Middle School

Carrie's Classroom Updates

Carrie's Update 12-17-2020

Ridgeline MS Math/Science Update 12/16/2020

If you’re not making mistakes, then you are not doing anything. I am certain that a doer makes mistakes. -John Wooden

Our Middle School Family,

We are enjoying the stories your students are sharing from their “Great Holiday Listen” Interviews. It has been wonderful to hear about the adventures of everyday trailblazers from different places and times. Stories are a great way to take mini vacations! Language gives us the ability to share each other’s experience, almost in a way to live more lives than our own. What a gift to share. Ask your student to share the story they chose to share with the group, or some of the stories they have heard shared. They have been great mini-vacations.

Distribution Pick Up Scheduled for Mid January!

Ridgeline is scheduling the next distribution pick up for Thursday the 14th. Are you running low on consumable supplies (paper, pencils, notebooks etc.)? Please let us know.

BTW. Math - 1 Graph Ruled Notebook will be available to each Middle school student for pick up. Please plan on swinging by!


The end of the Second term was Friday December 11th. Students will have up until Friday December 18th to complete late work from Term 2 (no older than two weeks old).


Christa and I often start our math period with a warm up activity called ‘My Favorite No.’

Jan 21 Webinar video 1 (My Favorite No Video Slide 19) I discovered this on the website “Great Lesson Ideas” during one of my many internet forays in search of better teaching tools.

This is a multistep procedure. Due to the constraints of Distance Learning, this year the problem samples come from student work. As I grade student work, I note patterns of strengths and errors, and come up with a list of problems and student solutions that illustrate concepts and misconceptions that need to be clarified for a significant proportion of our students. “My Favorite No” problems are carefully chosen to highlight various math practices to cultivate, and pitfalls to avoid.

1. As students arrive they begin to work out a solution to one of these problems that has been posted on the screen.

2. After time has been given for students to work through the problem, Christa or I will post an (anonymous) rewritten example of one student's process for solving this problem.

3. Students are to look carefully at the sample, and take note of good math practices illustrated by the work sample, as well as any errors or misconceptions found in the students work process or solution.

4. We then, as a group, discuss our observations.

5. As the essential last step in this process, Christa or I will ask for student input as we work the problem through correctly. Students are to take careful notes as we work through the problem. This cements the correct process in student’s minds.

A Journey of a Thousand Miles...

When students keep up with their daily math assignments, students avoid setting themselves up for the confusion, frustration and overwhelm that comes from trying to catch up while the group continues to forge ahead.

Keeping up benefits students in multiple ways:

-Daily practice is essential for improving math fluency.

- Full attention on the current assignment allows the student to extract the highest potential benefit from engaging in the current lesson being addressed by their teachers and their peers.

-The student has been previously exposed to and practiced the skills necessary to get the most out of the current assignment.

If a student regularly does not finish assignments, they should do every other odd assigned problem to begin with. Eg. if every third problem is assigned, they are to do 3, 9, 15, 21, 27, etc. Then go back and do 6, 12, 18, 24, etc. This way if they don’t complete the assignment, they still practice the concepts addressed throughout the work, and have the odd answers (in the back of the book) to check their work.

If your student is struggling to keep up in math, please encourage your students to adjust their assignments as described above, turn in incomplete work, and move on to the next assignment the next day. Students do get credit for incomplete assignments! More importantly they don’t get left further and further behind because they are adhering to some black and white idea of perfection or bust. Engaging in the process and turning in what you have is the goal! We only improve by beginning where we are and continuing to try!

It...Begins with the first step.


We are continuing our investigations into communicable diseases this week by wrapping up our case study investigations into the diseases: Chicken Pox, Lyme Disease, Covid-19, Mononucleosis, Pneumonia, and E. Coli. Each student is creating a quick Google slide show to teach their fellow students about their assigned disease. Presentations will be this Friday.

Enjoy a wonderful and rejuvenating holiday,

Carrie and Christa

Carrie's Update 12-4-2020

Ridgeline MS Math/Science Update 12/7/2020

Before you speak, THINK…

T - is it True?

H - is it Helpful?

I - is it Inspiring?

N - is it Necessary?

K - is it Kind?

Our Middle School Family,

Please reach out to Cynthia if your student is routinely having problems connecting. She will problem solve with you!

The Great Holiday Listen

Before our November Holiday weekend, students were given an assignment to interview someone other than their parents!

They were to choose an elder/adult family member or family friend, and arrange a time and means of meeting for an interview. Students are encouraged to choose someone who they care about, has had interesting life experiences, and/or who would really appreciate some quality time with them. If your student has not completed this assignment, they can still do so and turn it in. Students will be sharing out short stories from these interviews over the next few weeks.

Complete directions and numerous question prompts are supplied in the Great Holiday Listen assignment. The Great Holiday Listen (accessible only with a ridgeline email address)

Happy connecting across the internet, time, and space!


Last week, we wrapped up the first section of our current science unit by answering the question: How can you get sick with communicable diseases?

In our group process, each individual came up with their best answer to this question. A few offered their statements for the class to read. Then, as a class, we chose one to edit, and craft into our final consensus answer.

Block I’s Consensus Answer

You can get sick with communicable diseases in multiple ways. You could get sick from an infected person, or by encountering germs in your environment. Once you get sick the germ that is making you sick then replicates, and makes you do all the hard work of spreading itself. You will become a tool for the germs and help spread them. Anything you touch, you then spread germs to, and germs can live on surfaces for a long time. That means that even after a day or two, if someone who is not already sick touches that surface, they could get sick.

Block II’s Consensus Answer

Non-communicable diseases and communicable diseases are different in some ways. One type, communicable, can be transferred to another person, while non-communicable cannot. In our experiment we did, there was one original carrier that was sick with a communicable virus, and as the original carrier interacted with people, others got sick too. We tried to be epidemiologists, and this simulation showed us what epidemiologists do when they try to find the original carrier, when sickness breaks out somewhere. We also watched a simulation of when Mark Rober dusted glow powder on kids hands. He then used a UV light to show how much powder was on everything, desks, faces, the phone, etc. at the end of the day. Even when the kids washed their hands really well, the powder, like germs, transferred as far as 8-9 people down a line, when they shook hands. Viruses can make copies of themselves to spread to others, and when a virus changes or mutates, people are not immune to it and it can cause a pandemic.

Then we began the process of designing an experiment in which we will compare bacteria loads between different surfaces.

Guided by the following criteria, we created an experimental question.

The characteristics of a good question:

  • It is specific

  • It is testable: through an experiment or measurements

  • It produces valuable information/it has real answers

  • It includes two main variables

  • It builds on what you already know or think you know and leads to a hypothesis that is falsifiable.

For example:

    • “Will fertilizer make grass grow greener?” is not as good a question as “What types of fertilizer will make grass grow greener, Scotts, or Milorganite?”

    • Will shade make grass grow greener? is not as good as “Will two hours more shade a day make grass grow greener?”

Each block brainstormed ideas. Then the options were consolidated from both blocks into those listed here:

  1. Which has more bacteria, a person’s cell phone or keys?

  2. Which has more bacteria, a person’s cell phone or computer keyboard?

  3. Which has more bacteria, POS Keypad or cash?

  4. Which has more bacteria, a public bathroom entrance or exit handle?

  5. Which has more bacteria, a paper towel dispenser button, or the inside handle of the same bathroom door?

Ultimately, we narrowed our question down to:

Which has more bacteria, a cell phone screen or a computer keyboard and touchpad/mouse?

Samples were collected this weekend, and will be analyzed later this week.


