JU-A Weekly Note

Dear JUA families,

We took advantage of the beautiful weather this week by taking the kids to do some writing at Fitler Square. They took notes on sensory details in a "small moments" journal and later practiced "exploding the moment" by describing in detail a small moment or interaction from their experience outside. We also had a beautiful last day at the Schuylkill Center wrapping up our units on the energy cycle and compass navigation. We look forward to returning to the Center with your children in the spring.

Students had their first round of book groups this week. Last week we previewed 4 different books for them to choose from, and this week they met in mixed JUA and JUC groupings led by Laura, Tim, Julia, or David. We assign your child reading or writing homework to do for their book group on Monday (due Wednesday) and on Wednesday (due Monday). We encourage them to complete their homework due Monday on Wednesday and Thursday evening so that they do not have weekend homework.

JUA students finished drafting their personal narratives this week, and a number of them started exchanging their writing with a peer to share feedback. We're looking forward to working with them on the revision and editing stages over the next few weeks.

Our work with Chinese physical geography continued this week. We had students imagine they had visited a location in China and write a postcard to their classmates describing what it was like to be there. Students used sensory language to explore the landforms and climate pictured on their postcard. Our next step in our geography unit will be building a 3-D map of China, which the kids seem very excited about!

Here are some questions that you can ask your child this weekend: What book are you reading in book groups, and what do you enjoy about it? Which character in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon did you design a shoutout for, and why? Where did you send your postcard from? Is it a place that has opportunities for human life?

Lastly, here are two reminders:

We have enjoyed seeing the children make such good use of our new Junior Unit Library for the past two months. We are now working hard to make sure we have all of our books inventoried and cataloged, and we will need all of the books in the library to do that! If you notice your children reading any books from the TPS Junior Unit Library, please encourage them to return the books before we break for Thanksgiving. Additionally, please remind your student to bring their Where the Mountain Meets the Moon book back to school.

On Monday, November 21st, students in 3rd grade and Junior Unit will be making nut-free brownies for our annual Thanksgiving feast (which is on Tuesday). Students need to bring in a bowl (plastic or metal) and a spatula or spoon to stir and scrape the bowl. Please write your name on each, either with permanent marker or using a piece of tape attached to it. The bowl and spatula need to be at school by the 21st, and will be rinsed off before returning home that afternoon or the next day. The brownies are delicious and the kids love making them -- thank you for your help with this!

Have a great weekend!

Julia & Tim


        Julia Carleton
        Junior Unit A Teacher

           *www.tpschool.org <http://www.tpschool.org/>*

JU-A Weekly note

It has been a short week, but we were glad to spend it with your child! Students made progress this week on their personal narratives as they practiced writing exciting leads and “exploding the moment” by writing a dramatic scene in slow motion. In community meeting on Tuesday, we continued our discussion on brave and safe spaces by focusing on the topic of active listening. Here are some questions you can ask your child about the week:


What turning point have you decided to write about for your personal narrative? -

What dramatic scene did you “explode” in your narrative? -

What game did you play during Community Meeting, and how did it relate to active listening?

We look go forward to seeing you for parent conferences on Thursday and Friday.

See you soon, Julia & Tim

JU-A Thursday Note

Dear JU-A Families,

We launched our geography study this week through a geography scavenger hunt. Students explored four different types of maps and practiced using geography vocabulary. In future weeks, we will map the political boundaries, topography, climate, and cultures of China.

In Word Study, students had their first spelling pre-test and practiced creating semantic maps for their spelling words. Their study of words continued into Mandarin class where they learned about Mandarin radicals i.e. root words.

In community meeting, we met together with the rest of JU to reflect on a simulation we participated in last week. The kids had been assigned the identities of either “Wannahuggins” or “Nubos”--two alien tribes with very different norms, practices, and values. Through interacting with the other tribe and reflecting on these culture clashes, students drew valuable conclusions about how to create bridges between different cultures. They learned that sometimes we have to give up or adapt our norms and practices in order to interact peacefully and bravely with others.

This week, students had two periods of WIP (Work-in-progress) time to independently finish their assignments and work on TAs "Try Agains." We give students TAs when we return their worksheets or assignments with suggestions for improvement. They also made progress editing their book talks, with particular emphasis on making sure each of their sentences contained a subject and predicate.

We had lovely weather for our all-school trip to Shelly Ridge today. Students bonded with their Family Circle members through singing songs, playing field games, and constructing elaborate, trendy toad houses using natural materials.

Even though it is a Thursday, this weekend we are sending students home with their Friday Folders, which contain a letter they have written to you about how their week went. We have given them instructions to share the letters with you and have you sign them. In future weeks, they will be coming home on Fridays with assignments or projects that they would like to share with you.

Enjoy the long weekend!

