In our continued efforts to keep families informed and updated about the curriculum at Blake, each month we will be 'highlighting' updates from the different departments. We hope this will help facilitate conversations at home and maintain a bridge between home and school. Below please find the updates for the month of April 2017.
Grade 6 Grade six artists are continuing to work on abstraction. Using nature as inspiration, students are in the beginning stages of designing their reduction relief prints. Students will understand how to design for multiple prints. Reduction printing allows for students to layer color to create different effects. Collaboration is encouraged by combining prints by two or more artists into one work.
Grade 7 Seventh grade artists are combining math and art concepts while working with tessellations. They have experimented with interlocking shapes using cut and flip, and rotation methods of tessellation to create patterns. Using their creativity and imagination, students discover new images within their tessellations. The students then use mixed media of collage and color to create a finished work of art.
Grade 8 Eighth grade artists are continuing their work with acrylic paintings. They are learning how to compose their painting to create depth in their work. The techniques of canvas preparation, color mixing, and transfer are explored to further their skill set. Students have laid in the basic shapes and lines and are now attending to details such as texture, light, and shadow to refine their work.
Grade 6: After April vacation, we will be taking an Antebellum ride down the Mississippi River with Tom Sawyer and his friends. The beloved classic novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is filled with all of the elements of fiction that we've been studying throughout the year. Students will be engaging with the elements of fiction when they create a project based on the novel.
Grade 7: Seventh graders are wrapping up their work with the novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. They have done a nice job expanding our Claim, Evidence, Analysis writing (CEA) into full comparative paragraphs. These important life-long writing skills will not only benefit them in the short term on MCAS, but for many years of writing that lay ahead of them. After Roll of Thunder in early May, students will begin their final novel of the year, The Giver. This dystopian novel offers students a platform for important discussion about values and family.
Grade 8: After the online Grade 8 MCAS, students moved forward in the unit focusing on Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.. Within the unit, teachers and students use the novel’s plot. Setting, and theme to create real-world lessons about innocence, perspective, empathy, and what maturity really means. Even more important, the novel invites students to discuss and learn from Atticus Finch who embraces the challenge of doing what is right even when it is difficult. When students return from Washington D.C. they will begin reading Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose.
The 8th Grade Group Guidance is continuing with career exploration. Each student has set up a MassCIS (Career Information System) online account and completed assessments such as the Career Cluster Inventory and the Interest Profiler. The students then took the results (possible career choices) and researched the definitions of the careers, what major is required and how many years of school is necessary. We are working towards individual presentations to the class on their findings. 8th Grade Embracing Diversity has recently examined Maurice Ogden's allegory "The Hangman" and are moving onto taking a sociological view of how an act of discrimination can speak to a lack of empathy, which as previously noted, is this school year's theme. 6th Grade Group Guidance has just started it's 4th and final rotation classes for the year. We are incorporating the school year's theme of "Empathy" into our classwork by going over the neurobiological workings of our brains in respects the the role of the amygdala and learning the value of "reflection". The Ted Talk classes are wrapping up the year. The presentation topics range from politics or technology to questions of our pets really understanding us and why women's sports are undervalued.
For the past 18 summers, all Blake students have read the same all-school book. We've experienced many great stories along with concurrent activities and fundraisers from reading our various all-school books but it's always been a challenge to find one story that is right for all of our grades, both boys and girls and that also can provide some sort of academic connection as well. As a result, our Summer Reading Committee has decided this summer to offer several titles for each grade to read in place of the one all-school book, Although the books may be different, they are all connected thematically.
Blake's current school year theme is empathy. Next year's theme is diversity and all of our various titles provide excellent transition and context between the two. Our books are by and about people from a variety of cultural, economic, geographic etc. backgrounds that may seem "foreign" to many of our students. Our hope is that by reading and discussing these stories, we'll continue to increase empathetic understanding of all sorts of people from all sorts of situations as we look to find the common humanity in all of us.
The summer reading book sale order forms will be distributed to students in about two weeks. All profits from the sale are used to buy new books for the Blake library. Thanks to Jim James of Park Street Books for his support and to Diana Mileszko for organizing the sale.
Grade 6 mathematicians have just finished their unit on statistics. They learned the best ways to represent data visually. Also, they practiced drawing conclusions on information presented to them. How can we organize large amounts of data? How does one calculate and, more importantly, interpret the mean, median and mode? When happens when you have an outlier in a group of data? Is my allowance really higher than the average 6th grader’s allowance as my parents claim? These are all questions students are able to finally answer.
Grade 7 mathematicians are busy learning how to factor algebraic expressions using variables. Building on their knowledge of factor-trees, students first take monomials (one term expressions) and break them down into factors. They then work with polynomials (many term expressions) and learn to find common factors. Similar to the principles learned in elementary school, we are always looking for common factors of numbers and expressions, whether strictly numerical or including variables. Eventually, students will use these skills to solve more advanced, higher order equations.
Grade 8 students are simultaneously finishing up geometric transformations on a coordinate plane and learning to work with exponents in algebraic expressions. Although they have had prior experience with exponents and numerical expressions. Exponents with variables take math to a whole new level...literally! Transformations allow students to take 2-dimensional figures and expand, contract, slide and rotate them on a coordinate plane. Think wallpaper patterns!
