October 30, 2017 Program Updates
We are very excited about some of the new music programming this year. Music classes have been designed for first and second grades. The students now have one period a week for different types of music exploration with Ms.Smith. In this way, Ms. Smith can build relationships and a level of musical engagement to support their formal strings experience approaching in third grade. Please stay tuned for more information on the music program!
This year, we have extended our math and language arts subject programming in the middle school. Ms. Reiss teaches the skills math periods for the sixth grade class; in addition, she teaches students who are at a seventh grade math level. Mrs. McGaunn teaches the eighth grade math classes, and Mrs. Weiderhold teaches the eighth grade language arts classes.
Further support in middle school is the new Cyber Civics program which is being rolled out in its entirety this year. Middle school students have one period a week dedicated to this subject, taught by Dirk Tiede. Cyber Civics is a comprehensive program designed to teach middle school students the essential critical thinking and ethical skills that are necessary for navigating our increasingly technological world though lessons in ethics, civics, information literacy and media literacy. Very little of the time is actually spent using a computer, and most of the time is spent discussing and working collaboratively on related topics. From a piece written by Mr. Tiede:
“The sixth grade year focuses on citizenship, ethics and understanding the technology we use, starting with a brief history of how technology has impacted civilization throughout history. Then the students learn how a computer works before moving into the basics of citizenship, both online and off. The second half of the year deals with online identities, digital reputations, privacy and how to deal with cyberbullying using hands-on group activities, discussions and role-playing to challenge students’ critical thinking and ethical problem-solving. The seventh and eighth grade classes focus on online community, information literacy and media literacy with the goal of developing a better relationship with our devices and moving from being a passive consumer of media to active, creative participants in a community. The program begins by examining how we use technology and how much time we spend on media consumption to find a balance. Then lessons turn to online citizenship, reputations, cyberbullying, and privacy issues. The second half of the year deals with information literacy, with lessons on using search engines, sorting good information from bad, spotting fake news, good online research practices, copyright, fair use and plagiarism. The final unit is on media literacy, covering media stereotypes, manipulative advertising, memes, remix culture, sexting and trolls. The course culminates in a final project where the students will use their digital tools creatively to make something entirely their own, whether it’s writing a story, composing music, starting a blog, or making a video.
We are excited to be one of the only schools in the area to offer this important program, because it helps the students develop discernment when being exposed to the digital world as they begin using networked technology in high school and into college.”
We continue to bolster our academic programs in all grades with the support of Ms. Marsh, our Learning Support Liaison. Ms. Marsh is in the classrooms more this year, supporting several main lessons and skills classes throughout the grades. In addition, Ms. Marsh works closely with Ms. McGaunn in designing and implementing assessments, and she continues to support students in all grades through our Education Support team. Ms. Marsh continues to tutor students and work closely with parents and teachers in support of student success at school, and we are grateful for her increased time with us this year.
October 16, 2017 Program Updates
Branigan Reed is currently the carrying teacher for the third grade class. With her strong teaching background, resourcefulness, care for the children and collaborative team spirit, Branigan has been the ideal support for this class. The second and third graders start their day together, then parting for the the 3rd graders to work with their block teacher for main lesson. After main lesson, the second and third grade come back together for snack and several other classes throughout the day. Thus far, Coleen Ryan and Sabrina Babcock have been their first two block teachers. The students also work with Vanya Yoors for recorder and painting and Signe Motter for form drawing. We have received positive feedback on the program, and we continue to search for a class teacher who will be the perfect fit for this wonderful group of students and parents.
Currently, we do not have an official seventh grade. Over the summer, we designed a program to accommodate the Carrington-House family and the Thomas family. As a result, the Carrington-House family joined Signe Motter and the sixth grade, and the Thomas family joined the eighth grade with Mr. Yoors. We have carefully worked out the curriculum details as this is a very unique situation for our school and these families. We are grateful these two families remained committed to their Waldorf journey through the end of their elementary school years.
Science in Nature
When we were considering new programming for all of the grades, we envisioned the children having more time to be outside and engaging in meaningful work while learning about the world. Ideally, we hoped this would include healthy movement, in some form. We envisioned an extension of our existing Science in Nature program, which Coleen Ryan explains below:
Science in Nature: Autumn Update
Coleen Ryan – Science in Nature Coordinator
This year each grade has two periods weekly devoted to Science in Nature. This program aims to use the rich natural setting of Moraine Farm to enhance and supplement the existing science curriculum, carried by the class teachers throughout the year.