Tim & Julia

JU-A Friday note

Dear JU-A families,

Now that it’s the third week and we’re all more settled, we’ve launched a number of new units and topics.

We lucked out this Thursday with yet another sunny, balmy day at the Schuylkill Center. We combined our class with JU-C and split into two groups: a group focused on photosynthesis and the energy cycle, and a group focused on orienteering and navigation.

In fifth grade math, we played the role of mathematical historians through studying the fascinating development of numeral systems across cultures. This served as an investigation of place value, digits, and what it means for a system to be “base 10.” We even designed and shared our own number systems! In fourth grade math, students completed construction of our “Great Wall of Base 10” and continued practicing addition with multi-digit numbers. Through games and independent work, students searched for the best ways to solve problems.

Following an introduction to the eight parts of speech, the kids had a fun time practicing by co-writing preposterous “Mad libs” stories. We began our first all-class novel: Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, a fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore. Finally, after reviewing the various stages of the writing process, they returned to the book talks they drafted last week and made various revisions.

Lastly, we want to remind you that Back to School Night is next week Wednesday from 6:30-8:30. On these evening, you will hear the big picture about the TPS curriculum and philosophy and get a chance to understand what the day is like for your child in our classroom as well as their specialist classes. You are important partners in the success of Back-to-School Night, and here are some of our suggestions for making the most out of the experience:


Engage with an open mind. If we ask you to try something hands-on, even if you’re nervous, make the most out of it and take a chance!


Back-to-School Night is designed to offer a broad overview. Questions should be about the general experience in the classroom. (Child-specific questions should be held for a different time either via email or for a separately scheduled meeting) -

If you already have questions, please email them to us ahead of time so we can address the questions in the presentation.

We’re looking forward to seeing you on Wednesday!

Julia + Tim

JU-A Friday note

September 9, 2016,

Dear JU-A families,

Spending the past three days with your children has been a pleasure! It’s exciting to see the 5th graders taking a leadership role and witness the 4th graders bring in new, fresh ideas.

This week we have gotten to know each other through games and sharing, begun our math curriculum, practiced a variety of classroom routines, and made decisions about how we want the classroom space to be. Although some of the classroom is already set up, we had the students brainstorm what other nooks and spaces they want to construct in the classroom.

We began to explore the language and literature of China this week. Jenson, who taught in JU-A last year, taught an introductory lesson to the Mandarin language. We also started reading aloud Chinese folk tales. Next week, the kids will be staging a “reader’s theater” retelling of two of the stories.

Here are some questions you can ask your child about school this weekend:

What greeting did you learn in Mandarin class?

What was the moral or lesson of the folk tale you read?

What is it like to be in a smaller math class of 12-13 kids?

This week, we have given your students reminders to read for 30 minutes each night and to bring in their language arts summer homework: one “choice” book they read and the notecards they used to respond to their summer reading. They will be receiving planners next week so that they can track other assignments that we give them. Today they will be coming home with their purple Friday Folder, which contains an assignment that involves them holding a conversation with you this weekend.

Lastly, we have enjoyed meeting or re-connecting with many of you this week. If you haven’t yet signed up for a 10-minute, informal meeting with us, you are welcome to do so through this doodle poll http://doodle.com/poll/3ebphbuhw46k447s.

Enjoy the weekend and keep cool! Julia & Tim

JU-A Weekly Note

Dear JUA Families,

We’ve had a great start to the JU Olympics! We’re glad many of you were able to make it to our Olympics Opening Ceremony this week, in which students performed a dance and music piece in honor of a specific god, read persuasive speeches to explain the upcoming olympic events, sang songs, shared their flags, and performed their cheers.

This week has featured a number of exciting Olympic events. After the rousing Opening Ceremony, we began our first event--a relay race--in high spirits. Students have continued with handball competitions in P.E. Yesterday morning we played a within-city-state round of Jeopardy to determine which team would play against other city-states on Tuesday. The questions tested them on their knowledge of Olympians, city-states, Greek mythology, and math. Yesterday afternoon, we had our boat competition at the pool at Friends Select School. Each city-state constructed a boat from cardboard and duct tape. Amazingly, every single boat stayed afloat for more than 10 minutes! In addition, some boaters were able to complete laps back and forth in the pool for extra points. Today, after our last Family Circle gathering, we had our “JU’s Got Humor” event. Each city-state had 30 minutes to come up with funny skits. Teachers judged (but could not judge their own team). Our stomachs hurt with laughter by the time lunch rolled around!

Next week, we’ll continue our Olympics with a scavenger hunt, final rounds of Jeopardy, a water-balloon event, and Schuylkill Center field events! It will be a great way to keep ourselves motivated all the way to graduation. In JU-A, we’ve been having a number of reflections and conversations about what healthy competition looks like and what it means to be a good sport. So far we’ve been impressed by students’ efforts to be invested in games' competitive aspects and yet still be supportive of competing teams.

