In my first letter this year I shared a story of how teachers remarked that the new building called on them to elevate their practice. Just a few months into the school year and a symphony of teaching and learning play in classrooms across Middle School.
The start of the new year, 5780, may be marked by a symphony of instruction. Walk through our classrooms and you will see our middle schoolers engaged as they think critically and often wrestle with challenges. In a 6th-grade history rotation anchored in the Great Migration, students are thinking like historians as they read A Few Red Drops, The Chicago Race Riots of 1919 by Claire Hartfield. While history has a solo in this symphony, social-emotional learning, as well as reading strategies, carry the song. It is here that we see students apply their skills gained in reading and advisory. Cause and effect, turning points, perspective and inferencing are the foundation of questions leading students to dig into the past and apply their knowledge to the future. Together as a class, they begin to see the role they will play in the future.
Deep thinking and hypothesizing is already the norm in our new science lab. Just this week, 7th graders wrapped up a lab where they questioned states of matter. The design of our lab allows for students to gather their materials and spread out while still having power sources. Perhaps most important, students have space with different seating options to have meaningful conversations with their peers and teachers, while others continue working. Using a Pasco Temperature Probe connected to new science laptops, students collect data to observe changes in states of matter. Looking at the data, they wrestled with questions like:
Do substances have specific melting points and boiling points? Why? What happens at the atomic level when something melts or boils? What does this mean? What does it look like if I zoom in on a molecule of ice? Is it possible to see water in a gaseous form?
As our historians and scientists inquire, next door in our new music room, 5th-grade band students work to play the feelings of Midnight Mission by David Balmages. As they play alongside the metronome, they are asked to listen and notice. Students take time to infer what a midnight mission sounds like as they visualize creeping, tip-toeing and moving quickly and seamlessly. Their interpretation leads to playing more staccato or quickly tapping the note rather than dragging it out. Students also adjust their volume timing. With each adjustment, not only does the music come together, but so does the classroom community.
These learning experiences travel with our students to high school and beyond. Just today, alumni returned on their day off to help unpack and set up our new innovation lab with our science team. Their excitement over this new space and the tools and technology for classrooms to use was felt by all. In the months ahead as our teachers and students work to compose our next symphony of learning, our alumni will continue to come back, remembering the impact of learning experiences and their teachers who conduct daily with knowledge, creativity, passion, and heart.