Sometimes we get caught up in the details and miss the big picture. Math is not just getting problems correct, one at a time. More importantly, it is an excellent vehicle for learning how to learn and problem solve. Students tend to see each problem as an end in itself, and points to earn for the gradebook. I remind them to step back. Each assignment is an opportunity to practice good learning habits, and each problem is an opportunity to practice processing skills.

Assignments are due at the beginning of class each day. This means that the assignment listed in Jupiter Ed as due, should be completed, checked and turned in before class begins each day. If it is not completed and turned in at that time, it is late. This is especially important, since I assign the practice problems for the following assignments on the tail end of the current assignment in order for students to get exposed to the upcoming material, and have a chance to grapple with it. This provides students with something to ‘hang’ the math lesson on. Students engage with the lesson, and ask better questions, when they have already had some kind of exposure to the material.

If a student has not completed and turned in the current assignment, they are not to do it during class!! They are to leave themselves space in their journal to finish the late assignment later, and they are to join the group and begin today’s work with the others! Thus they don’t miss out on lesson notes as well as teacher and peer support, which would result in more confusion and bigger hurdles when they get to that assignment later.

Accepting Late Work

We will only accept late work until up to two weeks after it’s due date and/or after the end of a term. If an assignment is missing, a student’s grade will remain a (/) until the point in which it will no longer be accepted. At this point the score will be changed to a (0). The end of the term 2 is Friday December 11th. We will accept no work from term 2 after this date. The main reason we impose these limits is to avoid allowing students to develop the pattern of getting behind and then cramming at the last minute.

Test Corrections

If a student receives an overall grade of <80% on a math test, they may do corrections for credit towards their overall test grade. For each point corrected, the student will receive ½ point, up until they reach a score of 80% on their test.

If a test is at the end of a term, we will allow test corrections until the date that they are due (usually about a week following the grading of a test). We will retroactively change grades in this case. The corrections must be turned in on time.

  • Test Corrections - Requirements for Credit

  • As part of our test correction policy, we require that students look for patterns in errors. In order to get credit for test corrections students must:

  • create a header describing which test they are doing corrections for

  • note the # of the test problem missed

  • find the error(s) and rework the missed problem,

  • brainstorm reasons for the error

  • describe their plan for paying special attention to that aspect of problem solving next time.

*A pdf. tutorial has been attached to each ‘Test Corrections Turn In’ assignment in Jupiter Ed. It describes the requirements for getting credit for test corrections, and provides an example.

Ultimately, the goal is for our students to gain metacognitive skills: attention to process, pattern awareness, and learning about learning. Academics are a vehicle for learning these deeper life lessons.


Carrie and Christa

Carrie's Update 10-23-2020

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.

~Albert Einstein

Our Middle School Family,

Greetings within a digital world. Note the research article at the end of this update. It references teens and online activity. Highly relevant to our current situation!

I have even more syllabi information in this letter home. Sorry for the dry content. It is important that we all are on the same page.

Hope you all are doing well.

Art Supply and MIddle School Math Book Distribution Times!!

Please swing by during one of these distribution times to check out your student's math book. We want our students to have a math book to work out of at home! You will be responsible for the care and return of this book at the end of the year.

Thursday, October 29⋅11:00am – 1:00pm

Friday, October 30⋅8:30 – 10:00am

Please contact us if you have any immediate questions or important information regarding your student, otherwise, we will see you during conferences this coming Thursday or Friday.

Jon & Maizzy Sign Up Last Name: A-Mo

Carrie & Christa Sign Up Last Name: My-Z

We look forward to connecting with you!


Attendance for 4j is taken as contact from the student any time in a 24 hour period. Attendance is also taken automatically in Jupiter Ed during each Math and Science Period class.

It benefits your student immensely to be ON TIME to class! The beginning of the class period is when directions for the day’s activities are being read through by the group. (Note: On time to class- in their seat, in the Zoom waiting room, and ready with required materials at hand before the start of each period. Students entering late will need to open up the current day’s assignment in Jupiter Ed, begin at page 1, and follow directions. Students should develop a habit of listening carefully to the group’s discussion and teacher directions to find the page we are on. If they have questions due to being late, they should ask Christa or me in the Zoom chat.


-Students will make up an absence in science or math by completing on their own, the asynchronously designed math assignment(s) and science pod(s) that we worked on together in class on the day(s) of their absence. After an absence, they are to join us at our office hours any time Tuesday-Friday from 1-2:30 for assistance. Students have up to two weeks from the absence to make up the assignment.


For the majority of the time, Christa and I will be checking off work as we go.

Key to grades in Jupiter Ed’s Gradebook:

(/) Missing! Assignment was not turned in.

(0) After two weeks, missing assignments are no longer accepted. At this time, any (/) will be changed to a (0), This policy preserves the sanity of all involved. Students and teachers need to focus their attention on current assignments.

If a student currently has an M on an assignment, they are welcome to look at it and read our notes, and even make corrections. We will not change the grade, since they already have mastery. This policy also preserves the sanity of all involved.

Academic subjects are graded on a NY-Not Yet, P-Pass, M-Mastery scale.

Electives are graded on a Pass/No Pass scale, based on participation

Test Corrections - If a student receives an overall grade of <80% on the test, they may do corrections for credit towards their overall test grade. *A tutorial has been posted in Jupiter Ed describing the requirements for getting credit for test corrections.

For each point corrected, the student will receive ½ point up until they reach a score of 80% on their test.


Above all, students are to show respect for the physical, emotional, and intellectual safety of everyone. First and foremost they are to show respect for themselves. From this flows respect for other students and adults.

  • Student is on time and ready to work at the start of class.

  • Student is on task, with an academic focus in the majority of their conversation with peers. This includes respecting the Table Group Hangout for discussion of academic content and coordination only. Students are welcome to socialize and arrange to socialize with other students using other hangouts set up separately for that purpose.

  • Student uses class time effectively.

  • Student offers positive, authentic, and constructive contributions to group discussions. NOTE: Respectful debate is not only allowed, but actively encouraged. Our academic work is the vehicle for developing the skills to respectfully discuss, agree, disagree, ask questions, and always support claims with evidence.

  • Student respects our community resources and materials. In online learning, this includes, but is not limited to group work projects and discussion forums.

  • Consistent misuse of access to digital resources will result in revocation of editing access privileges. This means that the student will have read only access to group projects.



On any given day students might be working in large groups, small groups, and/or individually. Required materials for the day’s lesson are posted in Jupiter Ed.

We will progress through our learning in the same manner as scientists, beginning with a big challenge or question. Next we will break the idea down into smaller questions to investigate. We will use a Project Board to keep track of our learning. As student scientists, we begin the scientific process with a brainstorm. “What do we think we know? This brainstorm leads us to our next question in the process, “What do we need to investigate?” Then we will do research, conduct investigations, carry out experiments, and return to the project board and make a claim as to what we are learning. Finally we communicate our understanding and support our assertions with evidence from our investigations. Math concepts are key to organizing and interpreting data collected in scientific investigations, and labs. Students will repeatedly apply various math concepts in our ‘real world’ investigations. Math is the language of science. We are going to use it to communicate like scientists!


Math is a language. In order to become fluent in a language, one must practice it regularly. Math groups are held Monday through Thursday of every week. Students will meet in their math groups with

Christa or myself. We will address any questions, and go over the previous night’s homework together.

By Monday morning, assignments through the following Tuesday will be entered into Jupiter Grades. If they have to wait for Christa or I to check their work, they are to begin work on the assignment that will be due the next day.

Students are to begin the math period with their assignment complete, the odd problems checked, and their percent calculated from the total odd problems possible.

