Middle School

Carrie's News 9/22/22

Middle School STEM Update 9/22/22

AN INVITATION TO A BRAVE SPACE -Together We will create brave space, because there is no such thing as a “safe space.” We exist in the real world. We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds. In this space, We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world. We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere, We call each other to more truth and love. We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow. We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know. We will not be perfect. It will not always be what we wish it to be, but It will be our brave space together, and We will work on it side by side. - Micky Scottbey Jones


Welcome to our new and returning families!

We have hit the ground running! The 7th graders seem to be adjusting to middle school life, on top of the adjustments our returning community members are making to the level of presence, engagement, and human interactions inherent in our school environment. It is a big adjustment for all. We talked a lot about creating intellectual, emotional, and physical “safe” space in the first week. Then, I received the quote above at a Professional Development training over the weekend, and was inspired by how this message resonated and expanded on our group agreements. Your students are already showing up in a big way to create brave space together. Kindness abounds! It is almost as though they are Montessori kids! :)


Announcements

Volunteering Opportunities

There are many capacities in which you can support the middle school: digital processing, prepping materials, joining field trips, teaching a creative expression elective, shopping for cookie crew supplies, and cleaning classroom laundry (towels) are just a few. Please contact us if you have any interest and/or questions about volunteering.

A little more on teaching a Creative Expression elective..

Do you have one or more passions and/or skills that you would love to teach to a small group of middle school students? Opportunities to volunteer in this capacity are on either MW or TTh from 1:30 to 2:20 or Fridays from around 11 am to 1:05 pm. The commitment would be for two terms (about 14 weeks).

Academics

Science -

We have officially kicked off our Earth and Life science year with our unit on Earth in Space. Your students will be bringing home a worksheet with the following questions and prompts, today! If they forgot it, no worries, they can write them up on a sheet of paper. If they don’t remember an example pattern or event, ask them about our “Manhattenhenge” video and discussion.


Community Connections to the Sky

Go home and connect with your friends, family, and trusted community members.

First, share with them what we have been talking about and share an example of a pattern or event we discussed in class. Let them know that this is not about weather, but about patterns we think are connected to space. Then ask them these questions:

  1. What patterns or phenomena have they seen in the sky?

  2. What stories have they heard from their family and community about patterns others have observed in the sky or about things on Earth that are connected to patterns and objects in the sky?


Math -

The first few weeks of the year, we are in a warm-up period. As I mentioned above, everyone is in the process of adjusting to a drastically shifted daily routine. Students are familiarizing (or refamiliarizing) themselves with our systems, expectations, and the unique features of their math curriculum.


Math Class Daily Routine Snapshot

When we meet each day for math, we begin by checking the math assignment listed in Jupiter Ed as Due on that date. Students then exchange notebooks and check each other’s work.

Just a few of my many reasons for our peer checking system:

  • Students have the opportunity to see how other students communicate their thinking.

  • Students have the opportunity to struggle (or not struggle) to find or decipher the work or answers of other students. This offers the best feedback and learning opportunities to each student for how they can improve the organization and presentation of their work.

  • They must engage with and process information a second time, with the ‘correct’ answer provided. We will often have in depth discussions about what is required/acceptable. Often, especially in the ‘explain your thinking’ questions, acceptable answers are defined by group agreement, based on the curriculum expectations and the path we took in the previous day's lesson. Once again, this is a review and rethink opportunity.

  • They practice calculating percent every day.

  • They are accountable to each other, and have to advocate for themselves, negotiate, communicate, and resolve misunderstandings. All great metacognitive learning that will benefit them in every aspect of their life that will inevitably involve interactions with other humans!


After checking the assignment from yesterday’s lesson, students return their notebooks to each other, and write the header for the assignment due the following day. Each assignment is in Jupiter Ed, as well as written up on the white board. Each student has, pasted in the front of their math journal, rubrics describing the expectations for how to write a header, as well the expectations for how to work through each assignment in their math journal. We have reviewed these in class, and are reviewing them as we work through these first assignments of the year. After a generous adjustment period for new students, they will become expectations. Returning students are expected to model these expectations, and support their peers as they learn the ropes.


Each of the Core Connections curriculum assignments begins with a lesson around the core problem (practice problems) section, and is followed by the homework section, titled “Review and Preview.” Students work through the core problems together in class with my support. It is designed in such a way that students are to engage with the problems by trying on their own ideas. They are not just hand fed formulas. They are given scenarios and the opportunity to apply mathematical concepts in their efforts to solve problems. Sharing ideas with their peers is an essential part of this process.