Grade Six General Music
With the warmer weather we’ve been taking our drumming outside. Students have learned several rhythm patterns from West Africa and have composed some of their own. We are ready for our culminating composition project in this unit on Rhythms of the World. We are creating a drumming piece in the style of West African drumming that combines some traditional patterns as well as some student-created ones. We’re excited to see where this will go.
Grade Seven General Music: The Evolution of Rock and Roll
We have started our final rotation of the school year. In the last rotation we had some terrific research projects on The Beatles, Amy Grant, The Chainsmokers, Elvis Presley and others. We’re looking forward to this rotation to see what artists/musicians will inspire our students.
Grade Eight General Music: The American Musical
We have started our final rotation of the school year. In the last rotation we had several fantastic presentations to pitch an idea for an original musical that connects to a current event or social issue. Some of the themes presented included time travel, bullying, racism and gender identity. We’re looking forward to seeing where the last rotation will take us.
Sixth grade science students just wrapped up an exciting unit on Evolution! They investigated evidence that supports this theory, including comparative anatomy, the fossil record and embryology. Our learning skill of focus within this unit was clearly explaining their thinking. Throughout the year, students have supported a claim with evidence to demonstrate their understanding of topics learned. Students have made tremendous progress in this area!
In our next unit we will dive into the organization of the universe. Students will explore this topic through a project based approach, by creating a model of the universe of their choice. The main goal will be to compare our universe and it’s parts to an area of their choice. For example, students may consider Blake middle school the Earth and the town of Medfield as our solar system or perhaps they will determine that Earth is a baseball and the many galaxies of our universe are the different MLB teams. The science teachers are excited to investigate yet another new unit in the 6th grade curriculum!
Our seventh grade science students focused their efforts on studying photosynthesis and cellular respiration. We explored these life processes at the molecular level by building marshmallow molecules representing carbon dioxide, glucose, oxygen, and water. Students put a lot of effort into the energy use lab where we explored the connections between the amount of energy we use doing various activities and the amount of carbon dioxide waste produced. Students wrote a formal lab report to demonstrate their understanding of both processes. Students took their first standards based summative assessment at the end of their photosynthesis and cellular respiration unit.
We are now studying the cycles of nature and ecological succession using interactive web sites to take us through the water and carbon cycles. Students enjoyed playing a game in class where they traveled the earth as nitrogen, changing form and function. We are looking forward to beginning our Ecology PBL (project based learning) unit in May.
We are pleased to announce that the Science Exploration program, Trout in the Classroom has been a great success this year. We are looking forward to our culminating activity with a field experience of releasing the trout into the Charles River in Medfield. Students will travel to the Charles River by school bus, during their regularly scheduled science class to participate in the release. This will be an exciting way to say goodbye to the brook trout we raised and took care of over the past few months.
As the days get longer and the nights get warmer, grade 8 science students wrapped up their final unit in Chemistry which focused on the States of Matter and Phase Changes. As the moon became full towards the middle of the month, students worked with particle motion and temperature through simulations and living worksheets. After break, as the moon entered the New Moon phase, students completed a lab that focused on the boiling point of multiple liquids and graphed data collected. May will bring not only flowers but a focus on Astronomy, Earth Science, and Genius Hour.
April was a transition in Intro to Engineering as students wrapped up their Bridge unit and started learning how to play Sim City and began building their first city. Students will experience problem solving and practice reading graphs while creating and maintaining their city.
Sixth grade World Geography students are growing tomato plants in their classrooms. Each sixth grade student will plant and care for their very own tomato plant which will go home at the end of the school year. Tomato plants are grown in connection with our Poverty Unit as part of a fundraising effort to benefit the organization World Connect. Students are asked to donate $1 in exchange for a tomato seed, cup, starter soil, and a growing space within the classroom. All money raised from the $1 donation will go directly towards the funding of a project sponsored by World Connect. In addition to growing tomatoes, students will participate in activities designed specifically for kids to feel what poverty feels like for many people living in developing countries. Lastly, students will connect a country's GDP/capita with the quality of life provided to its people. Students will explore the idea that wealth makes for a better quality of life. We will use current data to answer the essential question, how does wealth make for a better quality of life?
The 7th grade Ancient Civilizations students just completed their Greek Week festivities which was a seven day competition between various groups of students representing each of the five major Greek city-states (Athens, Sparta, Argos, Corinth, and Thebes). It was a fun-filled week full of exciting activities that all the students participated in and enjoyed. There was a marathon race reenactment and a discs/Frisbee toss and relay. The students have just started working on their Alexander the Great DBQs (document based questions) which will test their ability to use primary sources in their writing. Hopefully everyone returns back from break with as much energy and enthusiasm as they had going in!
8th grade World History I students are continuing their investigation of the High Middle Ages in Western Europe, which will then transition into an examination of the Age of the Renaissance and Reformation, when secular thought began to replace a more traditional religious view of the world. Particular attention has been paid to the evolving nations of France and England, as well as the rise of the Italian city-states in the 14th and 15th centuries.
