Another Birches Teacher in the News!

On May 4th, 2017, AISNE (Association of Independent Schools in New England) held its second annual Health and Wellness Symposium, in which independent school teachers, counselors, administrators, nurses, staff, and coaches came together for a day dedicated to promoting health and wellness within our schools. This year, for the first time, AISNE offered three, 30-minute experiential practice sessions. Our Yoga and Mindfulness Specialist was chosen to lead the yoga session. She commented on the fact that "It was a powerful experience to be in a room full of teachers, who dedicate themselves every day to the well being of their students, strengthening their own internal sense of wellness. We cannot give something that we do not have ourselves." 

 

 

 

Birches Students Enjoy Spanish Spelling Bee!

Two Birches students--a 2nd Grader and a 4th Grader, neither of whom speaks Spanish at home--participated in the National Spanish Spelling Bee Semifinals in Foxboro on April 29. One of them won the competition for his grade and the other advanced to the finals in his grade. Most importantly, they both displayed excellent sportsmanship, encouraging and praising their competitors. Enthusiastic thanks to our Spanish Specialist who offered this opportunity to our students. She worked with them after school and coached their parents who helped them at home. Congratulations to all! Muchas felicidades a todos!

Ceramics Unit at deCordova Museum!

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Birches students have just finished a wonderful Art Fridays at deCordova unit with Bruce Barry, resident potter at the museum. They learned many techniques for making and decorating clay plates, bowls, mugs, and wind chimes. The final project was extraordinary: Bruce showed the students how to start with a clay sphere and to tease out the clay to create gargoyles. All the children let their imaginations soar, constructing unique and powerful figures. Thanks to Bruce for his exciting guest residency!

Birches Students Present at Cambridge Science Festival!

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The Science Carnival and Robot Zoo was held on Saturday, April 15th, 2017. It is the largest event of the Cambridge Science Festival, with over 15,000 visitors. Twelve of our 4th, 5th, & 6th Graders were happy to be among the participants! Birches North students did a remarkable job explaining their sleep research project and presenting their carefully designed posters to visitors who stopped by our table. Ours was the largest group of elementary school students presenting at the Festival. Many young scientists do not get the opportunity to present posters at a fair like this until they are in high school or college.

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Join Birches Students at the Cambridge Science Festival!

How much sleep do I really need? Do daytime activities such as yoga, exercise, or caffeine affect my sleep? Do nighttime activities such as screen-time, journaling, or reading affect the time it takes for me to fall asleep? Birches School students probe these and other interesting questions in a classroom-wide sleep and journaling project. Join us at the 2017 Cambridge Science Festival and Carnival on April 15th from noon to 4pm as we outline the details of crafting a questionnaire, designing a protocol, and analyzing group data. We’ll help you to make your own sleep journal!

http://www.cambridgesciencefestival.org/event/science-carnival-robot-zoo/

 

"Geology Rocks" a Resounding Success!

Professor Rock has disappeared! His loyal students go on a quest to find him, joined by the (mostly unhelpful) Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Along the way, they meet volcanoes, seashores, canyons, dinosaurs, suspicious ferns, and even Snow White -- and learn about the earth's geological cycles and features as they go. Who's behind Professor Rock's disappearance, and will he ever be found? (Hint: Don't trust those ferns who represent the interests of fossil fuels!)

On Friday, March 31, Birches students performed their third annual musical under the brilliant direction of music and drama specialist Laura Bak. Everyone participated, including the kindergartners and first graders who were fearsome dinosaurs. Below, three kindergartners reprise their roles after the play. 

 

 

A Momentous Town Meeting in Lincoln!

Last November, the Rural Land Foundation (Lincoln Land Trust) and Birches School purchased the 16-acre property at 100 Bedford Road that had, for 60 years, been the home of Dr. An Wang and his wife Lorraine. Today, residents of Lincoln, representing the Town's Parks and Recreation Department, voted unanimously to purchase three acres to build an athletic field adjacent to Birches' four acres. The remaining nine acres will be put into conservation, connecting with already existing conservation land. Our students will have access to the athletic field and of course to the network of trails through conservation land. When they study Thoreau, they will be able to walk through the woods all the way to Walden Pond. We at Birches School are very grateful for our collaboration with the Lincoln Land Trust and the Town of Lincoln!

K/1s Celebrate the End of their Medieval Unit!

The Kindergartners and 1st Graders celebrated the end of their Medieval Unit with a medieval "faire" during which squires were knighted by Queen Florentien. In this exciting study, students built a castle and learned about castle architecture and castle life. They learned about pulleys when they investigated the engineering of castle drawbridges and they constructed catapults. They created their own medieval portraits and their own shields which they decorated with personal designs. And they learned about the Code of Chivalry which dovetails with our social-emotional curriculum. Children learn to be kind, respectful, honest, fair, and hardworking. They learn to recognize these qualities in themselves and in their classmates as they cheer each other on.

 

We Built an Igloo!

