School News

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.


IMG_4814The past two weeks have offered the St. Michael’s theatrical audiences some wonderful viewing, as Mrs. Johnston’s young actors presented the culmination of their work in drama class.


Grade 3 Presents: A Chinese Tale
“Single Grain of Rice”

Last week, the 3rd grade presented the Chinese tale “A Single Grain of Rice”.  The story about how a clever peasant convinced the royal family to let him marry the princess was entertaining and fun for all.  Actors in both grades worked hard to learn lines and blocking, created interesting characters, collaborated to bring their scenes and stories to life, and gave very entertaining performances.


Grade 4 presents: African plays

“Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters” and “Why the Sky is Far Away”

This Thursday morning, the 4th grades enacted a pair of plays in conjunction with their study of the African continent.  Mrs. Joubert’s class performed the folk tale “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters,” while Mr. Tutino’s class offered the allegory “Why the Sky is Far Away.” Both plays were presented in the round, with creative staging and choreography, and actors looked fantastic in the African cloth costumes they had created in art class! We want to echo the audience’s enthusiastic applause and say once again – great job to all the actors!

Second grade parents were introduced to some very special ‘people’ last week during C.A.T.-Children are Teachers. Each student selected a notable person to research. After reading their biographies, the children wrote reports which included facts about their major accomplishments and observations related to our Traits for Success. Each person studied used several Traits for Success in order to achieve their goals.

They also suffered a variety of setbacks which they had to overcome. Knowing that even these noteworthy, accomplished people struggled in some way was truly eye-opening for the second graders. After completing their written work, the children created ‘hanger people’ which was a creative visual representation of each person. It’s amazing what you can do with hangers, oaktag, construction paper, buttons, yarn and in some cases, neckties! We are so proud of the work done by the second graders!

Earth Week, April 24-27, is an opportunity to focus on protecting the Earth’s resources. During the week of April 24-28, St. Michael’s students will be learning about natural resources and taking action to make a positive difference in our community.

Monday April 24, 9:50 a.m.:
All-school Earth Week Assembly
All School Dress Down Day (wear the color green in honor of Earth Week)

Wednesday, April 26, 6:30 p.m.:
St. Michael’s-sponsored documentary “A Plastic Ocean” at Jane Pickens Theater. Open to public. Tickets on sale now. Click HERE.

All School Challenge: “Waste-Free” lunch week
All students and staff members are encouraged to bring in lunches that do not contain disposable plastic.

Broken Toy Drive:
Happen’s Toy Lab in Ohio is a place where kids and adults can create their own toys using their minds and imaginations along with our collection of recycled toy parts all of which were donated by the community. St. Michael’s students and families are encouraged to donate broken or unwanted plastic toys throughout the week.

Science Class Field Trips:

  • Tuesday, April 25: 5th grade to salt marsh
  • Wednesday, April 26: 7th grade to cliff walk
  • Thursday, April 27th: 8th grade campus clean up
  • Friday, April 28: 6th grade to First Beach for clean up

For additional resources about Earth Week, click HERE


Family Outdoor Challenge

“We tend to block off many of our senses when we’re staring at a screen. Nature time can literally bring us to our senses.”–Richard Louv

In Richard Louv’s Book, Last Child in the Woods, Louv presents a case that children in today’s world are so overscheduled with adult-led activities, and overwhelmed with screen time, that they have developed what he calls “Nature-Deficit Disorder.”

He argues that the best way for children to learn about the world is to explore, play, and experiment outdoors in nature. When digging in the dirt, planting, uncovering rocks and exploring the natural world, children engage all senses and interact with something larger than themselves, and this is something far from screen time engagement. Louv also advocates for children to play outside in unstructured settings without adults who orchestrate and facilitate the activity.

I grew up playing “Kick the can,” “Spud,” and “Hide and go seek” with my neighborhood friends, and we had to rely on ourselves to resolve conflict, take initiative to make things happen, communicate with others, and solve problems in a very authentic way.