Over the past few weeks, I have been working collaboratively with class teachers to identify areas in their curriculum which can be reviewed or previewed to deepen the science understanding for the students. This includes making thoughtful observations, asking questions, and being curious about the world. These skills will support the students in their detailed lab investigations and reports which are an integral part of the middle school program in astronomy, physics, chemistry, and meteorology.
While first and second grade is learning what it means to be part of a community outside their home, as they look into community aspects within their own lives, they compare with what they observe in as examples of community in nature. Moraine Farm has a diverse population of animals, and I will talk about them with the children in a way that that engages their imagination and helps them make connections with the outdoors. We have been noticing the plants and animals are now preparing for their transition to winter. We will pay close attention to seasonal signs and changes happening all around us.
In the third grade, the focus will remain on horticulture and agriculture. We just completed a main lesson block which focused on the soil and its role in the garden. We set up a composting worm bin and learned about the work worms do in aiding the nutrient cycle. We ended the block harvesting the pumpkins for a pumpkin investigation where we made observations and educated guesses regarding the characteristics and properties of each individual’s pumpkin. Soon we will create a layered field compost pile from all of our garden scraps. Over the winter, it will become nutrient-rich soil to be added to our garden beds in the spring. We will continue to care for the plants in the garden and complete final preparations before winter sets in.
Fourth and fifth grades will be looking at the nutrient cycle and the importance the soil plays in our local ecosystem. Related to this will be an insect investigation conducted throughout Moraine Farm and the JC Phillips Preserve. Both grades will be introduced to the different types of trees in the area and the animals and insects who might inhabit them.
The sixth grade will revisit some of the concepts from fifth grade botany and will learn about forest ecology. This will include the parts of the tree and their functions, moss, and lichen. There will be nature journaling to encourage direct observation. Creatively led observations such as these will help the students develop observation skills. Check out this article which looks at the connection between art and science.
Eighth grade is ready to look beyond the school and neighborhood. Recently they have written letters introducing themselves to students at a primary school in Livingstone, Zambia; we are excitedly awaiting their reply. I will be challenging the class with team-building exercises that will focus on their eyes and ears. These are two sense organs they will be learning more specifically about this year. We will take a look at the water cycle, our local watershed, and the water quality and distribution of the water in Lake Wenham. This will include a field trip to the water filtration plant across the lake to see first hand how a local water source is transformed into drinking water.
In addition to the above, all classes have an opportunity to explore the Moraine Farm property and adjacent JC Phillips Preserve. We are fortunate to have these trails and many acres of local woodlands and wetlands at our disposal. I hope that by encouraging exploration of the outdoors with their senses, a heightened experience of the world will occur. I am so grateful to help facilitate deep, meaningful experiences that will translate later in life to stewardship and care for the earth.
September’s mild weather has been an ideal backdrop for the start of the school year and the collective work accomplished in the garden. We have successfully harvested garlic, butternut squash, and pumpkins. Over 20 pumpkins were grown and each one either found a home with a sixth grader or became the subject of a third grader’s pumpkin investigation. Of course, eating the roasted seeds was also part of the enjoyment for grades 1-3 and the massive batch of squash muffins made by third grade was enjoyed by all. We also provided a plentiful food source of colorful flowers for the bees residing on Moraine Farm.
Each class has done its share of weeding, watering, turning soil, and adding rich compost to the garden beds. We also experienced quite a population of squash bugs. There was a concerted effort rounding them up to protect our squash from damage. Next year we will know to keep an eye out for them in the spring and not let them get so settled in. We recently planted beets, which have a small hoop house built by the eighth grade to ensure that when a frost does arrive we can protect them until harvest in mid -November. We planted garlic for next fall and winter wheat for July. It’s fun to watch these plants start to grow quickly and then slow down over winter in the garden.
Last spring, the Kindergarten planted several sunflowers which have grown to be taller than all of us and are just now going to seed. These seeds will soon be collected and planted again next spring. The Nursery too has a special plot in the garden, where they have prepared their bed, and planted kale and other leafy greens.
In the next newsletter, we will share information on our new instrumental music program led by Marshunda Smith and the enhanced middle school programming. Stay tuned!