NOTE: If your student is stuck on a problem at home, please remind them that they can skip it, and finish what they can of the rest of the assignment. They can ask us to go over difficult problems in class the next morning. We do not want students spending inordinate amounts of time stuck on one problem.

Math Journals

Each assignment must be titled, with the section and page numbers clearly written across the top of the first page.

Student work must:

-be legible. If someone else cannot decipher the numbers, then it is not legible.

-be written in pencil

-be written on both front and back of each notebook page

-show each step in the math process on the line below the previous line (students are not to use scratch paper. All work must be shown neatly in the math journal,)

-the answer is to be written alone on the last line of the problem.

-run in columns in sequence from the top to the bottom of the page.

*If the student draws lines between each problem, the problem should be completed before drawing the line. Thus the student will have plenty of space to complete the problem without cramping and confusion.


Carrie and Christa

Carrie's Update 10-19-2020

Ridgeline MS Math/Science Update 10/16/20

Our Ridgeline Family,

We are beginning to establish a routine. We will continue to introduce and establish routine components of our systems over the next few weeks. This week we will check and grade our assignments together on Monday 10/29. It will hereafter be a requirement that your student check the odd problems in their math assignments before turning them in.

Math Update -

Students will have some time in class to begin their homework. Generally, there will be math homework four days a week.

MATH Homework is Due (TO BE COMPLETED AND TURNED IN BEFORE CLASS BEGINS) on the DATE the Assignment is listed in Jupiter Ed. Science is done in Table Groups in class, and is due generally by the end of the day when the group finishes.

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. If a student waits till 9 pm to start their math, there will be overwhelm, stress, and often tears. Please support your emerging adults in doing their homework early in the afternoon, when their brain still works. One way to avoid this pitfall is to encourage your student to look ahead to the upcoming week, see when they will have less time, and plan accordingly. This is a great life skill. I wish I had support in practicing it when I was in middle school. By the end of 8th grade, they will be juggling responsibilities that they are finding it a challenge to adjust to now. Our academics are the vehicle to help them practice self advocacy, and build good work habits and time management skills.

On that note, if your student is spending more than 40 minutes doing math homework in the evening. Please contact me to problem solve.

We are here every afternoon Tuesday-Friday from 1-2:30 to answer questions, and offer support. Please remind them to access that resource! All links are on the Ridgeline Website, and at the end of each of my parent letters home, you will find relevant links. We are also available to meet with you during that time or after school. Just shoot an email to arrange a date and time.

Showing Work

In Math, it is essential that students show their problem solving process on paper. When we grade tests, Students will earn points for

  • A correct simplified answer as defined by the directions. - An unsimplified fraction is a step in the problem solving process, a simplified fraction is an answer.

  • Writing the original problem down. - For word problems, this step will be the numerical setup for solving the problem.

  • Showing their work thoroughly, working down the page, not across. - Some problems do not call for work. In these cases, the original problem should be written with the answer below it, and the problem will not have a ‘show work’ point value.

  • Including units when applicable - If there are units in the problem, there should be units in the answer.

Similarly to English or Science, students have to describe or write about a topic in order for the teacher to confirm mastery. Math is a language. Fluency is gained through practice. Students gain fluency in the language of math by building new skills on old, and using them to communicate their reasoning both verbally and in writing. It is even more important now that we are in online school, that students show their process on paper, so we can assess student understanding, and help them form good math habits.

Students are also required to show their work in order to track and correct patterns of error. When students don't show their work, and produce an incorrect answer, it is difficult to impossible for the student or teacher to go back and find the mistake. These errors tend to be patterns. Students may reverse steps in the sequence of order of operations, neglect to include units, or regularly forget to distribute negatives, etc. Showing work helps the student, parents, teachers, and peers see and discuss work, and find patterns of errors. Recognition of these patterns is the first step in letting go of old and beginning to build new habits. Without the problem in writing to reference, skill improvement is much more difficult.

By the end of middle school, students are conquering multi step Algebra problems. Middle school math requires higher complexity in problem set up and in the problem solving process. In fact, it is at this math level, that students are no longer able to do math in their heads. The problems require too many steps.

Sometimes I will require students to use a certain method in order to prepare them for upcoming skills they will be learning, or to embed understanding of math ‘grammar.’ Students learn shortcuts, but often do not understand why a math shortcut they have been taught, works mathematically. For example, why is it OK to flip and multiply the second fraction when dividing fractions? Understanding this process removes a lot of the mystery in manipulating fractions. When we go over this, students have a lot of aha moments, and then can build higher math reasoning on this essential basic knowledge.

We go over many skills and concepts that students “know already” but don’t understand deeply. This is that part of teaching math that really excites me. Digging deep for understanding and building a good foundation, and watching students have those aha moments.

I live to see students enjoy the beauty of math as they gain fluency and good work habits that will serve them well in math and whatever they set their hearts on in life.


Carrie and Christa

Carrie's Update 10-8-2020

Our Middle School Family,

It has been a ride getting our bearings this year. I feel like we are finally beginning to settle into a routine!

We are facing a big learning curve above and beyond academics. Thus far, we are using class time to get to know each other and familiarize ourselves with navigating online systems.

It is often a challenge for 7th graders to adjust to the workload. It takes them a while to get the hang of managing their time. Please know that we are flexible and supportive. We encourage students to communicate with us during office hours and via email and hangouts. By the end of 8th grade, they will be juggling responsibilities that feel 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 an honor to see how much they evolve and mature over the two years we are learning and growing together!

We believe that one step at a time with family and school expectations, support and encouragement, students will gain the organization and self management skills to realize their dreams!



Generally, there will be math homework due five days a week. By Monday morning, math assignments through the Following Tuesday should be in Jupiter Ed.

They should be on task and working on math during class. They should have plenty of time to get most of their math done in school. If they don’t finish their math during school, students should have a maximum of 40 minutes of math to do as homework. If it is taking longer than that, please check in with them about how they are using their time in class. If they are struggling, please encourage them to show up for help during our office hours.


We begin the year with the science unit Good Friends and Germs. Our big question for this unit is, “How can you keep your good friends from getting sick?” Our class will use a Project Board to keep track of our learning. As student scientists, we began with a brainstorm, “What do we think we know about this question?” Students then came up with good questions to guide our deeper learning into this topic. As we conduct our investigations, we will revisit the project board to track our progressing understanding.

Here are some “What did you learn in school?” prompts you can use to facilitate conversation about what we are learning!

Students watched a video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5-dI74zxPg and answered these questions.

  • Which surfaces (including on the humans themselves) were touched the most?

  • What amount of washing successfully removed most of the 'germs'?

  • Which parts of the body had the most powder on them?

  • What surprised you about where they found the powder?

The video is an example of the use of simulations in science. A Simulation is a recreation of a real world process in a controlled environment. Some questions they responded to:

  • How is the glow powder lab activity a good or poor simulation? In terms of how one sets up a good experiment, and/or for how germs spread through touch?

  • How was the glow powder lab activity a good or poor simulation of how effective hand washing can impact the spread of germs?

Students then recorded their ideas about the questions below. They represent the four main research topics in the Good Friends & Germs Unit.

  • How do you get sick?

  • What causes you to be sick? What kinds of things make you sick?

  • What changes take place in your body when you get sick?

  • How do scientists identify and treat diseases?

Students then came up with good questions to guide our deeper learning into this topic.

