Learning Updates for Week of April 13 to 17

April 17, 2020

With the switch to offsite learning due to the coronavirus outbreak, our faculty will be sharing various curriculum highlights from their “classrooms” over the coming weeks.

Eighth Graders Explore Community Poem on Isolation

In eighth grade English, students read and discussed the community poem, “Social Distance” by Kwame Alexander, author of many popular books including The Crossover and Booked. (Alexander was one of the keynote speakers at the 2019 AISNE Middle School Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Conference hosted at BDS.) The community poem was the result of an exercise done recently on National Public Radio. Listeners were asked to write poems about two paintings and then Alexander took lines from those submissions to create a new poem. The two paintings were of women looking out of windows, which is also a theme in our current novel study, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Using “Social Distance” as a source for inspiration, each eighth grader wrote an original poem connected to their experience during this period of social distancing. They also had the option to include a visual along with the poem. Students did a virtual gallery walk of one another’s poems and artwork.

– Elisabeth Klock, grades 7 & 8 English teacher

Fifth Grade Researches the Respiratory System

To wrap up their study of the human respiratory system, fifth graders are embarking on an independent research project of their choice. Some students are researching the dangers of vaping and creating an ad campaign to target teenagers, while others are researching the respiration of a marine animal and building a Google site. There are also options for our scientists who prefer creating to research as some students are building a sculpture of the respiratory system using items they already have in their homes. Others are writing and performing educational songs to teach about the respiratory system. Stay tuned for an update on the amazing results!

– Emma Nairn, grade 5 math and science teacher

Second Grade Expresses Gratitude

The students in second grade have been keeping their eyes on the helpers around us and talking about the importance of saying thank you. They have been working on a project to express gratitude to all of the people in our community who are working hard to keep us safe and healthy every day. They would love some help testing their hypothesis that gratitude is contagious, so join them in expressing gratitude to the essential workers in our community–and please pass it on! Thank you!

– Nancy Fell and Sunny Lee, grade 2 teachers

Arts: Trying Their Hands At Drawing … Hands

In the drawing elective, seventh and eighth graders meet once a week to go over assignments, share drawings, and talk about drawing techniques and weekly studio work. This week, students were challenged to draw hands from observation. They could either draw their non-drawing hand, while carefully observing the contours, details, and shading, or they could take a photograph of a hand and draw from the photographic image. Each student rendered two drawings, a hand in a “pose” and a hand doing an activity. Artists also included an artist statement with each artwork to reflect on their process and finished work.

Students were inspired by other artists’ drawings of hands including Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, and Jean-Auguste Dominique. In addition, they created value scales where they practiced hatching (the use of lines), pressure strokes (the pressure applied to the pencil), and any other shading techniques made up of groupings of shapes and marks that are placed close together and farther apart to create lights and darks.

– Kathy Jo Solomon, visual arts teacher

Learning the Alphabet … in French

Third grade students are now learning the alphabet in French so that they will ultimately be able to spell words in the language. Recently they learned a silly poem (click here for video example) and are now playing games such as “portrait of a letter.” In that game, a student chooses a secret letter and the other person(s) take guesses of what it might be. The game leader gives information in French if the letter is avant (before) or après (after) the one they guessed. In class, we have also played “string a spider” in which we chose vocabulary words from objects around the room. These simple games go a long way in language learning and developing leadership skills.

– Nathalie Pellenq, lower school and grade 6 French teacher 

The second grade class poses together at Gaining Ground.


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By John O'Neill, athletics director |

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