School News

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What is a Random Act of Kindness?

Kindness starts with one-one person, one act, one place, one city, one county, and one movement with one goal in mind: To make our world a kinder place one act at a time. And, every single one of us can play a part in this mission.
St. Michael’s took part in Random Acts of Kindness week, giving our students space to get creative, be challenged, and take part in the initiative that it only takes one simple act to create a chain reaction of kindness.

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Kindness Connection

In recognition of Random Acts of Kindness Week, second graders watched an inspirational video about paying kindness forward. We were so moved by the video, Ms. O’Boyle suggested we make one of our very own!  The second graders sprung into action by brainstorming a list of classroom situations and scenarios where they might show kindness to a friend.  They also invited the first graders to join in. Under Ms. O’Boyle’s direction, the children collaborated with a partner and acted out each scene using body language to convey their message.

As the movie shows, kindness is indeed a Change Reaction. After viewing the completed video, the students had a heartfelt discussion about kindness. You don’t show kindness because your teachers are watching or because you are told to behave a certain way; “you show kindness because it’s the right thing to do.” Now we are thinking of ways to spread our message and start a kindness movement! We believe random acts of kindness can make the world a better place.

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It’s a Chain Reaction!

Our students show kindness to each other each and everyday. For RAK week, Mrs. Abraham challenged the Lower School students to take notice of the kindness all around them and record 100 Acts of Kindness.
Students took note of when someone was kind to them or when they saw someone else being kind, by adding a link to their class’ kindness chain.  All of the classes then came together at the Lower School Morning Meeting this week to connect their chains.
They exceeded their goal and created a 153 link Kindness Chain which is now on proud display in the lobby of the Mason House. It was so inspiring for them to see their acts of kindness reach the top to the stairs and the students are determined to keep it going!

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Middle Schoolers Acts of Kindness

On Monday, 8th graders volunteered in the Lower School and Early Childhood, helping out teachers and interacting with students.

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The first and second grade students joined forces to solve an ‘unplugged’ coding activity which correlates closely with our STEAM challenges. This lesson, Building a Foundation, taught the children that failure is not the end of a journey but a hint for how to succeed. The lesson objectives included:

*Outline the steps to complete a structural engineering challenge
*Predict and discuss potential issues in structure creation
*Build a structure based on a team plan
*Revise both plan and structure until they satisfy challenge

In this challenge, the children worked together to construct towers that were strong enough to hold a textbook for at least 10 seconds using everyday materials which included 30 toothpicks and 30 gumdrops.

 

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Persistence was the Trait for Success which we tied into this activity. The children learned that trying again and again, if something is very challenging, helped them learn and achieve a goal. When you fail at doing something, you get a hint at what went wrong. The students recognized that mistakes are chances to learn how to do something better the next time.

At the end of the activity, we had a wrap up called Flash Chat. (Flash Chat questions are intended to spark ‘big picture’ thinking about how the lesson relates to the greater world and the students greater future.) We discussed the following:

*What did you learn?
*Were you proud of what you made?
*Do you think you could have made it better?
*Was there a time you thought about giving up?

The first and second graders are looking forward to collaborating with their partners on the next challenge!

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Fakes and Forgeries: an SMCDS Tradition!

5th grade English students got a taste of some exciting art mystery novels this week! Mrs. Michelson and Ms. Huth’s 5th grade English classes are beginning their Fakes and Forgeries project, a SMCDS tradition. While reading an art mystery novel in literature circles, students will choose a famous artist to learn about. In English class they will research and write about their artist’s life and influence, while in art class they will choose one of the artist’s most famous works to recreate.

To begin the process, teachers hosted a “BOOK TASTING” to get students interested in the books they will be reading in literature circles. Literature circles provide students with self choice as well as cooperative learning. The children are able to generate meaningful discussions and make connections to novels through group discussions.This also promotes interaction among the students and personal responsibility to their learning, giving students more ownership in their education and engagement to the reading experience.

Their English classroom was set up like a restaurant, with menus on each table that provided the summary for each book. “Napkins” were provided for the students to respond to questions about the books they were viewing and rate their choices for reading. Each book sat on plates for individual viewing, and “guests” traveled from table to table to “taste” each book and find their favorite. All students used their best restaurant manners and found an exciting book with which to kick off this unit!

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Congratulations to the Cast and Crew!