The criteria for a good question:

1. Is Interesting to you.

2. Requires several resources to answer.

3. Relates back to The Big Question.

4. Requires collecting and using data.

5. Can NOT be answered with a yes, a no, or just a few words.

All Our Best,

Carrie and Christa

Jon's Classroom Updates

Jon's Update 4-18-21

Dear Middle School Family,

I knew, deep in my heart, that I've been teaching real, live humans this whole time. I love it when my faith in something I saw on the internet turns out to be true! They're alive! We're all really real!

I'm not going to lie. It was... awkward to be back together. Our connection with each other has been so abstract and, well, distant, for the last year. It's only natural that it's going to take some time to get adjusted to the new "New Normal." It's just another step towards the next new normal.

We took it easy last week. We just spent time Being Together. In Person. We walked through the neighborhood and stealthily planted our published Zines in Tiny Libraries, cafe tables, and on park benches and bus stops. Eventually, we settled in a park and just basked in each other's good company. It was splendid. We teachers even had a swell time hanging out with the CDL cohort and making plans. (We'll be mailing out your Zines early this week for you to share! Sorry for the delay!)

Life is change. You can't step in the same river twice. You can't take the same breath twice, either. So here we go, doing something new! I'm pretty excited about this opportunity to think differently about how we do school. I, for one, am ready for some fun. Wait for it...

Daily CDL Routine

The daily routine work for the next 8 weeks is going to be a lot of informal journal responses to media (written, audio, and video). Most of the prescribed "content" is going to be in support of our Global Scholars end of the year project that I'm going to talk about four paragraphs from now.

Some of the writing assignments are going to ask students to explain how they understand certain sections of a piece of writing. These are going to be the hard ones, and the important ones for me to understand how (and if) they understand. I want to encourage us all not to give up, but to MAKE MEANING! (This is always my whole goal for us together, to make meaning.)

I'm going to encourage them to ask for help understanding the sections wherever they can get it! Dictionaries, peers, internet, teachers, parents... We are all resources to help each other make sense of things we're unsure of (which, really, is everything). I'm trying to encourage conversation to help deepen our understanding of what we're reading. To help students learn how to pay attention to what they're reading.

Lots and Lots of Writing

I just want you to know that we're going to be writing a lot of words over the next 8 weeks, and that I'm more interested in helping your kid express themselves in writing right now, than I am in the mechanics of writing. So please encourage them to just write what they think and try to explain it as best they can. We're going for lots and lots of sentences explaining their thinking. (Not just the same sentence stated several different ways...) We're after the 'why do we think what we think?'

Personal Growth Projects

Which also explains the purpose of the ongoing Personal Growth Projects. Blog posts explaining, with pictures and videos, what you are super into right now is one of my favorite assignments of all time. We're keeping it up! We're also changing the due date to Thursday, and adding an extra credit "Show and Tell" segment at the first part of class on Friday for folks who want to show us what they've been up to! (Did I mention that it's 2 points of extra credit for sharing?!)

Global Scholars Projects

Working collaboratively on projects via Zoom is hard for adults, who supposedly have the social skills to participate in group work! It's been a real struggle to make social connections between the kids via Zoom. The kids have done an amazing job, all things considered, but I think I can speak for all of us when I say: NO MORE ZOOM COLLABORATIONS!

We're going to do a silly, fun—ridiculous, really, activity this week with all 5 our our middle school cohorts. And we're going to catch it all on video. You're going to love to see it at Graduation, when we'll share videos and announce the winners of the Video Scavenger Hunt.

And then we're going to get serious. Kind of. Climate Change is Real. Whether one believes that climate change is a crisis or not doesn't matter. I'm pretty sure we can all agree that a healthier environment and saving money is something everyone can get behind.

Environmental Kids' "TV Show"

We've identified several human consumption issues, like buying single-use plastic-packed items, that are both harmful to our environment and expensive. We're going to produce a "TV Show" for kids, a la Sesame Street or the Muppet Show, where we do little skits and commercials. and... to help teach a younger audience things they can do to make life better for every living being on this planet.

We'll be using our 3 hour in-person blocks to plan, perform, and edit the video segments to compile into a collective 10-15 minute "Complete Episode," with skits from each cohort. We're going to work out a way for folks working at home to participate in the content generation and post-production, as well.

My hope is that we can complete 2 Complete Episodes by the end of the school year. Also to be "Premiered" at Graduation. (As in, no one will see the finished episodes until Graduation.)

We still have a long way to go, folks. We need to stick together and keep on taking care of each other.

So much love!

Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 4-11-21

Dear Middle School Family,

We are back in part-time business, starting this week! Woohoo!

It's kind of hard to believe I just wrote those words. Please excuse me for a second while I give myself a High Five! Yeah!

Things are about to get a lot more sanitary! That's right, soap and hand sanitizer are going to become your right- and left- hand mans! Oops. I mean, People! We will be doing a lot of handwashing. Please consider how you're going to help keep your skin moisturized. (I'm not kidding!) Clean hands is the top tactic for keeping us back at school.

Here's the daily schedule again:

Daily Schedule

The mornings will be the same for all students: Online CDL on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. (No School Wednesdays.)

8:30am-9:40am Math and Science with Carrie and Christa

9:40-9:50am Break

9:50-11:00am Communications and Humanities with Jon and Maizzy

11:00-11:30am Break

11:30am-12:15pm Arrival Window/Lunch/Recess

Afternoons, we will be on campus for Hybrid Learning. (I'll re-post the cohort lists at the bottom of this email.) There will be no additional assignments for students working at home in the afternoon. Students should work in the afternoon to complete their assignments from the morning CDL classes.

12:15-3:20pm In-Person Learning on Campus or Distance Learning at home

3:20-3:30pm Dismissal

CDL Wednesdays!

For the folks in the 100% CDL Cohort, we'll be meeting with you for a bit on Zoom on Wednesdays to connect you with alternative activities for your afternoon learning pleasure.

10:00-10:45am Zoom with Jon and Maizzy

11:00-11:45am Zoom with Carrie and Christa

Mobile Afternoons

For Communications and Humanities, we're going to get out and about as much as possible. Buses are still off limits, so we'll be on foot. What this means is you need to be sure to wear comfortable shoes for walking. You also need to be mindful of the weather, and bring an umbrella and rain jacket and possibly sunscreen. Water and snacks will also be important.

If you have a camera or a cellphone with a camera, please be sure to bring that, as well. We have a lot of missed photo opportunities we need to catch up on!

Graduation Committee

We need to start wrapping our heads around how we're going to run a socially distanced graduation ceremony. If you'd like to join in the conversation and help with the planning and organization, please send me an email and let's talk soon.

Thanks, everyone. We're super excited to see our kids in person this week. It's going to be good to be back!

Take care,

Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 3-2-21

Dear Middle School Family,

Lots of exciting changes coming our way after Spring Break. We still have two more weeks to go before Break, though, and we're going strong.

Global Scholars

We started Unit 4 of Global Scholars, "Sharing Global Resources," last week. For starters, we're looking at companies in Eugene that produce goods that are distributed outside of Eugene. Besides the obvious lumber industry, Eugene has a number of companies that the students were pretty excited to learn about: Yogi Tea, Arcimoto electric cars, Springfield Creamery, Surata Soy Products, Coconut Bliss... Eugene is truly blessed with some very progressive companies who are participating in the global economy.

The unit goes on to explore the environmental impact of participating in our global economy. It's part of what makes our lives comfortable and convenient, but it's important for us to learn about the costs of these comforts.

Americans Take Action

Our "American Heroes" curriculum is going powerfully well. I am so very grateful that the documentaries being produced in this day and age are so much better, and so much more inclusive of multiple perspectives than when I was a kid. Last week we watched the incredibly outstanding documentary, "How it Feels to Be Free," telling the stories of Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cecily Tyson, and Pam Grier. It was a pretty incredible look at the ways these black female artists reshaped the way Americans perceive Black America.

