8th Grade Entrepreneurs Swim With the Sharks in Mrs. Skahan’s Stock Market Class

How much would you be willing to invest for a 5% share in 360 View, a company that will allow motorsports enthusiasts to experience a race through a virtual reality interface? Or Freefall Industries, manufacturer of a non-surgically implanted chip to monitor individuals’ safety, blood chemistry and general health? Or, how about a share in Safety First, a company that is designing an automated quick-response system to rescue a home’s inhabitants in case of a fire?

On Thursday of last week, a panel of faculty “sharks” were invited to participate as investors while students in Mrs. Skahan’s Stock Market elective pitched their business plans. These small group presentations included SWOT analyses (“strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats”), projected costs and profits, slogans, logos and marketing plans, and ideas for how to expand upon the initial product offerings given anticipated growth of their companies.

Below are some examples from our student entrepreneurs’ business presentations:

After each pitch, faculty “sharks” had the opportunity to ask questions and either accept the offer, or attempt to negotiate a different one with the student entrepreneurs. Several “companies” left the Stock Market class Shark Tank with an offer for financial backing, and all gained the experience of pitching their ideas, problem-solving and answering questions on the spot from an audience hungry to invest in an innovative idea!

A “Playful” Ending: 6th Graders Visit the Theatricum Botanicum

As we enter the final days of the school year, a much anticipated tradition is our annual 6th grade trip to the Theatricum Botanicum. Enjoying Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in this rustic outdoor theater truly brings our 6th graders’ English curriculum to life, and it’s a wonderful way to welcome in the summer!

Here’s a peek into our day at Topanga Canyon’s outdoor theater:

6th grade students engage in improv games, including this exercise, in which each student was challenged to build upon the previous student’s action with ever greater intensity.

In this game, each student took on an identity in a portrait–as a person, an animal, or an object–and then was challenged to “bring the picture to life” through movement.

Students were finally regaled with a visit by William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth themselves before heading off to small group improv workshops followed by the main event: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Choose Your Own Adventure: Exploring Ancient Rome

Have you ever stumbled across an intriguing article or news story and found yourself so curious that you just had to find out more, looking up individuals mentioned (who was the politician who proposed this new law?) or artifacts (who designed those incredible costumes?) or places (where and when did the last volcanic eruption take place?), until you found yourself exploring something you had previously known nothing about and might never have discovered unless you kept pulling on the “threads” of the initial story?

Now, what if a lesson were designed to spark that inquiry, introducing you to a topic, and then allowing you to follow the trail of the aspects that most piqued your interest?

This is exactly what I observed in Ms. Cutler’s 6th grade history class this week, where I watched students embark on a “choose your own adventure” learning experience. In this unit, students were introduced to several key historical events related to the Roman Empire. After learning about those events, students could then choose which “threads” to follow in order to learn more about the topic.

Once students explored two areas of interest, they were then invited to create a “product” to demonstrate their understanding and to share what they learned with their classmates.

Students quickly set to work with partners creating stories about the historical events through cartoons…

…writing newspaper articles from the perspective of a citizen of ancient Rome…

…and creating short videos about ancient Roman life and cultural artifacts.

I will confess that I found it hard to tear myself away from the history–and stories–explored, including the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and its destruction of Pompeii. I can’t wait to see the final products created by our scholar adventurers!

Extra Credit: Can You Identify This Historical Farming Method?

Fun quiz: What agricultural technique is represented in this very artistic (and, I can attest, quite delicious) baked delight? Scroll down to the bottom for a link to the answer!

Hint: This lovely cake was produced this week for an extra credit assignment by students in Mrs. Levin-Katchinskiy’s 7th grade history class as part of its unit on Mesoamerica.

Think you know the answer? Click here to learn the name of this farming method and how and where it was practiced!

“Flipping” the Classics: Using Edpuzzle to Engage 6th Grade Readers

Students in Ms. Cherie Boss’ 6th grade English class on the day they were introduced to Edpuzzle, an online platform for “flipped” video lessons.

True or false?: For Middle School students, “laptops” and “reading books” don’t mix.