As we look ahead to next week’s events, please help your child in protecting themselves from the sun and heat! Sara, the school nurse, sent out an informative email to families this week about sun safety.

This is the last Friday Note of the year, as next Friday is a half-day with graduation in the morning. Dismissal will be at 11:30am. It has been a joy teaching your students this year; thank you for sharing them with us! We will miss the current fifth graders and are glad the fourth graders will be returning to us again next year.

Wishing you a fantastic summer!


Jenson, Julia, and Heather

JU-A Weekly Note

Dear JUA families,

While ERBs occupied most of our classroom time this week, we still managed to pack in some fun activities, new language arts work, a performance, and Olympics-related planning and building.

We began reading the last book we’ll be reading this year - The Odyssey by Homer (retold by Geraldine McCaughrean). We studied the concept of the “hero’s journey” using the example of Maniac Magee, which was a perfect transition to introducing The Odyssey as one of the most epic heroic journeys of all time!

We continued to work on planning our Olympic Games this week. Students met in city-state groups to plan events, create a flag and cheer, and create awards (which we call flair) for the events. All of JU is planning a total of 14 events! In addition, today students worked to build a boat out of cardboard and duct tape. A student will need to sit in the boat next Thursday afternoon at Friends Select’s pool. This construction project required them to apply their knowledge of volume, balance, and buoyancy.

Students had a special rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony on Tuesday afternoon. It was the first time teachers had seen or heard their work, and the first time each group saw what the other groups had worked on in music class. We are impressed and are looking forward to the final product next week. Remember, our Olympics Opening Ceremony will take place on Wednesday, June 1, at 10:35 am. Parents are invited; we hope to see you there!

Speaking of performances, this Tuesday we welcomed the musical duo City Love for a lunch concert. TPS gardener Brian Jordan, who has also taught at TPS, played with his band-mate Dwight. The duo self-describes as “West Philly conscious acoustic duo with harmonies, hip hop, cajon, guitar, and mandolin.” They chose to sing two songs – titled “Colorblind” and “Show Some Love”--that communicate themes of racial justice and our shared humanity. Our students reported that their music had many connection points with our racial identity curriculum as well as themes from Maniac Magee. You can hear City Love’s music on their youtube channel. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCz_FPFTJ09KZLuy8Kxrsxxg

A request: Eleanor Davis-Diver, a TPS 6th grader, needs magnets for a science experiment that she is doing at home. Any kinds of magnet will do, from refrigerator magnets to neodymium. Please bring in any magnets that you're willing to contribute; donation boxes will be available in units next week.

Looking ahead to summer, JU-C teacher Laura shared with us that there’s a show in Washington D.C. in June that might appeal to many JU students. “The Greeks — Agamemnon to Alexander the Great” opens June 1 at the National Geographic Museum. The exhibit includes more than 550 Greek artifacts. This is its only East Coast stop. It runs through October 10. In conjunction with that, National Geographic is producing a three-hour series, The Greeks, which will air nationally on PBS, starting June 21, 2016 at 9 p.m. (check local listings). Our students are most enthusiastic about all things Greek!

Enjoy the long weekend,

Heather, Julia, and Jenson

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JU-A Weekly note

Dear JUA families,

This week we finished our read-aloud novel Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. However, we’ll continue to reflect on the novel as we transition to our last read-aloud book, The Odyssey by Homer (retold by Geraldine McCaughrean). Shout-out to JU-B teacher Dan, who came into our class Wednesday to give a brief history of the Trojan War so that students know what Odysseus and his crew endured prior to their adventures at sea!

On Wednesday we furthered our understanding of Greek city-states by comparing and contrasting two of the main city-states, Athens and Sparta. The students were able to take a deeper look at the major players in Ancient Greece, while identifying their similarities and differences. The students then used their knowledge on their own city-state and compared it to another that they were not as familiar with.

On Thursday we wrapped up our environmental stewardship work at Awbury with WCS students. We finished up our group projects: trash collection, pulling invasives, protecting native species, and devising ways to educate the public about these environmental issues. Along with WCS students, we closed the day with a call-and-response song led by JU-C's David.

In our city-states meetings this week, we forged ahead with planning our Olympics events, constructing our flags that represent our city-states, and writing chants that we will recite the week of the Olympics. Students finished writing their persuasive essays that articulate why their city-state’s event reflects JU’s values. Within our city-states, we will be holding oratory competition to determine who will be the final reader of these paragraphs at our Opening Ceremony. Remember to mark your calendars: our Olympics Opening Ceremony will take place on Wednesday, June 1, at 10:35 am. Parents are invited; we hope to see you there!

