We are so happy to have our community back together again. While we all love a long, slow summer, there is nothing to beat that “back-to-school” energy! The walls are white waiting to be adorned with our creative students’ artwork. Folders are labeled and ready to be filled with inspired poems, imaginative essays, and thoughtful research projects. But, most importantly, our students are filling the school—inside and out—with their smiles, laughter, and enthusiasm. If you have ever visited Birches while school is in session, you know that a “buzz” radiates from every classroom. That “buzz” conveys the joy of learning that typifies Birches School!
Our summer program is off to an exciting start! Day one’s agenda was jam packed with outdoor “water themed” adventures. Some activities on the docket included: yoga, a scavenger hunt, make your own boat using objects found in nature, ice science, water color painting, story time, and of course we turned the sprinklers on! What a first day!
The final day of school is always exciting, but this year we had a special person to celebrate…our very first Birches graduate! This young woman was one of the original five students who attended Birches on its opening day in September 2012. This year, on June 14, the school community gathered together to celebrate her achievements, to give her a proper send off as she prepares to enter high school, and to reminisce about the past seven years! It sounds like our graduate is more than prepared for her next adventure! Please read a passage from her speech below:
Leaving, I feel confident that I will continue to be an authentic and genuine
person and I would like to thank Birches for its large contribution to that. I
know I have been prepared to be an independent learner, who has developed
self-reliance. Some probably think high school would be daunting after having
such a personal, idyllic education but I feel excited and prepared.
Graduation Day was extraordinary for many reasons—seeing our first eighth grade student spread her wings, thinking back to when the school only had five students, feeling proud of the 65 students who will join us in the fall. We all ended this day with one feeling in common: We are tremendously excited for the future—the future of our graduate, our current student body, the new students who will join us, and the future of our very special community! Here is another passage from the graduate’s moving speech:
The joy I found in learning in those early years really never stopped. My
middle school years have been the most academically challenging time I have
had at Birches. The initial joy and excitement surrounding academics has
transitioned through middle school into ownership and passion for my
learning. I have become a confident person, taking on these challenges and
becoming someone who is empowered, especially in leadership roles. One
example was this year’s mock trial. It was incredible to see how seriously my
team approached the project. I have positive memories and am motivated
to continue doing debates and trials next year.
On June 9th, Birches hosted "Run For Good," a fundraising event held in collaboration with Saucony and the Waltham Boys + Girls Club. The weather was perfect for the day's events which included trail running, yard games and delicious pizza served by Posto’s amazing food truck! We are so thankful, not only to Saucony, but to all of the volunteers who helped make this event a roaring success! We hope we have inspired kids and families to continue running all summer long!
Our event would not have been so successful without help from the following:
Saucony // “We exist to empower the human spirit, with every stride, on every run, and in every community.”
Waltham Boys + Girls Club // “The Waltham Boys & Girls Club is a safe place to learn and grow – all while having fun. It is the place where great futures are started each and every day.”
A very special thank you to Florentien De Ruiter and Anne Cavassa for taking the time to plan such a successful event.
This past weekend we hosted the most anticipated event of the year - the annual CAMPOUT! This year’s event felt extra special because it was our first campout in our new space at 100 Bedford Road. The evening was complete with a BBQ, s’mores, campfire sing-a-longs and a moon lit owl hike on our trails. The coffee was brewing extra early as the kids woke up at dawn to explore the woods, share bagels and recount all of the fun from the night before! Such a magical evening for parents and students alike, until next year…
“Explorations” is a weekly elective offered to our 2nd-8th grade students. Every six weeks or so these electives change based on what the students are currently interested in, the season and what excites the teachers to share! The students are able to choose what they would like to participate in each cycle. Taking advantage of the weather this round of Explorations is of course being held outdoors! The four current Explorations are: trail running, conservation work (bridge building in collaboration with the Lincoln Conservation Committee), hobby horses and basketball!
Curious about Hobby Horsing? Check out this video, The Hobby Horse Revolution!
Once a week our 4/5 students join the K/1 classroom for Reading Buddies! Learning to read is an integral part of the K/1’s curriculum - and making sure reading is fun may even be more important. Reading buddies is a great way for the younger students to get in some extra reading time and also a wonderful community building activity for the older kids.
Over the course of the year, the K/1 classroom explores three or four unique themes. These themes change from year to year depending on the class makeup and interests. The themes often connect to the natural world in some way and always provide rich content and cross-curricular links to engage children in their studies.
This year the K/1 classroom has studied bears, the solar system, and, most recently, Mexico! The past few weeks have been very exciting as the class studied Mayan ruins, created mythical creatures (alebrijes), learned how to make (and eat) traditional cuisine, learned about immigration, and of course continued with their weekly Spanish lessons. The teachers built a market in the classroom (Mercado de Abedules) which was a wonderful way for the children to practice their math skills as they were buying and selling produce.
This unit allowed for exciting guest speakers. These guests brought in folk art from Oaxaca, shared stories from a recent trip to Mexico City, and taught the students how to make handmade tortillas. The class will now follow the monarch butterfly on its annual migration from Mexico into California for the final unit of the year…stay tuned!
The rain broke today and we decided to hike through the woods to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum to spend the morning looking at outdoor art. Here is a group photograph!