The students of the St. Michael’s Theatre Ensemble had three amazing performances of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, this weekend at St. Michael’s.  Congratulations to the student cast and crew for their hard work, dedication, and stellar performance with this collaborative program!

Thanks especially to our production team: Christy Johnston, Jessica Reeg, and Ellyn Eaves-Hileman. Directors brought their unique talents to bear and produced a show that was thoughtfully acted, and pleasingly choreographed. The set and costume designs were outstanding, and allowed viewers to experience what it might feel like to be in Narnia!

“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is based on C.S. Lewis’ first book of The Chronicles of Narnia, in an adaptation by Adrian Mitchell. While staying in a remote country manor to escape the London Blitz, the four Pevenzie children discover a magic wardrobe that allows them to pass into Narnia, a world inhabited by talking animals and ruled by the White Witch.  Since coming into power, the Witch has held Narnia in an eternal winter, never permitting Christmas or spring, and turning her enemies to stone with a wave of her wand. All of Narnia has been waiting for the return of Aslan, the Lion and Lord of Narnia, to overcome the Witch and reawaken the land. The children join together with Aslan, as they fight to outwit the Witch and restore peace to Narnia, learning the power of love and loyalty along the way.

 

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A visit with the Preschool and Prekindergarten

Mark from the Norman Bird Sanctuary came to the preschool and prekindergarten for our monthly visit .  He read Bats at the Beach and talked about mammals.  Mark also showed the children an African spikey mouse named Mo and a bunny named Andre, who is a lopped eared mix.  All of the children loved petting Andre!

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The 4th graders exhibited their “electric” structures for their parents on Wednesday morning in their classrooms. This was the culminating project of learning about electric circuits in science that they started the unit in September. They partnered up to create a structure of their choice (igloo, treehouse, medieval castle and Star Wars’ “Deathstar” to name a few).

Following a rubric, they had to have four switches that carried electricity to light bulbs inside a well planned out and designed cardboard structure. Not only did this project show persistence in getting all the circuits to work, but collaboration with a partner and positive thinking in making it all come together.

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State Feast in Grade 3

During their study of the United States, the third graders completed travel logs on two states, and then chose a third state on which they became an expert.  The students researched the industry, products, landmarks, major cities, and symbols of their state and then each child chose a unique way to present what they learned. They created three dimensional displays, keynote presentations, iMovies, games and tri-folds.  Other projects included sewing state pillows, designing tee shirts and learning the Fifty States Song Set to Rhyme which, as part of decade long tradition, they will sing at an upcoming whole school assembly.

To culminate this study the third graders had a State feast!  From the red, white and blue decorations, to the awesome food representing products from each state, it was a wonderful way to celebrate all their hard work. Some of the foods they feasted on included huckleberries from Montana, salmon from Oregon, a king cake from Louisiana, key lime pie from Florida, lobster cakes from Maine, and cheese from Wisconsin. Thank you to all the parents who provided these delicious offerings and who helped during the feast!

 

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State Presentations

As a culmination of their study of the United States, each third grader became an expert on one state.  They researched the industry, products, landmarks, major cities, symbols and interesting facts about their  state and then chose a unique way to present what they learned. They created three dimensional displays, keynote presentations, iMovies, games and tri-folds and shared their projects on Wednesday with students in other grades and their parents. The third graders also impressed everyone at our whole school assembly when they sang the Fifty States To Rhyme.

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…to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn.” Alice Miller

Shadow Day Reflection

by Mollie Williams

Before I taught in Middle School, I was a Lower School teacher at a private K-8 grade school in Baltimore. My days as a third grade homeroom teacher were full of joy and laughter. I got hugs all day long, and I received love letters and drawings from my students, and appreciative gifts from parents on a frequent basis. Life was good. On the eve of my new role as Dean of Students in the Middle School, I thought to myself “What the heck have I done?!!” I braced myself for the stereotypical eye rolling, avoidance of student/teacher relationships, attitudes, and self-centered behavior.

While the hugs and love letters did indeed cease, I made meaningful connections with middle school students after about a month of investment. I quickly learned that middle school students are just as needy, if not needier, than those adorable lower school students….they just don’t always know how to show it or express it. They need us more than ever to believe in them and connect with them. They so want to please us, and a pat on the back, a smile, or a compliment goes a long way.

While I enjoyed my time teaching in the Lower School, I have felt called to Middle School; I want to advocate for children who are trapped between childhood and young adulthood, who need love, support, and guidance.