This week enjoyed the musicians who shined at the JU and 3rd Grade recital, as well as those who performed at Encuentro. Special shout-out to our very own Simone, who sang “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” with great poise, and to Sebastian, who gave us a private performance of Moszkowski's Etude No. 6 on Friday.

ERBs will take place next week from Monday, May 23, to Wednesday, May 25. Please do not schedule doctor’s appointments or other activities during this time that will take them out of school, as it’s very tricky to arrange times for make-up sessions. The information you need about the ERBs was sent out in this letter http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=4633688f8e4a0735c7c9bf016&id=03df01a72d&e=99676184f9. Let us know if you have additional questions.

Lastly, we know that many of you brought your child’s student-led conference folder home with you after their conference this past March. We’d like to ask that all students return these folders to school by Monday.

It looks like it will be a rainy weekend – ideal for curling up with a good book!

In partnership,

Julia, Heather, and Jenson

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JU-A Weekly Note

Dear JU-A families,

One highlight from this week was certainly our progress in planning for the JU Olympics! This week JU-A students spent time reading about the ancient Greek city-states and learning about the various cultures, regional rivalries, and political institutions of ancient Greece. These lessons served as preparation for the upcoming Junior Unit Olympics, where our students will compete in city-state groups for the last two weeks of the school year. After much anticipation, this week the students found out which city-state they will be representing in the Olympics. Throughout the week they met in their city-state groups to plan and draft rules for their special event, design their city-state flag, and create awards for the games. Please remember to mark your calendars: our Olympics Opening Ceremony will take place on Wednesday, June 1, at 10:35 am. Parents are invited; we hope to see you there!

JU-A spent also time this week identifying and analyzing figurative language, namely metaphors and similes. The students reread portions of Maniac Magee, searching for different types of figurative language that the author, Jerry Spinelli, uses throughout the novel. After doing so, the students wrote their own metaphor and/or simile about a specific event, setting or character in  .

On Wednesday, the students had their final lesson and reflection about simple machines, to give closure to our study of Archimedes' contributions to science.

Like last week, on Thursday we spent the day at Awbury Arboretum with the students from Wissahickon Charter School (WCS). It was a beautiful day and the students had a blast exploring nature, cleaning up Awbury, helping rid the Arboretum of invasive plants, and spending time with their WCS peers. We are very proud of the students for all of their hard work on making the Arboretum a cleaner place for years to come.

Additionally, shout-out to the third grade classes! This week we had the privilege of attending the third grade play about immigration. We were so impressed with the third graders' performance. Afterwards, many JU-A students commented on how some themes from the third grade play have connected to this year's Greece theme and our identity curriculum.

Finally, a reminder about ERBs: these tests will take place from Monday, May 23 to Wednesday, May 25. Please do not schedule doctor’s appointments or other extra-curricular activities during this time that will take them out of school, as it’s very tricky to arrange times for make-up sessions.

Here are some questions you can ask your child this weekend:

  • What differentiates your city-state from the others? 
  • What was a goal that you accomplished at Awbury Arboretum? 
  • What event will you be planning in the JU Olympics, and how does that event reflect or represent JU's values?


Jenson, Julia, and Heather

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JU-A Weekly Note

Dear JU-A families,

You may remember back to last fall when students studied invasive plants at Awbury Arboretum. We returned to Awbury this Thursday to engage in environmental service work with Wissahickon Charter School (WCS) teachers and students. The four activities we engaged in were pulling invasive plants, protecting native plants, removing trash, and coming up with a plan to educate the community. Students enjoyed roaming the vast natural area, brainstorming more solutions to these environmental challenges, and getting to know their WCS partners.

The other science work we did this week was wrapping up our study of windmills as simple Archimedean machines. Students used a hair dryer to test the force and function of their windmills, and we reflected on how blade length, quantity, and shape influence spin and speed. We emphasized the importance of creating detailed sketches of their models, which showcased rotational symmetry.

This week, as part of our racial identity curriculum, we finished up our work in affinity groups. In our individual classrooms, we will continue reflecting with students on the topics we have discussed in affinity groups, such as marginalized vs. mainstream identities, white privilege, implicit bias, and appreciating diversity.

On a related note, we are moving further along in our read-aloud book, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, which deals with themes of race, diversity, and community. Students reflected on the racial identity development of the novel’s main character. Later in the week, we also did some close reading of the novel as we identified and analyzed Spinelli’s use of figurative language.

Shout-out to Matt Murray, our technology integration specialist who visited our classroom Friday to lead a “Power-searching workshop.” He shared with us tips to help us Google, specifically how to choose good keywords to yield specific, credible, informative results. His framework and tricks will be useful to students as they continue researching for their final hero paragraph on a child hero. (Rough draft for this is due Tuesday 5/24.)

Next week we’ll learn about the city-states who will be represented in our Junior Unit Olympics, and on Tuesday the students will find out which city-state they’ll be part of for the events. Mark your calendars: our Olympics Opening Ceremony will take place on Wednesday, June 1. It is scheduled to begin at 10:35 am. Parents are invited; we hope to see you there!

Finally, a reminder about ERBs: these tests will take place from Monday, May 23 to Wednesday, May 25. Please do not schedule doctor’s appointments or other extra-curricular activities during this time that will take them out of school, as it’s very tricky to arrange times for make-up sessions.

Here are some questions that you can ask your child this weekend:

  • How did your windmill fare during the hair dryer test? 
  • What is the difference between a simile and a metaphor? 
  • What environmental challenge did you tackle at Awbury Thursday? 
  • What is something you enjoyed about working with another Wissahickon student?

Happy Mother’s Day to the moms out there, and enjoy your weekends!


Jenson, Julia, and Heather

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JU-A Weekly Note

Dear JUA Families,

This was a week of exciting news and new partnerships!

You may have seen Matt Eskin's message or heard from your child that Emily and Chris Sparks –and their daughter Mira – welcomed Aadya Cynthia Sparks into their family on Tuesday morning. We are thrilled for Emily and her family!

On Wednesday we were happy to welcome Heather Gold into our classroom as Emily's maternity leave sub. She has worked as an ASEP teacher since this fall. Heather and Julia will serve as co-advisors for Emily’s advisees. Here is a message from Heather: "I am so excited to have the opportunity to work with the students of JU-A for the remainder of this semester! My first day was filled with warm welcomes from your children and it is truly a pleasure to spend time with these incredible children!"

With the Junior Unit Olympics approaching, we have had the Olympics on our mind. Throughout the week, students learned more about what the ancient Greek Olympics were like. After identifying the ways that Olympic events and traditions reflected Greek values, we collaboratively brainstormed ideas for potential Olympic events that reflect JU's values.

We continued our study of pinwheels and force this week. The students took part in a hands-on learning activity that involved constructing pinwheels out of soda cans. They used precise mathematics when designing their pinwheels to ensure that their blades would pick up the wind and spin.

Yesterday we hosted students from Wissahickon Charter School-Awbury to brainstorm ways of solving problems with the pond at Awbury Arboretum. Our students were able to share their knowledge on invasive plants with the students from Wissahickon, and in return we gained knowledge on watersheds from them. By the time Wissahickon students left, there were preliminary plans made about how best to defeat invasive plants, remove trash and pollution, and educate people about the pond and wetlands area. We will be working on these plans over the next few weeks at Awbury.

Enjoy your weekends!

Julia, Jenson, and Heather

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JUA Weekly Note

Dear JUA Families,

It will come as no surprise that, although only four days long, it was a busy week in JUA! We kicked off the week with our collaborative science groups wrapping up their Archimedes-inspired pulley projects. Students shared a final demonstration of their machines with peers in JUB and were pushed to clearly explain—orally, in writing, and in pictures—how pulleys in their machine made work easier. The students’ machines were incredibly creative and included an entertaining toy for children, a device to sweep crumbs off of a messy table, a well, a system for pulling classmates across the room while seated in a chair, and two very different machines designed to water plants. Ask your child to tell you more about the process of designing, testing, and tweaking his or her machine!

On Tuesday students and teachers participated in our first racial affinity group meeting. We’ll meet again in these groups for the next two Tuesdays. We encourage you to ask your child what that meeting was like.

We capped off the week with a visit to the Schuylkill Center on Thursday. What a beautiful day outside! Students put their knowledge of mass, volume, density, buoyancy, and water displacement to the test! Students constructed small boats out of tin foil, sticks, and duct tape with the goal of holding the highest number of pennies as possible. Students tested their boats in a large tub filled with pond water. Based on the results, they captured some notes to help them in a later project - building a boat large enough to hold a JU student! More details on this project will be announced later on.

Finally, a big thanks to JUA students and families from Emily, for the surprise baby shower on Monday afternoon. What fun!

Enjoy the long weekend!


Emily, Jenson and Julia

JU-A Weekly Note

Dear JU-A Families,

This week was another week full of experiments and hands-on activities. In science, students worked hard to understand Archimedes' pulley system. In groups, they designed and built a “simple machine” system with wheels, ropes and pulleys.

It was lovely to return to the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education this Thursday! It was a sunny day and students were glad to be back in the outdoors. We continued our study of buoyancy there, along with JU-C. In small groups, students predicted the buoyancy of different blocks of wood and calculated their density (mass divided by volume). Students also learned that the same object (such as a ball of clay) can float or sink based on its shape and surface area.

In place of doing spelling for the rest of the spring, we have decided to spend Monday and Friday snack-time preparing students for the ERB tests this spring. This week we focused on giving students practice with "test wiseness" strategies such as process of elimination. Our goal with this preparation is for students to feel comfortable with the test-taking environment, as well as familiar with the topics and types of questions that they'll encounter on the tests.

