Back to School and On the Move!


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!


Emergency Room Physician Visits Birches


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!


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)!


Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony at 100 Bedford Road!


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 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.


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.


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


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!

Joyful Learning in the K/1 Classroom!


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!


Middle Schoolers Inside and Out!

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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.

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Fourth and Fifth Graders Do Math Indoors and Out!

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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.

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Second and Third Graders Inside and Out!


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.


First Day of School at 100 Bedford Road!


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 Receives a Grant from the Asia Center at Harvard University


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.

Our Changing Forest


In collaboration with scientists from Harvard Forest, fourth through seventh grade students will contribute to the long-term research project entitled: Our Changing Forest.

This week students identified and marked trees within a 10 x 10 meter study plot (at 100 Bedford Road). We will continue tracking of our survey plot for years to come; activities will include data collection and analysis of tree diameter, plant identification, and wildlife sightings. We are excited to be collaborating with Harvard Forest as citizen scientists!


Cambridge Science Festival!


For the third April in a row, Birches School participated in the Cambridge Science Festival. Eighteen of our students (the largest number ever) blended science and technology curriculum by leading visitors through three exhibitions. By utilizing a range sensor and a vibrating motor, hardwear provided by Boston Embedded, students designed The Code Cracker : a gesture lock for opening electronic doors; The Portable Personal Alarm : a device for protecting personal belongings; and The Maze Navigator : a blindfolded sensor-and-vibration game. Congratulations to our Science Specialist Katherine Parisky and to our Engineering and Software Specialist Andrea Krajewska for their guidance in this curriculum.

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