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.
Two years ago, science teachers Bev Malone and Jane Imai visited Birches with a black bear skeleton to teach the kindergarten and first grade students about the similarities between human and bear skeletons during our Human Body unit. Today, Jane returned with the bear skeleton to culminate the K/1s’ bear unit! The students once again compared the bones to a human skeleton and figured out how to assemble each section of the bear from the scull and jaw to its ribcage and leg bones. Next, Jane showed a slideshow of Bev’s discovery of the bear, found while on a fishing trip on a remote lake decades ago. We learned that the bear was found on tribal land and Bev had to get special permission to take the skeleton back to her science class. We also learned that this was why she was only allowed to take a few of the claws—the rest she left behind since they were sacred to the tribe. The students loved seeing the claws in person and also liked seeing the different teeth a bear has—both flat teeth for eating plants and berries, but also sharp front teeth for biting and tearing meat, very important for an omnivore!
It was an incredible hands-on experience for the students to see and touch a “real” bear in person and learn about the similarities and differences between humans and bears. This is the K/1s’ final week studying bears before we blast off to space next week!
Birches Middle Schoolers have begun a unit on immigration from China and Japan into the United States. Last week we visited the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem to view the exhibition focused on empresses of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). We are learning about symbolism in traditional Chinese culture as we study the first wave of Chinese immigration in the 19th century. We also visited Yin Yu Tang (“Hall of Plentiful Shelter”), the over 200-year-old house from South China that was disassembled in Anhui Province and then reassembled in Salem about twenty years ago. The Huang family of merchants occupied this house for eight generations, including through the entire 19th century. Below you see some of our students looking out of a second-floor window of this beautiful old wooden house. The process of disassembling, shipping, conserving, and reassembling the house took three years!
JOIN US AT AN OPEN HOUSE:
SUNDAY, JANUARY 6, 2019. 1:00 - 3:00 PM
Students in the 4/5 classroom continued their study of the human body with the help of a special guest straight from the ER. Also a Birches parent, Dr. Milsten brought along many models of bones, various tools used in the ER, and even a full skeleton! Students enjoyed learning interesting facts about bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. They even got a chance to practice their surgical skills with alligator forceps (to pull an item out of an imaginary ear) and a cauterization tool (to mimic treatment of an injured fingernail). One student came away from the experience with a splinted forearm which students then signed. It was a wonderful exploration into orthopedics and emergency medicine.
The kindergartners and first graders are studying bears and answering such questions as:
What color is a polar bear's skin? Why?; What does torpor mean?; What color is a Kermode bear? What kind of bear is it?; What does a panda bear spend twelve hours a day doing?
The kindergartners and first graders heard exciting news last Friday. Their class won the
”Penny Wars” challenge presented to the whole school. The students collectively raised enough money to purchase a swing set, but, of all classes, the kindergarten/first grade class raised the most money. The two middle schoolers running the drive brought cupcakes to the kindergartners and first graders to celebrate their achievement. Here are the victory cupcakes (and please notice the bears decorating the walls)!
PLEASE COME AND CHECK US OUT NEXT SATURDAY AT OUR OPEN HOUSE…SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17 FROM 1-3 PM AT 100 BEDFORD ROAD, LINCOLN, MA!
Today was a very exciting day! Lincoln town officials joined board members, supporters, friends, students, parents, faculty, and staff to cut this ribbon, officially opening Birches School at our new property at 100 Bedford Road. Our brilliant art teacher and her daughter, a Birches student, created the birch bark-decorated ribbon you see above. Below, the Head of School addresses students and guests and then three of our “founding students” (now in their seventh year at Birches, representing grades six, seven, and eight) cut the ribbon. The final photograph shows two of those three students with their mothers, the co-founders of the school.
Middle Schoolers hiked Appalachian Mountain Club trails from October 17 to 19. They arrived at Crawford Notch, New Hampshire on Wednesday afternoon and hiked through autumn foliage before settling in for dinner and an overnight at Highland Lodge.
Students awoke the next morning to snow and blustery conditions, but their spirits remained high. With microspikes attached to their shoes, they began their hike to Mizpah Hut! Along the way, they imagined themselves as mountaineers of yore whose exploits were captured in early black and white photographs.
All our students triumphed and reached their goal, having learned orienteering and leadership skills in the process. The sun came out, the world was once again full of color, and the mountaineers enjoyed a quiet night at Mizpah Hut before hiking down the mountain to return to civilization on Friday.
School has been in session for six weeks now at 100 Bedford Road. Lettering for the entrance arrived recently and was put in place. (Please scroll down to the blog entry for September 4 to see what a difference this lettering makes!)
Some of our students assembled to wave to you and to invite you to visit us. There will be an Admissions Open House on Saturday, November 17, 2018 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. Please mark that date on your calendars!
Our art teacher inspires students in both indoor and outdoor classrooms. Last week she guided the children as they created tree art with clay and other natural materials. The results were astounding!
This week the kindergartners and first graders continued many projects, including exploring sunflowers. We looked closely at different sunflowers, created observational paintings, used tweezers to pick out seeds, and felt the different textures of the flowers. We even made sunflower seed butter, which everyone was welcome to try at snack time.
The K/1 classroom includes the out of doors. Despite the rainy weather, we walked to a nearby pond and enjoyed boat races with twigs and leaves in the stream that feeds the pond. We go out in many kinds of weather, properly dressed, of course!
In the photograph above, middle schoolers work indoors on research projects related to their current book The Outsiders. Students also reflect and write out of doors. Shortly after school began, they went into the woods and were asked to find an approximately 3 x 3 foot plot to call their own, a private space where they could not see each other but where they were within earshot of teachers should they need assistance. Below you can see two photographs of middle schoolers quietly at work. Students return to their chosen plots once a week: This is part of our mindful education.
This photograph shows fourth and fifth graders working on the following theoretical problem: Assume that scientists are going to try to count all ~100 billion neurons in the human brain, at a rate of 1 cell per second (it would take longer than a second but let’s just use one second as an estimate). How many cells would they count in an hour, day, week, and year?
In the picture below, you can see students measuring various parts of our play area including tree stump heights, bench lengths, and much more.
Second and third graders easily settled into their first week of school. Here some students are reading their "just right" books while the classroom pet, a bearded dragon named Argyle, loafs in his terrarium. We are outside a lot during the day, sometimes playing, sometimes exploring, sometimes having discussions in our outdoor classrooms, as you can see below. At Birches, students raise their thumbs when they want to make a comment or answer a question.
We opened our doors at 100 Bedford Road today after a year and a half of renovation and new construction. It was a joyful day, spent getting used to new classrooms and exploring the play spaces and woods surrounding our school. This is a dream come true! Kindergartners and first graders were wide-eyed and both serious and excited as they began their year getting to know each other, their teachers and their classroom, as you can see in the photograph below. Our year is off to a marvelous start!
Birches has received a grant from Harvard's Asia Center to develop an interdisciplinary middle school curriculum on immigration from China and Japan (1790-present day). We were inspired to develop this unit because in a few weeks we will move to 100 Bedford Road, the former home of Dr. An Wang, a famous computer pioneer. We will study Dr. Wang and also other immigrants from China and Japan, both known and unknown. Our older students will grapple with issues having to do with immigration, including topics such as exclusion and inclusion.
Today is the last day of school. We wish you a wonderful summer and look forward to resuming blog posts in the fall.