At the beginning of the year, we often do not get through all of the core problems in each assignment during the work period. In these instances, students are to just complete the homework, and we will continue working through the core problems the next day.

Homework

The homework section of the assignment is titled “Review and Preview.” Research has shown that students retain math skills if they are exposed to concepts repeatedly over time. The homework section is, by design, full of a variety of problems that provide the opportunity for students to practice the many math skills and concepts that they have learned previously. As they learn new skills in the core problem section of each assignment, those will be added to the homework section for continuing practice.


Students will have little time in class to do homework. Students will complete four math assignments a week. If we do not get through the four assignments by Thursday, we will work on them on Friday’s as well, and what is not completed in class will have homework over the weekend. By Monday morning, each of the math assignments due through the Following Tuesday, should be entered in Jupiter Grades.


Note:

Please help your student set up a designated and protected time and space to do math homework, free from household or sibling distractions.

Also, help your student understand the difference between the “Due” date and the “Do” date. They are expected to arrive at school with the assignment completed to the best of their ability. There will not be time in science, math, or humanities to complete the assignment. If they get stuck on a problem, they are to skip it and complete the remainder of the assignment. They can ask for help with that problem at the beginning of class. Often there will be other students who have the same question.


It is often a challenge for 7th graders to adjust to the homework load. It takes them a while to get the hang of managing their homework in their personal time. By the end of 8th grade, they will be juggling responsibilities that often feel more than daunting at this time. We believe in holding a bar for our students, and providing the tools, and the opportunities for them to rise to their potential. It is awe inspiring to see how much they evolve and mature over the two years we are working in community together!


Each Core Connections student has already signed in to their digital textbook resource! If they forget their textbook, no worries, they can sign in and it is all right there! Even better, the online textbook had graphing resources and ‘hint’ opportunities for assigned problems. Having your student sign in to this resource is a great first step in helping them with any questions they may have at home. Ask them to read the problem to you first off. Often, this is enough for them to have an epiphany about what they are supposed to do next. ;)


Core Connections Mathematics website suggestions for how to support your student:


Download the Parent Guide: https://cpm.org/effective-learning-resources/ to stay connected to what your child is learning.

  • You can preview or review the lessons with your child using the Parent Guide.

  • If your student asks for help, ask them questions that will lead to their figuring out how to do the problem themselves.

  • Encourage them to find Homework Help in their online textbook.

  • Discuss with your children the importance of mathematics for their future.

  • Instill in them the idea that they can learn mathematics.


Cheers to the return of rain, tea, and boot weather!


Carrie and Christa

Jon's News 9/22/22

Dear Middle School Family,


It was delightful to have everyone back in class (on and off) this week. Keep taking good care of yourselves!


This week, we really got things rolling. We're still in the assessment phase, working out what folks know and what lessons we need to teach. We're also still working out pacing of the curriculum, and getting to know the systems for finding assignments, and turning things in.


It's going really well!


Humanities

We dove into our Humanities curriculum this week. As I mentioned before, our focus this year is on US History and Government. I am going to be teaching this in a way that is sort of upside down from what we're used to. We're going to learn about the U.S. government by starting with the individual citizen.


We tend to think of our government as an immutable entity. It just is what it is. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Since its inception, the United States has been an experiment in Democracy, a work in progress. Despite our struggles and successes, we are still a long way off from "Liberty and Justice for All."


This week, we started our journey to understand our individual roles in our Democracy by going all the way back to the first evidence of modern human existence some 200,000 years ago in the Omo river valley near Ethiopia.


We are watching the BBC series, "The Incredible Human Journey" in class over the next couple of weeks. Alice Roberts is a medical doctor and anthropologist who takes us on a journey around the globe to various sites where we have discovered evidence of human existence and migration over the course of the last 200,000 years.


Students watched the first two episodes in class this week and took notes. Then they worked in teams of five to create a quiz to highlight the 10 most important bits of information from each episode.


I know what you're thinking: "Isn't it the teacher's job to create the quiz to highlight the most important bits of information in each episode?"


The most important thing I hope to teach our students this year is to collaborate and share perspectives on what's important, on what's true, on what matters. My perspective on what's important is just one perspective. I'm certainly a voice in the discussion, and I'm the one choosing what material we're discussing, but, ultimately, we are working collectively to create meaning together.


It's hard at first. It's hard to decide for ourselves what's important. Once we've made those decisions, it's even harder to be open to other people's perspectives on what's important. From the very get go this year, we are working together to normalize these discussions and this way of thinking about 'truth.' We are working to build the muscles to accept that opposing ideas can all be equally true and valid.


