Getting Our Feet Wet

Last week’s canoe trip can be declared a success! I honestly can’t remember a more “drama free” trip in all the years I’ve been teaching 12-14. No tears, no emergency room visits, no freak-outs from too many scary stories! Even the chili looked better than ever before:

Chili cook-off entries

Chili cook-off entries

Another thing we noticed was how smoothly the students got along (for the most part). The teachers loved watching the spontaneous game on the river bank, where girls and boys of both 7th and 8th grade tried to push each other in. It ended with all the kids deciding to jump in the river together! I swear, this sweet moment went on without prompting from teachers! Later, many kids brought up that afternoon activity as a great “bonding moment”.

Montessoaring into the river!

Montessoaring into the river!

We also wanted to share some classic group photos from last week’s trip:

At the beloved Belvedere Oasis

At the beloved Belvedere Oasis

Intrepid 7th Graders

Intrepid 7th Graders

Crazy Eights

Crazy Eights

Welcome to the new school year!

Greetings parents of the 7th and 8th grade!

The classroom environment is looking fresh and clean, complete with that “new school year” smell (actually, it’s the students’ beloved apple pie candle that we lit this morning before the open house…). Gregg and I are excited to see our students: returning 8th graders, siblings of grads, and those who are new to us altogether!

Gregg Sparks & Meg Broz, year 5.

Junior High Superheroes

This year, you’ll hear a lot from the school about fostering an inclusive community. This is incredibly important on the 12-14 level, where students work within a home classroom, but also combine with 12-14 students from other classrooms in several other classes throughout the week.

At the beginning of the school year, it sometimes appears that the 8th graders are in their own bubble. As they begin to remember that they were friends with the incoming 7th graders in past years, we see old friendships being rekindled, and plenty more new relationships and collaborations develop. This truly begins on the class Canoe Trip, a bonding experience like no other! (Who wouldn’t bond over paddling and slogging through a muddy river, scary stories around the fire, a fierce capture-the-flag game, and a spicy pot of prize-winning chili??)

This blog will be a place for us to share general classroom announcements, photos, interesting articles and resources, and thoughts on education and adolescents. Blog posts are automatically emailed to all parents of the class.

"Irked By How Millennials Speak?" (click image to read/listen to the story)

“Irked By How Millennials Speak?” (click image to read/listen to the story)

For instance, you might like to check out this NPR story about the way millennials speak. For all you parents who feel like communicating with your adolescent is becoming a series of misunderstandings, the story posits that “‘I feel like’ isn’t just about feelings, it’s a way of introducing an opinion.” And I’m sure you’re hearing a lot of opinions from your tween right about now!

You’ll learn more about us, the classroom, the Junior High level, and the upcoming school year when we all get together for Back to School Night (Thursday, September 8, at 5:30 pm). If you ever have questions, feel free to email Gregg and/or me directly. Our contact info can be found on the “About Us” page.

See you then!

Meg

Students vs Staff Basketball Games!

On Friday a time-honored Near North tradition played out again: the Students vs Staff Basketball Games! Gregg and I both participated in these raucous afternoon activities, with Gregg scoring 8 points, and me… being a part of the action! Here’s a couple great group shots, courtesy of our Athletic Director, Nate Lyons.

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A Parent’s Guide to Independent Study

Dear parents,

As of this week, your 7th or 8th grader should have chosen a topic for their biggest project of the year: Independent Study, or IS.

IS is a multi-part, long-term project that the students will be working on until the end of the school year. During this time, they will be conducting in-depth research on a specific topic of their choosing. The Neighborhood Project, completed in the fall, can be considered a “mini-IS”, but this upcoming project is a bit more complex.

Independent Study project components:

  1. Learning something new
  2. Extensive research
  3. Working with a mentor outside of school
  4. Writing a paper
  5. Creating a scrapbook/log
  6. Creating a presentation (white) board
  7. Doing a presentation/ speech
  8. And more!

Topics chosen by students over the years have been as diverse as welding, Japanese language, building a bike, basket weaving, banjo… far too many to enumerate here. What is always consistent, no matter the topic, is that the student is given many opportunities for taking their learning experience into their own hands. From finding books at the library to their final presentation, it is truly an independent study.

However, every independent adolescent needs a few capable adults to “help them do it alone.” Gregg and I will be responsible for frequent check ins and evaluations of the students’ work, as well as guiding them through the different components of IS.

Your child will need your help when finding a mentor and a place to study. They’ll be working on the IS Planning Document this week/weekend, and will ask you to sign their IS Parent Contract (due Monday).

