Unit Two Curriculum
Your children’s teachers will soon send home overviews and calendars for their Unit II courses of study. Eighth grade Humanities will be exploring the theme of Order. While learning about the culture and ideas of ancient Greece, they will focus on the development of democracy. They will read Lord of the Flies, which is about what can happen when chaos replaces order. In groups students will create our own Greek city-state which will strive to function well for its people. This project will culminate in a summit and feast. In Unit 2, the 8th grade students will be working in two major areas: a study of structures and structural engineering, as well as the beginning of their research and writing for the Expert Project. After exploring the nature of structures, what makes them strong and how they fail, the students will use what they have learned to design and build a full-sized cardboard chair as their final project. The sixth and seventh grade unit is called “Change” with a focus in Humanities on the process of change in our own lives, and how we respond to the issues of conflict and freedom that it stirs up. In the case of
US history, students will study about what happened in America during the critical years of 1855-1865, the decade that includes the Civil War. They will form small reading groups to read a self-selected book and a historical fiction, and as a class, they will read Bull Run. Students will write a book review, an original vignette, and a research paper about a social reformer. In
Science, 6th and 7th students will be embarking on a study of simple machines and the mechanical advantage that they provide. Additionally, students will explore Archimedes and his contributions to simple machines as well as Rube Goldberg and his over-exaggerated, not so simple machines!
The inaugural book club meeting will take place Wednesday, November 29 during recess. Restart by Gordon Korman is about a teenage boy named Chase who is involved in an accident that results in amnesia. He is forced to begin his life again but this is difficult because he discovers that prior to his accident, he had earned the reputation as the school bully. Chase now must choose whether or not to continue to be a negative force in people’s lives or to change his ways. The club is voluntary and will also meet once in the winter and again in the spring.
We are excited for the start of the WMS basketball season. WMS supports three basketball teams: Girls’ Varsity, Boys’ Varsity and a Coed JV team. All games are noted on the school calendar. On the WMS website you will find our Athletic Philosophy and Mission Statement. Please take a look: http://www.washingtonmontessori.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Athletic_Mission_web.pdf
It’s wonderful for parents and students to have an opportunity to cheer on our Middle School basketball teams. We do, however, have guidelines we would like everyone to observe:
- No food or drinks allowed in the gym.
- Children must remain with their parents at all times.
- Spectators must stay in the bleachers, both at half-time and during the game.
We love to see you at games, and helping in these ways makes it more fun for the coaches and teams.
WMS Ski Race Team will be offered to 5th-8th graders this winter season. Practices and races will be held at Mohawk Mountain on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays with pick-up at WMS at 6:00 pm. This is a development program for students who are proficient at skiing all runs at Mohawk and are interested in ski racing. John Lee will be the coach on the mountain and Nora Hulton will be the driver and dry-land coach here at WMS. If your child is interested, and you have not done so already, please let Greg know ASAP.
Middle School Dance
On Friday, December 1 our Eighth Grade class will be hosting the first Middle School dance of the year. There will be music in the Middle School Commons, as well as a room set up for games and talking. Middle School students are encouraged to attend, but guests from outside the school are not allowed. The dance will begin at 7:00 and end at 9:00. Parents should know that we lock the front doors of the school at about 7:15 and open them back up at 8:45. If you need to get into the school between these hours, come up the back stairs to Middle School and knock on the double doors. Eighth Grade students responsible for cleanup should plan to be picked up at 9:30.
The annual Polar Plunge is happening Sunday, December 3 at the Lake Waramaug State Park Beach! The Polar Plunge is a fun event that supports an important initiative: the Washington Montessori School Community Partnership Program (WMSCPP). Students (aged 6 & up) are encouraged to take the plunge! You can register to plunge for $20 or get friends to sponsor you. You will receive a commemorative tee-shirt, complimentary snacks AND ULTIMATE BRAGGING RIGHTS! We hope to see you all there!
Holiday in the Depot
The Middle School Chorus will have an opportunity to sing at the Tree Lighting Ceremony for Holiday in the Depot on Friday, Dec. 8th at 5:30 PM. Singers should meet at the Town Hall in Washington Depot. Please dress warmly and be prepared to sing two or three songs in performance as well as to lead a few carols. All WMS families are encouraged to attend.
Middle School Play
This year’s play is The Emperor’s New Clothes, directed by Laura Hutchins. Rehearsals take place Tuesdays and Fridays after school until December 8. From December 11 – 14 rehearsals will take place during the school day. The performances will be on Thursday, December 14 at 1:30 and 7:00 p.m. Laura depends on parent help to do a good job with these plays, so please contact her (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you can volunteer your time. We need you!
Middle School progress reports will be sent home the week before winter break. This progress report covers the work your children did during the fall and is considered an informal communication between teachers, parents and students. It does not become part of any permanent record. The one exception to this involves only Eighth Grade students. This first report is forwarded to high schools during the application process. Our second written report comes at the end of the year. This one is a cumulative report and becomes part of every student’s permanent record.
We are offering a new opportunity for aspiring thespians starting in January. Laura Hutchins will be running a theater lab Fridays in January and February and then both Tuesdays and Fridays after March break. The lab class will culminate with an evening sharing for parents on May 3. Like music lab, theater lab is designed for students with a keen interest in honing their craft. Students will be expected to design solo projects or find a small group with whom to work. Laura will be coaching and directing them in achieving their own goals.
Fall Semester Music Sharing
Parents are invited to the MS Commons on Friday, January 19th at 2:30pm. All students will have an opportunity to share the music that they studied and practiced (guitar and drumming) during the first half of the year.