Families are encouraged to spend time outdoors, take photos, and share with the St. Michael’s community!
Tag your photos with #SMCDSGetOutdoors and follow along on instagram!
Or send your photos to Erin Schmidt to post on our account!


Ideas for families to try

  • Have a picnic outdoors
  • Read in the hammock
  • Catch fireflies
  • Identify bugs or flowers
  • Use chalk to create drawings on the sidewalk
  • Climb a tree
  • Take a Bike Ride
  • Run around in the pouring rain
  • Take a walk together
  • Go on a hike
  • Plant trees, flowers, or vegetables
  • Have dinner around a fire pit
  • Camp out in the backyard or take a camping trip
  • Play outdoor games
    • Kickball
    • Ladder golf
    • Flashlight tag
    • Spud
    • Tag
    • Wiffle ball
    • Frisbee
  • Look at the stars and identify constellations
  • Build a fort out of sticks, branches, shrubs
  • Go beach combing after a storm
  • Clear the backyard
  • Play in a creek
  • Make something out of items found in nature
  • Skip stones
  • Make sandcastles
  • Play in a sprinkler
  • Climb a big rock
  • Dig for worms in the backyard
  • Play on a rope swing
  • Fly a kite
  • Jump off of rocks into the water (make sure it is safe first)
  • Make a mudpie

Children Who Play Outside More Likely to Protect Nature as Adults

Protecting the environment can be as easy as telling your kids to go outdoors and play, according to a new UBC study. Research by Catherine Broom, assist. prof. in the Faculty of Education at UBC Okanagan, shows that 87 per cent of study respondents who played outside as children expressed a continued love of nature as young adults. Of that group, 84 per cent said taking care of the environment was a priority.
“Developing positive experiences in nature at a young age can influence our attitudes and behaviours towards nature as adults,” says Broom. “It is important to study these childhood experiences in order to develop environmental awareness and action in the next generation.”


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Dear St. Michael’s Parents,

I hope that each of you had a chance to slow down a bit during the spring break and enjoy the first glimpses of the season ahead. The upcoming months are packed full of projects, activities, and special events as we wind our way to graduation.

Highlights of the weeks ahead include:

April 22 Parent’s Association Gala
Week of April 24 Earth Week Celebrations
Week of May 1 Teacher Appreciation Week
May 9 8th Grade Senior Reflection Speeches
May 19 Aquidneck Island Student Band Concert
May 21 ArtsFest
May 28 St. Michael’s Field Day
June 5 Early Childhood Graduation
June 7 St. Michael’s Graduation

Many people work together to make all of these activities and events run smoothly. Fittingly, April is Collaboration Month at St. Michael’s and there are many opportunities for students to learn the skills and positive attributes of working well with others.

See below for an article on the importance of Collaboration.

Here’s to April sunshine…

John H. Zurn
Head of School

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Russian psychologist, Lev Vigotsky, postulated that learning is a social process deeply connected to language acquisition. He argued that children learn through their interactions and communications with each other and, by extrapolation, how children learn these social interactions should always be a major focus of their schooling. Today’s workforce, in fact, demands that students learn how to work collaboratively with others. Future employers will hire people who know how to successfully engage others and how to collaborate with others to yield successful results.

At St. Michael’s, collaborative lessons might look like this:

  • In history class, five eighth grade students sign onto their Google Docs account and open a document titled “Debate Proposition: The atomic bombing of Hiroshima was justified”. Each of the five students simultaneously starts adding arguments to the single Google Doc supporting the group’s debate case. As they add individual arguments, they also review and offer edits to the arguments of their teammates. In a short time, they finalize a collaborative document supporting their group’s case. They move as a team to the next step of preparing the group debate platform.
  • In kindergarten, the teacher asks students to build a community farm using play materials. The teacher goes around the room and asks each student to contribute an idea. The teacher encourages students to analyze and develop individual ideas with group feedback.
    • “What do you think about this idea?”
    • “How can we make it work better?”
    • “In what ways can we solve this problem?”

The result is an elaborate design that is far greater than the design one child would have completed on her own.

