December 2018

Head of School Message

Goosebump moments, more than anything else, tell me that everything is good and right in my world. The Harmonies of the Season concert on Friday, December 7th brought me so many moments of visceral pleasure and pride. Complete bliss. What a tremendously beautiful and moving experience as a listener. I sat, beaming with pride, alongside many of the academic teachers, staff, parents, grandparents, friends and family as we witnessed an amazing group of boys and young men showering our eardrums with intricate harmonies, perfectly navigated rhythmic passages, and feets of vocal agility all with great poise and confidence.

As a singer, there are far more elements of mastery taking place simultaneously and instantaneously than just reproducing certain notes, text, rhythms, and harmonies. Singing is a complex system of coordination between large and small muscle groups deep within that must achieve a balance of pressure and ease to produce a quality sound. As we observe any choir, we are witnessing a team of vocal athletes and masters of the small muscle groups of the body - while at the same time, fireworks crackle magnificently in the cortexes and synapses of their brains.

Whether you are an audience member or a performer, music is soothing balm for all of us during these busy days and weeks, providing inner joy and celebration for bodies and minds. I am so proud of all of our students as they step courageously forward to share all that they have mastered. Happy Holidays, everyone! May you be blessed by music time and again.

Teacher Updates

In Humanities, the 4th and 5th graders have just finished poster projects comparing two southern states, and we’ve moved on to a study of the Midwest. Last week, we interviewed two natives of Chicago about life in that state, and next week we’ll interview our own Head of School, Ms. Bach, on her home state of North Dakota. Next, we will study the Native American tribes of this region. We have already examined a map and determined that the reason the Midwest was so highly populated in pre-Columbian times has to do with the presence of major waterways. We have examined how major bodies of water like the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River enabled human settlement, successful farming, and abundant opportunities for fishing, travel, and trade.

All three middle school grades are deeply enmeshed in our study of Macbeth. We are spending approximately half of our class sessions this month reading and discussing the play in class, and we spend the other half preparing for our performance of the play in March. Activities include memorizing lines outdoors while moving around, playing catch, and dribbling basketballs; blocking specific scenes on stage; and discussing creative ways that we can bring the play to life.

Middle school parents should be aware that their sons should be spending time working on their lines every night. Twenty minutes per night is a good target, though those with major roles may find that they need more time. Their first big memorization deadline - all lines in Acts 1 and 2 - is on Monday, January 14.

I couldn’t be happier with the boys' enthusiasm and effort toward the play so far. In a rehearsal last Friday, many boys were able to deliver portions of their Act 1 lines off book, and all are approaching the challenge of learning to read and perform Shakespeare with a wonderfully positive attitude.

The Bleeding Captain:

More to come next month!

Since the beginning of the new trimester, the students in both Latin 7 and Latin 8 have been working on improving their memorization skills both in and outside of class. I have broken down the information that they need to master into smaller chunks so that it is more manageable. For example, Latin 7 has been working on two smaller sets of vocabulary words and has been given multiple opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge. The idea behind this is to achieve mastery of a discreet set of terms as well as to get constant feedback on their progress. For both classes, Quizlet is an invaluable tool to make the often laborious task of memorization more engaging and yes, even competitive.

The students in Latin 8 used Quizlet to create their own vocabulary list of terms from a reading passage. Each student needed to create a dictionary entry for every unfamiliar word from his portion of the passage and enter it into a combined Quizlet set. Then, when it was time to start translating the passage, they could refer to a printout of the set that they had created as a guide to their reading. This work not only helps the students in both classes increase their vocabulary knowledge; it also helps them to develop skills for assimilating a body of knowledge that is necessary to complete a task. In this case, the goal is reading Latin, but the techniques can be useful in many areas of academics and life in general.

In math, our 7th and 8th graders are delving into the abstract world of linear equations and strengthening their knowledge of the properties of mathematics, while the 4th - 6th graders are beginning units on geometry. Students were asked to build 3D structures, determine the surface area, and then check their answers by deconstructing their magnetic masterpieces. Their reward for excelling? Equivalent fraction and multiplication card games, of course!

Helpful sites of the month:
For elementary math lovers, take a look at NRICH, an amazing, ongoing project brought to you by the University of Cambridge. There are games and assessments- all which standard state curricula content.

As for our students about to enter high school, check out Wolframalpha. With clear explanations and amazing graphing tools, it makes the perfect supplement to Algebra... And I love it because the site has no functionality to input equations in order to find out answers; instead, it provides parallel equations in order to walk the student through, one step at a time.

"Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas." ~Albert Einstein

Clase de Español
According to level we learned how to better describe ourselves and others. We talked about personality traits and had fun using them in sentences to describe staff at PBA. One of the favorite ways to memorize the vocabulary was by playing charades… some of our students might be missing their calling as professional mimes!

More advanced students learned all about article, subject, verb, and adjective agreement. They are now experts at perfectly executed sentences that agree in gender and number! One fun highlight was making home made tortillas and guacamole with the 8th graders. ¡DELICIOSO!

I am looking forward to the students oral reports on Navidad en Mexico!

In Science, 4th/5th graders concluded their research, development and presentation of specific adaptations their animal of choice would be helpful on the distant moon of Europa. They are currently learning about the history of environmentalism in the United States, starting with Walden Pond and then participating in an interactive play about the life, accomplishments and scientific discoveries of John Muir.

6th graders finished their scaled model of Earth’s interior, keep an eye out for it soon in the Science room (hint: look up!). They have now officially begun their Science of Sound unit, observing the movement of Tuning Fork tines in super slow motion and seeing sound waves in action with the sound cannon.

7th graders are still working on their Cell Rap, chipping away at it at the end of class each day. They recently prepared Onion Root Tip specimens to view under the microscope. They softened the tissue in a Hydrochloric Acid solution in a stop bath, then rinsed and added the DNA stain. Their focus and teamwork paid off as many were able to see their Onion cells in different stages of Mitosis!

8th graders are exploring properties of matter and how they change state. They are creating a comic to describe, at the molecular level, what occurs from solid to gas for a molecule. In class, they created their own thermometers with alcohol, food coloring and test tubes, learning what temperature is truly a measure of.

Physical Education
In PE, students began their unit on the International Sport of Handball. They also recently completed their Trimester one Fitness tracker goals, getting a chance to observe and evaluate their individual fitness progress over the Trimester.

Upcoming Events

December 21: Winter break - No school!
January 7: School resumes
January 11-13: TR Retreat (optional)
January 21: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: No School
February 18-22: Presidents' Week: No School

Ms. Bach:
Ms. Edstrom:
Dr. Sarah Harrell:
Mr. Knudtson:    
Ms. Dittmer:
Ms. Strange:
Ms. Jensen: