Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spring Has Sprung (Finally)!

Spring is finally in the air here at Barnard and as the snow melts and the weather warms we have put away the sleds and look forward to kick-ball and playing in our amazing playground during recess and outdoor PE classes.  According to Mrs. Ryan’s Kindergarten and First Graders, April 1st was the 150th day of our school year and therefore well into the third trimester of school.
       Our second term ended on March 12, which led to Parent Conferences on the evening of Wednesday March 19.  Due to Mrs. Jones’ always skillful scheduling, our teachers had nearly full dance cards and were able to fit in every parent who needed time even if it meant missing dinner, staying late, or coming in early later in the week for those who just couldn’t make it on that night.  We continue to look at the formatting and the Middle School Team is looking at ways to organize a “round-robin” setup next time to maximize face-time with parents and eliminate downtime while teachers are waiting to speak.  Elementary teachers will be looking at ways to extend appointment times and flexibility to accommodate those who need more than the currently allotted 10-minute blocks.  Time can always be made available if parents have concerns that require a longer session.
       As we approach the 2014-2015 school year the staff has been meeting regularly with administration and communicating to the School Board in a process to look at how we configure our students.  This is our second year combining K-1 in the morning and 1-2 in the afternoon and this is a great time to begin reflecting on the change.  Since this has been a school of combined classes for a number of years, it is appropriate to periodically (even annually) look at how these grades are combined based on shifting populations, individual student needs, and grade-level curricula.  This is a particularly valuable use of our time as we move to Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and Smarter-Balanced Assessments.
       Updating our field trip schedule, Grades K-4 visited Strawbery Banke on March 21 and had an extensive program for the day to accommodate all ages. History Explorers is: “a three-hour program that introduces students to the colonial time period as they compare and contrast life in the past to their modern experiences.  During the program, the group heard a story about a colonial boy’s day in Williamsburg, VA.  Each group then engaged in five different activities to bring the time period and elements of the story to life.”  Grades 5-8 will be touring the Freedom Trail on Tuesday May 20.  We have arranged a 1 and ½ hr. guided tour from Boston Commons visiting 11 of the 16 Trail Sites concluding with lunch at Faneuil Hall. After lunch we will visit Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church, Bunker Hill, and will rejoin our bus at the Constitution.  As reported  whole school has tickets to a 10:30 Fischer Cats game on Wednesday May 14 and we are all looking forward to cheering on our NH team vs. the Reading Phillies.  Parents will be invited to join us at the game!
       Our Mr. Asbell continues to be busy sharing his Aquaponic and other hands-on projects with a recent presentation at the NELMS (New England League of Middle Schools) annual conference.  Chris also is a finalist for the Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical and interviewed on Monday March 31.  We are proud that he has this opportunity to share his work here at schools throughout the state and wish him the best, although he will be sorely missed during his year away from us if he is fortunate enough to be awarded the sabbatical.   I will keep you posted on his progress.

From Mrs. Sheckells: Where art and science meet.
       “Students in my middle school art classes are working on a project that stresses observational drawing and use of the microscope. They studied the installation art of artist, Anna Dumitriu. Ms Dumitriu has an interest in microbes and has launched an exhibit that combines medical artifacts from early TB treatment procedures and textiles sometimes actually colored by microbes. Students reviewed microscope skills with grade 8 mentoring grades 5 and 6. Student work will soon be displayed of what they saw under the microscope. Mr. Asbell contributed to this project and stresses the same observational skills in his student science sketchbooks.”

From Mrs. Wooten: Music Class
       “Grades 5-8 music technology classes have been learning to edit short films and then add soundtracks and effects in GarageBand. Grades 5 and 6 students will film their own video next week, and learn how to edit in iMovie and then add/sync a soundtrack in GarageBand as well. Grades 7 and 8 are continuing to create music "remixes" using stems from various composers' works. They will then create a short video to enhance their music. In all of these projects, we continue to explore copyright protection and digital citizenship.
       Grades 1 and 2 have been studying how composers use music to tell a story, in works such as "Carnival of the Animals" and "Peter and the Wolf". Next week we begin writing our own musical animal story - selecting various percussion instruments to represent the animals of our choosing for each movement. We will video record our final performance.
       Grades 3 and 4 have been using technology to review the names of notes on the staff, and how music is layered and composed. Next week we will return to our recorders, where we will apply what we have learned to playing that instrument in small groups using our "recorder karate" incentive book!
       All student projects will be shared at our upcoming "Celebration of Learning" open house on Monday, May 19.”

From Mrs. Moran: Grades 3 & 4
       “All students in grades three and four have been using their Google accounts to communicate with their teacher as well as to create documents.  In fact most writing this year has been done on the computer. Recently, students created poems based on My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss.  One sample is attached.  Students incorporated searching the internet to find images that complemented their poems.
       Third and fourth grade students just completed an integrated unit that involved research, persuasive writing, reasoning and computation.  The task was to research a breed of dog that was appropriate for their family, decide on fencing options based on the needs of the breed, calculate the perimeter and cost of the fencing and finally write a persuasive letter to their parents.  It was interesting to see how they applied their math skills.
       Finally, many third and fourth graders have been reading novels and contributing to class blogs.  Third graders are reading Matilda by Roald Dahl and fourth graders are reading Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan. Guests who would like to view the blogs, logon with userid Guest, password Guest.”
From Mrs. Casassa: Grades 5-8 Language Arts
       “The upper grades students have been busy in Language Arts this month.  After listening to Tom Newkirk’s presentation this fall and reading The Art of Slow Reading, the deliberate act of memorizing a piece of writing became a goal this year in Language Arts.  Over the last month, students have been studying poetry and each student has chosen a poem to memorize.  At the start of writing class each day, students go to their “poetry outloud” spot and recite their poem, adding a couple new lines every day.  Recently, each student was given an opportunity to practice what he or she had already learned in front of the class.  It was amazing to listen to them recite from memory a Shakespearean sonnet, Robert Frost poems, William Carlos Williams and other famous poems and poets.  Students will be performing at a school wide poetry slam later on this month.   They have also been writing their own poetry which some may share as well. 
       Before their poetry study, students in grades 5-8 studied argument writing and were introduced to the art of debate.  Students practiced by arguing whether the Tree in The Giving tree was strong or weak.  From there they debated whether chocolate milk should be allowed in school.  Teams researched the topic, wrote opening and closing statements and prepared counter claims.  They spent several days presenting their case to the rest of the group. 
       Grade 5 and 6 students have started blogging!  They all created blogs this winter and have started to post their technology projects and write about their independent reading on their new blogs.  All the students are finishing up their book talks.  They wrote book talks “selling” their book and have recorded these talks on Garage Band and put them into an iMovie for easy listening.  Check out grades 7 and 8 Book Talks on their blogs.
       It has been an exciting and productive time of learning in Language Arts.  Please visit the class and student blogs and view the work in the hallways.  We are proud of all we have accomplished so far this year!”

       Another sign of spring is PTA’s preparation for their signature Blaze the Trail 5K scheduled this year for Saturday May 3. It’s time for me to get on the road and start training and hopefully the snow will be gone from the trails by then!  In addition to this the PTA continues to meet regularly to plan events and activities to support our school like the recent Book Sale and refreshments during Parent Conferences, which the students and parents always enjoy.  The sale netted over $350 for teachers to select books for use in the classroom.  Thanks so much!
       That’s another snapshot (more like a whole portfolio) of goings-on here, and future events at school. Please continue visit our school website along with webpages and blogs by the staff and myself for updates, event photos, and examples of student work. 


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