On the content end of things, these videos are showing us the development of human societies from small bands of individuals struggling to survive as animals in the wild, to participants in complex systems of government that attempt to (hopefully) take care of our collective needs.


It's difficult, in the context of growing up in modern America, to conceptualize what it would mean to live as a primitive human animal struggling to survive in the wild. In order to understand the role and intention of government, I believe it is necessary to start with what we fundamentally need to survive. It is impossible to thrive as individuals, let alone as a society, if these fundamental needs aren't being met.


There is no doubt that we are still struggling on all fronts to provide for the basic needs of all of our citizens. It's important that we start by acknowledging that this puzzle is 200,000 years old and still hasn't been solved. Our work this year will be to envision what parts we, as individuals and as a community, can play in making life better for all of us.


It's good stuff! Important stuff.


Whew. That's a lot to digest. I'll leave it there for this week. Next time, I'll give you a little more insight into the nuts and bolts of our Communications work.


It feels good to be back in the swing of things, friends. We're sure grateful to be able to spend our days learning and growing with your amazing kids.


Best,

Jon and Jen

Jon's News 9/13/22

Dear Middle School Family,


Welcome back! We had an epic return to school last week! And a clear lesson that Covid is still very much a part of our current reality. Masks and hand washing and social distancing are going to continue to be part of our lives for a while, yet. Let's please take care of each other!


We're putting all of our more content-driven work on hold for Communications and Humanities until we have everyone back in school. If you're out sick, please focus on taking good care of yourself and getting better. We'll work on bringing you up to speed when you're back at school.


Middle School Class Meeting: Tuesday, September 20, 6pm

Most of you probably already have the back to school picnic on your calendar for Tuesday, September 30. The picnic starts at 5:30pm, so please join the families out in the south field for a quick bite and some catching up, and then come on over to Carrie's classroom, Room 7, in the front, south corner of building B.


Carrie and Jon will be leading a Middle School Class Meeting from 6-7pm. We plan to run through the middle school schedule and explain what and how we're teaching your kids. It will be a fun opportunity to check in about how things are going, and answer any questions y'all have. We promise to be done by 7pm.


Communications/Humanities

I made a command decision this summer that is hopefully going to simplify all of our lives. Instead of having a separate class for Communications and Humanities, I have combined the two into one class, so it's easier to track which assignments are due when, in one list of assignments.


The only downside I can see is that students won't receive a separate grade for Communications and Humanities. Ultimately, I don't think it matters that much. The eighth graders agree: this is a much easier way to track assignments the students are responsible for.


Humanities Quick Overview

This year's Humanities curriculum will center on US History and Government. In particular, we will be examining the roles and responsibilities of citizens in the US government. We will look at the ways that "normal citizens" have stepped up to create positive change in their communities, and in our country. Perhaps most importantly, we will look for ways that we can be of service to our community and engage in community service projects in the spring.


It's going to be some seriously empowering work.


Communications Quick Overview

I look at the traditional "English Language Arts" requirements through the lens of Communication and Media Literacy to prepare our students for life in the digital age. We're going to continue to do authentic writing assignments all year that strengthen our ability to communicate in all forms.


I was accepted as a fellow in the Journalistic Learning Initiative this year, and have access to a ton of resources and materials to help students become critical consumers of the media. The work we'll be doing this year in the community will lend well to helping the students find the important stories that are happening right here in our community, and tell them well. It's going to be a good year for writing.


Personal Growth Projects

To get things started, this week the students are creating Blogs that they'll be posting to weekly, documenting their progress on their Personal Growth Projects. The Personal Growth Projects (PGPs) can pretty much be anything the students are passionate about learning. The main criteria for choosing their PGP is that their families need to approve of it, and the students need to be able to access the activities they want to learn and write about.


Please ask your student about their Personal Growth Project and help them choose something that is exciting for them, and also possible to access. Some of the projects they're choosing are things that they have to do outside of school (like horseback riding, or Minecraft world-building, or aerial silks, for example).


The blog assignment is meant to be a content creation project, using their PGP as the content. Some activities, like poetry, short videos, or learning an instrument lend themselves a little easier to writing an engaging blog post. Please help your student choose a project they're already actively doing, or that you know they'll stay excited about. If they change their mind in a month, or a week, they can try something else!


The main thing we're trying to accomplish here is to give them something they're excited to write about every week.


That's it, for now. We hope to see you next Tuesday.


Have a great week!

Jon and Jen