This week we'll be watching a Smithsonian documentary called, "Reclaiming History: Our Native Daughters." This short film is "a powerful modern take on Black women's history and America's shared, but often hidden, musical roots." The four musicians featured in the film recorded an album, "Songs of Our Native Daughters," and toured the country performing songs from it. The documentary takes us through their creative journey making the album, and the stories and instruments that inspired them.

Personal Growth Projects

It's fun keeping up with what your kids are keeping up with, what inspires and engages them when left to their own choices and devices. Please check in with your student about what they're working on for their PGP each week. This is truly a fun opportunity to write about something they care about and share it with the rest of the class. The official blog is closed to folks outside of our class, but your student can share it with you. It might be fun to take a look at what other folks are up to!


Take care, folks. Only two more weeks until Spring Break.


Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 2-16-21

Dear Middle School Family,

I'm still resonating from our connections last week. We're in this together. We're going to be okay.

Two big questions came up repeatedly:

1. When will Covid-19 be over?

Answer: No one knows.

2. When is Middle School going back to school?

Answer: May, at the earliest, if all goes well.

All we can do is keep doing our best: Our best to show up for each other. Our best to be present with each other. Our best to support each other.

We're trying to keep up the fun and silly small group connectivity work. It only works if the kids turn their cameras on and engage with their peers. The goal is not just to complete the task: an ad for a brand new 'odorant' for teens, or a fun new game to play with a common food item, or a way to make the life of a toilet paper cardboard tube deeply meaningful in retirement... This is important work.

We're also taking on the deep history of racism in our society, and discussing ways to do more than admire the problem. We're looking at Progress, and the sacrifices it took to make it. This week, we're watching the PBS Documentary, "How it Feels to Be Free." I wish I'd found this earlier. PBS first aired it on January 18, and it's going offline for free on February 16. I'll be recording the lessons on Zoom, and sharing them in Jupiter Ed.

We're also continuing to engage with our Global Scholars community to explore ways we can be more environmentally conscious in the way we live our day to day lives. Ask your child to share their website with you. Holy cow!

The Writing curriculum is going to pick up pace this week. We're going to start writing more formal, more academic responses to current events articles. We're going to work this bit in slowly. I'm still trying to figure out a good way to create a feedback cycle in the Zoom teaching world that is as meaningful as standing next to a kid and scribbling on their paper while I'm talking to them.

Day by day, we'll get through this together.

Enough for now. We love you.


Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 1-30-2021

Dear Middle School Family,

Report cards should be hitting your mailbox by the end of next week. There will be no surprises, I assure you. It's just a formal printout of what you can log in and see on Jupiter Ed in more detail at any time. Please let us know if you would like us to resend you the Jupiter Ed login information.


Conferences are scheduled for Thursday and Friday, February 11-12. Instead of splitting the students between Carrie and Jon, we decided that Carrie and Jon will join forces and be present together at all conferences. What this means is we only have 29 conference slots for 46 families.

We don't have a strict agenda or format for conferences. This is just an opportunity for us to connect and talk about how things are going. If you have met with us recently, we would like to ask you to please pass on this round of conferences, so we can make sure there are enough slots available for folks who haven't had a chance to connect with us.

Here's the link: MIddle School Conferences

We are happy to schedule a meeting during office hours from 1-2:30pm, or after school, Monday through Friday. (This invitation stands for everyone, at all times. It is truly important that we stay connected during these weird times.)


Global Scholars Update

These past few weeks we've been researching service systems in our community (food, water, electricity, waste management, etc.), and exploring ways that we can make the way we access and consume these services more sustainable for our planet. It's been quite a learning experience. This week, we'll start putting together a Sustainable Eugene website, with tips and hints for better living.


Americans in Action

Last week, we watched an interview with US Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman and watched her perform her breathtaking poem at the Presidential Inauguration. We were all blown away by her story and her powerful words.

Next week, we'll look into the life of Minoru Yasui, a Japanese American activist who was born in Hood River, Oregon, and fought against the injustice of the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War 2.


Zines (Zeens)

Each week, each student is responsible to create two contributions for their team's Zine. One piece is required to be a writing piece, but the other can be artwork, or anything, really. The first issue taught us a lot about formatting and what makes for interesting content. Issue 2 will go into production next week. I think we'll be ready to share this one!

Have a great weekend, folks. It's going to be a full week next week!

Take care,

Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 1-19-2021

Dear Middle School Family,

I hope you had a chance to talk with your kids about our experience watching and discussing "All In: The Fight for Democracy." It was a moving experience for all of us. And it was exciting for me, as a teacher in these disconnected times, to engage in learning about something real and important right now. We are all hungry for real, important learning.

This week, we're going to watch most of "Selma," the feature film that dramatizes perhaps the most critical moment in the Civil Rights Movement, and gives us some insight into the thoughtful and courageous leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King was just as human as the rest of us, but a lot smarter and more powerful in his conviction. When I think back over Americans who have been a positive force for change in this country, I can think of no one more influential or important in US history. We have a lot to learn about how to be effective in making our voices heard from Dr. King.

We have a lot to learn about how to actively be Americans.

The film "Selma" is only available for purchase on Amazon Prime. (I bought it.) I will record the lessons and make them accessible on Jupiter Ed. It's a slow moving movie by today's standards, but it's a humanizing and powerful snapshot of Dr. King's contribution to society.

I am full of hope and excitement as we move forward this week. AND, I keep reminding myself that it's not up to politicians to decide our future. It's up to "We the People" to actively create the community and world we want to live in.

So that's what we're going to do.

All the best,

Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 1-11-2021

Dear Middle School Family,

We are living in precedented times. You read me right: we've been through this before. American society and governance is a work in progress. Democracy has no successful road map to perfection. We are nowhere near our destination as a sustainable, inclusive society.

We have to make the road by walking. That's just what we're going to do in our Humanities studies for the rest of the school year.

Starting this week, we will start our "Americans Take Action" curriculum. Like most things, I'm making this up as we go, so it's going to be rough, and Real. My fundamental commitment as an educator is to provide our students with the communication tools and the heart (and skills) to take responsible action for the greater good.

Each week, we will explore the positive, difficult, actions of an Outstanding American, and consider ways we, as empowered citizens, can rise to serve our community. This week, we're going to watch the documentary, "All In: The Fight for Democracy," which takes a good hard look at why Stacey Abrams is an Outstanding American. (One in a whole history of Outstanding Americans.)

It's going to be really important for your student to show up to class this week!

The video is only available on Amazon Prime (unfortunately), and I highly recommend you watch it, if at all possible (if you haven't already). We're going to watch it via Zoom together in three 35 minute chunks, Monday through Wednesday. The film does an excellent, though incomplete, job of examining the brutal suppression of black participation in US society since the time most black 'Americans' were enslaved, and hopeful with the talk of Revolution and "Liberty and Justice for All!" until, well, now.

Black Americans are still being actively disenfranchised from participating in the most basic role in US Society: voting. Stacey Abrams is doing something about it!

Next week, we'll honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as our Outstanding American. Ms. Abrams' actions as an Outstanding American are part of his legacy.

The fight for the right to vote seems especially timely right now is why we're starting here, with Ms. Abrams. She's fighting for our most basic right as US Citizens. The right, and the responsibility, to vote for who represents our voice in our government. It all starts there.

