearance, habitat, family, predators, diet, and other interesting facts about their animal. The students learned to rewrite the facts into their own words. They went through the editing process, then put their information into a report. The children also used some websites to gather additional facts.

The final project included a clay puppet they each made in art class, a poster of images and maps, and created a puppet show that showed each child’s knowledge of their mammal. They loved sharing their research findings with their parents and students in the Lower School.


Kindergarten is studying the pond habitat and life cycle of a frog. This week we traveled to Fessor’s Pond in Bristol to experience the habitat and search for creatures. We were hosted once again this year by Shawen Williams whose children graduated from St. Michael’s and are now both in college. The children got a quick lesson in net dipping and then got right down to work. They scooped up muck and hunted through it looking for the animals we had learned about in class. There were squeals of delight as we uncovered snails, dragonfly larvae, cadis fly nymphs, and two humongous tadpoles! The loudest cheer of all came though when we found a baby turtle (thanks to Henry’s dad who scooped it up!). We brought the creatures back to our classroom to observe for a couple of weeks and then we will return them to their pond home. It was a great day for students, teachers, and the parents who joined us!​


Jambo! Each year the 4th grade embarks on an educational journey to explore Africa. They begin by covering the continent as a whole, then delving deeper and focusing on a week long study of each region. They discuss the countries, climate, landforms, historical influences, languages, and cultures. To accompany their regional work, they also explore a tribe that resides within that part of Africa. Afterwards, they select a country of choice and begin to study this location by researching landforms, languages, currency, location and borders, and places.

The students are asked to devise an itinerary for their country of places that would be most interesting to visit. Places such as museums, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, national parks, and safaris are researched and information is written into “postcards” detailing their excursions. This year, they also created video postcards, in which they utilized green screen footage to superimpose photos of their “trips” behind them, while they dictated their postcards in a voice over. The 4th graders wrote advertisements for their country, and also wrote Diamonte Poems to describe the beautiful and exciting countries that they were studying.

While all of this went on in the classroom, they rehearsed African folktale plays in drama, and batiked clothes in Art class, which would be used as their costumes. During technology classes, students learned how to create a pages document with an informational table, which served as their brochure. This 5-month study culminated on the day of the “African Travel Agency” where the students showcased the fruits of their labor to their families and the St. Michael’s community. They presented their plays in the morning, shared their research, and even had an African feast for lunch. It is a day treasured by the students and brings a cultural experience to life at St. Michael’s.