We’ll let you answer that question for yourself after reading this post!

Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting Ms. Cherie Boss’ 6th grade English class as students were being introduced to Edpuzzle, an online platform for teachers to create and share video lessons. In partnership with one of our Middle School math teachers and veteran “flipped” lesson designer, Ms. Kelley Skahan, Ms. Boss designed a plan for her 6th graders to make use of their new access to laptops this year, as well as the Edpuzzle platform, to maximize their engagement in reading The Trojan War.

As any student in Ms. Boss’ classes knows, she is a marvelous story reader! In fact, reading aloud is an important aspect of her approach to developing her students’ reading skills, and it’s a part of her classes that many students eagerly look forward to. (For proof of this, as well as a link to an article on the benefits of reading aloud in the classroom, see our previous post, Puns & Pillows.) That said, listening to a teacher or peers read aloud does require one thing that is in limited supply, and which cannot be replaced for students who are absent: face-to-face time in the classroom.

In considering ways to maximize her students’ exposure to stories read aloud, Ms. Boss decided to record herself reading portions of the book within interactive video clips. As an added bonus, by using technology that allows teachers to create “flipped” lessons, Ms. Boss was able to embed side notes with useful background information to the reading, as well as “check-in” questions at various points in the recording to ensure students’ comprehension.

A screenshot of one of Ms. Boss’ “flipped” readings, showing a side note and places in the recording where check-in questions are posed to students.

So, how is the “flipped” lesson experiment progressing? In Ms. Boss’ words: so far, so great! When students listen to the recordings, answering the intermittent questions, they arrive to class more engaged, full of enthusiasm for the discussion, and reporting that they really enjoyed the book–so much so that many students are choosing to listen to additional recordings that Ms. Boss has posted as optional extra credit. Woohoo!

Mornings with Mr. Bryan: Ending the School Year Strong

As we have reached the point where summer break is so close we can almost taste it, many students are also gearing up with renewed focus for the last stretch of the school year, in which they will be asked to demonstrate on final assessments the ability to recall and apply their understanding of topics considered across a palette of courses throughout the year.

However tempting it can be to “cram” (especially when students feel that they are in a time crunch!), research and years of student experience testify to the fact that this is not the most effective way to achieve mastery or long-term retention.

With this in mind, in our final Mornings With Mr. Bryan, we invited parents to consider with us the research-informed study strategies that have proven to be most effective as we support our students in their preparations over these final weeks of school. By popular request, we have shared our slide show of study tips below. We welcome you to reach out with any questions or to continue the conversation with our Middle School Learning Specialist, Liz Pappademas, your child’s teachers, and any of our Middle School Administrative Team.

We look forward to ending the school year strong before embarking on a summer of great adventures–and a well-deserved break!

Please CLICK to view the full slide presentation from the May 9 Mornings With Mr. Bryan!

Advisory Field Day 2018!

On Tuesday, our Middle School Advisories took part in a Student Council-organized I Block Field Day on Ring Family Field! The contests included a themed-dress competition (of which you can enjoy a marvelous sampling, below); best Advisory cheer; math, spelling and history contests; and physical contests such as the relay and hula races (featured in our video clip). What a spirited way to kick off May!

Ms. Hicks’ “Weekend Workout Warriors”

Marquez’ “Minions”

Mrs. Didden’s Advisory, “Blamo”

Ms. Burch’s Advisory, “Straight Off Da Couch”

The spelling competition was fierce!

Students intensely focused during the history trivia contest…

Middle and Upper School Connections: Team Relay Challenge!

During I block today, members of the Upper School cross country team organized the first annual Team Relay Challenge for 8th grade students! 8th grader were invited to Ring Family Field to engage in a relay race including hula-hooping, tower-building and speed-walking, all hosted by Upper School biology teacher and cross country coach Justin Hackitt and Upper School student organizers.

Not only did our Middle and Upper School students enjoy the beautiful morning (and, of course, treats!), but our 8th graders made connections and engaged in some friendly sportsmanship with Upper School cross country runners–the future teammates of those who choose to take up this discipline- and camaraderie-building sport next year!