Participation is absolutely necessary for our Democracy to flourish. We need to learn more about the peaceful, positive ways Outstanding Americans have made, and are leading change for the betterment of All. We're going to do our best to be broadly representative in our coverage of Outstanding Americans, and we are wide open to suggestions (especially if they're local and would be willing to talk with our kids via Zoom!)

This new addition to our weekly schoolwork ties in neatly with our Global Scholars curriculum about how we, as participants in our community, can change the ways we live to make our consumption of goods and services more sustainable for life on our planet.

This is possibly the most important year in recent history for learning and growing.

We're in this together!

Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 1-4-2021

Dear Middle School Family,

We are back in business tomorrow! We've missed everybody, and we're looking forward to seeing you!

First off, we have a new PE teacher, starting this week! Jeannelle will be leading PE on your No-Art days from 2:35-3:05. By "No-Art days," I mean, if you usually have Art on Tuesday OR Thursday, you have PE on both Wednesday AND Friday, and vice versa.

The most up-to-date Zoom links for all your classes can be found here: https://www.ridgeline.org/remote-learning/middle-school

Don't forget about the Talent Show on January 28! Here are the details again:

Talent Show - Every year Ridgeline students put on a stellar Talent Show! In the past, we have been lucky enough to witness marvelous magicians, excellent vocalists, instrumentalists, actors, gymnasts, fishing experts, and dancers right on our stage at Ridgeline. This year things will be a little different.

BUT the Show Must Go On!

2021's Ridgeline Talent Show will happen virtually on Thursday, January 28th at 6:00 p.m (that Friday is a no school day). Stay tuned for details about how to access the show. Now is a great time to start talking to your student about whether they would like to submit an act for the talent show. Submissions must be 3 minutes or less. Please email wobblykate@hotmail.com with your student's act for approval. Please make sure your student avoids music with inappropriate lyrics (overtly sexual, drug references, violence, suicide references, etc). We will begin accepting these video submissions after Winter Break. We encourage you to send in the idea for the Act before practicing and recording so your student's work is not wasted!

This year, I would like a student or two from each class to introduce their class's section of the Talent Show. If your student is interested in recording a short video introduction, please let me know! If your child introduces their class, they are still welcome to submit a performance. I'll sign up a maximum of 2 kids per class for this job (2 total for middle school), and will base the decision on who responds first. Email wobblykate@hotmail.com ASAP if your child would like this job. Please include your child's name and their teacher's name.

See you in the morning!

Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 12-18-2020

Dear Middle School Family,

We made it! Winter Break is always a major milestone in the school year, but this year it feels like a major win for all of us. Not only did we make it to Winter Break, we've done an outstanding job of making the most of a less than ideal situation.

I'm looking forward to some long bike rides and hikes in the woods this Break. We've learned a lot these last few months. It's going to be nice to step away from the urgency of the day to day, and let my subconscious chew on all that we've accomplished. And start formulating plans for improvement when we come back in January.

One thing I'm kind of excited about, looking forward, is this year's Talent Show. There's still a 3 minute time limit for the acts, but it's all going to be on video this year, so it really opens up the possibilities. I'll leave you with a blurb from Kate with all the details.

Please encourage your students to show off their skills. Since you're the ones making the video, it doesn't have to be limited to a live performance in real time. You could easily piece together a series of short videos to show a longer process, like baking baklava, and keep it under 3 minutes... Or produce a short film... This might be a fun project for Winter Break!


Talent Show - Every year Ridgeline students put on a stellar Talent Show! In the past, we have been lucky enough to witness marvelous magicians, excellent vocalists, instrumentalists, actors, gymnasts, fishing experts, and dancers right on our stage at Ridgeline. This year things will be a little different.

BUT the Show Must Go On!

2021's Ridgeline Talent Show will happen virtually on Thursday, January 28th at 6:00 p.m (that Friday is a no school day). Stay tuned for details about how to access the show. Now is a great time to start talking to your student about whether they would like to submit an act for the talent show. Submissions must be 3 minutes or less. Please email wobblykate@hotmail.com with your student's act for approval. Please make sure your student avoids music with inappropriate lyrics (overtly sexual, drug references, violence, suicide references, etc). We will begin accepting these video submissions after Winter Break. We encourage you to send in the idea for the Act before practicing and recording so your student's work is not wasted!

This year, I would like a student or two from each class to introduce their class's section of the Talent Show. If your student is interested in recording a short video introduction, please let me know! If your child introduces their class, they are still welcome to submit a performance. I'll sign up a maximum of 2 kids per class for this job (2 total for middle school), and will base the decision on who responds first. Email wobblykate@hotmail.com ASAP if your child would like this job. Please include your child's name and their teacher's name.

Take good care of each other, folks. We'll see you in January!

All the best,

Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 12-14-2020

Dear Middle School Family,

Just one more week until Winter Break! Can you believe it?

We're mainly going to spend this week wrapping up two group projects: the Global Scholars "Everyday Actions" project in Humanities, and the Zine (Zeen) project in Communications.

Students will have about 45 minutes set aside each morning to work on each of these projects in small groups. (That's 45 minutes for the Humanities project AND 45 minutes for the Communications project.) The students are working in different groups for each project.

It's kind of weird to be starting the new term (Term 3) with final projects. Almost as weird as starting the new term the week before we go on vacation for two weeks. We had to do it to balance out the length of the six terms in our school year.

Fun fact: The grades reset each term. Students are not allowed to turn in work from the previous term at this point. We're moving on! Starting fresh! We aren't using letter grades at all this year, by the way. We have it broken down into Mastery (80% or above), Pass (60-79%), and Incomplete (Below 60%).

The work plan for this week is simple, but it's going to be important that y'all use your time wisely, and organize a plan of action to get all the pieces done. It's going to be even more important that each of you do your part to support your group.

The work plan for the week looks like this:

Monday through Friday

9:25-10:10 Block 1 Humanities Projects

10:20-11:15 Everyone Communications Projects

11:15-12:00 Block 2 Humanities Projects

Have a great week, everybody!

Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 12-4-2020

Dear Middle School Family,

We are wrapping up Unit 2 of our Global Scholars program with a real-life action project to do at home. This week, the students put their heads together and looked for ways that they could take personal action to reduce the packaging waste, the plastics and papers and metals, that we use in our homes every day.

In all four groups, the students zeroed in on the same goal that they felt would be impactful and possible. Here are the instructions for this week, in the students' words:

"In our project plan, we are going to try to reduce the amount of consumed packaging from foods and snacks that we eat. We will test this out from Saturday, December 5, to Friday, December 11th. Every day, we will document at least one example of the packaging we were able to reduce.

We will take photos of before and after- the food and packaging we would have consumed, and the food and packaging we ended up consuming. We can also take a photo of us making the food or snack that we would have otherwise used up packaging on while consuming.

To measure the impact our actions have, we can compare the total amount of packaging we would have used and did use. Another thing we can document and measure is how much impact- good or bad, will we have on the environment, if we continue to reduce the amount of packaging we consume, and continue to find better replacements for things like little packaged snacks and items."

Here is the link to a Google Document: Everyday Actions Data Log

There is a table on the document for students to store their daily 2 pictures, captions for each picture, and notes about their observations of the process (is it making a difference?). The link is also in Jupiter Ed.

Thanks for helping your students stay on top of their data collection this week. Next week, we'll be putting together a photojournal of our results on the Global Scholars website to share with our international peers.

Exciting stuff!

Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 11-30-2020

Howdy folks,

Hope you had a nice, relaxing holiday weekend. I was sure grateful for the sunshine. I managed to get on a bicycle AND clean out my garage!