As a continuation of your identity curriculum, we launched our discussion about race this Tuesday with all of JU. We prefaced our conversation by discussing the difference between a brave space and a safe space. We introduced the terms "marginalized identities" and "mainstream identities" in order to frame our understanding of race in society. Then, we watched and responded to a short video titled Is Race Real? in order to explore the ways that race is socially constructed and how ideas of race change over time. We will continue these reflections next week.

On that topic, thank you to those of you who have talked with your child about our upcoming affinity groups. If you haven't done that yet, please remember to read the email Emily sent out on April 13th about our Identity Curriculum. Please email your child’s advisor before Monday 4/18 to let him or her know which racial affinity group your child will join (“Persons of Color” or “White”). Thanking for your partnership as we engage in this important, complex topic.

Finally, we want to remind you that TPS City Country Camp registration is open. Regular registration ends on May 1. Junior Unit teachers Nick Dekker, Hilary Hamilton, Jenson Cheng, and David Stills are offering camp programming this summer. TPS camps are enrichment programs, allowing children to delve deeply into topics of interest under caring supervision and with the guidance of passionate, talented leadership. Take a look at the TPS City Country Camps Website for a complete list of camp offerings: http://www.tpschool.org/camps.

Enjoy the balmy weather this weekend!

Julia, Jenson, and Emily

JU-A Weekly Note

Dear JU-A families,

It was great to have the kids back after spring break. Additionally, thank you for conferences -- we were impressed with the students’ preparation and goal-setting!

Continuing our study of Archimedes this week, we began investigating pulley systems, particularly why the use of multiple pulleys can reduce the effort needed to lift a weight. Students worked in groups to build their own pulley systems. Because of weather we didn’t make it to SCEE this week, so we moved our scientific study of density and buoyancy to the classroom. Students experimented with dropping various objects into buckets of oil, saltwater, and freshwater.

We had our first etymology lesson with Ashley Opalka this week. We learned about different words and their Greek origins. Ashley will continue teaching the students about Greek etymology over the next two weeks.

To launch our next novel, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, we began with an intriguing simulation about a fictional library break-in. You can ask your child what it was like to be one of these townspeople. The simulation illustrated the ways people tend to divide and group themselves, and served as a jumping-off point for discussing other ways people group themselves. As we continue reading Maniac, we are excited for students to connect moments in the novel back to this simulation.

The week culminated with an all-school trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In grades 1-8 in family circles, students explored the “mystery” behind different works of art. It was a chance for JU-A students to apply some of the inferring skills we had practiced earlier in the week. Many students shared at the end of the day that they enjoyed spending time with their family circles and serving as leaders to the younger kids.

Here is a reminder from JU-A teacher Noelle about enrolling your students in summer camps:

TPS City Country Camp registration is open. Regular registration ends on May 1st. Junior Unit teachers Nick Dekker, Hilary Hamilton, Jenson Cheng, and David Stills are offering camp programming this summer. TPS camps are enrichment programs, allowing children to delve deeply into topics of interest under caring supervision and with the guidance of passionate, talented leadership. Take a look at the TPS City Country Camps Website for a complete list of camp offerings: http://www.tpschool.org/camps.

Lastly, we have sent your students home with two copies of a “post-conference to-do list.” As teachers we generated these lists during your child’s student-led conference. They have taped one copy of it to their homework binders to refer to throughout the rest of the spring. We would like you to review the other copy, post it somewhere at home where you and your child will be able to see it, and sign the bottom portion for your child to return to school on Monday. Thank you!

Enjoy your weekend, Julia, Jenson, and Emily

JU-A Weekly Note

Dear JU-A Families,

This week, students played the roles of scientists, artists, and archaeologists. We wrapped up last week's conversations about gender in ancient Greece and archaeological methods through an activity in which students pretended to be archaeologists from the future. They observed and drew inferences about modern-day artifacts related to gender, such as a Barbie doll and a photo of the U.S. Congress. In comparing ancient Greek and modern-day gender roles, students both celebrated how much progress has been made yet reflected on the ways that stereotypes and gender roles still "box us in" today.

For the past two weeks, students have been practicing spelling "personal words," i.e., words that they frequently misspell. By relocating the words they missed last week to their list this week, they are getting the chance to practice and re-practice some challenging words.

Our study about everyday life in ancient Greece continues to be hands-on. In this week's study of clothes, jewelry, craft, and industry, we started making Greek bracelets. Students are designing a Greek-style pattern for the bracelets. Additionally, students came closer to finishing the mobile project this week. Through this project, they have had a hands-on experience with the principal of center of gravity that Archimedes discovered.

We also visited two exhibits at the Penn Museum on Thursday: The Golden Age of King Midas, and The Ancient Greek World. Students enjoyed making connections between the Midas exhibit and what they heard in Dr. C. Brian Rose's presentation last week about his archaeological digs. The exhibit features more than 150 artifacts from the Phrygian Kingdom. At the exhibit about ancient Greece, students excitedly recognized many familiar Greek characters and scenes on Greek pottery and coins.

With student-led conferences approaching, students have continued preparing for what they will share next week. The purpose of the conference is to:

  • give children voice and shared power,
  • encourage a sense of ownership for learning,
  • foster risk-taking, critical thinking and decision-making,
  • build strong student-teacher-parent relationships,
  • encourage organization,
  • give students opportunity to experiment with oral discussion,
  • and encourage children to take a role in problem-solving and self advocating

We look forward to seeing you at conferences!

In partnership,

Jenson, Emily and Julia

JU-A Friday note

Dear JU-A families,

Spirits were high this week as we enjoyed the balmy weather and worked on a number of creative projects!

Continuing with our study of Archimedes and physics, students began transforming ordinary wire hangers into colorful, innovative mobiles. They have started to apply their understandings of balance and center of gravity by choosing which objects to hang and where to hang them. Here is a question you can ask your child this weekend: when balancing two objects on either end of a beam (such as a see-saw), should the fulcrum (balancing point) be placed closer to the heavier object or the lighter object?

We finally finished Sharon G. Flake’s Unstoppable Octobia May, the riveting mystery novel we have been reading aloud for the past few months. Although we’ll all miss Octobia, we are excited to move on to starting Maniac Magee next week.

On Thursday, we had a great time attending "The Return of Halley’s Comet," a musical performed at HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy in West Philadelphia. The cast comprised students of JU-C and a large group of HMS students. The plot and musical numbers all centered on the themes of celebrating difference and diversity. Shout-out to JU-C teacher David for his solo in the show!

Another shout-out to the 7th grade students and teacher. We visited their “Seeds of Change” learning celebration towards the end of the week and were impressed by the wide variety of interactive projects and presentations.

Finally, this week students have continued to reflect on their progress in different subjects as a way to prepare for student-led conferences. Here is a little bit of what you can expect when you come to the conference with your child. Your child will share the following with you:

  • Selected pieces of work from language arts, math, science, social studies, and theme 
  • Their thoughts on the process of completing these pieces 
  • Some reflections on strengths, challenges, and goals for the rest of the year

Here is a reminder about child care during student-led conferences. If you need child care (for a TPS-enrolled sibling) during your conference time on March 24 or 25, it will be available in the Lombard Street building from7:30am to 5:30pm. A receptionist will direct you to the room where supervision will be available. Children may not wait in the office. Thanks!

Enjoy the mild weather this weekend!

Jenson, Julia, and Emily

Belated JUA Weekly Note

Greetings, JUA families!

We hope that by now you’ve heard a little bit about the events of last week, but in case you haven’t, here are some questions you might ask your child:

Relating to our study of the everyday lives of ancient Greeks:

-How do the eligibility requirements for voting in ancient Athens compare to the rules governing who is able to vote in the modern United States?

-What is the difference between direct democracy and representative democracy?

-Do you think things were more or less fair in ancient Athens or today?

-What was your assigned role in the democracy simulation?

Related to our on-going conversations about gender (We have been so impressed by students’ engagement in the conversation!):

-What is the difference between gender expression and gender identity?

-What are some ways that you express your gender?

Related to our preparations for student-led conferences later this month:

-What observations did you make when you looked back over all of your hero paragraphs from this year? What goal(s) do you have for your writing in future paragraphs?

-Who was your “buddy” for peer observation this week? Were you doing the observation, or were you being observed? What feedback did you receive? What goal did you and your partner set for your participation and engagement?

Finally, a true highlight of the week was TPS parent Seth Reichgott’s uproarious, one-man dramatization of several Greek myths. Students’ deep knowledge of Greek mythology made the experience even more meaningful. Thanks to Seth for bringing his show to the JU students, and thanks to Dan Lai for organizing the event!

In closing, if you have not yet signed up for a student-led conference, please follow the links below to find an available time slot with your child’s advisor. (Reminder, Julia and Jenson are sharing Jenson’s advisees from earlier in the year.) Remember that you must choose a time that works for both you and your child, since he or she will be running the conference!

Emily’s advisees: http://doodle.com/poll/bry8fe82n4bphw85

Jenson and Julia’s advisees: http://doodle.com/poll/2vs6umizmghxq4p6

In partnership,

Emily, Jenson and Julia

JU-A Weekly Note

Dear Families,

The crazy weather did not stop JU-A students from having a fun week full of learning. The focus of our Greek theme study has moved from mythology to everyday life in ancient Greece this week; we've begun exploring our new shared text, a nonfiction book written by Robert Hull.  Starting with the topics of education and childhood, the students had the opportunity to compare the learning at ancient Greek schools with our learning at TPS.  We also applied the math skills of graphing by taking a survey of JU-A students' favorite subjects and children games.  