  • In third grade, our students undergo a complex design process to create a children’s pull toy. Each step of the way, ideas are presented to peers for reflection, encouragement, and critical feedback. Children learn how to verbally respond with thoughtful feedback, “I love the way you did this, maybe you can try…..”; “I wonder if changing your design to include this would help solve the problem”.

At St. Michael’s, we teach our students that in order to be successful, you must develop strong collaboration skills. We teach our students to work cooperatively and confidently with others.  April is Collaboration month at St. Michael’s.




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Every St. Michael’s community member would have been proud this past Wednesday evening to see a group of our sixth graders present their concerns about plastics in the environment to the Newport City Council.  Each student went up to the dais one at a time and spoke into the microphone facing the  the full entourage of council members.  They made clear their conviction that if we don’t begin addressing the issues of plastics in the environment now, their future and the future of their generation was at risk.  The council members were clearly moved by their speeches and approved the initial phase of the ban discussion unanimously!  Special thanks to their teachers Mimi Carrellas and Lauren Magruder who seized a wonderful opportunity to give our students real life, meaningful experiences.  The students were all smiles afterwards, empowered by the reality that their voices made a difference.

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The Newport Daily News covered the City Council meeting and featured our students in the article.

Perhaps the speakers that garnered the most attention were several sixth-graders from St. Michael’s Country Day School who introduced themselves with only their first names.
Austin explained how plastic coagulates into great floating “garbage patches” that cover large swaths of the oceans.”The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the size of Texas,” he said.
“Now, 100 billion plastic bags go to the American consumer each year,” Anne said.
 “The plastic in the oceans does not go away,” Allie said. “It breaks down to become micro-particles that get into the food chain.”  

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Ban the Bag – presenting to Middletown Town Council

Middle school students Dario B., Giacomo B., Ali V., Anna M., and Hope S. attended the Middletown Planning Board meeting on Wednesday this past week to present their case for banning plastic bags in Middletown.  This is the second foray into politics for these students who have built a strong case for better monitoring the impact of plastics on our beach community.
The Planning Board showed a genuine interest in our students’ perspectives on the issue.  The Planning Board now sends the plastic bag ban to the Middletown Town Council where students are hoping for a positive vote.


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Did you know?

  • We produce nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year, half of which is for single use.
  • More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year.
  • We have developed a “disposable” lifestyle; around 50% of plastic is used just once and thrown away.
  • Packaging is the largest end use market segment accounting for just over 40% of total plastic usage.
  • Annually, approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide.
  • More than one million bags are used every minute.
  • A plastic bag has an average “working life” of 15 minutes.
  • Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.

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What can we do?

St. Michael’s is proud to partner with Clean Ocean Access to educate our community about plastics in our oceans and ways we can take action to create a healthy ocean, here on Aquidneck Island.  Under the leadership of science teachers Mimi Carrellas and Lauren Magruder, the 6th grade has begun to research this environmental concern within their science curriculum.   They presented these startling facts at the Middle School Monday morning meeting, and will continue to educate the community and offer specific steps that we can all take to do our part in improving the situation.

How can we help?

We are pleased to announce that St. Michael’s has adopted Easton’s Beach (First Beach) and with this comes great responsibility.  Staying in line with Clean Ocean’s Access’s vision to create “a healthy ocean that is free of marine debris with water that is safe for all ocean activities and a shoreline that is accessible to the public”, our 6th graders will be doing beach cleanups once a month. They will collect trash and analyze data based on their findings.  Stay tuned for more action steps in this very important initiative!

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How it Began

This collaboration began with Newport Film’s screening of A Plastic Ocean at the Newport Casino at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  Our faculty, students, and families were dismayed by the information in the documentary but then inspired to take action in our community.

Watch the trailer below and join us on April 26 at Jane Pickens Theatre for a special showing of A Plastic Ocean, sponsored by SMCDS and Clean Ocean Access.

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February 3, 2017

Beach Clean Up weighed in at 42 lbs!

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