We have three FULL weeks until Winter Break, and we're just hitting our stride. We have two semi-major projects going on right now that will wrap up by December 18: 1. Our first Zine publications! and 2. Our "Everyday Actions" Global Scholars Projects.

I've broken both of these projects into tiny steps, and we started them a couple of weeks ago. It's hard to keep continuity between tasks feeling clear and real in this environment. Most folks' tendency in these stressful times is to just do each task as it's put before them and move onto the next task. But that's no way to Live!

Connection is everything.

Our First Zine Publication

Every week, each student is responsible for creating two creative pieces for inclusion in our first Zine Publications (There are 6 of them!) on December 18. We've been working on this for three weeks, already. At least one of the creative pieces needs to include sentences in some way. The other can be strictly visual art. We encourage a mix of both, for sure.

(Pro tip: put in some extra effort on your Art work with Melanie and Pete each week, and you've got one of your assignments for the Zine done!)

Our "Everyday Actions" Global Scholars Projects

Here's what Global Scholars says about Unit 2 of the Resourceful Cities curriculum:

"In Unit 2, you will learn how culture influences perspectives and consumption habits. You will do research to learn how much paper and packaging you consume and the waste you create. You will compare your observations with your peers in the e-classroom. What does consumption look like in different cities? What sustainable solutions are unique to your community?"

For our Unit 2 final project, four teams of students will come up with an Action Project to reduce how much of a particular kind of packaging their family consumes. They'll practice it for a week at home, and put together a digital project book explaining the plan and how it worked out.

The fun part is when the students share their findings on the Global Scholars forum. They'll be engaging in dialogue with students around the world about the differences and similarities in not only how we consume resources, but what strategies for reducing our consumption seem easier or more culturally acceptable where we live. Fun stuff!

I've attached a broken down list of the week's work for your viewing pleasure. It's all in Jupiter Ed, of course, but some folks might find it easier to see how it all fits together if they can look at it all at once... (Pro tip: Print it out and check things off as you get them turned in!)

Have a great week!

Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 11-16-2020

Dear Middle School Family,

I've been waiting to sort out some of the final details in our weekly 'Flow' to dive in and bring you up to date. Last week's "no school" Wednesday made for a bit of an off-kilter work-week, but the kids have been showing tremendous flexibility and resilience through all of this.

As you may have figured out by now, I'm making up the entire Communications/Humanities curriculum as we go, and I'm working hard to figure out how to make sure the work the students are doing is meaningful and engaging. We're getting closer to a smooth system that works. The kids are getting more adept with the technology, and most of them seem to understand the value of the work we're doing. It's good stuff, and getting better.

In a nutshell, here's the Big Picture of what we're up to, and how Communications and Humanities is shaping up.

Big Picture (Getting clearer):

Communications and Humanities Goal 2020-21:

Working together to make sense of our communal human existence on earth.

School work:

  1. Global Scholars Program--Civics through the lens of Global Environmental Crisis

  2. Zine--Self Expression in service of an audience

  3. Writing Skills--Improve your ability to communicate effectively

  4. Personal Growth Project--Personal Joy through independent learning

The Global Scholars Program has been fun, so far. We are teamed with schools from Singapore, the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, Spain, South Korea, Florida, and Buffalo. Our common goal is to examine what we consume and how we can do a better job taking care of our planet. Good stuff. The curriculum will really take off after Winter Break.

This week, we're starting work in collaborative Zine ("Zeen") Teams, creating artistic content to publish in little magazines that we can share with our community, and with each other. Students are encouraged to write quizzes, articles, recipes, poetry, stories, news articles, puzzles, you name it, along with visual art. We'll be developing content for our first issue up until early December, and will hopefully publish them electronically, at least, in time for Winter Break on December 18. Our goal is to print a bunch of copies of the 6 different Team Zines for students to share with their families.

We'll continue to work on our fundamental writing skills throughout the year. Right now, we're working hard on the mechanics of sentence fluency and grammar and punctuation. We're going to keep doing it until crafting good sentences becomes a good habit. This week, we're going to start working on how to build effective complex sentences.

Personal Growth Projects are slow getting off the ground. If you ask me, this is probably the most important thing your kid should do right now: learn something THEY want to learn. Cooking, coding, singing, piano, martial arts, mountain biking, art... If there's anything resembling a gift from this time of quarantine, it's the opportunity to engage in a learning project that is deeply meaningful to each of us, individually. Learning to do something that brings us Joy is quite possibly the most valuable thing we can discover in life.

Online school is hard work for all of us, students, teachers, and families, alike. We're so very grateful that the students continue to show up every day with grace and determination. We're all doing a really good job of making the most of this absurd situation.

Take good care of each other, and please reach out to us if there's any way we can support your kid or your family.

All the best,

Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 10-23-2020

Dear Middle School Family,

Short week, this week. We have family conferences on Thursday and Friday, so there is no 'Zoom School' (on Thursday and Friday—nice try!). (Fun Challenge: Contest my application of the sentence 'rules' in that last (overly technical) sentence! (Not the first sentence; it was an intentional fragment.)

These conferences are mainly an opportunity to "Stop Production!" and check in with folks who need, well, to check in with us. Don't get me wrong: we'd be happy to hear some embarrassing stories about your child, or otherwise hang out with y'all for a bit. Just please don't feel obligated to schedule a conference if you don't feel you need it. (We've been in regular contact with many families...)

Here are the sign-ups again. We certainly won't be disappointed if you show up in costume!

Carrie & Christa Sign Up Last Name: My-Z

Jon & Maizzy Sign Up Last Name: A-Mo

We've made it through the first Term of Middle School 2020! Huzzah! Can you believe it? The books are closed on Term 1. We're no longer accepting assignments from Term 1.

We are, however, very excited to accept assignments for Term 2! Let's start over and stay on top of things. We're off to a great start! Our main academic goals right now are work management (daily completion and turn-in), and fluently writing clear, complete, technically accurate, grammatical sentences.

Next week, we're going to start interest-based Writing Groups. It's going to make this online learning experience a lot more personal and fun. If we're going to be stuck at home, separated from each other, the least we can do is create some Content to engage and entertain each other!

We're all learning so much, so fast right now. It's starting to feel less impossible (Danger Zone!) and more exciting (Learning Zone!) for us all, I think, as we continue to test the edges of what works and what doesn't work in this online learning environment. It's also starting to feel more... socially comfortable hanging out together online.

I've attached the Planner Page for the short week. Please print it and fill out your Math and Science assignments, or replicate it in your Humanities Notebook.

Take this habit of organizing your days as seriously as you possibly can!


Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 10-19-2020

Dear Middle School Family,

Oh, the sweetness of settling into routine. It makes everything feel more... possible!

I whipped together a handy-dandy little weekly planner for students, to help the week go even a little more smoothly. All of the Communications and Humanities assignments are in Jupiter Ed for the week, and I've gone ahead and filled out half of the planner for you this week. (You'll have to do your Math and Science side on your own.

Once you have it all filled out, it will be a lot easier to do your work day by day, and check things off when you get them turned in. It's helpful to have an overview right there in front of you for what the week looks like, and how assignments fit together. AND, you should take it one day at a time, and get your work done each day. (And then go outside and do something fun.)

If you don't have the ability to print at home, please replicate the "To Do" list in your notebook for your four core classes. I promise: this will dramatically reduce your stress. Also, you'll notice that the assignments for Humanities and Communications this week are small daily tasks that fit together into a larger whole. Please note that I have highlighted the assignments that you need to work with your Table Group to complete, so they stand out.

I'll be sending the planner out on the next few Mondays with the Communications and Humanities assignments already filled out. Eventually, you'll be filling it out for yourself, so please think critically about the little tricks and quirks that work best for you.