On Tuesday, Junior Unit launched our new identity curriculum with a thought-provoking discussion and reflection about the complexity of identity. After discussing what identity is, students filled out notecards reflecting on their race, gender, family structure, and socioeconomic status/wealth. All JU students inserted these notecards into identity boxes - closed boxes that stand as metaphors for the way society boxes in our identities. On Thursday we began to "unpack" the gender box. Splitting into same-gender groups, we studied male and female reproductive anatomy, shared our reactions to the gender identity notecards (read anonymously), and reflected upon the way that societal expectations shape the way we experience gender.

Lastly, we had a lot of fun watching Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Taming of the Shrew, presented by the 8th graders on Wednesday and Thursday. 

Here is a doodle poll from Kait, some of the JU-A students' art teacher. Please click on this link if you are interested in meeting with her during conferences: http://doodle.com/poll/7vua2c5ub3ihmzrf

If Rick is your child's art teacher, you are welcome to sign up for a conference with him here: http://doodle.com/poll/kqwpvbwingb5wzcz

Below is a communication from the Strategic Planning Steering Committee.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Emily, Jenson, and Julia

JU-A Weekly Note

Dear JU-A Families,

If our students mapped this week onto the "story arc" they've been learning, the climax would surely be our Learning Celebration! Thank you so much for joining us. The students also had the opportunity to proudly share their work with the JU-B and JU-D students the next day.

Thursday was a bittersweet day as we said good-bye to Mary, the student from China who has been a valuable addition to JU-A for the past month. Her parents visited our classroom, and we had a small celebration to wish her the best as she continues her schooling back in Shanghai.

We finished the week with a cathartic clean-out; students went through their folders and backpacks to recycle old work. We are ready to have a fresh start to the rest of this winter and spring!

Something we are excited to launch in the coming months with JU students is a series of lessons on identity development. Through a range of activities and conversations, we’ll examine various important facets of our individual identities and discuss and challenge the ways that we, others, and society at large create static, pre-determined “boxes.”

We’ll begin next week with gender identity. Because the “boxes” that define gender are associated with human anatomy, one of our first classes will include a discussion of male and female reproductive anatomy. The terms we will discuss are: vagina, vulva, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, breasts, penis, scrotum, and testes. We will not discuss sexuality or sexual health. Students will divide themselves into groups by self-identified gender, and will be taught this class by a teacher of their same gender. We hope that this class will provide important background knowledge and equip all students with common language to use as we examine gender identity as something more than “the sum of our parts.” If you have questions or concerns, please reach out directly to Matt Eskin ([email protected]).

Lastly, please take the time to sign-up for a conference through the doodle poll sent out by the school. Be sure to choose a time when your child is also available, since this round of conferences will be student-led!

Relatedly, please read the following message from art teacher Catherine Bogart-Rome regarding signing up to see her during conferences: I would like to invite you to sign up for a conference so we can talk about what's been happening in art. Here is my Doodle link. If none of these times work for you please contact me to set up an alternative time.  

In partnership,

Emily, Julia, and Jenson

JU-A Weekly Note

Dear Families,

Our classroom feels (almost) ready to welcome all of you next week at our JU-A Open House. Remember, this learning celebration will be held on Wednesday, February 17, from 12:30 to 1:30 pm. We hope you’ll be able to make it! If not, please stop by JU-A anytime next week to see your child’s and his or her classmates' work.

Students share their finished independent mythology projects yesterday and reflected on the four goals of this assignment:

  1. to teach things about our characters that weren’t included in the JUA* Guide to Mythology*;
  2. to learn more about our strengths and preferences as learners and use these strengths to guide the project work;
  3. to strengthen our executive skills by being realistic about the size and scope of the project, planning ahead, and staying organized;
  4. to become more skillful presenters/teachers as we share our expertise with other members of the TPS community. Using feedback they received from their classmates on Thursday, students made plans for any last-minute tweaks and changes to make over the long weekend.

In addition to the independent projects, the open house will feature:

  •  students’ ancient Greek-style coins
  • our class Guide to Mythology
  • a 3-D model of Mt. Olympus, the Underworld, and sculptures of each god, goddess, hero, and creature students researched, which also displays the characters’ relationships to one another
  • students’ “Mythbusters” science report and “Mythmakers” original myth, companion pieces which seek to answer the same question about a phenomena they observed at Awbury Arboretum
  • and more!

We are so looking forward to welcoming you next Wednesday. See you soon!

In partnership,

Emily, Jenson, and Julia