On Monday, February 6, I participated in the Shadow a Student Challenge by shadowing sixth grade student, Itai Gutman, for a full day of school. Shadow a Student Challenge was designed to be a fun, illuminating, and supportive journey, and an opportunity to gain empathy by getting a better understanding of what it is like to be a middle school student in today’s world.

Here is the schedule that I followed:

Monday Schedule
7:50-8 a.m. Homeroom (Mrs. Nine)
8-8:15 a.m. Middle School Morning Meeting
8:15-9 a.m. Science (Mrs. Magruder)
9-9:45 a.m. English (Mrs. Michelson)
9:45-10:30 a.m. Intro. To Theater (Mrs. Johnston)
10:30-10:45 a.m. Snack/Recess
10:45-11:30 a.m. Spanish (Ashby)
11:30-12:15 p.m. History (Huth)
12:15-12:45 p.m. Lunch/Recess
12:45-1:30 p.m. Math (Mrs. Nine)
1:30-2:15 p.m. Art (Mrs. Keohane)
2:15-3 p.m. Advisory (Mrs. Hutchinson)

Key Take-Away 1– Get Movin and Groovin

Movement is key to having students be alert and engaged. An hour of sitting is more tiring than one thinks. As teachers, we need to consider the following:

  • Vary lessons so that students sit for part of the lesson, move to a different location for partner work, collaborate in groups in a different location
  • Offer “brain breaks” to break up the lesson. Brain Breaks are a useful tool for teachers to use to help activate, energize and stimulate their students’ brains.

Key Take-Away 2–  Furniture

On my shadow day, I noticed that every classroom was arranged in a different way. Our teachers have clearly given thought to the classroom atmosphere that they want to create.

Classroom furnishings can play a key role in meaningful learning. The furnishings and arrangement of the classroom should show that it is a flexible learning space.

Key Take-Away 3– Recess is Key

Fresh air, unstructured play, and running around is an essential part of a healthy day, and I firmly believe that our students will be more focused in class if they have this time. After sitting in morning classes, I joined Itai and Charlie for a football catch outside in the crisp air. I literally cringed when the whistle blew to end recess, and found myself being the one to say “Oh, just one more pass!”

Key Take-Away 4– Kindness, Patience, Connections Matter

While every teacher was kind, patient, and compassionate, I felt slightly self-conscious about my responses and contributions in the classes. Were other students going to laugh at me? Were there going to be glares across the room at my expense? Did people not want to partner with me because I was not smart enough or artistic enough? I could only imagine how children must feel at a time when they so desperately want to feel accepted among their peers.

Middle Schoolers are often destabilized by the drastic physical and emotional changes they are experiencing. They challenge, disobey, assert their independence, pull away, and test the limits. This does not mean that they are “bad kids” but rather “normal kids” who need caring and dedicated adults around them to guide them and keep them on track.

Mary Ashby had my back on Monday when I answered a Spanish question incorrectly and my fellow students were starting to make comments until she nipped it in the bud. I felt protected and valued by her. It is our responsibility as educators to do this for all of our students in every class, no matter what the subject area or challenge level.

Key Take Away 5– It is okay to fail

Along these lines, Leslie Keohane created an atmosphere in class where it was safe to fail. She explained the lesson and encouraged creativity, exploration, and persistence. She clearly communicated her expectations and what was important to her. Many students had never worked with clay before, and they felt comfortable because their teacher emphasized the process, not the end result exclusively.

Key Take-Away 6– Using Technology in a Meaningful Way

How fun and engaging can teachers make a vocabulary lesson?! Ask Kristina Michelson. After reviewing the homework, she shared an interactive powerpoint presentation in which students had to identify the vocabulary word by looking at a visual representative image. Not only was it interactive, but it was a great example of shifting gears while covering the same topic.

Key Take-Away 7– Design Thinking in Action

What better way to foster curiosity in your science students than have them learn about deep sea creatures and their living conditions, and then create, through the design thinking process, their very own deep sea creatures that would survive successfully in specific conditions! There is nothing better than witnessing fully engaged students roll up their sleeves and dive into a project. After research, students sketched a design of their sea creature, and then the creativity really took place as they chose materials from a wide collection. The features of their animal had to serve a purpose and students had to articulate and communicate this purpose. Lauren Magruder demonstrated how to be the “guide on the side” as opposed to the “sage on the stage” but guiding with questions.