The role of the mentor is unique to the IS project (further information about this here). For most students, their mentor teaches lessons or classes related to their IS topic. This is not a necessity, however; the main purpose of the mentor is to work with an expert on the topic, and to have weekly contact with that person.

Please talk to your child if you have more questions about IS (and if all else fails, feel free to email me with questions too!).

I’m looking forward to an exciting, productive, creative few months working with the students on IS!

Best wishes,

Meg

 

Holocaust Studies and Trip

Dear Parents,

This Tuesday, January 19, our class will be taking a field trip to the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. We will have the opportunity to be guided by museum docents on a tour of the museum, and to hear from a speaker who a survivor of the Holocaust.
Our current course of study for social studies and reading is World War II. We’ve been studying this period in history using a few different lenses, while focusing on how this relates to our year’s theme of Movement of People.
Last week, the class has had lessons and discussions about the war’s timeline and geography, with a political point of view.
This week, we learned about the Holocaust itself, and all the students participated in an activity and discussion about the bystanders and collaborators of the Holocaust called “Some Were Neighbors” (based on this lesson material and photos from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum).
Other aspects of social studies that will be coming up later this month are the U.S. homefront during WWII, Japanese internment in the U.S., propaganda posters, and a final “stopping point” project.
At the same time we are reading Maus by Art Spiegelman, the iconic graphic novel of a Holocaust survivor’s story. The students have been enjoying the book, with thoughtful questions and responses to the reading.
While the museum experience next week will doubtless be emotional and unsettling, I am confident that the students are mature enough to handle the trip. A few things the museum staff mentioned that will help the trip go smoothly:
  • Please be sure that your child eats breakfast on Tuesday morning and brings extra snacks in their lunch. The museum tour will be occurring between 10:30-1:30, which overlaps our regular lunch time. The museum staff specifically asks that students aren’t distracted by being hungry.
  • It can get cool in the museum, so students should wear a sweater/sweatshirt. We’ll be able to store our coats when we get there.
  • I’ve asked the students to dress “business casual” – somewhere between every day school wear, and what they’d dress in to go out to a play.
  • We’re taking a school bus, so the students don’t need money or a CTA card.
Additionally, please find some time to talk to your child about the museum experience, and what they’re learning about WWII and the Holocaust. I’m constantly surprised and delighted by the students’ high level of understanding and introspection, their ability to make connections between events across time and geography, their passion for justice in the world, their unique blend of innocence and maturity that only an adolescent can have. I hope that you find these same things when talking to your child about what they’re learning about the nature of the world.
Best wishes,
Meg

The Neighborhood Project

Pilsen

Pilsen

Dear Parents,

The Neighborhood Project is a large-scale, multi-faceted school project that, in total, takes about 6 weeks; we’re currently about halfway done. Seen by some as a “mini independent study”, this project goes along with our Chicago History studies.

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Chinatown

Working on this project builds so many of the skills that we value in 12-14, and gives the students the opportunity to really get to know our city geographically and culturally. They’re doing independent work and collaboration, writing, navigation, photography, social interaction, research, cooking, mapping, interviewing, and much more.

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Hyde Park

The NP includes 4 main components, some of which you may have caught a glimpse of your child working on:

  • A big research paper
  • A creative project on a certain area of focus
  • City Trip Explorations to various Chicago neighborhoods
  • The presentation fair
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Lincoln Square

A couple weeks ago the students completed their first City Trip Explorations to their chosen neighborhoods (pictures included here!). They’re currently working on planning a second trip to each neighborhood. Each student is responsible for arranging the time, date, and details of the trip. Parents and other family members are welcome to join their 12-14er on this trip, as long as they’re willing to follow the student’s plan! The second trip should be completed by December 14.

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Little Italy

And, perhaps most excitingly for you all, YOU’RE INVITED to check out all the hard work they’ve put into planning, researching, and exploring at the final Presentation Fair! Students will present their research, and display videos, food samples, maps, drawings, speeches, and many other showcases.

 

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Desi Corridor

I’ll send a reminder email next week, but please MARK YOUR CALENDAR for THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2015, 10:45-11:45am in our home classroom.

