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 May, 2015.
Grade six artists are working on site-specific sculptures. Currently, there is a site-specific sculpture installed at the Medfield State Hospital grounds. Students discussed how that sculpture is specific to that setting to create a visual pathway to development possibilities at this site. Students have created mixed media, hand-held sculptures that they will photograph. They will then integrate technology, using the Photoshop Express app to ‘insert their sculpture into a specific environment.
Students in the seventh grade are creating surrealistic paintings. They have examined both historic surrealist artworks from the 20th century as well as more contemporary artists that are inspired by surrealism. They are now creating an unexpected visual narrative, taking an everyday event and inserting unexpected objects, events, or characteristics to give their painting a surrealist twist.
Students are extending their knowledge of color theory by using only primary colors to create a range of neutral tones and hues. They are drawing ‘en plein air’ - taking advantage of the outdoor weather and light to draw from observation, using a limited palette to translate the tonal values of the landscape.
As the academic year winds down, students are nearing the end of Mark Twain’s classic, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The students are working on a project that has been beloved for years and have begun to create videos of scenes within the book, storyboards detailing events or journal entries where the students write from the first person perspective of one of Twain’s characters. For what remains of the year, students will share their projects and complete their year-long study of grammar.
In Grade 7, students are near their end of their study of Johnny Tremain and using its close reading to explore coming-of-age themes. Students are also preparing their creative short stories that will be presented to the elementary schools at the end of the year.
Grade 8 students are in the midst of reading and discussing To Kill a Mockingbird. Discussions have continued to focus on characterization and symbol along with the setting of Alabama and the impact of segregation. Included in these discussions, students have had the opportunity to debate how and why doing what is right is often the more difficult choice. In Writing Lab, students recently completed reading Holocaust novels and are beginning to work on the the unit’s capstone project, Holocaust scrapbooks.
The students in Embracing Diversity have recently examined current hate crimes. The 7th grade Group Guidance class is discussing the transition to eighth grade. In 6th grade Group Guidance, we have talked about friends vs acquaintances, teasing vs joking and bullying, and we have just started talking about apologies. We will end the year with a letter to their 8th grade selves.
Library Media Center
It’s hard to believe the end of the 2014-2015 academic year is upon us. Last September’s update focused on the changing “geography” of the Blake Library Media Center– rearranged bookshelves, new movable desks and lots of movable comfortable chairs which can be arranged around tables for small group work. Both teachers and students alike feel our school’s culture of learning has been enhanced as a result. And the improvements are not over yet. Our set of 24 desktop computers, currently situated in three rows of eight computers, will be moved onto tables of 4. The new model will foster increased student collaboration and better teacher interaction as well. A white board will also be added to an adjacent wall. And, of course, the big news is the addition of a “Makerspace” area, which you will be hearing much more about in the near future. Thanks to Nat Vaughn, Diane Horvath and Jason Heim for the project’s continued vision and thanks also to the MCPE and CSA for their strong support.
All students at Blake spent time in May taking the 2015 Mathematics MCAS tests. These tests are designed to test students knowledge against the content and skills outlined in the MA Curriculum Frameworks. 8th grade students will not take the Mathematics MCAS test in 9th grade. Their next (and final) test will be in 10th grade. While often a valuable piece of information, your child’s MCAS score is one small piece of your child’s academic experience. Scores will be out in the fall. At that point, you may have questions regarding the results. Please feel free to reach out to your child’s current teacher as well as their teacher from this year.
General Music classes at the Middle School are finishing up their Form projects and working on creating Rock and Roll Timelines. We are enjoying learning about new styles of music and connecting what we know about music to history.
6th grade science is wrapping up our unit on weathering & erosion. Last week the students explored Medfield on a geological investigation. It was exciting for students to have their iPads and gather evidence by taking pictures and referencing their crime book! When we returned to the classroom, the students debated which Agent of Erosion could be guilty of the “geological crimes” committed in Medfield and discovered that Agent Glacier was the culprit. Next, we will be moving on to identifying Rocks and understanding their cycle.
7th grade wrapped up the DNA and genetics unit during which students learned how genes determine our traits. We looked at some observable traits such as widow’s peak, hitchhiker’s thumb, and PTC tasting. The students had fun ‘testing’ their parents to see if they taste the bitterness of PTC (a chemical found in cabbage, broccoli, and brussel sprouts) or not. The class used this information to construct Punnett squares to predict the probability of them sharing this trait with their parents. The students also gained a general understanding of mutations and how even a small change to a protein can cause huge effects in the human body.
We are now beginning our Project-Based Learning Ecology unit where students will work in groups to research an endangered species from Massachusetts and create a project that focuses on the question, Why do we protect endangered organisms? Students will then present their projects to the class and share their findings from their research as well as highlight some of the challenges their organism faces for survival.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
In science class, grade 8 students are in the midst of the last (!) unit of the year, the physics and astronomy unit. After learning about the sun Earth Moon system, students explored the forces and forms of energy that influence astronomical objects. Upon learning about the planets in our solar system, students will then engage in a "real world", project-based unit on colonizing other worlds in our solar system. Student teams chose between our moon, Mars, Jupiter's moon Europa, and Saturn's moon Titan for a home for the colony. Students will research the conditions on their planet/moon, what it takes to survive in space, existing and Prototypical space survival technologies, and will design a colony capable of supporting human life. Their iPads will be put to work as they will conduct research and create a project Google site that will host their project's culminating presentations and videos.
