How To Make Onigiri!

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 hosted 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.

The American Dream on Trial!

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!

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Author Amy Bass Visits Birches School!

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!

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Field Trips! On March 12th our K/1 class visited the Planetarium at the Museum of Science and our 2/3 and 4/5 classes visited the Boston Society of Architects.

The 2/3 class worked with BSA Architect Taylor Johnson on a super green ‘roofs’ design challenge that culminated in building a model garden roof.

The 2/3 class worked with BSA Architect Taylor Johnson on a super green ‘roofs’ design challenge that culminated in building a model garden roof.

Our 4/5 class worked with BSA Architect Polly Carpenter on a Skyscraper Project.

Our 4/5 class worked with BSA Architect Polly Carpenter on a Skyscraper Project.

Our K/1 class blasted off on their space-themed field trip to the Museum of Science.

Our K/1 class blasted off on their space-themed field trip to the Museum of Science.

Double Plank Pose in Yoga Class!

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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.

Happy Lunar New Year!

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!

Middle Schoolers Visit the Harvard Biology Lab

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.

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The Bear Came Back!

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!

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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!

Back to School and On the Move!

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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!

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Emergency Room Physician Visits Birches

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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.

Exciting Days for the Kindergartners and First Graders!

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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)!

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Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony at 100 Bedford Road!

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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.

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Middle Schoolers Hike AMC Trails!

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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.

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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.

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We've Passed the Six-Week Mark at Our New Campus!

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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!