Key Take-Away 8– The Importance of the Basics

Courtney Huth very intentionally taught a lesson on HOW to read from a textbook, take effective notes, and work collaboratively. Even though we know that we have a strong program, we cannot assume that our students have these basic skills. Even if teachers know that students have learned how to outline, take notes, or cite resources in a previous class or grade, they need to take the time to teach it again. While we implement PBL (project based learning) and other innovative teaching tools, we must not forget that it is our responsibility to teach and reinforce the basics as well.

Key Take-Away 9– Differentiation

17 sixth grade math students in one room? “Sure, I can handle that. No problem!” That’s what Elise Nine said when we were forming the new ability based math groups. She was like an octopus, managing five different things at once, all with complete composure and patience. She gave a new meaning to the word multi-tasking! She truly is a master of differentiation.

Finally, what better way to end the day back with my advisor, Lauren Hutchinson! Nurturing and kind, she facilitated the advisory lesson, challenging us to think deeply and thoughtfully. She navigated distractions with patience and understanding. It was the perfect closure to a full day!

I believe in taking the time to look at things from various perspectives.
I believe in being compassionate, open-minded, and empathetic.
I believe in the possibilities of children.
I believe in the goodness of teachers who have sacrificed much to make the world a better place.

It is an honor to be a part of this community.

I want to extend a special thank you to Itai, who allowed me to shadow him for a full day. I admire this boy immensely, for he came to America from another country and spoke very little English before school started. He has worked incredibly hard to learn how to communicate and how to gain knowledge. He is kind, smart, funny, charming, and persistent. I have tried to persuade him to convince his parents to stay another year here in Newport, for he has enriched our community greatly.

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Critical thinking, creative problem solving, resilience, risk taking without fear of failure, open-mindedness, and curiosity: most would agree that these are the 21st Century skills that our children will need as they move on to high school, then college, then the real world. While I am in full agreement with this list, there is one more key component that I believe our children will need in order to be successful and productive members of the community….empathy.

The dictionary defines Empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” One cannot be forced to feel empathetic towards another. However, we can intentionally coach our kids to be sensitive to the feelings of others, aware of what is going on around them, and appreciate that we are all coming from different places with different stories. When we do this, we are asking our children to try, just try to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. In order to experience true empathy, one must be able to relate to an experience that they have had themselves.

Empathy is the key that can open up a whole new world for all of us, a world that allows us to develop a greater understanding of situations, foster stronger collaborations, and establish powerful connections with others. It is a key factor in solving problems, improving communities, and bringing about positive change. Empathy also feeds our natural curiosity to learn, discover, and grow. Empathy is the “fundamental glue that holds humanity together.” Tom Markham, author of The Project-Based Learning Handbook. I am excited for this opportunity. Stay tuned for more information about this!

What does St. Michael’s look like through a student’s eyes? On Monday, February 6, I will be participating in the Shadow a Student Challenge by shadowing a St. Michael’s middle school student for a full day of school.  I will be packing my backpack, throwing on sneakers, and immersing myself in a student’s life for a day.  Shadow a Student Challenge is designed to be a fun, illuminating, and supportive journey, and by getting a better understanding of what it is like to be a middle school student in today’s world, I hope to gain empathy.

Take a look at Mollie’s day on our Instagram page!   @stmichaelscountryday

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On Schools of the Future

Tony Wagner’s official title is Expert in Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab. He is a well-known speaker in education circles for his thoughts on building schools of the future to prepare our students for changes in the workforce. He makes the case that the students most likely to succeed in schools in the past are not necessarily the students most likely to succeed in the future.

In the video below, Tony proposes that educators need to focus in three primary areas in defining schools of the future:

  • What academic content do I want students to master?
  • What are the skills that matter the most and how do I assess them?
  • How do I develop the intrinsic motivators through play, passion and purpose that will ultimately be the most important indicator for future success?

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St. Michael’s has a long history of excellence in identifying and developing the content and skills that matter. Area high schools seek out our students knowing that they are exceptionally well prepared for the rigors of challenging academic programs. Course content and student skills have been mapped by teachers for each class at St. Michael’s and our annually updated school Primer charts out major content areas for parents and newcomers to the community.

