Garden Club Continues the Ecolet Expansion

Garden Club continues to lead the way with multiple opportunities during I block to design and plant the ever-expanding Ecolet. We are excited to show this progress and will keep updating you as we go!

8th Grade connects with Primary School

As a part of our Morning of Gratitude, 8th-grade advising groups worked in classrooms with Grades K-2. Our students are the ideal age to share stories, play math games and do other language-based learning activities with our youngest Viewpoint students. The energy, responsibility and genuine interest our students showed the Primary Students was a terrific way to start the Thanksgiving holiday.

Giving is Receiving

On Tuesday, November 21, the entire Middle School came together to celebrate our annual Morning of Gratitude. The Eighth Grade spent their morning reading with Primary School students, Seventh Grade facilitated the West Valley Food Pantry Food Drive, and the Sixth Grade worked collectively to help plant and support the expansion of our Ecolet, all supported by our Middle School faculty, advisors and facilities staff.

Students planting in the Ecolet.

Students box food collected for the West Valley Food Pantry.

It is through these activities that our students begin to understand the value and benefits of a positive sense of self, a sense of optimism, and knowing the importance of helping others. We cherish our community and all we have to be thankful for!

Middle School Ecolet volunteers taking a short break with Mr. Yates.


Student Digital Portfolios: Reflecting On the Process

On Tuesday, Middle School faculty were treated to a short video tour and demonstration by math and design teacher Lara Didden of a teacher-managed student digital portfolio platform.

Students of Ms. Didden’s classes are piloting Seesaw, a tool designed to facilitate reflection and discussion of the learning process between student, teacher and parents. In the short time since Seesaw has been introduced, Ms. Didden’s students have begun posting feedback on what they’ve enjoyed most in the class, what they would like more of, reflections on what they’ve learned, and brief video presentations (approximately 30 seconds long) of projects. While students can see both their own and classmates’ posts, parents can view only their own child’s portfolio.

Thanks to the implementation of our student laptop program this fall, we are excited to see classrooms engage in new methods to support student reflection on their learning! Digital portfolios are one way for students to deepen their learning, both from presenting the completed product (the poster or project) and from appreciating the “productive mistakes” (those “next time I’ll try this differently!” experiences) and the creation process itself.

Thank you, Ms. Didden and students, for sharing your work!

Engagement in action: Breakout EDU in the Middle School math classroom

It’s 8:20 a.m. Monday morning, and Ms. Skahan’s math class is bustling with activity. What could possibly have students so enthused to be back in class at this hour of the morning after a surely action-packed weekend?

On this morning, I was privileged to witness engagement in action, as Ms. Skahan’s Algebra class was about to embark on a Breakout EDU activity. Today’s mission: collaborate in teams to solve puzzles, each of which would provide a “key” necessary to open a series of locks in a race to open a locked box.

After a quick explanation of the rules of the game, the students were set loose to begin the challenge. Under their seats were packets containing each group’s mission–er, materials–, and students had the opportunity to use a limited supply of “hints,” but ONLY if all group members agreed to use that hint. Game on!

As the students worked, Ms. Skahan circulated to observe progress and assist, if needed. As teams found solutions to each puzzle, they went to the box and attempted to open one of the locks–sometimes with success, and sometimes learning they weren’t quite there yet. As when playing any game, occasional setbacks were to be expected, making each hard-earned lock opened that much more gratifying!

Though I could not stay to watch the challenge come to its conclusion, the box was finally opened by a determined group…

…and the near successes of other teams were equally (and humorously) celebrated!

The rest of the day was abuzz with students from other blocks approaching Ms. Skahan to ask, “Will we get to do that Breakout game in our class, too?”

Why are games such a powerful way to learn? As Jane McGonigal, PhD, author of SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully, asserts, “Being ‘gameful’ means bringing the psychological strengths you naturally display when you play games–such as optimism, creativity, courage, and determination–to your real life.” Similarly, in Neuroteach, Glenn Whitman and Ian Kelleher explain that play and other activities that boost positive mood, keep students engaged, and reward effort over perceived “intrinsic talent” are ingredients to successful learning.

So, let’s play!