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! :)
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).
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:
What patterns or phenomena have they seen in the sky?
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?
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.
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.
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