Please remember, Monday is our short day. We don't have office hours on Monday afternoons, because the teachers are in meetings. But we're hanging out on Zoom Tuesday through Friday from 1-2:30pm to help you out. This is truly an amazing way to one on one support with your assignments. We love it when you show up! Some folks show up just to hang out and work quietly with us while we work.

Have a great week!

Jon and Maizzy

Jon's Update 10-8-2020

Dear Middle School Family,

***(Editor's note: this email got out of control, but I didn't want to delete it. If you're pressed for time, you can scroll down to the Bold Underlined steps below.)

All things considered, things are going really well. We've been dancing around, trying to find a common rhythm that works, and it really feels like the beat if finally there. Settling into the rhythm comfortably enough that we're past "counting beats and matching steps," so to speak, and finally able to just move with the flow of the day is still going to take some time.

I finally had to set alarms on my phone today to prepare me for the transitions between classes, so I don't have to actively watch the clock. And without the physical reminders in front of me of what the students are actively working on, right now, is making it hard for me to gauge how long it's taking students to complete activities. From 10:20-11:15, Maizzy and I are actively working with all 48 students at the same time. Online.

And it's already getting easier.

The weird space in time while the students are working independently, and together, in their Table Groups on assignments, Maizzy and I are in the main Zoom Room, working with individual students, and diving into Table Groups to answer questions and support the students. We're also managing to use some of the down-time to get a lot of important work done that is usually put off until the evenings and weekends: grading and planning.

This may seem like a small thing. It's not. And it may be the best thing that comes out of this experience. Maizzy and I are looking at the students' work and talking about it. Talking about individual student progress (yes, already). Talking about trends we're seeing, spots where the instructions weren't clear enough, or common insights students are sharing, or where students were clearly more excited about one assignment than others...

It's the thing I love most about being a Montessori teacher: my full-time assistant. Even remotely, our ability to discuss and process what we're seeing happen in all facets of the classroom right as it's happening connects us with what's really happening in a way that no solo teacher could accomplish. Add to that the fact that we're practically connected at the brain with Carrie and Christa, and share the opportunity to spend time with your children, and we've got a winning situation.

Everyone keeps saying we need to work together to get through this. It is so very true. We four teachers talk about the dynamics of the Online Learning Space we've created a lot. We do more subject-area-processing in our teaching pairs, but when it comes to taking care of our kids, that's where our community really shines.

In that spirit, I want to leave you with 5 very important messages:

1. The Educational Stakes are NOT as high as the media wants you to believe.

The real HUMAN skills our children are learning right now about resilience, and self-care, and independence, and community, and the value of human connection are going to change the world. Our ability to participate in the economy is secondary to our fundamental responsibility to take care of each other.

When the economists in the media make giant claims about the massive future impact of "our failed education system," they are highly underestimating the smarts, and the hearts of this generation. Our kids are going to be better than fine. The technological and adaptive learning skills they're gaining right now transfer across school subjects, and are more applicable to real life than anything I learned as a student in school.

No matter what pace Each Student takes to adapt to this new school environment, they are going to grow and strengthen

2. The Morning "Groups" Work Period is from 8:30am-12pm.

We do not expect the students to sit in front of the computer from 8:30-3:05.

We do expect them to show up for Math at 8:30. We also expect them to show up at the beginning of their Period 2 and Period 3 classes. Sometimes there will be group work. Sometimes they'll be able to just work alone on their own stuff. Sometimes they'll want to work on their own stuff in the company of their friends. All that's fine.

We just need them to show up each day to their Periods 1, 2, and 3 at the appropriate start time between 8:30am and 12pm.

The afternoons are A LOT more flexible, and this is where your family is going to have to work together to be healthy and have some important discussions about the rhythm of your days at home together in this difficult time.

3. We all need to move more! A lot more!

At school, we move around a lot. The classroom itself is a very active, mobile environment. The nature of this new environment is the opposite. We all feel trapped in front of the screen. I understand this as well as anyone! I am in constant physical motion. (I have a stationary bike in front of my desk at school, and a standing desk at home.)

Your kids need to move. You need to move. We all need to move. Our bones need it. Our muscles need it. Our sanity needs it! Get up. Move around. You don't have to stay chained to your computer during the work morning. Make sure you know what is happening and what you're responsible for, and you are free to move to and away from your computer appropriately.

But, this is the important part, make sure you know what's going on, before you walk away from your computer!


(Please feel free to read this aloud to your student in a very IMPORTANT-sounding voice.)

"I, Jon Labrousse (pronounced Labruce), as a middle school teacher of 'name your student here,' hereby proclaim that no middle school student is allowed to be on any sort of electronic device, except a stove or microwave (assuming they have appropriate training and supervision, of course) between the hours of 12 and 1 pm. Ever. This absolutely, and unequivocally includes, 'name your student here.'"

4. The whole middle school team is here to help.

Every Tuesday-Friday, 1pm-2:30pm, the Math/Science Team and the Communications/Humanities team are online, waiting, hoping someone will show up, needing help. (We're also grading, so we welcome interruptions!)

This isn't just a time for students to come in for help with assignments, or just to hang while they work on assignments. This is also a time where it would be easy for families to connect with us about how things are going. If it works best for you to set an appointment, please do. Otherwise, just drop in and see if we're available. There's a Zoom link for Math/Science, and there's a Zoom link for Communications/Humanities.

5. Which brings me to the last thing: Our Middle School Page on the Ridgeline Webpage is fully functional and the most up-to-date place to look for information.

Here's the link: https://www.ridgeline.org/remote-learning/middle-school

Please bookmark it, so you have easy access to all of the links and email addresses you need. Our weekly updates are also posted there.

***(Whew! That's a lot of information. I better put an Editor's Note at the top.)

School life is going to get easier, and better. It already feels a whole lot more fun.

Take good care of each other, friends. And ENJOY this long weekend. (Another Proclamation!)


Jon and Maizzy

October 5, 2020

Dear Middle School Family,

It's hard to believe we're already starting the third week of school! Please note that there is no school Friday, October 9. It's a statewide teacher training day.

We are settling into our regular schedule starting this week. We may make some adjustments to times and student groupings as the year moves on.

Please "reply to all" with any questions, so it reaches the whole middle school team.

Here is the basic daily "Bell" Schedule:

Middle School Schedule 2020-2021

Period 1: 8:30-9:25 Math (Everyone)

Period 2: 9:30-12:00 Science/Communications/Humanities

("Dismissal" MONDAY)


Lunch: 12:00pm-1pm

Period 3: 1:00-2:30pm Independent Work/Personal Growth Project:

Period 4 PE/Art: 2:35-3:05pm

September 28, 2020

Dear Middle School Family,

I am happy to announce that Ridgeline's Middle School program had 100% attendance for the first week of school. The whole week! Great job, everybody!

We are so happy to be back with our students, even online. Our humor and spirit filled the space between us. Technological difficulties were a little stressful at times, but our Joy in being together helped smooth out the bumps. Thank you, everyone, for your continued grace and patience as we settle into a routine that works.

This week, we will follow the same schedule as last week. Please remember that Monday is our short school day this year. School is over at noon for the Middle School on Monday.

We will regroup into Table Groups in the afternoons, starting Tuesday. We will email meeting links for their Table Group meetings on Tuesday morning.

Period 1: 8:30-10:05am

BREAK: 10:05-10:25am

Period 2: 10:25-12:00pm

("Dismissal" MONDAY)


Lunch: 12:00pm-1pm

Table Groups: 1:00-2:30pm

PE: 2:35-3:05pm