In recent years, we have paid more and more attention to the intrinsic motivators that inspire our students to be curious, take charge learners who will continuously acquire the skills and knowledge they will need to be successful throughout their lives. School-wide initiatives in a variety of areas focus students on choosing challenges for which they find personal meaning and motivation:

  • Project Based Learning – PBL activities begin with a process that engages the students in choosing projects for which they have personal commitment and motivation. (Examples: third grade American Burying Beetle project, sixth grade plastics and oceans study) 
  • STEAM – Where science and mathematics often center around known facts, engineering and the arts transform facts into real world, intrinsically motivating problem solving. (Examples: Middle school rubber band boat elective, first grade STEAM Fridays)
  • Design Thinking- Design Thinking activities give students a step by step process for creating personal design choices (Examples: third grade Toy Design; middle school water bottle design elective, eighth grade cardboard chair design project)
  • Service Learning – The first step of any design process is developing empathy, an ability to understand the mind and thinking of others. Student leadership in service learning encourages an understanding and appreciation for the life and experiences of others. (Examples: Mitten Tree, Amenity Aid Drive, household supplies for Lucy’s Hearth) 
  • Innovation Lab – There is a growing impact of our Middle School MakerLab in which students are encouraged to choose and design projects of their own creation.  As the makerspace grows, it will serve as a school-wide center for innovation and exploration. (Examples: Kindergarten TinkerLab, Middle School electives)
  • The Arts have been a core component of the St. Michael’s community for many, many years. Students at St. Michael’s learn to express themselves through the Arts by choosing projects and presentations that have personal meaning and intrinsic motivation.
  • Entrepreneurship- This is a growing focus in education circles in which students are encouraged to think of their lives and pursuits as entrepreneurial ventures. Entrepreneurial students ask what value can I bring to this endeavor, how can I shape success from my own knowledge, skills, and aptitudes? (Examples: Third grade farmer’s market).

This past week a team of six St. Michael’s teachers began a two-month program sponsored by the National Association of Independent Schools to further their understanding of new technologies and of ways to develop curriculum through social innovation projects. They join sixty educators from across the globe in discussing and developing programs that motivate each individual student to seek success. Our faculty at St. Michael’s has positioned themselves at the forefront of educational innovation and will continue to lead our school thoughtfully into the future.

John H. Zurn
Head of School

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Healthy Eating with Nurse Megan Buchanan,

Dear Parents,

Today I visited the Preschool and Prekindergarten classrooms to begin a series of lessons on nutrition.  We began with “Eating a Rainbow,” a lesson focused on eating fresh fruits and vegetables to support health, growth, and thinking!

The message to “Eat a Rainbow” of fresh fruits and vegetables teaches students that by eating many different colors every week, we increase the number of nutrients we give to our whole bodies. The children learned how specific colors of fruits and veggies are generally rich in the same nutrients, and therefore support the same function in the body.

For example:

  • Reds support a healthy heart;
  • Yellow and Orange support good eyesight and our ability to heal;
  • Greens build strong bones and help digestion;
  • Purple and Blue support good memory;
  • White fruits and veggies support our immune system.

We know that each fruit or vegetable color supports health in more than one way, but by stressing 1-2 attributes and linking them to a physical body part, children will connect why eating a rainbow of colors is important for our whole bodies! In the future I will talk with the children about proteins, grains, fats, and sleep as well.

 

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Fruit and Veggie School Snack Ideas

Fresh Cut Fruit Salad
Apple slices with a squeeze of lemon so they won’t turn brown; Peeled Segmented Oranges (if purchased, make sure they are not packed in syrup!); Bananas; Grapes; Berries;

Carrot & Celery Sticks, Cucumber slices, Cherry Tomatoes; Broccoli Trees; and Small Cooked Potatoes (they come in many fun colors!)

Don’t forget the DIPS! Yogurt, cream cheese, cottage cheese, hummus, salsa,Guacamole… the list goes on!
*If providing pre-packaged fruit, please read labels to avoid syrup or added sugars.

Drinks at School

Water is the best!!! 4 year olds need about 5 cups (or 1 liter of fluid) per day… and sipping from a water bottle is a great habit!
Low fat Milk counts within the 5 cups and provides important nutrients.
Only 1 glass (4 to 6 ounces) of 100 % juice per day (please keep in mind that juice at lunch is poor timing for a good nap, too much sugar!)

Unless your doctor recommends an electrolyte supplement during illness, in most cases, sports drinks are not a healthy choice.

A couple resources:
WholeKidsFoundation.org
https://www.choosemyplate.gov/health-and-nutrition-information

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