Middle School - November 13, 2015

Dear Families,

On Monday we worked on math and listed to our teacher Heidi read to us a New Netherlands Institute time travel story. On Tuesday we went to Fort Crailo in Rensselaer where we took a tour of the place. Later in the day we went to the State Museum and researched some things. On Wednesday we had the day off because of Veterans' Day. On Thursday we started with an emergency drill where we went next door to the Dominican Retreat Center. We spent most of the day doing math when we got back. We also did some peace building with help from Tonya Russel, who in our opinion is the best teacher ever. We had music in the afternoon. On Friday we went to MiSci science festival for the entire day.

Benjamin and the Middle School

Heidi's Letter

We had a busy and productive week, especially considering that we only met four days due to the holiday.

Time travel stories are a popular way to try and bring history to life and into context for students. We have almost finished reading Dutch Double and we also prepared for our trip to Fort Crailo and the State Museum by reading a story where a kid ended up in Dutch colonial "Albany" and gathered information to share with his modern day school class. The historian who guided us around Fort Crailo was impressed that our students came in with so much knowledge. It was good to see a typical room, like the one our protagonistin Dutch Double was living in before her escape from the Schenectady Massacre, with its small bed nook, jambless hearth, cradle, and funky triangular chairs. It was wonderful to watch our students browse in the colonial archeology section of the State Museum and then focus on an item from the collection which interested them.

This week we had two lessons from our Peace Building curriculum. In the first we explored our own individual styles of dealing with various types of conflicts. This spurred a very thoughtful and thought provoking discussion about how our styles varied depending on if the conflict was with friend or family, or if the dilemmas were matters of personal choice or things we considered serious ethical issues. Next we paired up into two teams which each acting out a different situation ad we discussed how the conflicts escalated and were resolved in relation to the five basic styles. We noticed that while avoiding conflict by pretending there isn't a problem often feels like an easy approach, conflicts rarely just disappear so this might not be a great long term strategy. Our second lesson of the week started with an activity called "Cross the Line" in which students had three minutes to convince their partners to come over to their side of a line on the floor. After an initial period of asking and begging, the pairs shared their problem with each other and they worked together to solve the matter when they realized that they could just switch sides. This prompted a discussion about if being easier to negotiate with someone you trust. We also talked about potential barriers to being about to work together such as a long history of conflict between the parties.

The Science Festival at MiSci was fabulous. The students worked with bubbles, magnets, momentum, electricity and much more. We went to a planetarium show about Saturn, which connects back to our orchestra field trip a few weeks ago. After eating lunch the class sat down at a table and everyone started to build structures with KEVA blocks. This was the beginning of a long intense period of focused work. Three people gently working side by side, mindful not to bump anything lest Their or a friend's structure come tumbling down. Working together, yet everyone building in their own style, some literal and figurative building blocks of peace, and an embodiment of what we strive to create in Montessori education.