Three Period Lesson

Dear Parents,

You’ve probably heard your 12-14er mention their “Stopping Point”, a social studies project which is coming up next week. This is a multi-faceted project involving research and presentation; a perfect example of the Montessori concept of the Three Period Lesson at the adolescent level

The First Period refers to the teacher giving lessons on a unit of study, and providing information about the background and overarching concepts for that topic. In this case we’ve been studying migrant workers throughout history in the United States. The students have learned through lectures, presentations, videos, discussions, readings, poems, and analysis of cartoons and photographs. We’ve even had a couple special guests this time: Farmer Joe Phillips told us about his family living in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, and Candelario Rodriguez regaled us with stories of his migration to the U.S. from Mexico.

When a student hears or reads about something that really sparks their interest within the First Period, they can choose to do further research on that topic (that’s where “Stopping Point” got it’s name). The Second Period is all about independently learning, and diving deep into their chosen topics. The students are working on this now. This can involve finding resources online and in the library, watching films and videos, viewing art and photos, listening to audio and music, and more. The students also work on a creative project that will showcase what they’ve been learning (maps, game, films, baked goods…), and a written portion consisting of a fact sheet and bibliography.

Finally, in the Third Period of the lesson, the students have the chance to demonstrate their understanding. This happens in the form of presentations to the whole class. During the presentations, the students will practice their oratory skills while showing off their hard work and teaching their classmates specific and in-depth information. In the end, all students will have a greater overall view of this part of history, taught to them through the lenses of many different educators.

You can see your child’s Stopping Point work at home: ask them to practice their presentation for you (practice in front of an attentive audience is key!), take a look at their written work on their chosen topic, or check out the progress they’ve made on their creative project. Stopping Points are always a challenging and exciting project to work on, and I’m looking forward to seeing them all on Tuesday!

Best wishes,

Meg

Can you canoe? Your kids can!

Hi Parents,

I’m sure your adolescent has already regaled you with the highlights and travails of the canoe trip – our first big “Odyssey” of the year. From the teachers’ perspective, it was a pretty great week, too. The weather was cooperative (probably the most important thing!), friendships were forged, pranks were pulled, and all the chili at the cook-off was…edible.

I wanted to share a couple photos from our return day. These are traditional shots we take every year (at Mr. Duck’s, and the Oasis on the way home).

Have a great week!

Meg

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A Special Visitor…

I’m sure you heard about our surprise visitor on Friday afternoon: the Stanley Cup! The students were excited to say hello to the cup, snap some pictures, and even touch it. Here’s a couple shots of the whole class.

9/11/15 The Stanley Cup visits Near North Montessori for the afternoon.

9/11/15 The Stanley Cup visits Near North Montessori for the afternoon.

9/11/15 The Stanley Cup visits Near North Montessori for the afternoon.

9/11/15 The Stanley Cup visits Near North Montessori for the afternoon.

We’re off tomorrow for Wisconsin, the weather looks good! Good luck tonight with last minute packing, and we’ll see you at the bus.

Welcome to the new school year!

Greetings parents of the 7th and 8th grade!

Gregg and I are hard at work getting the classroom environment prepared for this coming school year – only a few days away! We’re looking forward to our 4th year teaching together, and we’re excited to meet our new students.

Brozes in MI

The Broz family – Olive is almost 8 months old!

Gregg's big catch: Northern Pike, about 42 inches and 21 pounds

Gregg’s big catch: Northern Pike, about 42 inches and 21 pounds

It’s never quite possible to predict what the classroom culture will be like before the social dynamics of the students and teachers have a chance to begin, but we have found that the Canoe Trip is always a bonding experience where the 7th and 8th graders rediscover old friendships, and begin forging new ones. Last year’s 8th grade made it their mission to be welcoming and kind mentors to “their” 7th graders, and we plan to foster this positive and collaborative attitude this year again.

This new blog will be a place for us to share general classroom announcements, photos, interesting articles and resources, and thoughts on education and adolescents. Blog posts are automatically emailed to all parents of the class. If you ever have questions, feel free to email Gregg and/or I directly. Our contact info can be found on the “About Us” page.

You’ll learn more about us, the classroom, the Junior High level, and the upcoming school year when we all get together for Back to School Night (Thursday, September 10, at 5:30 pm). In the mean time, you might like to check out this recent article from the New Yorker about adolescent brains and risk-taking. Don’t be scared off by the tongue-in-cheek title; I think it will be an interesting read for both new parents of almost-teens, and those going through Junior High for the 2nd (or 3rd, or 4th…) time, as well.

Best wishes,

Meg

In adolescence, the brain is wired to experience pleasure more intensely than before or after.

The New Yorker: In adolescence, the brain is wired to experience pleasure more intensely than before or after.