Seventh Graders Present Seeds of Change

Seventh grader Niamh Williams with her presentation on how cell phone usage can impact your health.

Seventh grader Niamh Williams with her presentation on how cell phone usage can impact your health.

A long-standing tradition of the seventh grade program is the study of Seeds of Change—the examination of scientific advancements that, when introduced, drastically altered the course of history and that will continue to affect us in the future. The Seeds of Change unit also serves as an integration of multiple fields of study, this year being a collaboration between science and language arts.

The seeds this year were food, water, modern medicine and disease, technology and its effects on health, and design and technology of sports shoes and apparel.

Students homed in on numerous topics and presented them with visuals, activities, and essential information. Some projects took the form of a display, while others were more interactive, such as Maddie O.’s social media trivia game. “I thought about fun ways for people to engage in a way that was interactive so I didn’t have to do all of the speaking, and then I added infographics to include more information,” Maddie shared.


Each seed of change had a particular focus, for instance the study of food and water centered on access to clean water and the issue of microplastics infiltrating humans by way of seafood. For modern medicine and disease, the focus was on cancer and how it’s identified. The study of technology and its effects on health focused on screen time for school-aged children; and the design and technology of sports shoes and apparel, on such questions as whether today’s athletes are better than those of the the past.

Seventh grade science teacher Rochelle Duncan reflected, “Students, in choosing the area of study that most interested them, were able to demonstrate what they learned in a powerfully creative way.”


Taking Action on Conflict Minerals

By Karya K, Sixth Grade Student

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In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), minerals called the three Ts  (tin, tungsten, and tantalum) and gold are being mined every day. The people mining for these minerals - also called “conflict minerals” -hardly earn anything and have no hope of escaping poverty. All their work that goes into mining these minerals only leads to the three Ts get stolen, people getting killed, and women molested.

In a show of support for better wages, safer working conditions, and improved living standards,  the sixth grade has planned two initiatives. We hope to raise awareness of the conditions surrounding the mining of these minerals.

The first is a screen-free day on Friday, April 19, from 8:20am to 3:00pm.. Sixth grade teachers and students will be going without computers, projectors, iPads, and other electronics (not including phones for emergencies.) All the teachers will have to plan their lessons “old school” style, without fancy tech. The sixth grade may also provide conflict mineral–related activities for students.

The second initiative is the current school supply drive, which ends on Friday, April 12. The Student Council is supporting us in this effort. Although there are opportunities for children in the DRC to go to school, they can’t afford the supplies that are required for school. Families can donate notebooks, pencils, and pens; boxes for donations are in 1st through 8th grade classrooms.  Donated items can be new or slightly used. The class collecting the most supplies will win a popsicle party.

If you would like to continue helping, you can donate to Raise Hope For Congo or visit their website here: .

Learning to Legislate


University of Pennsylvania law professor Eric Feldman met with TPS middle schoolers on Thursday in the “Let’s Legislate” elective today to advise them as they plan to work on legislation relating to the sale of realistic-looking toy guns in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Students compared existing legislation on toy guns in three states and learned about two proposed bills currently under consideration in Harrisburg.


On Friday the students had a lunch meeting with State Representative Brian Sims, who answered their questions and recommended how they might want to go forward with their legislative work. Next week students will contact State Rep Cruz, the author of one of the proposed bills, and ask him to set up a meeting with the State Rep Kirkland, who wrote the second bill. The plan is for the students to the two state reps in Harrisburg and share their recommendations.

TPS Middle School Production Crew

Seventh grade members of the TPS Production Crew.

Seventh grade members of the TPS Production Crew.

By Thomas Flanagan, Production Crew Advisor and Director of the After School Music Program

Have you ever noticed seventh and eighth grade students filming and recording audio at TPS events? If so, you’ve seen the Middle School Production Crew in action. Founded in 2014 and now a perennial student organization, the TPS Production Crew meets weekly to learn how to use audio and video equipment, editing software, and to share our creative ideas.

Crew member Julian says, “It’s a great way to learn how to shoot film and have fun with friends.” Naomi chimes in by saying, “Before Production Crew, I never worked with cameras but this gave me a chance to find a new hobby with something I like.”

As mentioned by Owen, one of our primary goals is to share what’s going on at school with friends and family, “This gives us a chance to show others special things that happen at TPS.”

We look forward to continually sharing our work so please keep an eye open for future releases such as the 8th grade Shakespeare Festival performances of Twelfth Night and A Midsummer’s Night Dream, the upcoming 3rd Grade plays, an Earth Day video and The Class of 2019 Graduation. Until then, stay tuned and enjoy your spring break!  

Videos we have produced so far this year:

The 2019 Kindergarten Winter Music Celebration (full concert):

PR & 3rd Chorus

PR Chorus

Junior String Ensemble

3rd Grade Chorus

“At TPS, Gratitude is the Attitude” 

“Learn Here. Go Anywhere.”

6th Grade Choir & percussion “Nkosi Sekeleli Afrika”

 7th Grade Rock Band music videos: (4 camera angle shoot!)

“Don’t Stop Breathing”

“Living on a Heartbeat”

8th Grade Bands:

"Wagon Wheel" Class of 2019

“Hallelujah” Class of 2019

How to Talk to Your Kids About Race

By JJ Shirley, President, TPSA

Last Thursday, my husband Raphael and I attended the Progressive Talk brought to the TPS community by Brian L. Johnson (Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), TPSA, and the Family Diversity Committee (FDC). As white parents of three white boys, we recognize the need for conversations in our home about race and racism, but we are not necessarily sure how to go about having them. We had attended previous talks on similar topics, and while informative and interesting, they had left us feeling as though we still didn’t know what to do. We were both hoping to come away from Thursday’s talk with some tools to help us navigate a topic with which we have little direct experience.


The evening’s format proved to be extremely useful, with discussion and research from the presenters –Brian L. Johnson and TPS parents Dayna Muniz (FDC) and Michele McKenna (FDC) – followed by breakout scenario workshops. The workshops afforded the parents in attendance the opportunity to grapple with real-life possibilities and exchange ideas for how to deal with them ourselves and in relation to our children. Having these multiple perspectives, which were then shared with the entire group, provided us with new ways to think about and approach the issue of race and racism, both within our family and as we encounter it in the world.

For those of you unable to attend the event, I encourage you to look through Talking About Race, a document created by Brian, Dayna, and Michele that has several useful resources for talking about race. I also encourage those in our community who are looking for help and guidance, on any topic, to attend presentations like this one. You will be surprised at how much you come away with.

It's March . . . Mini-Courses!

Each March a week is set aside in the Middle School for mini-courses - mixed-grade electives that speak to a student’s passion or curiosity. Many of the courses are taught by middle schoolers themselves!


Here are some of last week’s mini-course offerings – Baking Around the World, Bike Maintenance, the Black Arts Movement, the Business of Doing Good, Contemporary Dance, Cooking Competition, Cycling, Dystopian Societies in Teen Films & Novels, Figure Drawing & Portraiture, Film Noir, GarageBand, Intro to Photography, Jam Band, MathCounts, Mystery Skype, Origami, Ultimate Frisbee, Volleyball, and Yoga.