Science Week and Rube Goldberg Exhibition Night
Our annual Middle School Science Fair will be taking on a new life this year. On Thursday evening, January 25, all sixth and seventh grade students will have a chance to share their Rube Goldberg style contraptions utilizing at least three simple or compound machines. During the Exhibition students will have a chance to display their creations and discuss the design process involved. On Friday, January 26, younger students at WMS will have an opportunity to visit and view our Middle School designs.
It is our expectation that students spend an hour and a half to two hours each night on schoolwork (five nights a week). As parents, you can help by making sure your schedule allows this. We find that at the beginning of the year everything takes longer and that we seem to become more efficient when we get into the swing of things. If your child is regularly spending more time on homework than two hours (or much less than that!) please let us know. We don’t want that.
Middle School Life Skills Program
Montessori philosophy stresses that education serves children best when developmental tendencies are taken into consideration to foster positive growth. As most of you are beginning to notice, the forces of adolescence are strong. During this stage, children are consumed with a desire to understand themselves and where they fit into the world. It can be a time fraught with sensitivity and confusion, and importantly sets the stage for the passage to adulthood. At WMS, we set aside two classes weekly (Life Skills) designed to support our students as they deal with the social and emotional issues of growing up. Life Skills classes meet by grade: Sixth, Seventh and Eighth separately. Sondra leads this program with support from Tom, Nora and Annie who each teach part of this curriculum.
The theme for Sixth Grade Life Skills is joining the Middle School community. During weekly meetings we focus on respectful communication, acceptance of individual differences, and the peaceful resolution of conflict. The class practices these skills in two challenging group projects: 1) running a pizza business for the school and 2) serving as leaders in the WMS garden project, from planting to harvesting.
Seventh Grade Life Skills uses a program called “The Hero’s Journey”. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell notes that every culture features stories of the hero, who undergoes a series of trials to emerge changed, wiser, and more fulfilled. Campbell pointed out that these myths offer lessons for the challenges we all face in life. Our curriculum focuses specifically on the changes that take place from childhood to adulthood. Our goal is to help students understand and know how to handle the roadblocks that inevitably arise during these years.
Eighth Grade Life Skills focuses on the question “What is my connection to and responsibility for, the world outside WMS?” We begin the year with discussions about the class’s rights and responsibilities as leaders within our own community. Just recently, Eighth Graders extended themselves into our local community with a three-day internship. Throughout their Eighth Grade year, students are looking outside WMS at the schools they will attend next. The culmination of the Eighth Grade year is a class trip. More information about this year’s trip will be forthcoming!
In addition to these areas of discussion, specific health issues are addressed at each grade level. Alcohol and drug education, decision-making, body image and human sexuality are all covered. Health and sexuality issues will be discussed in seventh and eighth grade Life Skills during the winter and spring terms. Sixth grade Life Skills will not begin this portion of the curriculum until spring when they cover puberty. We tell you this because it’s a good time to initiate some family discussions about these topics. We recommend the What’s Happening to my Body? books written by Lynda Madaras, Area Madaras and Simon Sullivan. There is a book for girls and another one for boys. If you haven’t purchased these, now might be the time.
Eighth Grade Expert Project
With the second unit of the year, 8th Grade students are beginning research for their Expert Projects. This long-term project mostly takes place during the third unit, but we thought it would help to give you some basic information now. The climax of the project will be the publication of each student’s research and a formal presentation on the evening of April 19. We set aside time at school to help students do research, read, make note cards, and organize their information, but they will also need to work on this project at home. We expect students to go to the public library to find books, reference works, and articles from magazines and newspapers. Videos and audiotapes are also acceptable sources of information. During Unit II students will be learning how to use the library and how to get help from the library’s staff.
Each student will be expected to write letters to experts in their fields. Locating willing experts can sometimes be difficult, so any contacts that parents have would be helpful to all of us. We recommend that the 8th Graders begin their search for experts by using the authors of the articles they’ve read. Faculty at colleges and universities and private professionals are also experts that can help. We will be sending out a list of topics soon. If you have connections or expertise in any of these fields, please let Tom know.
With a belief in the value of fresh air and exercise, we expect students to go outside during recess time. Because this time of year can be cold and wet, we impress on students the importance of coming to school dressed appropriately. Boots, hats, coats and gloves are highly recommended. We know that Middle School students dress themselves, but please do what you can to send them to school prepared for the weather. All of our students have lockers, so extra clothing can easily be stored.
Snow Day Academics
In Middle School, students are expected to follow their workplans, even on snow days. Keeping learning consistent and continuous is important in these years. We remind students to bring home all of their books when there is inclement weather in the forecast so they are prepared for any eventuality. Please help your students by reminding them to check their email on snow day mornings for messages from their teachers and please also encourage them to get in touch with teachers if they are unclear as to the expectations for the day.
The Dark Days of Winter
As teachers we are committed to keeping in touch with our parents. That said, please call or e-mail whenever you have questions or concerns. Every middle school teacher has email and voicemail and checks messages daily. The more information we have about your child, the better we are able to understand and make sure that their experience at WMS is both successful and pleasurable.
Eighth Graders organized and collected seeds for the Casa de los Niños Montessori School in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. The project was the brainstorm of the 8th grade Spanish students, who after learning about the hurricane damage to the erdkinder garden program, decided to organize their middle school/upper el peers to help. Students who chose to dress up for Halloween donated either seed packets or money. The result was an abundance of seed packets and even some money for garden tools. Thank you to everyone who supported and participated in this endeavor.