FALL PROGRESS REPORT (Sept. 6, 2016-Nov. 18, 2016)
In less than three months, we have made a lot of academic and social progress! The Eddy School is efficient with its structure so that we can accomplish an incredible amount of work-- and still have lots of time for experiential learning, fun, and games. Every Thursday morning, we take time to learn new games and play old favorites. (See me for holiday gift ideas for your children if you need some!) Snack break is typically spent playing outside, and the first part of our lunch break includes a 15-minute active group game that the students are in charge of choosing. As students are supported to learn time management skills and processes that work for them, they find they are able to spend less time completing homework (of course, they are always reading!), and are able to enjoy their weekends and vacations without a heavy load of academic expectations, while still maintaining a vigorous academic load.
Our science unit focused on sound this fall. Students kept a science journal, making entries that describe the various experiments they performed and analyzed. Because we are a 4H Tech Wizard school, we were able to enjoy an overnight community-building trip to the Blueberry Cover 4H camp in September where we focused on group dynamics, sound, and explored a little bit of the marine science that abounds in that location.
History took us through the times of British Imperialism, the Crimean War, Antebellum America, and the beginnings of the Civil War. We use literature as a window into the time periods we study and supplement this with weekly passages that relate to the time periods, summarizing, discussing, completing copywork, and practicing dictation through these short readings. Students read Around the World in 80 Days, The Jungle Book, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to enrich their understanding of the stories behind these historical time periods and to focus on how authors use metaphor and symbolism to express ideas . On our latest trip to Portland, we explored an old fort that was used to house confederate prisoners during the Civil War.
Using the Institute For Excellence in Writing’s programs (IEW), students at The Eddy School learn structural and stylistic elements that give them a solid foundation for writing a variety of papers. Eighth-graders are provided with the opportunity to write a complete novel in the month of November, participating in National Novel Writer’s Month (ywp.NaNoWriMo.org) each year, a time for them to focus on fluency and plot structure with the challenge of meeting a word-count goal for the month. The IEW program presents a minimum of one writing assignment per week, which focuses on a new element of structure or style while retaining all that have already been introduced so students become proficient through repetition and revision.
I read aloud almost every day, while students practice cursive handwriting, which also happens most mornings (except Handwriting Free Fridays) with the copying of the quote of the day in cursive into a quote journal. I have read Things Fall Apart (which went along with our study of Imperialism), Towers Falling, and have started A Wrinkle in Time this trimester. Reading novels of their choice on a regular basis complements the more focused study of literature we do as a whole group. Students read three free-choice books this term (including their summer read), completing and presenting a synopsis analysis of each one. Students fine-tune their language arts skills by using readtheory.org with weekly goals. This program focuses on analytic reading strategies. Seamlessly, our grammar program, Fix-It Grammar, connects the grammar of classic literature to the IEW writing program so students begin to see how well-known authors (in this case, Mark Twain), use the structural and stylistic elements that we are learning how to use. This term, they focused on identifying subjects and verbs phrases, finding faulty homophones, and copying the sentences into a notebook with proper paragraphing, a skill that is new to many students in this digital day and age. Oral reports are included in our other subject areas so students learn skills to help them present information clearly. To round out our language arts program, students analyze a poem each month and create one of their own. They share poems by select authors at monthly Poet-Teas. And they recite a piece of poetry from memory.
Math skills and thinking strategies are enhanced through daily number talks and critical thinking brain puzzles, small group topic-specific lessons, individualized homework as needed, and the use of ALEKS, “an adaptive, online math program that uses artificial intelligence and open-response questioning to identify precisely what each student knows and doesn't know. Through truly individualized learning and assessment, ALEKS delivers a personalized learning path on the exact topics each student is most ready to learn.” (www.aleks.com)
This year, our independent project structure has each student working on one topic for the entire year, building a cache of projects that will be pulled together into a display to share in May. September’s project was to choose a topic, October’s was a timeline, and November’s is still in progress- a magazine ad based on a piece of fiction that relates to their topic.
Our health focus is on local foods and farmers. Students created a beautiful sampling of delicious treats using food from local farmers at Cafe di Cocoa’s kitchen under the gentle direction of Anna Sysko in early October. They shared these at our fall Open House, along with a variety of displays they created sharing what they learned about eating local foods and supporting local farmers. We have begun our filming for our media literacy project: “Meet Your Local Farmer.” We are creating a movie short that will focus on Laurie Bailey’s MoonDance Farm this year, visiting her farm once a month to ask new questions, film new footage, and learn what it means to be a farmer in western Maine. Our digital literacy skills are an inherent part of this project.
Visual arts, performing arts and word languages round out our learning at The Eddy School. Sara Hemeon of Elements Art Gallery works with the students in a variety of media. Jim McLaughlin of Gould Academy exposes them to a variety of musicians, music theory, and all things musical. And Doug Alford of Gould Academy introduces the language and culture of Spanish-speaking countries. We also had the pleasure of dancing with Juarez Moniz, a professional dancer from Brazil brought to us via Cottage Street Creative Exchange in Norway, ME. We attended Pedal Punk, a fabulous show of music, acrobatics, and dance at Merrill Auditorium. And we were taken back to the time of immigration to the US in the early 1900s through “Living Voices, The New American.” Trips to Portland always include a stop at The Portland Public Market.
Service to our community is important at The Eddy School as well. Students are required to perform at least 10 hours of service, documenting it with pictures and text in an oral presentation to be shared in the spring. As a school, we also give our time in a variety of ways. This fall, we helped to harvest pumpkins at Swain Family Farm. They generously gave us pumpkins to use for jack-o’-lanterns in the Fall Festival we created for visiting Spanish students.
Through our daily morning meeting (which has recently been renamed by the students SCRAM- Schedule, Challenges, Review, Announcements, Morning), class discussions, and impromptu conversations, we take a close look at our life philosophies, our behaviors, and the impact of those on others in our communities- both at The Eddy School and beyond. Guests and parents observe that students at The Eddy School are typically more accepting, more considerate, and more flexible than what they expect middle schoolers to be like. Given the right setting and attention, these behaviors are more likely to be the norm.
Deb Webster, Director