One Friday a month the entire school gathers for “All School Meeting.” This is a chance for students to share with faculty and parents what projects they have been working on that month. Of course our 2/3 class was very eager to show off their completed city project! They formally introduced the Birches community to “The Living Lights City.” The city is complete with electricity, green roofs, plants and everything students thought was necessary in a city today. Check out the pictures below. Can you spot the 2/3 class pet?
If you look back you might remember what the 2/3 classroom’s city planning looked like in its early stages. Well, the classroom’s commitment and hard work has paid off because their neighborhoods are nearing completion! The final step will be to add trees, green space and of course electricity (stay tuned)! The last couple of weeks have been devoted to construction - using recycled cardboard to build houses, apartments, museums, hospitals, hotels and schools. Each building needed to be designed, measured, constructed and then painted. As part of this project students have also been learning how to write persuasive essays: They are trying to create laws they would like to enact within their city limits.
As an added bonus the 2/3 students had a very special guest - Jim McClutchy! Jim led the construction team on the Birches School building renovation at 100 Bedford Road last year. We are all very thankful to Jim for visiting and of course helping to create the amazing school we reside in today!
On April 13th quite a few of our students joined 4/5 Teacher & Science Specialist Katherine Parisky and Technology Specialist Andrea Krajewska for our annual appearance at the Cambridge Science Festival. The event included 113 participants but only four K-8 schools of which we were one. It was held at the Cambridge Rindge & Latin School’s Field House. The Festival attracted many visitors who were lucky enough to learn from Birches students how to build a compass and use it to find magnetic north.
Is it Magic or is it Physics: Travel back to the early 1700’s and through the 1800’s, experiment with static charge, harness electricity, and explore the link between electricity and magnetism!
This past weekend our two co-founders, Cecily and Alexis, taught Birches’ families how to make Japanese onigiri. About once a month the Birches community comes together for a fun event either at our school’s campus or at a family’s home. These events are a great way for parents to connect, learn something new and, of course, get the kids together to play! Now, you might be wondering what is onigiri?
A quintessential Japanese dish, also called omusubi, onigiri are a portable treat that are enjoyed on their own or as part of a bento box lunch. Learning how to make onigiri is simple, can be done by hand, and doesn't require a sushi mat or any other tools. Although fish or vegetable fillings are common, you can also eat these rice balls plain.
The afternoon was spent learning how to make these hand shaped rice balls, experimenting with new and exciting ingredients and enjoying a delicious lunch! A special thank you to our co-founder Alexis for opening up her beautiful home to our community!
Want to learn how to make onigiri? You can of course ask Cecily and Alexis or click HERE for a tutorial from the Epicurious website.
Birches middle school students fully embraced their roles in the recent mock trial to determine whether The American Dream still exists. Both the prosecution and the defense teams worked tirelessly to present critical evidence and to persuade the judge (the Honorable Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis) of the merits of their respective positions. Key witnesses for the Defense included Oprah Winfrey, Senator Daniel Inouye, and Dr. An Wang. For the prosecution, Langston Hughes, Alan Bates, and Felicity Huffman helped bolster their case. What was the verdict? Ask a middle school student to find out!
Amy Bass offered a writing workshop to some of our middle school students. After reading some passages from her book One Goal, she encouraged students to “show, not tell” by using the five senses to convey a scene. Students identified a memory and then chose one of the senses to convey their memory through writing. It was a thrill for our students to work so closely with such an accomplished writer!
Birches students become adept in many areas, including yoga! We offer rigorous, nature-based, interdisciplinary academics within a mindful, nurturing environment. Our collaborative approach to learning and life will stand all our students in good stead as they grow and mature. It has been estimated that two-thirds of the jobs current elementary and middle school students will have in the future have not yet been invented! What is sure is that being able to work well in teams will be essential to many of these new vocations.
Birches 2nd and 3rd Graders have been busy designing their own city. They've been working collaboratively to develop their neighborhoods and lay down their roads. They will eventually be constructing buildings and adding power to their model city.
Since their return to school in early January, middle school students have been studying immigration from China and Japan into the United States. The first student presentation in this unit took place today, focusing on the significance of the lion in Chinese culture. Because today is Chinese Lunar New Year, middle schoolers created a lion head out of cardboard and two teams of students processed through the school, demonstrating their interpretation of the lion dance performed in China and in Chinatowns throughout the world on this auspicious day. Please join the Kindergarten/1st Grade class as they enjoy the Birches lion dance here!
On January 24th, Birches Middle School students were invited to the Biological Laboratories at Harvard University. While there, students participated in an interactive lecture given by Professor Karine Gibbs and her graduate student Jacob Austerman. The trip was planned as an extension of the essential question we have been exploring in class: How do we identify self from other? In science, students have been focusing on human interaction with microbes and looking at how microbes can be recognized as either friend or foe. The Gibbs Lab works on identifying the signals bacterial cells use to recognize each other, how cells define themselves, and how they communicate their identity and respond to others. Students were particularly interested in the swords that bacteria use to jab into one another! Following the lecture, students crossed the street for a visit to the Harvard Museum of Natural History where they viewed the exhibit, Microbial Life: A Universe on the Edge of Sight.