In World Geography, students are preparing for the upcoming unit on Globalism and Trade while wrapping up the unit on Economics and Poverty. As part of our unit on Economics and Poverty, the Community Service Club, led by its sixth grade members, presented to the sixth grade class a PowerPoint about Heifer International. As a result of our Heifer magnet school-wide sale, the Community Service Club raised $400. This money will be used to purchase an array of animals from Heifer International. These animals will benefit families and communities across the world. Together, the sixth grade class did their small part to raise awareness about poverty around the world.
The 7th grade social studies teachers have begun the last large unit of the year, the Roman Empire. In this unit, students will explore what qualities make someone a strong leader / emperor, the challenges of trying to maintain control of an empire in a time before electronics and motors were invented, what daily life was like in the empire, and the prejudices found in the empire based on religion, class, and location. Even the mightiest governments struggle from time to time so we will examine the split of the Roman Empire and what led to its eventual fall. On Monday June 15th, curators from the Museum of Fine Arts will come to Blake to share their ancient civilizations collection with the students and help us wrap up our studies of the different civilizations we have studied this year.
World History I 8th grade students are in the process of finishing their studies of the Renaissance and Reformation and beginning the East Asian unit of study. Over the last month of school students will be learning about the history and culture of the Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties of China. The students will end their year by examining the Heian period in Japanese history and the subsequent rise and fall of the Samurai Warrior Class during the reign of the Tokugawa Shoguns.
Students in the 4th rotation of consumer science have moved on from accurately measuring liquids and dry ingredients, following recipes, and learning where to find and identify all of their utensils, to cooking on the stovetop and in the oven safely. 7th and 8th graders have been learning how to safely chop vegetables for their flatbread veggie pizzas and pasta salads with chef's knives. 6th graders will be making quesadillas, which may just be the most beloved of all of the consumer science recipes! Students are taking on more responsibility for cleanup by washing and drying dishes, cleaning tables and counters, and sweeping the floor. Please ask them to do these things at home as reinforcement for their learning and general helpfulness for you!
Students in all health classes are beginning to study adolescent growth and development in a sequential curriculum that began in grade 5 and continues through grade 10.
Sixth graders will review concepts learned last year about the physical and social-emotional changes that occur during puberty, and will be introduced to the proper terminology and functions of the male and female reproductive systems.
Seventh graders will also begin with a review of adolescent changes as well as the terminology and functions of the reproductive systems. Students will learn about nocturnal emissions, and then they will be introduced to the menstrual cycle, fertilization of an egg cell, prenatal development and the birth of a child.
Eighth graders will discuss healthy dating relationships, including setting and communicating personal boundaries. They will review the reproductive systems and fertilization, and will discuss sexual intercourse, the importance of abstinence, and the potential consequences associated with sexual behaviors at their age such as pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and emotional pain.
Students are preparing for the 3rd Annual Blake Mini Marathon! We will practice the route in physical education classes so that students will be familiar with it on race day. The marathon will take place June 4th starting at 9:30. Students can choose to walk, run, or be a part of a cheering section, and are in the process of setting personal goals during advisory for what they want to accomplish that day. Donations are now being collected for Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine. Camp Sunshine provides a year-round retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families at no cost to the families. We are looking forward to another beautiful day and great participation from all of our students as either walkers, runners, or those who will be cheering the other participants on.
In addition to the marathon preparation, students are learning and practicing the next levels of badminton, softball and archery. Grade 6 students are focusing on the fundamental skills of badminton such as the serve, overhead clear and drop shot. Grade 8 students are learning more advanced concepts such as the short and long serve and smash shot. In softball, Grade 6 students are developing their throwing, catching and fielding skills whereas Grade 8 students are participating in full softball games. Grade 7 students are learning the safety protocols involved with Archery as well as practicing hitting a target. We have had great weather the last few weeks and have enjoyed being outside!
Mandarin: We are making final projects--Students are creating a story to review all the lessons we have learned.(Greetings, self introduction, family, pets and zodiac animals)
French: This week in sixth grade French, students are creating family photo album presentations on iPads to present and describe various family members.
Spanish: Spanish students are excited to be able to walk around their homes and describe the various rooms. They will be talking about what they have and what they want in their homes as we finish out the year.
Mandarin: We are reviewing numbers, the date, weeks, months, year, and time.
French:The 7th grade classes are finishing up the final vocabulary unit about making plans to meet up with friends, and recently performed skits about making weekend plans. We will be reviewing the material learned this year and finishing up with a final skit about summer plans. It's been a great year, bonnes vacances!!
Spanish: Spanish students are taking their language to places around town and talking about where they and friends are going throughout their day.
Mandarin: We are reviewing Nihao Lesson 4 and 5: These topics cover Who is he? and Whose is this?
French: Eighth grade French students are "showing what they know" by using the passé composé (past tense) and the new pronoun "y" (There), to describe some of the places they visited last week!
Spanish: In eighth grade Spanish, we are finishing the unit on body parts and sickness, and heading toward our final projects. Students will research a city in the Spanish speaking world and pretend they traveled there, producing a collection of photos and text captions explaining where they went and what happened during their travels.