All Blake students completed their ballroom dance units and performed in the Foxtrot (6th), Salsa (7th) and Swing (8th.) Students choreographed, rehearsed, and then presented their group projects in front of their class. It was amazing to see how much they progressed from the first day to the last! Students were creative, enthusiastic and showed excellent technique.
The sixth grade physical education classes are piloting the use of Polar M200 heart rate monitors. The wrist monitors were purchased courtesy of a generous grant by the Medfield Coalition for Public Education (MCPE) and will serve to provide both teachers and students with important feedback regarding student performance in class. The heart rate monitors will continue to be utilized throughout the sixth grade pilot during soccer, basketball and badminton lessons. Follow us on Twitter @BlakeWellness for the latest happenings in health and physical education!
Since returning from vacation, students have started units in soccer and basketball. We are using these two units to learn, reinforce and practice two important skills which middle school students are expected to know and be able to do: the athletic stance and the give and go. These two skills are transferred to many sports and games, and will provide the opportunity for all students to be active game participants. Earlier this year we practiced both skills within the lacrosse and hockey units. Next up will be archery and badminton. We look forward to being outside and enjoying some sunshine for the remainder of the year!
6th graders are finishing up our unit on decision making. They have been learning how to use the decision making process in order to help them to make good decisions. The skill of decision making is becoming increasingly important as our students become more independent. Students know how to Determine the decision, Examine their options, Consider the consequences of each option, Identify values that may guide their decision, Decide and Evaluate their decision. Students have been looking at scenarios where they may be confronted with decisions about alcohol, tobacco and drugs and have been practicing using the decision making process to work their way through these scenarios. Next, sixth graders will learn and practice how to effectively communicate about their health.
Grade 7 students have been working diligently on their effective communication unit focusing on refusal methods for substances such as tobacco, alcohol, prescription drugs and other harmful substances. One strategy covered is the ISAYNO statement where students are encouraged to make a statement which uses 'I', states a particular reason and conveys their assertiveness. Through the practice of these statements and an increased knowledge of the dangers associated with the substances, students may be better prepared to respond to situations involving substances in the future. 7th graders will soon begin their final unit focusing on the skill of health advocacy and the ways in which one may advocate for health enhancing, and community improving behaviors.
8th graders have presented their short stories that they developed using the BookCreator app to demonstrate their ability to make healthy decisions. Students peer assessed each other's books, and it was a great opportunity to review the decision-making process while appreciating creative writing! The next content area studied within the decision making unit is nutrition, where the emphasis will be on whole versus processed foods and how food is altered from its natural state. Additionally, we will be reviewing the essential nutrients. Students will use their previous knowledge about the decision making process and practice choosing the most nutritious foods from a variety of options.
Our last rotation of the year is underway, and students in all three grades are learning and reviewing the importance of planning, collaborating and demonstrating responsibility for their cooking and cleaning jobs. Safe food preparation and learning how to measure properly are two skills emphasized in the first few weeks. Encourage their independence by asking your children to help with meal planning, food prep, cooking and cleaning!
After learning about animals and their habitats, students in 6th Grade French will be learning about school: classes we take, places and people in school, and objects of the classroom.
In 6th grade Mandarin, students are working on Unit 3 lesson 2: What is your surname? At the end of the lesson, Student will be able to ask people from different social status levels about their names.
Spanish classes have just begun one of our students’ favorite units: los animales! They are continuing to strengthen their ability to describe things while adding on important structures such as where someone/an animal lives, how many there are, and what someone or an animal says.
After finishing up the café unit, the seventh grade French students created a Voicethread in which they talked about breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner in a day. They took pictures of their meals and then included their voice to talk about what they were having and any other details (such as how delicious it was)! Once each student had put their assignment into the class group folder, students could then watch each other's and comment on the foods and drinks. The entire assignment had them speaking French, and they were very creative!
In 7th grade Mandarin classes, students just started a new lesson, Unit 7 Lesson 1-I like dogs. At the end of this lesson, student will be able to identify animals, express personal preferences for animals, and gain some knowledge of the Chinese panda and the Chinese golden monkey,.
Spanish students continue to amaze us with their blossoming language skills. We have most recently begun to explore verbs ending in -ER and -IR, and we continue to push students to extend their thoughts and language skills in meaningful ways.
In eighth grade French, students are studying clothing and shopping, learning how to identify the clothes they wear, and how to make a purchase in a clothing store. Students will create skits to present a shopping scene where they will give each other advice, interact with a salesperson and make a purchase. Through articles and videos, students will also be examining clothing choices in French speaking countries around the world and the influence of American clothing brands on style.
In 8th grade Mandarin, students finished Unit 11 Lesson 2: Special fruit. At the end of this lesson, student can identify special fruits in China and make comments on the fruits.
Spanish classes are completing their study of “celebraciones” with a focus on la quinceañera and a feature length film with the theme of family, celebrations and immigration. Our students are excited to be venturing into expressing themselves in the past tense. What they did over vacation was a great place to begin this!