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week, a Birches father helped students, teachers, and parents build an igloo on our playground. See below for some pictures that show different stages of the process. We are all thrilled with our winter hideaway! It was such fun to engage collaboratively in this engineering project and then to crawl inside and peek out! 

Just beginning... .  

Just beginning... .

 

Snow brick, by snow brick... .

Snow brick, by snow brick... .

"Teamwork! Teamwork!"

Happy Snow Day from Birches! Earlier this week, the Kindergartners and 1st Graders took advantage of Tuesday's snowfall to make a huge nine-foot snowman. Chants of "Teamwork! Teamwork!" resounded as they pushed and heaved to roll each massive ball. We hope you enjoy today's snowstorm -- please stay safe and warm. See you tomorrow for more snowy adventures!   

New Publication Featuring Birches School Students!

Rebecca Rapoport is a Mathematics Specialist at Birches School. Birches students "tested" some of the activities in this wonderful book, which is illustrated with pictures of Birches students at work. Here is further information about the book:

Math Lab for Kids shares more than 50 hands-on activities that make learning about math fun by drawing and building shapes, solving puzzles, and playing games. Everything you need to complete the activities can be found in the book or around your house. 

  • Geometry and Topology—build, draw, and transform shapes. Play with prisms, antiprisms, Platonic solids, Möbius strips, and squeezable, squishable shapes.
  • Maps—color like a mathematician. Discover how to fill in maps with the fewest number of colors possible.
  • Curves and Fractals—stitch, draw, and create. Make curves using only straight lines, and repeat shapes to create fantastic fractals.
  • Tangrams, Toothpick Puzzles, and Nim—play, solve, and win. Learn to play—and discover strategies to solve and win—these time-honored brain teasers and games.
  • Graph Theory—make connections. Explore how points and edges are interconnected by drawing graphs.

 

For further information on publications by Birches faculty, staff, and students, see:

http://www.birchesschool.org/publications/

Happy New Year 2017!

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Our Kindergartners and 1st Graders returned in the New Year to discover that they had slipped 700 years back in time! Knights and Ladies now populate the K/1 classroom and, in an era when there was no photography, they are resorting to the medieval practice of painting portraits for likenesses. Children are both subject and artist as they paint portraits of each other. The students are also building a castle and will engage in various engineering feats like learning how to construct catapults. Please join us on Sunday, January 8 from 1:30 to 3:30pm for an Open House where you can travel back to medieval times and also discover exciting contemporary projects in the other classrooms. We will discuss the beautiful new site in Lincoln that will become our future home as well as our plans for a middle school!

Watercolor Studio with Brooke Dyer

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Students were treated to their first watercolor workshop led by Brooke Dyer on Art Fridays at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. In addition to brushes and paints, Brooke brought along some interesting items that at first seemed out of place. These included: toothbrushes, toilet paper, a hairdryer, and salt! She demonstrated how to achieve a speckled effect with the toothbrushes, a blotted effect with the toilet paper, and a textured effect with the salt. We learned that an initial wash step is necessary to prime the paper for painting. This water wash is important for coloring the background. Students practiced these techniques and looked through books for inspiration. The studio time was a great success! We are very excited to learn more about the art form from Brooke and to begin working on our children’s book illustrations next week.

Interested in learning more about the Birches School? Please preregister for our upcoming Open House!

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A Neurologist Visits the K/1 Class!

Last week in K/1, neurologist Dr. Martin Albert led an animated discussion about the brain. We learned how the brain receives, processes, and communicates new information, and we noticed differences between the brains of humans and those of other animals. Dr. Albert shared cross-sections of a real human brain in a plastic case and passed around preserved slices for the students to see and touch (through a plastic bag…). Students were fascinated by how the brain felt -- and also by the strong smell emanating from the ziplock bags. Dr. Albert explained that the brain itself has no odor, but the formalin used to preserve it does smell quite strong. Students had many questions for our visitor, ranging from "Where did you get the brains?" to "Are all doctors as old as you?" to "I think I understand what you're saying about how the brain remembers things, but how does the brain forget things?"  Dr. Albert commented that it can take a cognitive neuroscientist years to be able to answer such an important question.

Birches has Closed on its New Property!

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On November 17, Birches closed on its new property at 100 Bedford Road in Lincoln. The 16-acre property was the home for 60 years of Dr. An Wang and his wife Lorraine. Most of this land, with the exception of the four-acre parcel on which the house sits, will be conserved by the Lincoln Land Trust which partnered with Birches in the purchase. Although the former Wang property is situated very close to Route 2, it feels like a rural retreat: Partnering with the Land Trust, Birches looks forward to pursuing its rigorous and joyful nature-based education which has as one of its goals the raising of the next generation of conservationists.

The Wangs purchased the property in 1957 and Mrs. Wang planted a small Chinese crabapple that year which has grown into a majestic and welcoming tree. Earlier in the fall, our teachers were invited to see the property and some of them posed on or near this tree. Dr. and Mrs. Wang were great supporters of educational initiatives and we like to think they would be pleased to see our teachers here.